First, we’d like to commend our Board President Ron Mitchell and board members Susan Harmon, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, and Amanda Stevens for their work Thursday night. They listened to students, parents, teachers, and even state and local legislatures with respect and consideration.
The atmosphere was vastly different than it was two years ago. No one was cut off. No one was escorted out. Board members made it clear they wanted to hear all voices, and voted to move the agenda item about winter MAP results to a future meeting in order to fully focus on public comment and the budget.
The discussion about facilities and budget issues was articulate and responsive to both the issues at hand and to the many letters and comments they had heard from the community.
After hours of public comment, Superintendent Dan McMinimee opened the budget discussion by telling board members that he was backing away from his original recommendations, based on the outcry from the community. Instead, McMinimee said his staff was able to identify $11.8 million in cuts plus $9 million in retirement savings that could be used for compensation, without affecting the classroom.
While this was welcome news, JCSBW wonders why McMinimee couldn’t have figured this out earlier. Board members had directed him to find money in the budget that didn’t affect the classroom. Proposing to close five schools affects a lot of classrooms, and the many other proposed cuts caused two weeks of apparently needless stress to hundreds of families throughout Jeffco.
The original budget cut proposal was bad leadership by McMinimee, pure and simple. Blindsiding several school communities with unexpected closure news and even more by telling them their current fifth graders were not going to complete their sixth grade year in elementary school — only to say “never mind!” two weeks later is inexcusable.
We’d also like to commend the Jeffco community for advocating for students. About 150 people spoke to the board members on Thursday night, and about 500 packed into various rooms in the Education Building. There were three overflow rooms for those who couldn’t fit into the main board room. Thank you for making your voices heard.
Here’s a brief summary of the decisions made at the meeting.
School Closures Update
The board members discussed the proposed school closures in detail and voted to keep Peck, Stober, Swanson, and Pennington open.
The future of Stober and Pennington remain the most uncertain for following years, board members said, largely due to the condition of the facilities and small size, but they agreed that more time needs to be spent looking at the issue. Board members also expressed concern about closing a school that had no prior warning that it was on a potential closure list.
Pleasant View Elementary, on the other hand, will close at the end of this school year. Board members voted for the closure with the stipulation that one-time funds be provided for mental health services for those students. We urge the district to present plans for boundary changes, bussing options, opportunities for families to tour their new schools, classroom and staffing configurations and other key factors as soon as possible to avoid extended limbo for these impacted communities.
Arvada and Wheat Ridge 6th Grade Update
The board rejected a proposal to accelerate the timeline and instead voted to stick with the original plan to move sixth graders to middle school in Fall 2018. All five said they wanted the move for sixth graders to be a success, and they wanted school communities to have the time to do careful, thoughtful planning for the transition.
The Chatfield area will continue plans to move its sixth graders to middle school in Fall 2017, as previously decided.
Middle School Additions
This item was tabled, in part because school board members wanted to better understand how the schools on the list for additions (Drake, Dunstan, Ken Caryl, and Creighton) had been selected. They will revisit that issue at a later board meeting, and a final decision might be on hold until the board hears more about state funding.
Meanwhile, the facilities department plans to move forward with the design phase of the projects so that if the projects are approved, they can immediately begin work and have construction completed by Fall 2018.
Deferred Budget Cuts
McMinimee’s new budget proposal defers several of the proposed cuts. The “D” in the far right column indicates that the proposed cut is now deferred, which means that in most cases, it will only be revisited if the funding numbers from the state get ugly. For now, those items are safe.
This means that the current recommendations keep the following positions and programs as is:
- The Wheat Ridge High School GT Center program (**This is the one item that board members said they wanted completely removed from the list, but there seems to be confusion about funding for the program. Lasell, Mitchell, and Stevens all told staff very clearly that they did not want to see the program on a cuts list ever again, and were assured by staff that it wouldn’t be an issue. Please watch for our next post about this item for more info.)
- Custodial services
- Literacy interventionists
- Mastery Connect
- optional MAP testing for K-2
- Busing to option schools and Outdoor Lab
Superintendent Search Update
If you haven’t already, please take this quick online survey about characteristics you think Jeffco needs in a new superintendent:
It’s available through Thursday, Feb. 23.
And mark your calendars for one of the upcoming community forums hosted by the search firm to provide more input about what kind of leadership Jeffco needs:
- Tuesday, February 21
- Alameda Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 7 – 8 pm
- Dakota Ridge High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
- Wednesday, February 22
- Warren Tech Founders Room, 9:30 – 10:30 am
- Arvada West High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
- Evergreen High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
Ray and Associates told the board that they recommend advertising a base salary around $300k, based on what they’re seeing in current superintendent searches. This document goes into a little more detail about how they calculated that number.
Board members decided to advertise around $300k, but said they would negotiate that number based on experience and qualifications.
Please stay involved and engaged, not only at Jeffco but at the state level to encourage legislators to work harder to address school funding issues here in Colorado. And remember that we are