5.22.2015 Clear your Tuesday calendar

We know that many of you, like us, are deep in the glut of end-of-school concerts and activities, but things are heating up just in time for Tuesday’s board meeting. Here’s a brief summary of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks.

May 7 – The BOE majority votes to move $15 million from the budget “underspend” (dollars that aren’t already allocated) all for a new school in the NW Arvada area. The problem? There are many. Among them: $15 million is still $10 million short of the amount the district estimated for a K-8 school in the area. In addition, the vote puts less into district reserves than originally planned, and crushes all other options for those dollars. District staff had recommended the $13.5 million be distributed to teacher compensation, students, facilities and reserves. For more details about that discussion, check out the Jeffco Schools Examiner story.

Witt also targeted a high school student for the “crime” of clicking the favorite button on a tweet that came from the parody @notlisapinto Twitter account. During the meeting, which went way into the wee hours of May 8, he said he would not meet with Jeffco Students for Change because he claimed that their leader had favorited a Facebook post that contained a racial epithet aimed at a Jeffco staffer. Well, as it turns out, (1) it was Twitter, not Facebook, (2) there were no racial epithets, and (3) it’s a violation of board policy and probably a number of other laws to put the full name of a Jeffco student up on the screen in full view of the board room during the board meeting.

Angry? Us too, though we also wonder whether it was meant to be a distraction for what came next.

May 12 – The district’s new compensation plan was put on hold by a Jeffco judge, who ruled that the district may not pay new hires under that plan–at least if they were hired after May 1. It’s unclear what will happen to those hired between the decision and the May 1 date. For more details, check out Chalkbeat’s fine article.

May 18 – Jeffco refuses to host a bill signing for Governor John Hickenlooper at Lakewood High School, claiming that it would be too inconvenient with students taking finals and would create a security staff shortage (or something along those lines). So, hosting Katy Perry last year (an event early in the morning that the governor also attended, by the way) isn’t a problem, but a bill signing is. Please. We have amazing security experts in Jeffco. They would handle it fine–if only they’d been given the opportunity.

May 20 – Contract negotiations with JCEA took a turn, after the district realized it needs some plan to pay those new hires. Again, check out Chalkbeat for the details.

May 21 – Jeffco’s talks with JCEA stall. We’re sure you’re shocked. Not surprisingly, the district continues to maintain the position that they want to remain competitive for new hires, never mind the salary gap and the fact that our veteran teachers are not being recognized in any way for sticking with the district through the years of pay freezes. The JCEA Twitter feed is one among many that gives a feel for Thursday’s conversation, but you can also watch the video feed here or read the Chalkbeat article.

District officials blame the budget–and this is where your help is needed. The first hearing for the budget is this Tuesday, May 26 (note the date change!). It’s time to help the school board remember what its priorities should be: compensating our teachers fairly and focusing on the classroom. Instead, they’re claiming the budget is too small to give much if anything to veteran teachers, but that apparently isn’t stopping them from awarding a $5,236 raise to Chief Communication Officer Lisa Pinto.

Wait, you say? How is she getting a raise when she clearly has not proven to be a highly effective or even effective employee? Where’s the data that her position has improved student achievement–which is Witt’s usual rallying cry? Instead, she’s increased the amount of negative press that Jeffco has, including the May 19 Denver Post editorial by the criticizing the district’s refusal to allow the bill signing. Pinto didn’t make that call, but her response to the governor’s office was far from professional (as is any communication that begins with the phrase “for your information”). She is not effective and by Witt’s own rules, does not deserve a raise until she becomes effective. We’re still waiting.

If you don’t like what’s going on, it’s time to speak up. Sign up for public comment here (and if you do, plan for public commented to be shortened to 1 minute for individuals). Can’t make it to the meeting? Write the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, and mark off June 11, which is the date of the second budget hearing.

Finally we’re sorry to report that Lesley Dahlkemper will not run for her seat again this November. She made that announcement on her Facebook page on May 3. But all is not lost, as Jeffco parent Amanda Stevens will run for that seat. Amanda has been a strong voice for our students at board meetings, and we hope you will like her Facebook page and support her in every way possible through the coming months.

Keep fighting, Jeffco!

We cannot give up now.


 

The Hypothetical Dan McMinimee

broken-trust

Mr. McMinimee appears to have a full repertoire for evading questions and not committing to any particular path, presumably to not create obstacles to the ultimate political goals of the school board majority’s handlers. One of those tools he has employed more often lately is refusing to answer questions if he deems them to be “hypothetical.”

In recent conversations with teachers and the community, Mr. McMinimee has taken to setting ground rules. Some of the ground rules appear to be the usual, like behaving respectfully. Unfortunately, he is also increasingly using the manipulative “I’m not answering hypothetical questions” sleight-of-hand, and establishing that as one of his up-front ground rules.

Of course, he actually talks about hypothetical events all the time. Certainly, when he interviewed for the job he talked about hypothetical events. Certainly, he believes in the purchase of appropriate insurance for the district despite the fact that the insured events are hypothetical.

He is mandated to plan strategically, accounting for some hypotheticals.  We are sure that Mr. McMinimee plans his weekend despite some uncertainties in his plans. The “hypothetical” escape hatch might not be his most disingenuous answer, but it is perhaps the perfect example of his get-out-of-the-way-of-WNW leadership style. To be sure, there are limits to the reasonable hypothetical nature of questions, but real leadership is talking about things that really concern people and that aren’t just remote possibilities.

Yet when competent, veteran teachers ask about what life might be life after an association contract, there is some level of dismissal by Mr. McMinimee as such questions being too hypothetical. These are teachers whose long and distinguished careers are defined and undergirded by working conditions spelled out in their contract. Based on what happened in Douglas County, and WNW’s relationship with the Independence Institute and other reflexively anti-collective bargaining forces, questions about life after a teacher contract are far from hypothetical.

Mr. McMinimee bristles at the idea that there’s a lack of transparency, but his dodging uncomfortable questions with this cynical trick only deepens the mistrust. Once again, Mr. McMinimee’s shocking lack of real leadership promotes the idea that he was paid primarily to talk in circles, to shirk tough questions as deftly as possible, and to do the will of forces operating outside of Jeffco, all the while giving the appearance that he has some separation and independence from the board majority. At a meeting on Wednesday night, he answered that he sometimes stands up to some board members, but behind closed doors, of course.

True leaders give authentic and transparent answers to their employees’ questions, especially when those questions involve the conditions of their work and their livelihood. We will gladly give credit if things change. But for now, Mr. McMinimee’s weak dodges will only cement the idea that his primary goal isn’t really student achievement, but rather to get paid a comfortable salary while playing the part of a pawn. That’s not hypothetical.

Keep fighting JeffCo!


 

 

Board Mtg 1/30/14 – Summary

Below is a review of the Jan 30th Special Board meeting held at the Education Center in Golden (near Denver West off of I-70).

The first part of the meeting was held in Executive Session (no public viewing) and covered the status of negotiations with the different employee associations.  At 6:30 p.m., the public part of the meeting was convened.  Overall, there appeared to be a strong interest in anything charter school related. Continue reading

Next Board Meeting Agenda

Going forward we will try to give you a summary of what the agenda is for each Board meeting, plus our view/concerns/expectations on those items.

This Thursday the Board meets in the Board Room at the Educational Center in special session to be updated on a range of topics:.  The public part of the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.  Please attend!  We want as many eyes and ears on the Board as possible! Continue reading