3.3.16 BOE meeting preview

Here’s a brief run-down of the agenda for the Thursday, March 3 regular meeting. The study session begins at 5:30 and the regular board meeting begins at 6:30 pm.

Your Childs Education

Here’s the link to stream the meeting:  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Study Session: Safety Update

District staff have reviewed the Claire Davis Safety Act and the combined and consolidated recommendations from the Arapahoe High School reports. They will talk to the board about the pieces that apply to Jeffco Schools and how recommendations will be implemented. As of this posting, no attachments have been included for this agenda item..

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

The board will honor Sargent Wayne Holverson of the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office for his leadership over the past three years heading up the School Resource Officer (SRO) unit, his SRO work nearly 17 years ago following the Columbine tragedy, his September 2013 work to evacuate more than 120 students and staff from Mt. Evans Outdoor Lab School due to impending flooding, and his general dedication to protecting our students.
The board will also recognize Jeffco Schools’ Employee Assistance Program for receiving the Outstanding EA Program award from the Colorado Employee Assistance Professionals Association chapter. Kathleen Remington, EAP manager, was awarded the Daetwiler Award for an outstanding professional member.

That’s followed by individual member school reports and public comment. Sign up here to address the board during public comment part 1, but remember that only this part is reserved only for items on the agenda. If you want to speak on other items, sign up for public comment part 2.

Consent Agenda

You can review the Consent Agenda items here. Among other items, the consent agenda includes revisions to several board policies to provide clarity, consistency and alignment with state statute. We’ve read through the proposed changes and would like to call your attention to these changes in particular:

GP-06(3)(d): “Regardless of the method, once an item is removed from the consent agenda, it will be added to one of the discussion sections of the meeting in session. The discussion time limit for the item will be determined by a majority vote of the Board. After discussion of the removed consent item, Board members may take a position on the item in the same or next regularly scheduled Board meeting.” This clarifies this procedure. Board members can pull an item off of the consent agenda for discussion, and even if this is the first time they discuss the item, they can still vote during the meeting or they can opt to postpone the vote to allow time for additional information gathering.

We also noticed in GP-06(4) that it seems public comment will only occur during regular business meetings as there is no mention of public comment during study sessions. As a reminder, the previous board voted 5-0 in favor by the previous board. We’d encourage the board to review this policy further and edit to include that public comment will be permitted during study sessions where a vote will be taken to ensure the public has an opportunity to comment before a vote is taken.

GP-13 has been revised to include additional members of Jeffco Schools’ constituency in the District Accountability Committee. One member of the Jeffco PTA and a CSEA member (classified staff such as bus drivers, janitors, etc.) have been added. Additionally, instead of at-large representatives only being appointed by the board, the policy is being revised to clarify that there will be up to 10 representatives with effort made to represent the diversity of stakeholders.

8.01 Academic Goal Update: Career, Workforce and Post-Secondary Readiness-Graduation, Dropout and Remediation Rates

District staff will share during their presentation there are many positives to be proud of, such as a five-year trend of on-time graduation rates shows an overall improvement of 3.8 percentage points for the district with significant improvements for student subgroups (e.g., free and reduced lunch, minorities, and English language learners). In addition, the remediation rate trend shows an overall general improvement with a decrease of 5.1 percentage points for the district.

However, there is always room for improvement. The district must continue to examine and strive to close performance gaps, such as those between white and Hispanic/Latino students and graduation rates between males and females.

In addition, we’d love a little more information about remediation rates. Currently, the remediation rate only reflects Jeffco graduates who attend a public college or university in Colorado. Remediation rates for students who attend a private college or university, or who attend college out of state are not included in this rate. It’s also not clear whether the remediation rate as reported includes only Jeffco students who have graduated in the last four years or whether it includes any Jeffco graduate who tests into a remedial course. Does it also include Jeffco graduates from the ’80s or ’90s who may be going back to school for a career change? 

We’d really love to see if there’s a way to include data for the private and out-of-state institutions to see what Jeffco’s true remediation rate is. Currently, the only thing we do know is that the remediation rate quoted does not reflect all recent Jeffco graduates.

In addition, we noted that less than half of 2015 graduating seniors reached ACT’s college-level coursework readiness benchmark in algebra, social science and biology. ALL students in Colorado were required to take the ACT (and will be required to take the SAT instead in future years), whereas other states only require those planning to attend college to take either the ACT or the SAT.

The question again is what this data really means. Could it be that students are so accustomed to standardized testing that students not planning to attend college may not take the test seriously because it won’t have repercussions for their high school career? Also, is it possible to break down data from previous years to compare the average ACT score among those students who went on to attend college vs. those who did not?

The board and district should look into the root causes of this statistic and how this data might also play into discussion about multiple pathways for career and college readiness and judging student achievement from a body of evidence rather than a single test score — an issue that seems especially important for career-focused students such as those studying a vocation at Warren Tech. 

9. Discussion Agenda

The projected cost to build a new school at Candelas has increased from $25M to $31M. There are likely several reasons for this, the most likely culprit being inflation. Steve Bell was extremely clear that construction cost inflation was playing a role in the costs associated with the last year of repairs that were part of the 2012 3B bond in previous board presentations.  We’d guess that inflation in building costs is the reason that the cost has increased over the estimate the district staff gave the board a year ago, though we look forward to a more detailed explanation at the meeting.

If the root cause for the increase is indeed inflation, it’s more clear proof that WNW’s insistence on dragging its heels was indeed pennywise and pound foolish.

Jeffco Proud!

9.11.15 Recall will be on November ballot & WNW surprises

If you attended or watched the Sept. 3 Jeffco School Board meeting, you may have heard something you never expected to hear: the three board majority members, Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams, who have said they do not support raising taxes for schools, are thinking about raising your taxes.

We know!

contortionist

Here’s how that played out. Now a year later, the board majority had (yet another) discussion about where to build a school in the northwest Jeffco corridor. They have been considering three sites: Table Rock (Hwy 93 and 58th Ave), Leyden Rock or Candelas, and at the last meeting Witt was pushing pretty heavily for Leyden Rock, despite the reality that a school built at that site will seat less kids and take longer to build. The Sept. 3 meeting was a general meeting, so parents from NW Arvada came to comment, with some strongly advocating for Leyden Rock because, they argued, they’re growing faster than Candelas.

Newkirk opened the Sept. 3 discussion with a long, meandering and pointless preamble about how as elected officials they didn’t need to accept district recommendations. A few minutes later, he finally got to the point and made a motion for the district to build on the Leyden Rock site and for staff to begin soliciting bids to build a school with 625 seats in 24 months at that location.

Reality check: That’s not possible, at least not with the paltry $18 million the district designated for a school. Leyden Rock has some steep slopes that make designing and constructing a school more complex. Retaining walls and a lot of earth moving will be necessary in order to build, and the school will need a couple of building pads and at least one elevator. All in all, that makes for a construction premium of $3.5 million according to estimates, which leaves only $14.5 million for the school building itself. Between the limited budget and topography, Chief Operations Officer Steve Bell and Facilities Director Tim Reed estimate they will only be able to build a 450-seat school and it will take six months longer than construction at the other two sites.

Newkirk later asked if the issue was that companies wouldn’t make such a low bid, but Superintendent McMinimee pointed out that we are building schools to last. Remember the adage about fast, good, and cheap? You can only pick two.

The discussion was lengthy and painful, so I’ll skip to the highlights.

Highlight 1: McMinimee went to bat for his staff, and our hat is off to him for taking a stand. After Newkirk’s grandstanding and motion, McMinimee told the board he felt compelled to respond, and he defended his staff’s recommendations and estimates. He pointed out that the topic had been on the table for more than a year and that their original recommendation was to use Certificates of Participation to build a school and finish phase II at Sierra Elementary to relieve some of the pressure on surrounding schools.

McMinimee also noted that Jeffco was in the process of adding temporary buildings to West Woods Elementary this year, and that the growth issue is not only north of 82nd Avenue. If you missed it, you can catch McMinimee’s comments in the meeting video. You’ll want to scroll to about 2:52:45 in the video which is about where his comments begin.

Jill Fellman eventually called for the board to put Certificates of Participation back on on the table, but it was met with the usual argument from Williams that the issue should be put to a vote of the people. The option of a bond came up, and Newkirk said he would be “very open” to that possibility.

Witt did some grandstanding and claimed that the 2012 bond measure should have been larger and included money to build new schools, which was ridiculous considering that the economy still was weak in 2012 and more to the point: he didn’t even support the very small amount that was needed to keep our students warm, safe and dry and has been trying to take that money and use it elsewhere since he was elected.

Highlight 2: Dahlkemper made the motion to direct staff to present a comprehensive bond scenario for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot, and the motion passed 5-0.

Then there was another painful discussion about whether the district should build the K-8 recommended by the district at Candelas, or just a K-6 because Witt thinks that’s the real growth issue (or something). It was another conversation that was quite confusing, not least because it takes two years to build a school and children will age toward middle school during that time. Finally they agreed to push off the decision about grade configuration until the next meeting, which provides staff some time to put together a presentation about the benefits of each scenario.

School Safety

School safety was another topic, largely because the district’s safety office is stretched to the limit. Suicide assessments are up 600 percent over the last two years. There were also 281 threats last year, which is a 100 percent increase. Safe2Tell fielded more than 700 reports in which Jeffco students reported a friend in crisis requiring immediate help, and 44,091 calls for assistance were made from schools to security asking for help.

Jeffco has 11 patrol officers and 3 management team members to respond to calls. Our law enforcement agencies also provide School Resource Officers–36 of them–at no charge to the district. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the $1.3 million budget they have is not sufficient given the increase in threats and suicide assessments. They need more money.

School Based Budgeting (SBB)

There was a brief report on school based budgeting. The short version is that they are hearing positive comments from principals who have more flexibility to provide resources based on student needs. They also looked at the number of students enrolled in full-day kindergarten.

Here’s the point to remember: the number of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten appears to have increased, but the number of schools offering free full-day kindergarten has decreased from 40 to 32. We’ll know more after the district has an official count later this fall.

Recall to be on the Nov. 3 ballot!

Jeffco United for Action received great news last week after the Jeffco County Clerk said she’s confident the recall can be part of the November general election ballot. There are a few hurdles remaining, but the news is really good. For the full story, check out Chalkbeat’s analysis here.

Now It’s Your Turn

With only a few weeks until the mail-in ballots arrive, we all need to pitch in and help. You can:

https://www.facebook.com/Amanda-for-Jeffco-Schools-604780212991553/timeline/

https://www.facebook.com/Ali-Lasell-for-Jeffco-421746884684406/timeline/

https://www.facebook.com/bradforjeffcokids?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/susanforjeffcokids?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/ronforjeffcokids

  • Walk doors with Jeffco United to educate Jeffco voters about why we need to recall Witt, Newkirk and Williams. You can sign up to walk this Saturday during one of the morning, afternoon or evening shifts, or at any of the multiple other days in September and October.
  • Post a yard sign supporting the recall. Information about getting a sign is posted on their Facebook page.

We need to get the word out and that takes all of us. Any little bit helps, so walking just one shift, donating another $5 or $10 to a campaign, and spreading the word. We don’t want another two years without the respect, accountability and transparency that Jeffco deserves. Our students, our schools and all of us deserve better. Let’s make sure everyone knows it and votes to recall WNW on Nov. 3.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!