Superintendent Search Update

We’re quickly coming to the end of the Board’s search for a new CEO of Jeffco Schools. The district’s Superintendent Search website shows the Jeffco School Board is still on track to announce one or more finalists the week of May 1.

What We Know So Far

On Wednesday, the hired search firm, Ray & Associates (R&A), released data about the search thus far. R&A initially contacted 825 potential candidates, representing 46 states. Sixty-nine people submitted applications, with the size and location of Jeffco attracting significant attention.

R&A evaluated and screened applicants based on the strength of their administrative experience and academic background, then focused on the qualities and criteria Jeffco wants in its next leader. The top candidates were then given a comprehensive interview by R&A  and thoroughly investigated through references, state officials, other school administrators and people who knew them.

Eleven candidates — representing Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — qualified for additional consideration. At the end of tomorrow night’s board meeting (which begins at 5 pm), board members will hold an executive session to learn the names of and discuss these candidates. However, they also have the ability to review all applications received, not just those R&A has pre-selected. We recall from one of the community forums hosted by R&A that board members will also have a chance to view video responses from each candidate to a series of questions.

Next Steps

On April 26, board members will interview the candidates they select tomorrow night.

When asked recently about the public’s role in this process, Jeffco Chief Human Resources Officer Amy Weber said that board members and the district want a process that ensures the deepest pool of qualified candidates, and many of the potential candidates have expressed a need for confidentiality.

Other Jeffco School Board Agenda Items

Also on the Board’s agenda tomorrow night:

If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can  watch the live stream. Videos of the meetings are also available there to view later.

JeffCo Proud!

Catching up, plus the 4.6.17 agenda

We thought we’d start with a quick summary of what’s been going on the past few months.  Some highlights:

Superintendent Search

The biggest news here was announced this week: former Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who stepped back at the beginning of March, has accepted a job as superintendent for the New America Schools charter school network. He will begin that position when his Jeffco contract ends on July 1.

Meanwhile, McMinimee will continue to serve Jeffco Schools in an advisory role, per his revised contract, while Terry Elliot serves as acting superintendent.

At the March meeting, board members looked at the responses they had received from the community about qualities they thought most important in our next superintendent. You can see the community feedback in this presentation, visit the Jeffco Schools superintendent search page, and and view the Ray & Associates ad for the position.

Jeffco School Board members will hear an update on the superintendent search at tonight’s April 6 board meeting. The application window for the superintendent search ends April 10, and Board members will meet in executive session with Ray & Associates to start screening candidates on April 20.

2017-18 Jeffco Schools Budget

Here, we’d first like to direct everyone’s attention to the most current list of budget reductions so that everyone can see that the Wheat Ridge High School GT Center and the proposed closures to Swanson, Stober, Peck, and Pennington are off the list. Those items are listed as “removed” in the document.

The March 23 budget presentation also included feedback from the online interactive budget tool, and from the telephone town halls. More than 18,000 individuals viewed the tool and 5,366 responses were submitted, which is a 585 percent increase over the previous year.  Feedback from all sources is listed on slides 7 through 9.

Board members clarified at the March 23 meeting that, unless something drastically changed at the state level, it was extremely unlikely they would consider the items in the deferred column again this year.

Current projections indicate that the final state budget will be close to the governor’s request, and board members agreed that district staff could proceed with the following budget assumptions:

  • Approximately $4 million in new state funding
  • Including the items in blue on this list in the Jeffco Schools 2017-18 budget
  • Increasing compensation for all Jeffco employees by $19.8 million
  • Keeping any one-time use of reserves on hold until there is more clarity on state funding

The first budget public hearing will be April 20. The second public hearing on the budget is scheduled for May 4.

Want to Join the District Accountability Committee?

Applications are being accepted for Jeffco’s District Accountability Committee (DAC) from now through April 30. If you are interested in joining this important group, read more about the DAC application process here and about the work the DAC does here.

Other News

The Wheat Ridge High School GT Center is off the list of cuts, as noted above. However, there still seems to be some confusion about how the SBB funding mechanism will work to support the GT Center Program. After our previous post about this issue, we heard from some readers who said that WRHS’s SBB dollars only fund six classes and this is a seventh class, though we know of other Jeffco high schools that are funding seventh classes with SBB.

Some of the feedback also focused on the fact that this is a program and not just a class. While we agree, our combined and varied experiences among the JCSBW writers has been that GT Centers in our Jeffco elementary and middle schools are also programs that address both the socio-emotional issues as well as providing appropriate academic acceleration.

We hope the Jeffco School Board members will follow up with the WRHS staff and accountability committee in a future meeting to check in on the progress and talk through any issues that could pose a problem in future funding.

Doral Academy will lease Zerger Elementary from the district for the 2017-18 year, per a contract that was approved at the March 23 meeting. It is a one-year lease with no option for renewal, and Doral representatives told the Jeffco School Board that their ideal location is further west. Here are three key things you need to know about this decision:

  1. If the school board hadn’t approved the lease, Doral could have appealed the lease decision to the State Board of Education. We’ll merely point out that given the State BOE’s decision regarding Great Work Montessori, it’s likely the state board would have told Jeffco to approve the lease anyhow.
  2. Jeffco Schools can continue to market the property while Doral is in it, so it won’t impede the district’s attempts to sell it.
  3. According to the contract, Doral will pay nearly $200,000 to lease the building, which, frankly, is money the district is not receiving while Zerger sits empty.

Several board members expressed concern about an overabundance of charters in the area and the potential impact on neighboring schools. It is true that there are a lot of charter schools clustered in the area. Woodrow Wilson Academy is also located in the Zerger neighborhood, merely a half-mile away. Excel Academy is only two miles to the west, Jefferson Academy is 2.5 miles, and Lincoln Academy is 3.5 miles away.

However, Doral’s current location is only 3 miles away from Zerger, making it unlikely that the lease will have a substantial impact on neighboring schools. Families who either wanted a nearby charter school or who wanted one still within walking distance of their house have had Woodrow Wilson as a nearby option even before Zerger closed in May 2011.

The school board approved a three-year conditional contract renewal for Mountain Phoenix, which is a Waldorf charter school. The issue was test scores, because Mountain Phoenix’s 2016 academic proficiency scores were quite low, triggering an automatic flag during the contract review process.

The school’s math scores ranked in the 9th percentile in elementary, and 25th percentile in middle school. Math growth scores were also below the district average at all grade levels except 7th grade. Science scores were also low, with the scores at the 18th percentile in science for both elementary and middle school students.

Much of this can be chalked up to the “Waldorf curve,” because Waldorf focuses on arts and storytelling and creativity in the early grades. The Waldorf curve is something the district has been aware of for a number of years, and the students generally have shown improvements in academic proficiency, especially during the middle school years.

This is another topic that has drawn a lot of ire from critics who implied that the district was unfairly focusing on Mountain Phoenix when other neighborhood schools also are struggling with academic proficiency. However, the actual conversation in the board room was polite and respectful, with board members and Mountain Phoenix staff trying to find the best way to balance how to preserve the Waldorf experience while also finding new ways to address the increased academic standards. A three-year contract was approved, and we at JCSBW think that Mountain Phoenix will be successful.

New boundaries were set for Shelton Elementary and Welchester Elementary at the board’s March 9 meeting to accommodate the students from Pleasant View, which closes at the end of this year.

Agenda for the April 6 Jeffco BOE meeting

Watch for a presentation from the TDPAC (Technology Data Privacy Advisory Committee) during the 5 pm study session.

The Board will also hear an update on the superintendent search during the study session, as noted above.

The regular meeting will begin at 6 pm with the usual awards and recognitions, after which the board will discuss the District Unified Improvement Plan (UIP). There are several attachments for this agenda item, so we’ll link to the District Accountability Committee UIP Recommendations and encourage you to visit BoardDocs to look at the other associated materials.

As always, we encourage you to attend the meeting in person or to watch the live stream. Videos of the meetings are also available for later viewing.

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco Superintendent Search: Our Hopes

Icon vector created by Freepik

With Jeffco’s search for a new superintendent in full swing, we wanted to share our hopes for the search process.

According to the proposed timeline, applications are due by April 10. Soon after that, we’d like to hear from the search firm Ray & Associates exactly how many applications were received.

During the week of April 20 we would like to know how many top candidates Ray & Associates are presenting to the Jeffco School Board. After that, board members will focus on finalists. We expect at least two or three. And that’s where we’d like to weigh in on possible next steps.

Remember, when Dan McMinimee was hired, he was introduced as the only finalist and our community had no way of knowing if there were other qualified candidates or how robust the search process actually was. From Day 1, the majority of those in the Jeffco community struggled to trust Jeffco Schools’ new leader because of the lack of transparency around the process.

We hope that this time, this finalist round will feel far more transparent, authentic and trustworthy.

However, there is a catch: according to Ray & Associates, many finalists do not want to have their names released to the public during this stage because it could endanger their current position. If a finalist isn’t selected for the Jeffco job, it could cause unease and distrust back in their current district.

Ideally, finalists’ names and credentials would be released and they would participate in community meetings or tele-town halls to allow stakeholders an opportunity to participate in the selection process. But if this isn’t possible — and we realize that it is also unlikely — our hope would be that Ray & Associates will present some options to the board beyond a simplistic “release the names of finalists or don’t.”

Some options include:

  1. Create a transparent and publicized panel of Jeffco stakeholders who can interview the finalists. Those participants would sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep finalists’ names confidential and would submit their recommendations and thoughts to the board to help with the final decision.
  2. Jeffco stakeholders could submit questions they’d like finalists to answer, and finalists’ answers to these questions would be shared with the community. Stakeholders would then be allowed to provide input on the selection process based on this information.
  3. A fact sheet on each candidate could be developed and presented to stakeholders so we know what experience and qualifications the finalists have without revealing who they are.
  4. Or ideally – all of the above!

We also want to call your attention to the Superintendent Search Flyer that Ray & Associates is using to advertise the position. The listed qualifications are the priorities that board members and the Jeffco community (through the online survey and several in-person meetings with various Jeffco groups) want to see in the next Jeffco Schools Superintendent:

  • Inspires trust, has high levels of self-confidence and optimism, and models high standards of integrity and personal performance.
  • Possesses the ability to enhance all student performance, especially in identifying and closing or narrowing the gaps in student achievement.
  • Is an innovative leader, skilled at using emerging research, best practices, and data to support student achievement.
  • Possesses excellent people skills, presents a positive image of the district, will listen to input, and make a decision when necessary.
  • Guides educators to implement creative, collaborative approaches to ensure students have excellent opportunities and outcomes.
  • Is able to delegate authority appropriately while maintaining accountability.
  • Has experience in the management of district resources and knowledge of sound fiscal procedures.
  • Is strongly committed to a “students first” philosophy in all decisions.
  • Has demonstrated strong leadership skills in previous positions.
  • Is a strong communicator; speaking, listening, and writing.
  • Demonstrates commitment to community visibility, with high interest in a broad range of community groups and organizations.
  • Is able to lead a large organization dedicated to goals of continuous improvement.

We simply say, “Yes!”

JeffCo Proud!

Board Meeting Thursday, Superintendent Succession

The Jeffco School Board meets this Thursday, March 9, beginning at 4:30 pm with a musical performance by students from Patterson Elementary.

Ray & Associates will provide an update on the Superintendent Search process during the study session at 5 pm. You can see the proposed timeline for the search process, and the application deadline is April 10.

Meanwhile, we learned last week that Superintendent Dan McMinimee will be stepping back into an advisory role, and current Chief School Effectiveness Officer Terry Elliott will become Acting Superintendent. Elliott also announced last week that he will be taking a new job with the Brighton/27J School District after this school year.

Note that succession plan was outlined months ago in the Jeffco School Board’s Superintendent Successor policy, and that Elliott is listed as the first leader (followed by Kevin Carroll and Amy Weber). Because Elliott has already submitted his resignation, it also means he won’t be a candidate in the Jeffco search, which we feel is a good thing.

Next, the board will recognize schools receiving the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Awards and the John Irwin School of Excellence Awards, and Devinny Elementary, a National Blue Ribbon School. The board will also celebrate several State Wrestling Champions.

It’s a regular meeting, so remember that you can sign up online for public comment if you wish to address the board. Public comment part one is for issues regarding the agenda and part two is for issues not on this month’s agenda.

One note on the Board’s consent agenda: Collegiate Academy, a Jeffco charter school, is up for renewal. We note that enrollment at that school has dropped by about 200 students, or 36 percent in the last 10 years, from 554 in the 2006/2007 school year to just 355 this year. We also note the most recent ACT scores for Collegiate were below both the district and state averages. That renewal is currently part of the consent agenda, meaning it will likely be renewed without discussion. We simply would like to highlight the numbers for the record, especially as some in the community claim that Jeffco is clamoring for more charter schools. Enrollment at Collegiate, at least, suggests otherwise.

The renewal of another charter school, Mountain Phoenix Community School is on the discussion agenda. According to the presentation, the main concern appears to be academic proficiency on state tests, and district staff are recommending a conditional three-year renewal. It will be interesting to hear more details during the meeting.

Next, the Board will receive a legislative update on the current status of state education funding and on any proposed bills that would affect Jeffco.

Board members will also discuss proposed boundary changes for the Pleasant View Elementary students who will now attend either Shelton or Welchester.

The last agenda items are to review a few policies and work on the calendar.

If you can’t make the meeting, remember that you can stream it at this link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

JeffCo Proud!

Saving the Jeffco WRHS GT Center

16402626_1295186623885088_5424815077130559609_oIf you attended or watched the Feb. 9 Jeffco School Board meeting, you know that many, many students from the Wheat Ridge High School GT Center program spoke passionately in support of the program after Superintendent Dan McMinimee directed his staff to include the program on the list of recommended budget cuts introduced at the Jan. 26 meeting.

You also remember that after hours of parents, students, teachers, and community members pleading with the board to not close schools, cut programs or cut other resources that impact Jeffco classrooms, McMinimee did an about-face and told his staff to try a new approach that relies on retirement savings rather than classroom resource cuts and school closures.

The result?  Most of the originally proposed cuts are now “deferred,” unless estimated state funding drops considerably.

Board member Ali Lasell told staff that she would like to see the WRHS GT Center program taken off the cut list entirely so that cuts weren’t merely “deferred” but completely off the table.

After some discussion district staff told board members that their goal was to fund the program through $150,000 of money from the district from another year, but then to fund the program through student-based budgeting dollars–just like every other GT Center program in Jeffco’s elementary and middle schools currently is. The result, staff said, would be a budget savings and would be more sustainable in the long run.

A long discussion ensued with district staff — specifically, Terry Elliot, Chief School Effectiveness Officer, and Kevin Carroll, Chief Student Success Officer — assuring board members that the program could be funded through SBB dollars with money left to spare.

Our impression from listening to this conversation in the board room was that Lasell and the other board members were very clear in directing district staff to remove this from a budget cut list and make sure it never returned. In fact, Amanda Stevens brought the issue up again later in the discussion to emphasize to McMinimee and staff in no uncertain terms that they didn’t want to see the program proposed for cuts again, not this year and not any year.

That said, we also recognize that this conversation took place well after midnight. So we’d like to include this transcript of the discussion and then ask a question. First, the transcript, with the caveat that some items without quotation marks around them have been paraphrased for clarity (remember, it was well after midnight and everyone was exhausted):

Amanda Stevens: “We’ve had a request to take some things off the table. To not defer, but just say no to some things.”

Ali Lasell:  “There are some Ds [deferred items] I have a problem with. A “D” can come back, right?”

[staff confirm that deferred items could be considered for cuts later if the state funding picture changes]

Lasell: “Here is what I want to propose: out of respect for the Wheat Ridge GT program, I’d like to vote to take that off the table right now, to take that off the D, and take it off the list.”

Kevin Carroll (Student Success Officer): I’ve talked to WRHS principal, we agree it’s the right program. We propose using some one-time dollars to fund the GT program this coming year [2017-18] and then look together and work with community to look at the $583,000 that come with these students each year, which is enough to fund 8 teachers. I believe we can work in partnership with finance and the high school to see what the long-term sustainable possibilities are to make it work with SBB just like elementary and middle school GT programs currently do. …. When transitioned to SBB, the center programs were run through programs they received students. The program attracts 95 students who choice in, making it mutually attractive for the GT Center and WRHS.

Ron Mitchell: Is there pressure on anyone if program is funded through SBB?

Carroll: No, it should be doable.  “We can make it a sustainable program, which is what it should be.”

Lasell: “Sustainable how?”

Carroll: “Sustainable so that it is funded by the students who participate within the program so it does not become at risk through budget cutting at the district level from year to year, just like we do with every other GT center program, similar to how we do with any other unique program at high schools right now.”  (Mentions pathways program, etc, says no additional funds come in to fund those beyond SBB dollars.)

Carroll:  “The dollars that come as a result of them being there [the GT students] should be leveraged to support their needs.”

Terry Elliot (Chief School Effectiveness Officer) explains that IB programs are supplemented to cover administrative costs such as testing and other elements that are specific to IB, but that funding does not cover the teaching FTE needed for IB; SBB covers FTE costs for IB.

Lasell: “I feel like this is a program, not just a premiere program in the state. I feel like it’s a nationally-recognized program, it is a center program for high school, and it is attracting kids from all over the district. The great thing about having it at WR is WR is pretty centrally located so it provides more opportunity for more people…..I think it’s a great location. But I also know that in general, high schools costs a lot more to operate because you have all these other specialized classes. In general their class sizes are a lot smaller than our middle and elementaries. I want us to respect the gems we have right now.”

Elliot: “I think what Mr. Carroll is saying is that we have a lot of gems that self-fund. Why is this one uniquely receiving additional dollars? The reason it got it original is undisputed: it was a start-up process, that’s the way we allocated FTEs to schools in the past but as we rolled to the SBB process we took all the dollars that were being allocated from here and pushed them into the per-pupil factor so that schools could continue to run their programs. WR is essentially getting paid twice for that class because if students come with a full schedule of six classes as part of the funding the school receives and one of those six classes is the GT program class that they take, and nobody  has ever said it’s anything other than a great program, but those dollars are kind of inherently built into our budgeting process. However, we’re giving that school an additional $150,000 to offer that program, so in a sense, they’re getting two dollars for that class, they’re getting paid twice for that class.”

Stevens: “Which allows the principal to direct his other SBB dollars to the kinds of offerings and wraparound services”

Elliot (interjects): “very low class student ratios,”

Stevens: “Let me ask you this. That conversation that would proceed with the principal there, would it be about size, where the equation shifts and it’s a shared cost?”

Carroll: “What we’re proposing is to not have to share any costs this year, but that we would pay the whole $150,000, but that we would transition them for the year after. Right now, on top of the existing two teachers, he could afford to pay for those teachers plus five more, 5-1/2 more, almost 6 teachers that he could use in other ways across his building, where right now he’s able to use all 7.87 teachers outside of these current teachers that are being paid for with central dollars.”

Susan Harmon: “I understand what you’re saying and I assure you, it’s a fabulous program. Every kid who stood up, I could listen to them for hours. But we’re also trying to create equity, there’s a lot of other great programs across the board, there are some other amazing gems, out there, and in the name of equity, we’re not taking that away. We’re going to manage it…”

Carroll (interjects): “Absolutely And if we got to the point and I would never propose this, but if the local school that gets to control the SBB dollars through a community process, a collaborative process with SACS and shared leadership, if they determine that through the SBB dollars that they did not believe they were able to house this program at Wheat Ridge High School I would find another place for it within the county. This program needs to continue so that’s not in question. It will continue. And my greatest hope is that it will continue at Wheat Ridge High School because there’s such a beautiful partnership that is going on there, and a wonderful program. I don’t think there’s any question that this type of program is absolutely necessary for these students.”

Mitchell: “And the likelihood of being able to work out a long-term solution collaborative you would guess, Mr. Carroll, is very good?”

Carroll: “I believe is very high given the amount of resources that come with these students.”

[a some time later, after a few other budget items have been discussed]

Stevens: I’d like to revisit the GT issue and request that it be a shared cost model that isn’t requiring 100 percent school dollars or 100 percent district dollars. Says she wants to make sure that it doesn’t become a one or the other, where the program might get pulled out of WRHS and sent elsewhere if WRHS decides its SBB dollars aren’t sufficient to make it fully self-funding next year.

Lasell: “I think you’re hearing us that we want that program to stay and we want it to stay at Wheat Ridge.”

Elliot: “We’re all on the same page.”

Lasell: “I just want to be really clear so you have your direction from us. So let’s figure it out and not hear about this possibility again, ok?”

Mitchell: “Yes, we would like to not come back to this one.”

[Mitchell closes that agenda item and moves to the next item.]

https://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310/videos/148985602

We’ve heard from from some community members that their impression is that the WRHS GT Center is only funded for one more year, and their future is uncertain after that. We’re not sure why, as the board members made it clear that they didn’t want to see the program on the chopping block again–and were assured repeatedly by staff that funding the program through SBB dollars like every other GT Center wouldn’t be a problem.

One objection the WRHS school accountability committee chair made at the meeting was that WRHS needs to direct more resources toward boosting student achievement scores among their very large free and reduced lunch population. However, WRHS is hardly alone in that respect. About half of Jeffco’s 16 GT Center schools that have considerable FRL populations, and four of those have much larger FRL populations than WRHS:

  • Kendrick Lakes – 29.3 percent
  • Hackberry – 31.1 percent
  • Sheridan Green – 32.1 percent
  • WRHS  46.2%

  • Creighton Middle School – 57.7 percent
  • North Arvada Middle School – 57.8 percent
  • Everitt Middle School – 66.5 percent
  • Stevens Elementary – 70 percent

CDE School Dashboard

http://www2.cde.state.co.us/schoolview/dish/schooldashboard.asp

WRHS is hardly alone in serving a diverse population of learners, both academically and socio-economically, so we don’t understand the WRHS SAC chair’s argument. Other GT Center schools have to balance those same issues, and continue to do so.

One other point: the board members asked about how other high school programs, such as IB, were funded. Elliot said that while IB programs do get some extra money, that money is reserved strictly for IB-specific administrative costs (related to testing requirements for IB students), but that the IB teachers are funded through SBB.

That said, we wonder if there’s a missing piece about the current WRHS GT Center that hasn’t been addressed in the budget discussion. JCSBW fully agrees that the WRHS GT Center is a valuable program that should not be a candidate for budget cuts, and wonder what more can be done to ensure a stable future for the program.

So we’d like to toss this question out to those in the WRHS GT community: what would you like to see the Jeffco School Board members do to ensure that the program is protected from budget cuts during the next decade?

Feel free to leave a comment below or to email us at MtEvans2015@gmail.com. As always, we’re happy to keep your responses anonymous, especially if there’s additional information we’d like to share with our readers to better understand this situation.

JeffCo Proud!