Jeffco Superintendent Search: Our Hopes

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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!

2.10.17 BOE Meeting Summary & Action Items

UpdateSo we’ve mostly recovered from the 8-hour marathon Jeffco School Board meeting, and wanted to quickly outline some of the decisions.

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:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JRH7N3T

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

JeffCo Proud!

Guest Post: Jeffco Schools Budget Cut Recommendations

urgent
Today we feature a guest post by one our readers, Bob Greenawalt, a Jeffco parent, taxpayer, and community member, regarding some of the Jeffco Schools budget cuts recommended by the district. Our five Jeffco School Board members are preparing to vote on these recommendations on Thursday and need your input. Greenawalt highlights some of the potential cuts in his post.

On January 26, 2017 the Superintendent’s Cabinet, among other things, recommended:

  • Eliminating all (30) social and emotional learning specialists and a coordinator.
  • Eliminating all (20) literacy interventionists.
  • Eliminating four of 16 resource teachers who help support teachers of students determined to be gifted and talented.
  • Cut the 2 GT teachers who run the District’s only HS GT program at Wheat Ridge.

Let’s hope that the Board was as surprised by these recommendations as I was.

By all indications, these programs are successful and working to help our kids. Schools nationwide are investing in social emotional work, which helps students develop skills to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts and make responsible decisions. District research shows that the literacy interventionists are “closing the gap for our most highly impacted populations.” The targeted cut of the 2 GT teachers includes a 2017 Colorado Teacher of the Year Finalist.

All of these successful programs were designed to help students on the margins. It makes me wonder what message the Superintendent and his Cabinet is sending to teachers, students and the community with these recommendations?

The Board has an opportunity to show the community that it really does care about kids and their education by rejecting these recommendations and finding other ways to fund their desired compensation investment of $25M.

If the Board accepts these recommendations, we will be left questioning their priorities and reasoning, and an at-risk population will be deprived of vital resources.

The School Board needs to remember its responsibility to put the kids first!

We at JCSBW want add that the issues with compensation are real and that $25 million would go a long way toward making salaries in Jeffco Schools competitive with our neighboring districts. However, the board has not yet landed on a specific plan for compensation and the cuts district staff recommended surprised everyone at the Jan. 26 meeting.

District staff recommended the $25 million number. Given that District staff were then only able to present a little over $20 million in recommended cuts, we don’t expect to see anything close to $25 million go toward compensation this year. We also know board members were not a proponent of closing any schools for the 2017-18 school year, or accelerating any timelines regarding the move toward K-5, 6-8 configurations. 

Board members have placed a high priority on teacher compensation because of how important having a great teacher in every classroom is to student success. Jeffco risks losing some of its best educators.

We pointed out recently that in 2010, a Jeffco Schools teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience earned $52,330. In 2017, that same Jeffco Schools teacher only earns $49,839 — compensation has gone DOWN. In neighboring districts, that teacher can earn $57,733. Are those teachers going to head to Boulder or Cherry Creek to earn nearly $8,000 more per year? Sure — especially if they have kids headed to college. It’s a real issue.

However, some of the recommended cuts, such as those mentioned above and the recommendation to close five schools, will have a major impact on our Jeffco students and communities.

The question for board members will be how to balance keeping good teachers in Jeffco while also continuing to invest in educational innovations that we know help Jeffco students achieve.

If you can’t make the meeting tomorrow, please watch the live stream at this link: https://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Budget Proposal for Jeffco Schools (1.26.17 meeting summary)

UpdateAs you’ve undoubtedly heard on the news by now, the budget recommendations from Jeffco Schools staff caught a lot of people by surprise, including the board members who had only received the recommendations a day earlier. A lot took place at the Jan. 26 Jeffco School Board meeting, and we’ll summarize this information as efficiently as possible.

Budget Proposal — School Closings

After voters said “no” to 3A and 3B this fall, Jeffco School Board members asked district staff to find funds to invest in compensation, with a target number of $25 million. As we’ve mentioned many times, teachers make about 10 percent less in Jeffco than they could in neighboring districts, which means we’re not competitive in the labor market for teachers or other resources like speech pathologists and more.

Staff presented those recommendations tonight, including a number of far-ranging cuts to resources and staff, in addition to closing five schools, relocating one school, and reconfiguring some articulation areas to a K-5, 6-8 model a year earlier than planned.

The facilities presentation recommended closing these schools:

  • Peck Elementary
  • Pennington Elementary
  • Pleasant View Elementary
  • Stober Elementary
  • Swanson Elementary

In addition, Long View High School would be relocated from its current location, presumably to McClain High School.

In order to close the above schools, the Arvada and Wheat Ridge articulation areas would need to change to a K-5, 6-8 configuration for the 2017-18 school year rather than for the 2018-19 school year as planned. This means current 5th graders in those two articulation areas would be 6th graders in middle school this August, while the remaining areas wouldn’t reconfigure until 2018-19.

The Chatfield articulation area is also included for reconfiguration for 2017-18, but that reconfiguration has been planned for more than a year, and the community has been working through that process for some time now.

Staff also noted that school performance was not a criteria in the closure recommendations. The criteria used are detailed on the slides, and we’ll post more about the facilities recommendations in a few days.

Budget Proposal – Other Cuts

The budget presentation explained the state funding picture (bleak) and suggestions for various funding scenarios. It also discussed one-time funds.

A separate document details the budget cuts recommended by Superintendent McMinimee’s cabinet. These would be implemented in four phases, with some requiring BOE approval, and others falling under “staff action.” Here’s a summary, but we encourage you to read through the details at this link.

  • Phase 1A: Increase athletic fees and activity card fees, eliminate quarterly financial audit review (external quarterly audit would remain), reduce National School Board membership, increase community building use fees, and close five elementary schools. Total savings: $4,508,410.00
  • Phase 1B: Reduce utility, fuel, sick and personal payout and contingency budgets; reclassify educational research and design staff to other funds or grants; reduce achievement directors, support staff, educator effectiveness staff, and GT teachers; reduce security budget; cut superintendent, technology and human resources staff. Total savings: $7,987,008.00
  • Phase 2: Reduce custodial staff and clean only 60 percent of buildings nightly (vs. 80 percent currently); reduce literary interventionists, content specialists, support personnel and substitute expenses for professional development; reduce achievement directors; reduce central social emotional support; reduce GT resource teachers; eliminate superintendent community relations budget, including administrator welcome; eliminate student device home filtering and reduce technology supply budget; eliminate option school and Outdoor Lab busing. Total savings: $4,554,204.00
  • Phase 3: Eliminate literacy interventionists; eliminate MAP testing in K-2 and mastery content; eliminate social emotional learning specialists. Total savings: $1,815,030.00
  • Phase 4: Reduce assessment coordinator and technician, reduce library coordinator and secretarial support; eliminate 14 social emotional support staff funded to student-based budgeting. Total savings: $1,534,299.00

Total savings: $20,398,951.00

Board members would need to approve Phase 1A, which includes the school closures. The other steps could be taken by the district without needing further approval from the board.

Board Discussion about the Budget Proposal

Board members were surprised by some of the recommendations and immediately emphasized the importance of connecting with the community to do this work in collaboration, particularly regarding school closures. Three of the five schools on the closure list have not been discussed in recent facilities conversations, so this is brand-new information for those communities, board members cautioned.

They also asked staff, “Why the rush?” in regard to the proposed school closures and accelerated reconfiguration schedule for the Arvada and Wheat Ridge articulation areas.

“We have a little bit of an integrity issue here,” board President Ron Mitchell commented, noting that board members have spent months reassuring parents and the community that the K-5/6-8 reconfiguration would be a two-year process.

The closures and reconfiguration would save the district $3.5 million dollars, and Brad Rupert suggested that they could use $3.5 million in one-time dollars to fill the compensation hole and have extra time to plan.

Ali Lasell said she would rather respect and honor the timeline presented to the community with the reconfiguration taking place in Fall 2018 as planned. This would allow all schools and families adequate time to plan and allow communities could make that transition at the same time.

Rupert noted that one of the goals last spring was to create a deliberate process for moving sixth graders to middle school and for any school closures. “This is the opposite of that,” he pointed out.

School-family partnerships are our job, Lasell added.

“Our communities have great memories if we don’t keep our word,” Mitchell added.

Susan Harmon noted that there are costs everywhere, which makes this challenging. Not addressing the compensation issues will mean Jeffco continues to lose ground in attracting and retaining teachers, but the cuts and closed schools have a big cost as well.

Amanda Stevens pointed out that once a school is on a closure list, it impacts enrollment, even if the school stays open. Prolonging closures can also have a negative impact overall.

“We need to get this process right,” Mitchell said. “This is not the end but the beginning, so we need to do it well, do it right.” He also said that he thought the state budget picture would likely mean more school closures down the road, which makes it even more important to have a good process.

Lasell worries that the Wheat Ridge area seems to be taking the brunt of the cuts, and wants to make sure that the district talks with the city manager and mayor if they decide to head in that direction.

Staff is asking board members to be ready to vote on these issues at the Feb. 9 meeting.

Bottom line: Board members need your input, quickly. Please email them with your thoughts at board@jeffco.k12.co.us or feel free to contact individual board members using these links.

Other BOE Updates

Superintendent Search

Staff updated board members on the superintendent search. Jeffco Schools sent a request for proposals to five known superintendent search organizations and posted the proposal request online. Jeffco received three responses.

A committee consisting of Ron Mitchell, Amanda Stevens, Kathleen Askelson (Jeffco chief financial officer), Amy Weber (chief human resources officer), and Betty Standley (director of purchasing), evaluated the proposals on cost, approach, experience, and qualifications. They unanimously selected Ray and Associates, which yes, is the search firm that the Jeffco School Board used in 2014.

The next step is to hear from Ray and Associates about the search procedure, and that will most likely be on the agenda for the Feb. 9 meeting.

Jeffco 2020 Vision

The Jeffco 2020 presentation focused largely on a growing interest in implementing project-based learning (PBL) in schools to meet the goals of Jeffco 2020. About 20 percent of Jeffco’s schools are currently implementing PBL in some fashion. For some examples of what PBL looks like in action, check out this video and the other videos on the Jeffco 2020 page.

Performance-based assessments also provide an alternative to traditional testing and are better aligned with the PBL approach. The district is currently working to redesign curriculum to include the 2020 competencies in addition to the state standards. Staff and teachers are collaborating and expect that to be ready for Fall 2017.

Multiple pathways to graduation and college and career readiness are also in development. New this year: apprenticeship programs for students interested in that pathway.

Contract Negotiations

Jeffco met with the teachers association, JCEA, on Jan. 19 (that meeting can be viewed by clicking the link), and will meet with the classified staff association, JESPA, on Feb. 1.

JESPA has a contract with Jeffco through August 2019 and will negotiate salary and benefits, plus three items that can be brought to the table by each team.

JCEA has a contract through August 2021, and will negotiate salary and benefits, two items that can be brought by each team, and items of mutual interest.

Amy Weber noted in the presentation that compensation will be a major issue, not least because 3A failed. Issue 3A included $12.6 million for compensation that we won’t have, but mill levy overrides in neighboring districts like Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Denver all passed, meaning they’ll have more money available for raises for their staff.

Bottom line: we’re not competitive in the marketplace and we continue to lose ground. Consider this:

Comp

Cost of living has gone up 17.8 percent, but salary increases have only kept up with half of that. Two notable facts:

  1. In 2010, a Jeffco Schools teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience earned $52,330. In 2017, that same Jeffco Schools teacher only earns $49,839. In neighboring districts, that teacher can earn $57,733.
  2. A Jeffco Schools entry-level assistant principal was paid $72,589 in 2010, is paid $73,540 now, but could earn $78,854 in a neighboring district.

Comp2Staff asked the board to commit to funding at least $12 million in compensation increases and proposes funding that through Phase I cuts, as detailed in the budget presentation.

Great Works Montessori charter school application

This was a recent addition to the agenda. As you’ll recall, the board denied the Great Works Montessori School charter school application in November due to concerns about the sustainability of their proposed enrollment numbers and budget figures. GWMS appealed to the state school board, who sent the application back to Jeffco with an order to reconsider it.

The school and staff worked together to address some of the issues, but at the January meeting there was still a lot of confusion about whether the budget would be sustainable. Board members didn’t feel comfortable with the funding model that substantially funded the K-8 students through preschool tuition and were concerned it would lead to immediate funding shortfalls. Enrollment numbers also continued to be an issue. Board members considered a conditional approval, but weren’t sure of the numbers needed. In the end, they voted to deny the application a second time.

GWMS could have appealed to the state board a second time, but their lawyers contacted the district, and they were able to work out a compromise. Amanda Stevens said they agreed to add another 45 letters of intent to the condition, which could make the budget more sustainable and less reliant on the preschool budget.

The conditional approval was unanimous, and GWMS has until April 1 to fulfill the conditions set forth in the approval in order to open for Fall 2017.

We’ve given you a lot of information to absorb, and encourage you to read through the presentations and make your voices heard. The school board members want to make decisions that benefit our entire Jeffco community and need your feedback to do that. Again, please email your thoughts to board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

Despite these challenges, we remain

JeffCo Proud!