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!

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!