Vote Now. You are our only hope.

Among the horrifying things we’re hearing these days, this stood out:

Jeffco currently has received the lowest number of ballots since 2009.

What does that mean?

It means we’re in danger of repeating 2013. As of Nov. 3, only 74,435 ballots were returned – and Jeffco has more than 450,000 registered voters. Four years ago, only 33 percent of Jeffco voters voted because too many people were complacent.

If you already have your ballot, please vote and return it to one of the many ballot drop-off locations around the county. You can see a list of those here: http://keepjeffcomovingforward.com/vote/. You can also look up a place to vote in person here: https://www.jeffco.us/elections.

If you’re really pressed for time, email teamjeffco2017@gmail.com and someone will arrange to pick up your ballot and deliver it to a drop-off location for you.

JCSBW supports the three candidates elected in 2015: Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell. Mitchell is running unopposed, but Rupert and Harmon both have opposition.

So why should you vote for Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell? We explained some of the reasons in this post, but here are a few more:

  • They have restored civility to discussions and listen to all voices
  • They have consistently listened to community feedback and used that to guide decisions
  • They are moving Jeffco forward

Why be concerned about the opposition candidates?

For starts, the District 1 opposition candidate is covering up his involvement with the Golden View Classical Academy’s PTO — as the PTO president — to the extent that Golden View actually deleted their PTO link from their website.

Here’s the cached version, as it used to look.

Here’s Van Gieson listed as GVCA PTO president.

And here’s what the GVCA website looks like now, with no PTO link on the website.

Why on earth would anyone go so far to hide their work as PTO president?

We have no idea. Every other candidate who has participated in their children’s PTA or PTO has included their involvement as one of their qualifications. Some don’t mention the name of the specific school their children attend — which we understand — but we can’t think of a single candidate who has gone so far as to convince the school to delete any reference to the (presumably still-existing) PTO on the webpage.

Why cover up your volunteer work with a Jeffco school? And if you’re covering up volunteer work like that, what else are you covering up?

Meanwhile, the District 2 opposition candidate has enrolled in the same program that brought us Witt, Newkirk, Williams, Boggs, and many of their supporters – Leadership Program of the Rockies.

Both candidates continue to lie about moving sixth graders to middle school, despite the reality that it was a decision made only after multiple meetings, surveys, and dialogue with the Jeffco community. For example, the cost to expand Drake and Dunstan Middle Schools in time for Fall 2018 is $14.5 million, as Superintendent Jason Glass explains in his blog.

The two opponents, on the other hand, either lack a solid grasp of math, or reality, and claim that the current cost is considerably more when that simply is not true. Perhaps this is because neither is on record as having spoken or written letters about moving sixth graders when the issue was being discussed?

Or perhaps it’s because we have yet to see either of them actually attend a regular board meeting?

One thing is certain: we can’t move Jeffco forward without strong, knowledgeable leadership, and that’s not going to come from either of the opponents.

Please vote for Brad Rupert in District 1, Susan Harmon in District 2, and Ron Mitchell in District 5, and then get those ballots in by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Let’s stay

JeffCo Proud!

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!

1.26.17 Board Meeting – Be Sure to Tune In: Supt Search, Budget & 6th Grade Recommendations!

The Board of Education’s next board meeting, a study session, will be this coming Thursday, Jan. 26, starting at 5 pm. If you can’t attend in person at the Ed Center, we encourage you to tune in via livestream. There will be some very important conversations regarding the superintendent search, budget recommendations, and suggested direction for moving 6th graders to middle schools district-wide.

Before we jump into the agenda for the upcoming BOE meeting, we would first like to emphasize the importance of participating in the budget process. Please start with this brief video, which provides an overview of the budget crisis. Note that we are funded $985 less per student than Amendment 23 requires and $2,200 less PER STUDENT than the national average! Our teachers make, on average, 10% less than surrounding school districts, and they make, on average, 17% less than similarly educated individuals nationally, requiring many to work 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet.

Bottom line: we need competitive compensation to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers and staff for our children. Please be sure to complete the budget survey by Feb. 10.

In addition, the district will host four telephone town halls where you can learn more and make your voice heard: Feb. 1 and Feb. 7 at 6 pm and 7 pm on both nights. The number to call is 855-312-2107. Please plan to participate.

If the budget tool and the tele-town halls aren’t for you, you are encouraged to email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us to share your concerns. They are going to be making some tough decisions with the budget. Make sure to let them know your thoughts.

First up on the agenda for the evening is the legislative update. It isn’t good news. The Gallagher Amendment will reduce the Residential Assessment Rate almost 1.5 percent, which will in turn reduce school district property tax collections by approximately $135M! To address this shortfall, the Governor has proposed legislation to reduce the Senior Homestead Exemption by half, which would save the state $68M. He has also proposed legislation to raise the tax on recreational marijuana from 8.0-12.0 percent, which would raise $42M.

We don’t see how either of these “band-aids,” which will hurt seniors and make the discussion even more confusing regarding pot money and schools, will help our funding crisis. We need real solutions.

Also in the legislative update, we’ll hear about some interesting proposed legislation, including these bills: a bill to require an additional $42M for Full-day Kindergarten, a house bill to let districts decide whether to administer certain state tests, a house bill to allow concealed carry in public schools, a senate bill to provide handgun safety training for school employees, a house bill to prohibit corporal punishment (just in case you thought that wasn’t allowed already!), a house bill to address teacher shortages in CO, a senate bill that requires districts to equalize mill levy override payments with charter schools (Jeffco already does this), and many others. Check them out! As a refresher, here are the board’s legislative priorities.

Next up is an update on the superintendent search. If you missed our last post about the board’s decision to move ahead with a national superintendent search, please read it and understand the expectations our BOE has for Jeffco’s superintendent. Note that the search needs to begin no later than January to take full advantage of a national candidate pool. Looks like attachments providing more info are coming soon, but as of the release of this post, attachments had not yet been provided.

Following the superintendent search update, we’ll hear from staff with an update on the Jeffco 2020 strategic plan. The presentation highlights that 20 percent of Jeffco schools are implementing Performance Based Learning (PBL) and Assessments (PBA) that allow for collaborative partnerships with the community and businesses and measure students’ abilities by allowing students to problem-solve in real-world context as opposed to traditional testing.

Slide 12 shares the results from the 2015-16 employee survey (with 5,666 employees participating!) of Jeffco 2020 questions by school level and shows that while teachers highly rate the job Jeffco does at increasing student performance in content mastery, the results are clear across school levels that “self-direction and personal responsibility” is rated the lowest by employees. Just above that is civic and global engagement.

Parents — we can really help out here. Self-direction, engagement, and personal responsibility are skills that must be taught and reinforced at home as well in order for our kiddos to be successful at school.

Next, we will hear an update on employee negotiations. JCEA negotiations began on Jan. 19 and will be streamed. Here’s the negotiations schedule. You can watch the livestream here. At this time, there is no recording from the Jan. 19 negotiations meeting, but we’re assuming that will be available soon.

Note the concern on slide 6 that as a result of Jeffco not passing our mill levy override while other surrounding districts did, we are even further away from the mark in providing competitive compensation to Jeffco employees, which puts us in danger of losing and/or not attracting the best and brightest teachers and staff. While the BOE had asked staff to find $25M to be allocated for teacher compensation, we’re seeing on slide 10 in this presentation that the ask is for a commitment to find a minimum of $12M to keep us level — but “level” does not make Jeffco competitive in the marketplace.

Next, cabinet will present their recommendations for the budget. Staff will address the impact of the reduced property valuations on our budget (the Gallagher Amendment). A few items of note from the presentation are:

  • a projected 242 student decrease across the district
  • $6M retirement/turnover savings – possibly as much as $9M
  • Cabinet has prioritized a four-phased system of reductions and fee changes to provide $20.4M towards the BOE’s $25M goal for compensation increases (the worksheet detailing the recommended reductions will be available on BoardDocs by Jan. 27)
  • the General Fund ended the year with $24M more than anticipated, a portion of which can be used to supplement urgent facility needs and provide a contingency for unforeseen state budget shortfalls
  • a public hearing on the proposed budget will be held in April and the budget will be adopted in May
  • next steps include implementation of Phase I reductions and preparation for implementation of the next phases set to begin on March 16, 2017. That means budget cuts will affect this school year.

The next item (2.06) addresses recommendations from facilities staff in light of the failed 2016 bond effort and the budget crisis. There are no attachments, and thus no details available at this time on BoardDocs to give us insight into what staff recommendations may be.

However, we know items for consideration include closing schools and boundary adjustments. It does seem from the wording, “the approach presented will involve recommendations for moving sixth grade, implementing limited capital improvements to middle schools…” that we can expect to see staff make recommendations to move forward with plans to transition to K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools across the district, at least to some degree.  This should be an interesting conversation you don’t want to miss if you have elementary-aged children.

Finally, the BOE will review board/staff linkage (B/SL) policies per the annual work plan.

As you can see, this upcoming meeting is one you don’t want to miss. We’ll post after the meeting to let you know what happened if you’re busy with after-school activities and more.

JeffCo Proud!

Beware!

 

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Witt, Newkirk, Williams, Johnson, and Merritts. How does that school board sound? Trust us, there won’t be much “local control,” “independence,” or “bridge-building.” There will be record numbers of closed-door sessions and backroom decision-making, driven by attorneys and profiteers, with the least transparency possible. We wouldn’t say that the above sets of ads would always correlate to that kind of lock-step alignment, but in this case we have no doubt.


 

Teacher Executions Now Recommended on Julie Williams’ FB Page, by Her Long-Time Friend

Troubling pre-publication note: As we publish this article, Julie Williams has still not deleted this person as a friend from her Facebook page, though she is deleting others who are complaining about the situation. Wow.

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The rhetoric around the recall is of course heated. But now, multiple, fresh calls for the execution of people, specifically teachers’ union members, that are pro-recall, especially among Julie Williams’ friends, is frightening on a whole new level. Read on for a brief history of how we’ve gotten to this point. [Please note that we are opting to not publicize this person’s name in this article, though there are plenty of screenshots of these online exchanges in our possession, and others have already posted some of them].

December 2014 — JCSBW reported on the fiasco of Newkirk and McMinimee speaking at an event that was “mistakenly” advertised as being co-sponsored by a white supremacist organization.  Following that report both our Facebook page and blog were inundated with vile, hate-filled messages from this former Republican State House candidate, including this message:

I AM ORGANIZING AGAINST YOU AND I ALSO WILLS TART TRACKING THE NAMES OF ALL TEACHERS AND STUDENTS WHO FALL UNDER YOUR SPELL AND WILL OUT THEM SO THEY WILL NOT GET INTO THE COLLEGES THEY WANT AND THE TEACHERS WILL BE SUBJECTED TO PUBLIC RIDICULE.
YOU ARE NOW MY ENEMY! GO **** YOURSELVES!

At the time we deemed them to be threatening not only to us, but to students and staff that opposed the board majority.  Those messages along with our concern for school safety were reported to Jeffco School Security and to the Jeffco BOE.

The security response?

After reading your email and the attachment it appears that the comments and statements are not intended for Jeffco Schools but are directed towards Jeffco Boardwatch.

Jeffco Public Schools strives to be a safe and welcoming environment free from threats, intimidation and disruption for all students, staff and visitors.  Our ability to provide a quality education begins with mutual respect and safe practices that are consistent throughout the District.  Should you receive information that directly targets or threatens our school, students, staff or District, please forward any information as soon as possible.”

(We do think the threats to track teachers and students were a threat on our schools but we opted to not give this person any more attention, while being watchful of him.)

Now this same person has returned on the scene to spew even more direct threats to those that support the recall, stating that pro-recall people and union members should be executed and our children expelled after swift justice (specifically, he recommends “within 24 hours”) from a “conservative” tribunal.

This time his hate and threats have been reported to the sheriff’s office.

The bigger issue is WHERE he posted these threats — on Julie Williams’ Facebook page!

Because her page is private, only friends can post to the page.  Now, we understand we probably all have a friend that has spouted off something we didn’t agree with and couldn’t control.  But to have a friend that promotes executing those in disagreement? That is something difficult to justify.

We can already hear the excuses: “She can’t control what other people say.  She didn’t know he was like that.”

Maybe — if this were his first offense.

March 2014 — This man runs for a state House seat and makes these same type of hate-filled statements.  He was asked to step down as a candidate and in subsequent interviews stated that he was asked to run originally by none other than Tim Neville, Williams’ brother-in-law.  Neville denied the claim, yet Williams approved this man as her Facebook friend — a man her family knew is a white supremacist who makes threats online.

December 2014 — JCSBW reported his threatening activity to the Jeffco School Board, but Williams still approved this man as her FB friend.

One of Williams’ friends had the courage to stand up to the hate spewed on her page and we commend him.  Unfortunately, his post remained up for hours and Williams didn’t do a thing about it.

We can’t control everything our friends say.  But we ask, would you even be friends with this person after you knew what kinds of things they wrote?

And what if they wrote was an insistence upon the execution of the people you’ve been elected to lead?

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Keep fighting, JeffCo! And VOTE! 

Vote for a clean slate: Lasell, Stevens, Rupert, Harmon, Mitchell