STORY #7 FROM 2013-2015 POLL RESULTS: NEWKIRK AND WITT DIRECTLY PREVENT JILL FELLMAN FROM ATTENDING MEETING SHE WAS SCHEDULED TO ATTEND

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #7:

What Happened: This is the most recent story in the list, one based on a message that Jill Fellman sent out just a few weeks ago:

“Many people who support the recall of the school board majority have recognized that it is not just the substance of what this group is doing, but the dismissive and disrespectful way they are doing it. Here’s the latest example. There is an Agenda Setting Meeting with the Superintendent and his Cabinet a week or so before every board meeting. The purposes of these meetings are to determine how much time agenda items might take and to give appropriate direction to Cabinet members to ensure agenda items meet the needs of the Board. According to practice, Mr. Newkirk and I alternate going to these meetings. Today was my day to attend the meeting – so, I drove to the Ed. Ctr. Mr. Witt arrived at the meeting with Mr. Newkirk and informed me (in the presence of several staff members) (1) I was not needed and (2) Mr. Newkirk would be attending the Agenda Setting Meetings until the election. I’m a big girl, and I can deal with the lack of respect that I see every day from this Board majority. At the same time, our District deserves elected officials who treat each other and the public with respect, even when they disagree on policy. It’s up to Jeffco voters to make that change.”

Newkirk, Witt and their allies were trying to “stack” the District Accountability Committee (DAC) with their allies only and no dissenting voices, and that’s just what they did.

Why It Matters: How many ways can we count?

  1. Spiting Transparency: WNW ran on a campaign of transparency and keep boasting that because school board meetings are live-streamed, they are setting new standards in transparency. Then this kind of stuff gets reported all the time. It’s completely disingenuous.
  2. Really, Who Does This? OK, a few weeks before that we saw Mike Huckabee’s crew physically prevent Ted Cruz from joining Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis on her jail-release-celebration stage. Then again, the Davis situation was…unusual. Newkirk and Witt let Fellman drive to the meeting, enter the meeting, and then they told her to leave? What was she going to do if she stayed? Actually speak and maybe disagree?
  3. “Listen, Listen, Listen, Decide” was a mantra of Newkirk’s campaign.  Did he decide to just skip the first 3/4 of that mantra? Or is listening only with people who he agrees with?
  4. People Expect Much Better from Elected Officials. And they should. They are representing the public as a whole. Witt recently held a press conference to “prove” that he’s not the type to make decisions behind closed doors. Does repeatedly having meetings behind closed doors, including when you kick out fellow board members who were slated to be there, sort of erode that trust?
  5. Witt stated that he was “glad to have a discussion” with the public about the accomplishments of the school board. Then why this kind of behavior?

We could carry on, but we’ll leave it at that.

Suffice to say that if they survive the recall, this kind of behavior will be commonplace!

Vote Lasell, Stevens, Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, and remember that Merritts and Johnson are aligned with WNW! 

Keep fighting, JeffCo! And remember to VOTE by Nov. 3!


 

8.27.15 Salary Increase – The Superintendent’s spin on almost no increase

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Everyone can look at data and interpret it how they like, and the communication from the superintendent’s office today about Jeffco teacher salary certainly was one way of looking at the data about salary increases.  Here is another.

Italics denote the communication from McMinimee’s office.  Bold words represent one teacher’s perspective on this issue.

Teacher Compensation Increases in Jeffco Public Schools

Jeffco Public Schools values the efforts and dedication of its teachers and wants to attract, retain, and reward those who help students succeed and make classrooms soar. That’s why over the past two years, compensation for effective and highly-effective teachers has increased.

True, it has increased…but read on.

“Research has demonstrated that more effective teachers can produce bigger gains for our students, year over year,” said Amy Weber, Chief Human Resources Officer. “We want to be a district that hires and retains effective teachers and compensation is a part of that.”

This has been stated repeatedly, but with little actual evidence presented. Not to say it isn’t there, because here is a good study.  More evidence exists, however, for tying student performance to socio-economic conditions.

For the 2015-16 school year, the Board approved $15.6 million in compensation increases from $19.5 million in state funds. Compensation increases this year represent 80 percent of new money from the state. Included in this compensation are increased Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) costs, which represent an increase of $3.7 million in 2014 and an expected $3.2 million this year. PERA is a state requirement that provides a retirement plan to Jeffco Schools’ employees. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is mandated and ensures that all eligible Jeffco employees are offered healthcare coverage. Compliance with ACA also uses dollars that would be otherwise available for compensation.

True, but not all of this goes to teachers.  The compensation to just teachers was about $5.3 million directly.  Compliance with ACA means we may pay a penalty because the health care coverage offered by the district exceeds the mandate, so it is the penalty for getting a “Cadillac” plan. This should be negotiated with all the employees in the district.  The main problem with the statement above is that it implies $15.6 million is going to teachers alone, and clearly it is not.

“We made some difficult decisions around budget this year given competing budget priorities,” said Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee. “Jeffco has dedicated the maximum dollar amount to compensation from money from the state without sacrificing resources for students and for building needs for increasing the capacity of the school district.”

Well yes, they decided to fund charter school equalization, which was not requested by many Jeffco residents, while refusing to use Certificates of Participation (COPs), to fund a K-8 school in north Jeffco. It may be all the money they freed up, but that was not their only option.

Due to the level of state funding and budgeting priorities, the performance-based compensation increases for 2015 will be, on average, one percent. Although this is lower than last year’s increase, it is the second year of increases following several years of salary freezes.

Yes, but certainly not in line with promises made when 3A passed (the 2012 mill levy override).  And while the average is 1%, is it worth mentioning that the district staff told the board that the Denver Area CPI was 2.8%?  So this represents falling behind inflation, in just one year, by 64%.

In real dollar terms it is a decrease.  In real emotional terms it is a kick in the teeth.

Implemented in the fall of 2014 by the Board, compensation in Jeffco for teachers is now tied to overall performance in the classroom, as measured by an evaluation rubric developed collaboratively with the District, staff, and Jefferson County Education Association, to ensure that all students have an effective teacher in every classroom. In the fall of 2014, “highly effective” teachers received the highest ongoing increase at 4.25 percent and “effective” teachers received a 2.43 percent on going increase last year.

The evaluation rubric was found to be untested for the basis for compensation increases, was found to have no reliability across schools, or even within schools, and a federal mediator recommended it not be used for evaluation, especially in a “hold harmless” year.  The biggest problem with this paragraph is its misdirection.  This happened last year, still did not catch up teachers from the pay freezes and inflation, and is used to get people to forget the prior paragraph.  Teachers will see on average 1%, but the majority will receive less than 1%.

“Jeffco Schools always wants to be able to reward its employees with greater compensation.  Obviously, a one percent raise is not as much as we would like to give, and we recognize that cost of living in Colorado has increased,” said Weber. “To ensure we keep our most effective employees in our classrooms, we are continuing to find ways to increase pay moving forward.”

Then when you bring a compensation plan forward to the board, put some real money behind it.  Regardless of who the board is, if the staff thinks there should be more money for compensation, then ask for it!

After research showed that Jeffco Schools was not as competitive in compensation with surrounding districts, Jeffco Schools also raised starting teacher salaries to $38,000 per year to attract the best teachers for its classrooms. As a result, and to make compensation more fair, compensation for hard-working, veteran teachers also increased to equal levels of new-hire pay, which was something that was not previously done. This means that many Jeffco Schools employees will see raises above the one-percent performance raises.

True, but the pay equalization only came after a hard fought battle in court, which the district lost, and negotiation with the teachers’ association.  Of course, the current communications contractor (Novitas) is not going to bring this up.  We just wanted to make sure our readers know that this came about after pressure, not as a gesture of good will.

The hard work and dedication of Jeffco Schools’ teachers and staff continue to make a huge impact on the lives Jeffco’s students, and Jeffco Public Schools is doing everything it can to reward those who make a difference in the classroom.

Editorial comment: they are doing everything they can to APPEAR that they are doing what they can to retain teachers.  But they are certainly not backing it up with actions.  The board is not required to submit its final budget to the state until next January.  If they really cared about retention, they would open compensation discussions immediately upon being seated after the election.  That would be a way to make a statement about change.

 Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

7.15.15 Jeffco WNW Recall facts (part 1)

Recall The Facts - Updated

The spin machines are running wild these days, with fanciful claims ranging from the notion that the people supporting the recall are “so-called parents” (not true! My kids keep bugging me for snacks) to the notion that the petition is lying about key issues.

Today we’ll address the claims about Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s salary.

FACT: The total compensation package for McMinimee in 2014/15 was $280,000. That is the number in the Jeffco Schools budget, which you can see on page 117 of the 2014/15 adopted budget.

That number includes both base salary and benefits, plus $40,000 in bonus pay. The $40k has not been awarded to him yet because McMinimee just finished his first year at Jeffco on June 30 and the board has not met to conduct his annual review. Nevertheless, the $280k package was what Witt, Newkirk and Williams approved–and is a number to which we still object.

In contrast, the total compensation package for McMinimee’s predecessor, Cindy Stevenson was considerably less, largely as a concession to the teacher and staff budget freezes. Here are the actual numbers for her total compensation package she received each year, including base pay and benefits:

  • 2011/2012 budget = $215,728
  • 2012/2013 budget = $217,510
  • 2013/2014 budget = $241,613 (includes contract buyout)

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Click on the thumbnails above to look more closely at the budget documents.

McMinimee’s total compensation package is slated to rise to $282,200 next year as he receives a pay increase and as benefit costs continue to rise.

Need more data? Check out this video from Jeffco DataView explaining the reasons behind the recall.

For more Jeffco DataView information, you might also be interested in these videos:

Don’t forget to sign the petition! Drive & sign locations are updated regularly on the Jeffco United for Action website.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

7.13.15 Jeffco Parents Speak Out (Our First Guest Column — Non-“Union Operative” Division)

Remember this comments, by a former Jeffco communications director on a certain right-wing talk radio station?

The so-called parents that they’ve drummed up…

There’s no way young students could have put those together.

There’s clearly some sort of mill where they create this correspondence….

When a so-called scandal erupted, which was always created by this group, then there would be these, right away there would be this flood of correspondence about this “issue” by these same characters — the Wendy McCords, the Tina Gurdikians, their buddies, there’s a long list of names.

But we’re not “so-called” parents or “characters.” We’re parents, taxpayers and voters, and we will not be silenced.

Here’s one submission from our guest column contest:

As a parent in Southwest Jeffco, I am so glad that both of my kids went to Jeffco schools before the three “conservatives” were elected. What they and Superintendent McMinimee have done has ruined the morale for the teachers and the kids at the schools.

The trust that used to be there, the joy that teachers felt, and the fact that they have made so many good teachers leave this district is a direct result of their “teacher bashing” and their efforts to privatize the schools.

I don’t work in the education field and I find it sad to see how they have demoralized the profession and ruined what was a wonderful district. The teachers I know went into the profession to help kids; not to get the wage that McMinimee has. Shame on these three…they need to go!

We’d like to hear your voice too. If you are a parent, student, community member, it’s not too late to enter the contest. Details are here.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

7.8.15 Jeffco School’s Communication Problem

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I remember hearing the proverb, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” as a kid. I turned it over and over in my mind deciding what it meant. Now, I know.

The hiring of Lisa Pinto as Jeffco’s communication director was an act of foolery. She was unqualified, lied on her resume and had a past that made it no big surprise when she ended up embarrassing our district in her unprofessional, nasty and juvenile response to Governor John Hickenlooper’s staff. The hiring of Devan Crean is a second act of foolery, and it’s quite hard to sit by and watch.

Pinto and Crean have each been hired to work in the communications department for our district. Lisa Pinto resigned her post, effective June 19. Devan Crean was ostensibly hired for a different position — marketing and communications specialist — that Superintendent Dan McMinimee has said largely revolves around showcasing schools (supposedly both charter and neighborhood), but the proof is in the pudding.

A new communications director has not been chosen to replace Pinto. Crean, however, was working for Novitas Communications before she came to Jeffco. Novitas, you’ll remember, is the firm that Pinto hired to handle all the communication duties that Pinto apparently couldn’t handle (as explained in more detail here). On her resume, Crean claims she handled much larger duties for the district, including:

  • Managing social media content like Facebook and Twitter
  • Supporting all daily communications operations for Jeffco
  • Provided media relations
  • Managed editorial calendar for all publications and social media

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, she also lists those same points under her current position, though it’s curious that social media feature prominently during the time when Pinto was clearly already devoting plenty of time to social media snooping research. Surely two full-time professionals didn’t both need to spend that much time managing social media.

Now, let’s do some simple math:

1 + 1 They are both under-qualified for the position.

+

They both have past professional experiences that demonstrate their downright offensive professional ethics. For example,

Pinto went on national TV and claimed that single parents have children who “don’t thrive. They commit crimes, they do drugs, they’re depressed….”

Meanwhile, Crean got tied into a scandal about tracking “liberals.”

 

= 2 These are political hires.These women were both brought in because they are comfortable working hard to help our BOE3 and McMinimee hide behind acts such as these:

  • Stalking a student’s social media account and then shaming them PUBLICLY at a board meeting
  • Posting homophobic content on their Facebook pages
  • Speaking at meetings funded by hate groups
  • Comparing being a charter student in Jeffco to being black in the 1960’s in the South.
  • Etc.

Why is this a problem?

For one, Pinto was given a $120,000 salary (nearly triple what our teachers make) as to work as our chief communications specialist. One of her first moves was to hire Novitas, a Republican communications company, to help her carry out duties that should have been her own. Now, Crean, a Novitas employee, has joined the department. Will Crean be paid by our district twice, as she has contracts for Jeffco to pay her by the hour through Novitas as well as a salaried position starting in June? The Novitas contract is through June 30, but Crean’s own resume shows that she started working as a Jeffco employee in May.

Why else is this a problem? It’s a problem because we actually need a good chief communications specialist. We need someone to help our students who are achieving great things get a megaphone announcement to the community. We need someone who can help us recruit and keep the best teachers out there.

Instead, we’re ending up with people hired for their love of political antics, who merely wordsmith form letters for the BOE3 and superintendent to use in response to our correspondence.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!