8.27.15 BOE meeting tonight!

school-crossing

Yes, it’s that time again. It would appear the Jeffco School Board has finally finalized the meeting agenda, which has been modified more than once in the past few days. Here’s what you have to look forward to tonight:

 

– 2.01 Resolution: Negotiated Agreement–Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) (EL-3)

JCEA’s membership ratified the agreement, so now it goes to a school board vote. Based on what we’re seeing further north in the Thompson School District, there’s plenty of good reason to suspect that Witt, Newkirk and Williams (WNW for those new to the school board majority shenanigans this year) had no intention of working out a tentative agreement, much less approving one. With the recall mechanisms in motion, however, perhaps they’re more incentivized than usual?

There’s a lot to not like (i.e., a ridiculously short 10-month contract and the money that will be spent to negotiate another contract next year). And yet there are some protections for class sizes and other important issues in place–which is always important for a group of ideologues who are convinced that 40 or 45 kids in a classroom is actually an ideal situation for kids.

2.02 Review of Board Committees (GP-12, 13)

This appears to be more monkeying around with SPAC, the Strategic Planning Advisory Council, who WNW appear to have been targeting since they took office. SPAC has been functioning as the state-mandated district accountability committee and the district’s lawyer and Superintendent McMinimee have confirmed that it meets the law’s requirements. Nevertheless, WNW want that committee under their thumb and this may be another move in that direction.

2.03 Facilities Planning Preview (EL-8, 11)

This item was listed on Monday morning without attached documents, removed, and since has been replaced on the agenda. (We know!)

This is one of multiple presentations the board has heard since August 2014 about the growing population in north Jeffco. It’s an issue that primarily affects the northwest Arvada area but is also affecting nearly all the Jeffco Schools north of I-70, as Steve Bell pointed out in one of his presentations last spring–and to which north Jeffco parents can testify.

The issue is due to a couple of factors, including the number of new housing developments: Leyden Rock, Candelas, Whisper Creek, and also smaller amounts of construction on what used to be small farms around Arvada, like the area just to the east of Majestic View Park near 72nd and Kipling.

A second factor is that Sierra Elementary in Arvada was due for phase 2 of a remodeling and expansion project, but the bond to move that project forward was on the 2008 bond referendum, which failed. Sierra families have brought this issue to the board repeatedly in past years, but WNW have ignored them. Completing phase 2 would add more seats to the area, but there are no plans to do that.

The third factor is that two schools in the Arvada/Westminster area were closed in 2012 as the district grappled with budget cuts. One of those now houses the Head Start program–and that will continue because Westminster tore down the building that Head Start had been using (also due to budget cuts which meant a lack of money to do the necessary maintenance and repairs to the aging structure). The other was Zerger Elementary, which remains unused. It has been suggested repeatedly as a possible option to deal with the growing number of students, but Bell said the building was stripped when they closed it down.

Reopening Zerger would require replacing not only the usual classroom furniture, but also chalkboards, projectors, and more. The school is also located about six miles away from Candelas, so if the plan was to send children from the area to Zerger, they would have a lengthy bus ride–assuming that parents chose to fork over the $150 for bus service.

Suffice it to say that no one is championing reopening Zerger, temporarily or otherwise, including Williams who continues to suggest that the district use an empty retail building, like a grocery store as a new school. (Fact check: the Leyden Rock and Candelas areas were empty fields before the housing developments were constructed. There are no empty grocery stores nearby, so it’s not exactly a feasible plan.)

What we do know: the board set aside $18 million to build a school, and it’s unlikely that WNW will budget from that number no matter what. We’ll try to post a review of the Certificates of Participation and construction costs issue in the district in the next couple of weeks.

2.04 Montessori Peaks Academy (EL-10, 13)

Last spring, a Jeffco family brought a number of issues regarding Montessori Peaks to the attention of the board. This item revisits the district’s investigation into the matter.

The meeting will be streamed, and the district is telling us this is the link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

The meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the board room on the 5th floor of the Education Building (1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO). If you can’t be there tonight, please join us virtually on the live stream.

Don’t like what you see tonight? Write the board, sign up for public comment at the Sept. 3 meeting, and never forget:

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

8.20.15 Recall signatures validated!

J1picCelebrate with us: on Tuesday, the Jeffco County Clerk announced that the recall petitions have more than twice the number of necessary signatures for the ballot! Here are the numbers of validated signatures on each petition:

Ken Witt – 33,942
John Newkirk – 34,188
Julie Williams – 33,900

That’s all thanks to YOU, our dedicated Jeffco Schools supporters who value public education. More than 1200 of you volunteered and collected signatures — and what an amazing job you did!

Now we’re in the 15-day period in which any Jeffco resident can file a legal challenge to the petition. We hope they won’t so the item can be included on the November ballot and save the school district a considerable amount of money. (For details about the three-day window to submit the petitions to try to get the issue on the November general election ballot, read this post by Jeffco United for Action.)

At the moment, both Ken Witt and John Newkirk have indicated that they will not challenge the petitions, and Witt asked no one else to challenge them either. Julie Williams, meanwhile, appeared in a commercial produced by the Independence Institute’s newest creation, Kids Are First. Reports are that it’s showing both on network and cable television. They have BIG money behind them to be producing and running a commercial like that.

You might have heard the opposition shouting that thousands and thousands of these signatures were collected by paid petition carriers. Not true! More than 1200 volunteers carried petitions, volunteered at sign and drive locations, and we collected the thousands upon thousands of signatures that were turned into the County Clerk. We’ll let Jeffco United for Action explain:

Now, speaking about the truth – there have been some questions about the money raised and spent by Jeffco United for Action. JUFA has never hidden that paid organizers were hired to help us with the campaign – we can’t hide it – it’s right there in our report and we’ve talked opening about it.

We can’t do this on our own – we are doing everything we can to ensure this recall gets on the November ballot. While we knew we had support, we had no way of knowing whether on our own we could get the signatures we needed in just two weeks. So we hired Black Diamond and Strategies 360 to organize and help our over 1,200 volunteers – and it was wildly successful, bringing in more than 100,000 signatures in just over two weeks!

These expenses are not unusual for a campaign like this. What was unusual was the amazing outpouring of support we saw and the roughly 90% validity rate of the signatures we collected! Our volunteers are our life blood, but we also need professional help to navigate this very tricky process.

We still need your help. How? You can:

  • Walk door-to-door to let Jeffco voters know the facts. Remember, more than 70 percent of Jeffco voters don’t have kids in school, so they aren’t seeing the day-to-day impact this has on our kids. Go to Jeffco United for Action to sign up to walk by date and time, by articulation area, or by school area. They will train you and partner you with someone for the walks. Big walks are also planned for Oct. 3 and 10th, so keep those dates open to join us.
  • Donate! The Julie Williams commercial isn’t cheap and we need to get the word out. Anything helps!
  • Pick up a yard sign and display it somewhere prominent — in your front yard or perhaps on your back fence along one of Jeffco’s many trails. Jeffco United’s Facebook page has the latest details on where to pick up signs. They’re asking a $10 donation for signs, and quantities are limited, but that money will be used to print more signs.
  • Volunteer! We need volunteers to help staff tables at back-to-school and curriculum nights, to march in upcoming parades and more. Email Support Jeffco Kids if you can help with those efforts.
  • Show your support for the recall by purchasing a shirt, tote bag, water bottle, hat or more at the Jeffco United for Action CafePress store. There are also buttons, stickers, and even a flask (a default CafePress item, perhaps one that might be useful if you’re watching a board meeting from home, are over 21 and are not operating heavy machinery).

 

Last but not least, read this post at Support Jeffco Kids about the ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars that’s resulted since the board majority’s actions gutted the Jeffco Schools communications department. Answering board correspondence at $60 per hour? Are you kidding?

That’s right — when you, as a taxpayer write the board to make your voice heard, your tax dollars go to compose the generic form letters — at $60 an hour! — to respond to you. That’s completely unacceptable!

The Jeffco Schools contract with Novitas Communications has cost the district $84,062 already and nevertheless, the district renewed the contract for another two months.

Jeffco Schools is not currently advertising for any communications positions. Perhaps they have already chosen an individual to hire and are simply waiting for the upcoming Aug. 27 board meeting, but that agenda hasn’t been posted yet.

Remind them we are listening and watching, because we are.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!

8.14.15 Education, Inc. showing tonight & other updates

Education-Inc-691x1024

If you have some free time tonight, please consider watching the debut of Education, Inc. at one of four Jeffco locations. The documentary talks about what is really happening in Jeffco, Dougco, and around the country and how it is affecting our schools.

You can watch the trailer here:

Tonight, you can see the documentary at the following Jeffco locations:

Mountair Christian Church, 1390 Benton St., Lakewood
6:30 – 8:30 pm

Arvada West High School, 11595 Allendale Dr., Arvada
6:30 – 8:30 pm

Chatfield High School, 7227 S Simms St., Littleton
6:30 – 8:30 pm

Evergreen Fire Rescue Admin Building (aka Bergen Fire House), 1802 Bergen Pkwy, Evergreen
6 – 8 pm

If you can’t make one of those sessions, there will be one in on August 27 from 4 – 7 pm at the Mayan Theater in Denver, or one on Sept 1 in the Louisville Elementary Library (in Louisville, CO) from 3 – 4 pm. You can also find other upcoming screenings here.

In other Jeffco news, our friends at Support Jeffco Kids have filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State, District Attorney’s Office and the Colorado Attorney General after learning about some shady practices by a supposedly charitable organization that backs Witt, Newkirk and Williams. Here’s the story:

Support Jeffco Kids uses the domain name http://www.supportjeffcokids.org. The other organization purchased the .com version of the identical domain and redirected it to their site, in yet another attempt to silence the voices of the Jeffco community. Longtime readers won’t be surprised to learn that the “charitable” organization is the reform-minded Jeffco Students First, who backed WNW during their campaign. JSF has also tried to donations for their own site through dubious Twitter posts about the recall that don’t happen to mention their opposition to said recall.

While they were at it, JSF and even John Newkirk decided to purchase a few more domain names, though notably, domains like recallwitt.com were purchased more than a year ago. Perhaps even JSF doesn’t have faith in WNW?

Regrettably, the .com version of jeffcoschoolboardwatch.org has also been purchased by JSF and will redirect you to their site. While we’re pretty sure our readers can easily tell the difference between JCSBW and JSF, we’re hoping you’ll bookmark JCSBW in your browser so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises when you’re looking for us.

Support Jeffco Kids is also asking the Jeffco community to march with them at upcoming community events. If you’re free this Saturday, please join them at the Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival Parade. We also encourage you to join SJK on Sept. 12 at the Arvada Harvest Festival Parade, and again during the weekend of Sept. 18-20 at the Somerset Festival in Clement Park. For more details, please email them at volunteers@supportjeffcokids.org.

And last but hardly least: there’s a non-partisan highly-partisan Jeffco School Board candidate forum scheduled for Monday, Aug. 31 at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood. It’s sponsored by the Centennial Institute, which is directed by Republican John Andrews, founder and former president of the Independence Institute and former Colorado Senate President. Although they claim the debate is “impartial,” we’re not convinced they know what that term really means. Note their copious use of charged language, which we’ve highlighted in red to make it easy:

The reform-minded board majority, Republicans Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams, face a union-backed recall petition. Seats of the two Democratic incumbents and union allies, Leslie Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, are open as neither is seeking reelection.

As we’ve done in the past, Centennial Institute will host a nonpartisan forum for all contenders, impartially moderated by former Senate President John Andrews. You’re invited to come meet the candidates and learn about the issues.

Of interest: the announcement says all five board seats will face voters this fall. Perhaps that means that WNW and their various backers won’t challenge the petition?

We’d love to see Jeffco recall supporters there. The event requires attendees to RSVP, so please do so using their form or by calling 303-963-3424. The forum is Monday, Aug. 31, from 7 to 8:30 pm on the CCU Lakewood campus, Leprino Hall, 180 S. Garrison, Lakewood, CO 80226.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

7.30.15 Jeffco Speaks Out (Our 3rd Guest Column — Non-“Union Operative” Division)

LettersClipArt

Remember these 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 another submission from our guest column contest:

I am a grandmother in north Lakewood and do not have any affiliation with the teacher union. I am a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science in New York City and I was raised to value science and math and to respect my teachers. I am extremely upset to see what has happened in the Jefferson County School District.

My children graduated from Jefferson County schools more than twenty years ago and now I have a grandson going into fourth grade in Jeffco. I have never seen such disrespect of parents and teachers in all the years that I have lived here.

I see these conservative members of the Jeffco School Board taking credit for Jeffco achievements that were years in the making. They are taking credit for achievements that they have not worked for, and they have lied to the public about their goals. These three members have turned the School Board into a political football! I am worried for the future of my grandson.

— Diana Suslak-Spriggs

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!


 

7.28.15 Jeffco Speaks Out (Our 2nd Guest Column — Non-“Union Operative” Division)

LettersClipArt

Remember these 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 another submission from our guest column contest:

First I am not a part of JCEA; I am not a teacher and have no kids at this moment attending Jeffco Schools. But, I was a student for 12 years and will have grandkids that will attend. I also have taught private preschool where the kids will attend Jeffco.

I support the recall of the three board members because I see their agenda has nothing to do with helping teachers teach and kids learn. They are arrogant and they bully everyone who opposes their insanity. There is a no bullying policy at Jeffco Schools yet they do it all the time to students, parents, teachers, the other two board members and especially Cindy Stevenson.

They meet behind closed doors and make all their decisions before they come before the public. They pass things they want passed even if everyone else mentioned above opposes it. They disrespect everyone who does not support them and they are rude, obnoxious, and overbearing, not to mention just plain uneducated as shown in their big push to remove some American history from the curriculum because they found it offensive. In truth, it was insightful and a big part our history that would teach us the mistakes we have made so we can work not to make them again.

Jeffco Schools used to be a top district where people wanted to enroll their kids. Now it is a district people shy away from because these board members are scaring them away. They are downright bullies and they have ruined its reputation as a great district.

–Anonymous Jeffco Resident

We’d like to hear your voice too. If you are a parent, student, or community member, it’s not too late to enter the contest (teachers and staff, you’ll have a turn next). Details are here.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!