Welcome Back!

We’d like to welcome everyone back to a new school year, and extend a special welcome to our new superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass.

It’s been a while since we’ve updated (summer was busy), but here’s a quick summary of some of the Jeffco Schools news:

Dr. Jason Glass

Jason Glass was approved as Jeffco’s new superintendent by a unanimous vote of the five school board members. Since he started on July 1, he’s been communicating through his Advance Jeffco blog, meeting with the community, and taking time to listen and learn about the many diverse neighborhoods, schools, families, and issues that comprise Jeffco.

We’re very excited to see him so active in the community, and appreciate that he’s taking the time to talk to a diverse assortment of families, students, community groups, and more to get an overall picture of what makes us Jeffco. Please take the time to read his blog and participate in the conversation.

Jeffco School Board Election

Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon kicked off their respective school board campaigns last week and are currently collecting signatures for the petition to place them on the November ballot. Today is the last day to sign – you have several options for locations and times.

For more information about any of the three, to help with their campaigns, or if you’d like to donate to their campaigns, follow this link: http://keepjeffcomovingforward.com/.

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks about how you can help with their campaigns. We’ll also post a brief summary of what the board members have accomplished since the November 2015 election.

Three Creeks opens, renovations on Rose Stein and Sierra Elementary wrap up

Three Creeks K-8 opened to students for the first time, relieving some of the overcrowding in the northwest Arvada area. The school is currently open to K-6 students and will expand to 7th and 8th graders during the next two years.

In addition, the second phase of renovations for Sierra Elementary, also located in Arvada, and renovations on Rose Stein Elementary in Lakewood also wrapped up. Stein had been closed during renovations and now reopened to PK-6 students, and Sierra Elementary’s renovations added seats for the still-growing Arvada community.

We all have an exciting school year ahead, and will continue to update you in the weeks and months ahead. As always, we are

JeffCo Proud!

What you need to know for the 6.16.16 BOE meeting

The World Is Run By Those Who Show UpThe Jeffco School Board met on Tuesday to talk about feedback regarding the proposed facilities master plan and give direction to the staff. It was a 7-hour meeting and nearly impossible to briefly summarize, but we’ll do our best.

Why do you need the summary? Because they’re going to vote on these items tonight at 5:30 pm. You can sign up for public comment, and we encourage you to do so if you have strong feelings about any of these items.

Tuesday’s meeting started with a review of TABOR, led by a representative from the Colorado State University Colorado Futures Center. You can look at the presentation here, but the long and short of it is that TABOR has negatively impacted school funding and in districts like Jeffco, taxpayers are now paying more taxes to fund schools than they would have if TABOR hadn’t been enacted. In addition, our schools are being funded at lower levels than they would have otherwise.

Then board members dived into the meat of the discussion: directions for staff regarding the proposed Facilities Master Plan. Two main points stand out:

  1. There is support for moving to a K-5, 6-8 model, but only if it’s done across the district at the same time. Feedback indicated that the community was open to a district-wide change, and board members largely indicated they would support it as well. Staff adjusted the plan accordingly, and with the exception of Jefferson and Alameda, the new plan reflects a K-5, 6-8 configuration, with additions or new buildings planning for that configuration as well.
  2. Board members are very reluctant to close any schools yet, though they are also concerned about balancing budget concerns with the budget challenges posed by smaller schools in aging buildings. Most wanted to see the district work with the school, perhaps to offer programming that might draw kids from the neighborhood back, or to do other work to otherwise give them a chance to grow again.
  3. Budget projects for the future are concerning and funding cuts may be on the way. Jeffco’s lobbyist told the board earlier that he thought funding that reflected inflation + enrollment would be an “optimistic” projection. As a result, the desire to be proactive and financially efficient while also meeting the needs of learning communities is a central point of this conversation.

A few other notes: according to Jeffco’s Communications Director, Diana Wilson, about 800 people participated in the 12 community forums and about 1,100 participated in the telephone town halls. She also pointed out the questionnaire was only to solicit input. (Also note that her department was posting all of the feedback they received, usually shortly after receiving it, and those should all be available for the public to review on the Jeffco Schools facilities master plan page.)

Now, the play-by-play, in an abbreviated fashion.

The board first talked about the proposed K-5, 6-8 configuration. Opportunities include the opportunity for sixth graders to have more access to clubs, electives, advanced math, access to teachers with degrees in math for struggling students, science classrooms, more art, music, theater, and more opportunities that better reflect the “whole child” concept in the Jeffco 20/20 plan.

Concerns include budgets and social readiness, among others. However, staff is recommending a two-year transition plan that would start with a school’s 4th grade students and families. That would allow families time to think about choice enrollment and also allow schools time to plan for what their budget will look like as a K-5 school.

Specific dates for grade reconfiguration weren’t mentioned, though the two-year transition plan suggests that the earliest date for reconfiguration would be 2018-19. If the reconfiguration is to roll out district-wide, that could be even later, since some of the middle schools would require an addition in order to fully accommodate the 6th graders. Terry Elliot mentioned a “rolling implementation,” though board members said they didn’t want to see “piecemeal” reconfigurations.

Student-based budgeting concerns were also addressed. The short version is that SBB models would continue to be flexible. The current model works best with schools of about 500 students and is problematic with elementary schools under 300 students; however, both Superintendent McMinimee and board members made it clear that they didn’t want to see schools negatively impacted. McMinimee said those numbers might change, and that the district might nee to find additional money in other places, perhaps from efficiencies in the district level or a mill levy override, to put additional dollars into SBB.

Board members were especially interested in hearing about how details like art, music, and PE teachers would be accommodated if schools lost a grade, and making sure that elementary schools don’t take a hit with the new reconfiguration. Ron Mitchell accurately noted that the devil is in the details, and that a lot of work will need to be done to make sure we’re not leaving 6th graders in limbo.

Amanda Stevens also asked how this change would affect schools in the Jefferson and Alameda areas that adopted a K-6, 7-12 model last year. The short answer is that those schools would maintain that configuration. There are no plans to move 6th graders to the 7-12 schools.

Here’s the area-by-area breakdown of BOE recommendations. We’re only noting the areas where board members disagreed with current staff recommendations or areas where the staff specifically asked for directions from the board.

  • Alameda

The board wants to keep both Patterson and Kendrick Lakes open, and recommended deferred maintenance for Patterson and a new 576 seat K-5 school for Kendrick Lakes.

  • Arvada

The board agreed with the staff’s new proposal to add six classrooms to Arvada K-8 so that all schools in the area could reconfigure to K-5, 6-8. Brad Rupert also said that Foster had specifically requested the opportunity to stay a K-6 school because of their dual-language program, and the board appeared open to that recommendation as well.

  • Arvada West

The board recommended keeping both Allendale and Campbell open, though this also presents challenges due to space limitations at one site and low enrollment at the other. Allendale’s capacity is 275, and Campbell’s is 365.

Amanda Stevens wanted to hear more about pathways to keeping the small schools sustainable. Ali Lasell wanted to make sure that closures are a last resort, done only after we’ve exhausted all other options. Brad Rupert also expressed concerns that those areas could start growing again as new families move into the area.

Deferred maintenance or a major renovation (though not addition) are possibilities for Campbell. Deferred maintenance, a new school, a major renovation or even an addition could be possibilities at Allendale. The board needed to know more numbers, but was pretty clear that they’re not ready to close schools yet.

  • Bear Creek

The board was comfortable with cabinet recommendations, though they suggested a new Green Gables School might be a better option than a renovation.

  • Chatfield

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Columbine

The board wanted to see more deferred maintenance done on Dutch Creek to make the school more competitive with its neighbors.

  • Conifer

OK with cabinet recommendations, though noted that Conifer HS is the only high school without an auditorium and that the addition of one is an equity item.

  • Dakota Ridge

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Evergreen

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Golden

Not willing to close Pleasant View yet. “Closing a school to me is a last resort, and it is a last resort after we have exhausted all efforts,” Lasell said.

  • Green Mountain

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Jefferson

Of note: a phased rebuild is proposed for Jefferson High School. Other suggestions included something like Warren Tech “East” offerings in the area for students.

  • Lakewood

The board recommends keeping Glennon Heights open and considering a boundary change from a nearby school that’s currently over capacity.

  • Pomona

The Little/Parr consolidation also met with a fair amount of discussion. Board members aren’t willing to close either school yet, in part because this is another area that might see growth in the next few years.

Parr attracts a number of students who live just across the street from the Jeffco boundary (in Westminster 50), for whom Parr is a much closer school. Parr also has approximately 100 preschool students. Little has more students and a vocal community that wants to keep that site open as well.

The board’s preference seems to be to keep both school open and build a new 576-seat school at the Parr site, which is a larger site that allows the district to build while keeping students in the current school during construction.

  • Ralston Valley

There was a question about whether an additional high school is needed, but the answer is no, not until there were enough new feeder schools to fill it. They also recommend keeping the proposed Leyden Rock school a priority for phase I.

  • Standley Lake

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Wheat Ridge

Here again, the board was reluctant to close any schools yet. Current recommendations are that Kullerstrand stays open and Prospect Valley gets a new school. The board was also in favor of keeping Vivian and Stober open, though those sites present some challenges. Among them: Stober students may need to go offsite for a year in order to renovate or build a new building.

  • Options Schools

Long View will have deferred maintenance for now, and they’ll begin longer discussions about that site in the fall.

 

The last discussion was about a potential mill levy override. Staff presented a list of funding priorities. The first was a potential backfill if the state does in fact cut funding in the next year or two. However, several possibilities were also listed for what the new funding could bring (assuming state funding remains stable):

  • mental health support for schools
  • security and emergency management
  • student-based budget (suggested at $200/student/year)
  • technology
  • compensation
  • charter school needs (note: charters will get full share of the mill levy override automatically; this would be an additional amount above that specifically dedicated to charter school needs)
  • activities and athletics
  • fees (athletics, Outdoor Lab, transportation)
  • full day kindergarten
  • support services

Tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the Board Room. If you can’t be there, you can stream the meeting. We know these are big decisions, so we hope to see a lot of you there and voicing your opinion. If you think Jeffco should go ahead with a mill levy override on the ballot, board members need to know that. They also need to know what you would support (or wouldn’t support) as funding priorities.

If you think they need to stick to just asking for a bond to support construction, tell them. If you are concerned about one of the schools that was suggested for closure, be sure to tell them. There are big decisions and challenges ahead, and board members need to hear your voices to know how best to move forward.

Jeffco Proud!

Preview of School Board Meeting Preview for January 14, 2016

The Board holds a study session at the Ed Center this Thursday, January 14th, beginning at 5:30 pm. If you can’t attend, please watch via live stream. Prior to the 5 pm meeting, students from Arvada High School’s orchestra kick off the evening with a 5 pm performance.

During the first hour of the meeting, the board will hear from the district Human Resources leadership team on employee compensation strategies, workforce issues and recent decisions. In looking at the team’s presentation, we are struck by the “We Are Jeffco” slide (slide 4) where it specifically calls attention to Jeffco’s 5,690 “effective educators.” We’re wondering why it isn’t just labeled “educators” or broken down into highly effective, partially effective, effective, etc.

Also, it’s interesting to see that total salary and benefits for Jeffco staff lags inflation by 7%! Slide 14 of the presentation is just heartbreaking — where classroom teacher turnover dropped in Boulder, Cherry Creek, DougCo and Littleton, there was a frightening spike in turnover in Jeffco. We’ve got to turn that trend around! District leadership asks a great question: “are we able to attract and retain quality staff?” Jeffco uses EPI (Educators Professional Inventory) for all licensed classroom positions. This teacher selection tool predicts an applicant’s potential impact on student achievement.

In addition, there’s a presentation about Jeffco’s Strategic Compensation pilot, but too little time for a full discussion. The pilot looked at whether additional compensation for educators makes a difference in student achievement and evaluated which supports for teachers and principals have the greatest impact on student achievement. The findings show students do better when they have better (higher rated) teachers.

Things that affect teacher quality include strong leaders/shared leadership, collaboration, professional learning communities, and rigorous evaluations with growth-focused feedback and associated professional development. The presentation doesn’t address the role of compensation.

We hope the board asks for more information about this piece. We think the key is offering a competitive wage and an innovative, collaborative, supportive work environment. The strategic compensation pilot has been extended for a year with six elementary schools and two middle schools serving as learning model schools.

Next up: honors and recognitions. Kudos to students from D’Evelyn, West Jeff Middle, Arvada West High, and staff from Jeffco’s North Area Athletic Complex.

We’re also thrilled a former practice has been reinstated: board members sharing information on board work and/or activities they participated in since the prior regular board meeting. We know the new board members have been very active since taking office and look forward to hearing their updates. (One caveat: please stick to the summary versions if the meeting has a long agenda.)

Correspondence since the last meeting includes many letters regarding Bradford Elementary’s change from K-6 to K-8. In addition, the Capital Asset Advisory Committee urges the board to address growth (Phase II of Sierra Elementary, K-8 at 58th Avenue and Hwy 93), plus overcrowding and aging facilities across the district.

To address the board about an agenda item, sign up here. One highlight on the consent agenda: Jeffco only lost one more teacher compared to resignations for the same period last year. We hope the tides are turning. Also, we appear to have a new Chief Communications Officer – Diana Wilson – officially starting Jan. 19. She holds an MBA from CU Denver and has worked for the past two years for the Westminster Fire Department. We very much look forward to seeing Jeffco Schools move forward with a fully-functioning communications department again.

The board will also discuss the process to complete Superintendent McMinimee’s summative evaluation for the 2014/2015 school year and goals for this school year (15/16), which will be based on the district goals (ends) set by the board. The board has discussed revisions to district goals, but have not arrived at a revised set of goals. When will this occur?

The first item in the discussion agenda is a resolution pertaining to the $15M underspend (largely from unfilled positions) that was going to be used by the prior board to fund the construction of the new school at Candelas. This resolution would authorize the return of that $15M from the Capital Reserve Fund to the General Fund, and this resolution acknowledges that the transfer will not result in an on-going deficit. But there doesn’t seem to be any further discussion or vote regarding what will be done with the $15M. Will it be allocated as recommended by staff, with $5M as a one-time compensation to staff and the remaining $10M to be held in reserves to offset any potential state reductions for 2016/17? Or are there other budget issues that weren’t addressed, including the request from Jeffco’s security department last fall, that might also benefit from these funds?

Next, there’s recommendation to construct a K-8 school instead of a K-6 school at the Candelas site. This was previously part of the discussion, but WNW chose to ignore it and approve only a K-6 for reasons we never fully understood. We’re happy to see a return to the district’s recommendation for a K-8 structure that will better address projected enrollment and make the most of Jeffco’s construction dollars on this project.

There’s also a recommendation to use of Certificates of Participation (COPs), or other means of financing, in order to move forward with the much-needed construction of Phase II of Sierra Elementary School, which will provide seating capacity for an additional 250 students.

Finally, the Board will discuss rejoining the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB). Mr. McMinimee has previously recommended this action and we expect a vote to rejoin.

The final major agenda items are review of policies pertaining to asset protection (EL-7); the school calendar (EL-14); and governance process, ends, executive limitations, and board/staff linkage. Only two minutes are allotted for this last item so we don’t expect to hear the board discuss revisions to Ends (district goals), but we do expect to hear more about Ends in the near future.

Jeffco Proud!