Is change in the air for Jeffco Schools 2017?

urgentIn case you haven’t heard, Jeffco Schools announced Tuesday the Jeffco School Board will vote on whether to start a search process for a new superintendent at their Jan. 12 regular board meeting.

For some — perhaps most — of our readers, this is long-awaited news. Others may be wondering why.

What’s not yet clear is whether this means that board members are seriously contemplating not renewing Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s contract, or whether they’re just fulfilling their promise to be transparent and accountable with board decisions and are providing ample notice so the community can be a part of the process and offer their input on the decision.

Although some Denver news outlets are reporting that McMinimee’s contract will not be renewed, Chalkbeat took a more nuanced approach and suggested that it was possible the board could still choose to renew his contract at the meeting.

No decision has been made yet, so news coverage stating that McMinimee’s contract will not be renewed is mere speculation and is either irresponsible journalism, or based on unprofessional comments from some at the district. Jeffco School Board members have held two executive sessions to discuss the contract, most recently on Dec. 15, but any vote to renew or not renew has to take place in open session, preferably with time for public comment and thoughtful, articulate board discussion. That is now scheduled for the Jan. 12 meeting.

Also from the same press release:

“It was clear during our executive sessions that the board felt we should explore our options to support the vision and direction of our school district,” said Board President Ron Mitchell. “This is a very difficult discussion, especially since Dan has led Jeffco Public Schools through some challenging times and we all appreciate his work.

…. Now that the current Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education has served over a year, the Board president expressed his expectation that the Board will have a full discussion regarding the desired direction of the district at the Jan. 12 meeting.

“If the Board decides to begin the search for a new superintendent, that action should not be viewed as a commentary on the Board’s estimation of Dan’s abilities or his performance in the role of superintendent,” explained Mitchell. “Board members expressed a desire to have a broader discussion about the Board’s vision for the district and type of leadership needed to make that vision a reality.”

As a refresher, Superintendent McMinimee was hired in 2014 as the sole finalist of a $40,000 national superintendent search. Before his hiring, he had spent several years working as an administrator in Douglas County, and many suspected that now-recalled board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams hired him in part because he had been the lead negotiator in Douglas County when they cut ties with the union. He was hired on a 3-2 vote in a meeting in which Witt shut down public comment after a mere 45 minutes. WNW eventually approved a three-year contract with a base salary of $220,000 and bonus pay of up to $40,000 based on goals set by the board.

This year, McMinimee received $20,000 in bonus pay based on the goals set by the previous board before the November 2015 election. McMinimee and the board discussed potential goals for 2017-18 at a recent meeting, and suggested that many of the goals McMinimee suggested should be a routine part of his job. They directed him to select different, more aspirational goals at a future meeting.

Board members also had a long executive session at the end of the Dec. 15 meeting to discuss the renewal of McMinimee’s contract, which ends on June 30, 2017. The board needs to make a decision by the end of March, but stated they wanted to start those discussions now. We saw a lot of chatter on social media about the 3-1/2 hour length of the executive session and what that might mean, but no one knows for sure.

JCSBW fervently hopes that a comprehensive, articulate, and thoughtful discussion will ensue at the Jan. 12 meeting in order to better explain what board members are thinking. Among other things, the Jeffco School Board needs to clarify:

  1. Specifically what they envision for the future of Jeffco Schools, and specifically what they want from a leader charged with carrying out that vision. (Emphasis on “specific,” because the press release is so vague that it could mean anything.)
  2. Specific areas in which McMinimee’s performance has fallen short, and why the board thinks different leadership may be a better option.
  3. What options the board has for selecting a new superintendent, how much those options cost, and why any additional cost is justified.

Three board seats are up for election in November, so it is extremely important that the board members be as transparent as possible as they move forward with this decision.

The average Jeffco voter will want to know why this board decided to renew or not renew McMinimee’s contract — and they’ll need to understand why it’s not a waste of money to spend several thousand more dollars on another superintendent search three years later. Three years ago, that search cost $40,000. If McMinimee’s contract is not renewed, that means taxpayers have paid an additional $13.3k per year on top of his salary.

We know many families, principals and teachers in Jeffco have not been pleased with McMinimee’s time here, and feel he is not the best candidate to lead our schools. However, that is not clear to the average voter or even the average Jeffco Schools family. We have no doubt that the anti-tax forces in Jeffco will waste no time in pointing to waste, lack of transparency, and vindictiveness if board members do not clearly make the case for whatever decision they reach on Jan. 12.

Readers, we also encourage you to communicate with the board, either during the public comment session at the Jan. 12 meeting or by writing the board before the meeting. You will be able to sign up to speak at public comment beginning on Monday, Jan. 9, and we’ll update with a link once that is available.

You can email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, or email the board members individually using the links on the Jeffco School Board members page. It’s vitally important for the board — and the greater Jeffco community — to hear what you think and why.

Jeffco Proud!

3A and 3B: A Matter of Trust in Leadership

If you’re still on the fence about 3A and 3B, the Jeffco Schools’ mill and bond initiative, don’t underestimate the importance of leadership and trust for the current school board in your decision-making.

One year ago, the previous school board majority was ousted by huge margins in favor of a “Clean Slate.” Readers of Jeffco School Board Watch will remember vividly that our formation was closely tied to the shenanigans of the previous board majority. Simply put, they were untrustworthy. Yes, the three of them lived in Jeffco, but it was clear that they were answering to ideologues, and often outside interests, rather than to what the majority of the community was saying.

Fast forward to today: hasn’t it been refreshing that the new school board has been in the news…so little? The five “new” board members–Ron Mitchell, Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon–do in fact represent their communities, govern responsibly and cautiously-yet-boldly, and have restored a great measure of professionalism and trust to traditions of Jeffco Schools.

During the course of the year, they have done yeoman’s work quietly but thoughtfully rebuilding foundations of trust in the community. Complaints have been few. The bottom line is that they are doing their job with a level of seriousness and community engagement that we have come to expect of our district leaders.

Having shorn up the relationship with our hard-working teachers, parents, and taxpayers, now they are asking for the community to reinvest in the schools again. They recognize that Jeffco’s aging buildings are in real need of repair and updating if we are to remain a first class district. They realize that many of our best teachers have left, and are still tempted to leave, because of wage stagnation, especially relative to other neighboring districts.

Most of all, they see that Jeffco kids suffer the brunt of the state’s underfunding, not just through deteriorating facilities and underpaid teachers, but also through many other cuts and restrictions to enriching parts of their education, such as music and athletics programs, technology investments, and more.

The numbers and stories behind Jeffco 3A 3B ask make sense in and of themselves, but undergirding those reasons is that we trust this board and their leadership. They have worked hard, made the case to us, and we urge everyone to vote “Yes” on 3A and 3B, not to reward the board of education, but because the case they’ve made to the community has been sensible, clear, and inspiring.

JeffCo Proud!

Didn’t They Learn Last Year? Koch Brothers, Leave Jeffco Alone!

The Koch Brothers, supposed champions of “local control,” are once again trying to influence Jeffco elections–in this case, the mill and bond.

For what reason? If the graphic here looks familiar, it’s because it is. We used it last year as the Koch Brothers poured money in from the outside in a wildly unsuccessful attempt to save the inept and controversy-ridden school board posts of Witt, Williams, and Newkirk. Well, the Koch’s network has so much money in it, they don’t know where to spend it, so they’re back and taking aim at Jeffco…again!

Koch

No one will forget the fact that the Koch Brothers and their political machine, AFP, directed hundreds of thousands in expenditures in Jeffco to prop up a school board majority that they probably never even met. The results had to be one of their worst investments ever: a 2-to-1 humiliation with voters rejecting their ideological intervention.

We thought that they’d think twice about meddling in a place as fiercely independent as Jeffco again. Looks like we were wrong.

Check this out: a full-on press by the Kochs to do what? Prevent the funding of our schools on a local level, even though the state and TABOR prevent adequate state funding of schools.

The Kochs and their allies profess to prioritize “local control” but then they’re working against communities funding their schools when the state can’t. What’s really going on?

With respect to the superficial allegations made by the Kochs, here are a few observations from a local e-newsletter we received this morning:

“First, PERA – that’s mandated at the state level, not the local level. Concerns about PERA need to be addressed at the Capital – not taken out on local school districts.

“What is the basis for allegations that funding isn’t going to the classroom?

“I’ve heard the statement made that ‘Jeffco is too top heavy – money is wasted on district-level staff.'”

The latest data from the Colorado Department of Education shows that for the 2015-16 school year, Jeffco had 4787 teachers and 412 administrators. Of the 412 administrators 307 were principals or assistant principals in Jeffco’s 153 schools. That leaves just 105 administrators at the Ed Center.

In comparison, DPS, which is very close in size to Jeffco, has 813 administrators.

“The district is very transparent with where the bond funds will go and where the mill levy funds will go. Please do your own research to understand how 3A & 3B deserve your YES vote! Jeffco graduate, grandparent, community leader and education advocate, Marta Murray, reminds us that the Sunshine Review recognized Jeffco for financial transparency.

“Now – more than ever before – we need your help! Yes, we need you to vote YES on 3A and 3B. But we also need you on social media, on the phone and walking door-to-door to share information on the benefits of a YES vote – and the ramifications of a NO vote!

“The Board of Education would have to direct staff how to decrease the budget. Some possible impacts:

  • School closures and consolidations
  • Split schedules
  • Year round schools
  • Changing boundaries and transportation radius
  • Limited ability to meet basic deferred maintenance
  • Continuing to lose great staff
  • Larger class sizes
  • Higher fees for parents
  • Lack of resources for student learning
  • Cutting programs and opportunities for students”

Here are the ways to help:

Here’s how you can help:

  1. DONATE!
  2. WALK!
  3. TALK!

Walking & Talking

With the AFP announcement of their impending social media strike against school districts across the state, it’s imperative that we have everyone on deck in this final stretch! Please sign up to walk – not only in your neighborhood, but in others across the district. Please also sign up to phone bank!

Can’t Walk on Saturdays? Days or times for Phone Banking Don’t Work for Your Schedule?! Write Nate or Chris – they can provide turf to walk and people to call on your schedule!

Boots on the Boulevard #Yeson3A3B Style!

Dust off your boots and get back out on the boulevard! Please join us this coming Friday from 3:30-6p for Boots on the Boulevard 4.0!! Make your own signs supporting 3A and 3B or bring your yard sign!

This action is IN ADDITION to walking, knocking, and talking to voters which is the most effective way to get our community to vote #Yeson3A3B

Below are the intersections for this action. Go to the one that is most convenient for you. See you on the Blvd. this FRIDAY.

Chatfield & Wads
Bowles & Wads
Yale & Wads
Alameda & Wads
Colfax & Wads
38th & Wads
52th & Wads
72nd & Wads
88th & Wads
Church ranch/100th & Wad

#WeAreJeffco

THANK YOU!!

 

“One can only do so much”!

3A – Funding to Address Student Achievement, Whole Child

Less than one year ago, the Jeffco community came together to make a critical change to our school board. By a 2-1 margin, Jeffco voters made it clear that they wanted school board members who have Jeffco students’ best interests at heart.

We at JeffCo School Board Watch support the five new school board members’ decision to put a mill levy override and bond on this November’s ballot. We are pleased to see that funds from the mill, 3A, will be distributed equitably to benefit all of Jeffco’s 155 schools – including every neighborhood school, option school, and charter school.

Charter schools, which educate 10 percent of Jeffco’s students, will receive 10 percent of the mill. And that same equitable distribution will be true for all neighborhood and option schools in Jeffco.

Under the current school budget system, known as Student Based Budgeting (SBB), Jeffco’s schools have a small amount of discretionary money that allows them to choose the services, programming, and support that will most benefit their unique student population. The mill levy override will provide much-needed funds so that schools can fully afford choices that support student achievement while also nurturing the whole child.

Exciting options include more hands-on learning opportunities, enhanced and expanded art, music, career and technical education, as well as additional investment in and expansion of STEM – science, technology, math and engineering – programming.

Schools that only have a half-time librarian might use some of the discretionary money from 3A to pay for a full-time librarian, while other schools may choose to invest the dollars into a full-time counselor, math or reading interventionist, or additional hands-on opportunities for their students.

Jeffco’s 2020 Vision talks about what a successful graduate in the year 2020 will be able to do, and places a priority on providing all Jeffco students – from the youngest to those heading off to college or a career – the necessary educational experiences to achieve this vision.

Students need 21st century skills so they’re prepared for the jobs of the future. They need greater access to STEM, technology and hands-on experiences.

They need to hone their abilities when it comes to teamwork, critical thinking, strong math and science knowledge, and a strong reading and writing base. The Jeffco 2020 Vision also requires multiple pathways and differentiated learning supports based on student needs.

As a community, we rely on Jeffco students to become our future leaders. Issue 3A invests in Jeffco students’ future.

Our district needs your help to ensure voters have the facts so they can support this measure. Please donate to help the Yes on 3A & 3B campaign educate more voters.

We fully expect the ousted school board members and their cohorts to invest in mailers that distort the truth. By investing in the campaign, you can help  Jeffco voters understand the important of investing in Jeffco students.

The Yes on 3A and 3B campaign could also use your help walking door to door, or calling voters, or writing a letter to the editor.

Pick up and display a yard sign, and print out this sign for your car window.

After you vote, start using this graphic in your social media profiles to encourage others to vote, too.

img_7421Please join all of us at JeffCo School Board Watch as we work together to pass 3A and 3B November 8!

 

JeffCo Proud!

3.17.2016 BOE MEETING PREVIEW

writers_forum

The Jeffco School Board will hold a study session this Thursday, March 17, beginning at 5:30 pm. If you cannot attend, you can stream the meeting online. Key matters include:

Jeffco’s Early Childhood Education Program

The Board will hear the latest regarding Jeffco’s growing Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program. This includes preschool, Kindergarten and before- and after-school programs. The Board will also meet ECE community partners during this update.

We’re curious to know the impacts to enrollment in Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) as a result of the requirement that free FDK be provided to all students on free and reduced lunch (FRL). This is something that hasn’t been clear, so we’re wondering:

  • How many schools were providing free FDK to all students prior to SBB who have stopped doing so, specifically due to the percentage of FRL students in their school? Our understand from last year was that there were 40 schools providing free FDK that went down to 25 schools after the implementation of SBB.
  • As we understand it, schools receive additional funds for free lunch kiddos, but not for reduced lunch kiddos. Therefore, schools have to provide the funds for school fees and free FDK for reduced lunch kiddos from their general fund. How is this impacting schools and what is being done to relieve this pressure?

We’re also wondering if the district or new board has considered a tiered system of charging for FDK like the one Denver Public Schools implemented, which bases tuition upon the size of the family relative to their gross income and ability to pay instead of a flat $300/month fee? Or is there a way the district could move toward offering free FDK for everyone, perhaps on a 5- or 10-year implementation plan? (The ideal situation would be that the state allocates funding to allow all districts to offer free FDK, of course, but we’re well aware of the ongoing state funding problems.)

2nd Quarter Financial Report

Jeffco Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Askelson, a representative from the District’s auditor and members of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee will share the latest financial news. The report identifies funds, departments and/or schools to monitor closely throughout the year.

We’re pleased to see no charter schools are borrowing at the end of this quarter, and Collegiate Academy has closed its line of credit with the District. Budgeting for the 2016-2017 school year will continue to be a hot topic. Stay tuned.

District Accountability Committee

Next, Jeffco Chief Effectiveness Officer Terry Elliott and District Accountability Committee Chair Julie Oxenford-O’Brian will update the Board on the District’s Unified Improvement Plan before it is submitted to the Colorado Department of Education.

Legislative Update

Jeffco’s Lobbyist, Ed Bowditch, will update the Board on legislation affecting schools, districts and education.

When Cindy Stevenson Left Jeffco…

Two years ago, when the Board approved former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson’s early release from her duties, Witt, Newkirk and Williams insisted on barring her from volunteering or being employed in Jeffco Schools in the future.

Paragraph #12, page 5 of 8 of that agreement reads, No continuing right of employment by the District. Dr. Stevenson agrees that she will not apply for or otherwise seek re-employment or seek to volunteer in the District, (emphasis added) including its charter schools until December 31, 2018, and that, in the event she does so, it will be a material breach of this Agreement, and the District and its charter schools will have no obligation to consider her application.”

At the March 3, 2016, meeting, Ron Mitchell asked that this be reviewed by district legal counsel to see if that prohibition could be changed. At the last meeting, Mitchell said he didn’t think that was a typical element of an agreement and that it seemed needless. We are interested in understanding whether that clause can be changed or eliminated, and what the board may have in mind.

We’ll also note for the record that Stevenson is currently employed as Director of the CASE Leadership Initiative, so we don’t think this is a move to reinstate her as superintendent. Barring her from even volunteering in the district, however, was always clearly meant to be spiteful by WNW.

Employee Negotiations

The meeting wraps up with an update on Employee Negotiations – the teacher contract. The Board will hear from Chief Human Resources Officer Amy Weber and contract attorney Jim Branum. The next negotiations session will take place Monday, March 28.

Jeffco Student Headed to Scripps National Spelling Bee – AGAIN!

On a lighter note, we’d like to congratulate Jeffco Schools student Sylvie Lamontagne who will represent Colorado in the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the second year running. Lamontagne, an eighth grader at Creighton Middle School, competed last year and finished 9th out of 285 spellers at the national bee. This is the first time in 20 years that Colorado has had a back-to-back champion, thanks in part to a change in the rules that allows a winner to compete again in the contest. Her winning word was “ossifrage.” Good luck at the national spelling bee!

JeffCo Proud!