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!

Want to Keep Jeffco Moving Forward? Walk This Weekend.

We know you’re busy. We are too (see, for example, how well we’re keeping up with this blog!).

However, busy won’t help us keep moving Jeffco forward. We remember 2013, 2014, and 2015 all too well: disrespect, drama, and constant turmoil. We don’t want to return to that, which means we need to support our current school board members in November’s election.

This fall, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell are running for re-election to the Jeffco School Board. Both Rupert (District 1) and Harmon (District 2) have opponents, while Mitchell (District 5) is running uncontested. Some of you might be thinking, “So all is well, right? Reasonable people who are listening to all of Jeffco will continue to retain the board majority regardless of what happens.”

Our response: DON’T. GET. COMPLACENT.

The five board members who were elected in 2015 — Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, along with Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell — have worked hard to restore respect, collaboration, and careful decision-making to Jeffco Schools and the community. Don’t mistake respect, civility, and thoughtful discussions for any suggestion that they always vote in tandem. They don’t. On several occasions board members have differed in their opinions, and yes, their vote.

That’s as it should be. And frankly, it’s been a relief for those of us who regularly attend or watch Jeffco School Board meetings to see people taking each other and the issues seriously.

No one has been turned away at public comment since the recall. No one has been insulted by board members. Angry parents, students, and community members have had their chance to address the board when they disagree with a proposal — and Rupert, Harmon, Mitchell, Stevens and Lasell have listened to those voices and made decisions accordingly.

So what have they accomplished?

Brad Rupert explains in this video.

Or if you want the bullet-point version, the current five-member board of education has:

  • Restored respect and civility and professionalism to the Jeffco community, inside the board room and out
  • Expanded public comment opportunities and discussion on all issues facing Jeffco Schools
  • Hired a nationally-known, world-class superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass, to lead Jeffco forward
  • Become more competitive in attracting and retaining teachers
  • Continued to address growth areas in the district, such as northwest Arvada and west-central Jeffco
  • Celebrated with our Jeffco Schools as schools received 31 awards from the state of Colorado, and 11 Jeffco high schools ranked in the U.S. News and World Report top 50.

How can you help?

First, share Brad Rupert’s video on Facebook, Twitter, any other social media sites you use, and through your email network. A lot of Jeffco voters haven’t been paying attention since 2015, and they probably wonder what the clean slate accomplished. Let them know!

Also take time to read and share Superintendent Glass’ blog, Advance Jeffco. He’s encouraging dialogue and questions, and it’s a great place to talk about how to move Jeffco forward.

And walk! Volunteer here to walk or to look for other campaign opportunities (like a house party this Friday). We need people to let Jeffco voters know what Rupert, Harmon and Mitchell have accomplished during the last two years, and why they should vote for them to serve Jeffco students another four years.

We’re finally on a solid path with thoughtful, experienced decision-makers and a deeply knowledgeable superintendent, all working together from the board table in the best interest of Jeffco. Our students, parents, teachers, staff and community have waited a long time for this. We need to keep moving our district forward, rather than returning to failed policies of the past.

JeffCo Proud!

9.14.15 Jeffco Recall about Survival of Public Education

Your Childs EducationWe received this from a JCSBW reader and received permission to share it here.

The survival of Public Education in Jefferson County is on the ballot this November as the five seats of the school board are contested. It is a battle that has ramifications not only for Jefferson County but also for the state and the nation. Will extremist right wing policies and outside money interests prevail over a community’s interests and the benefit of its children?

While much has been written, pro and con, about the autocratic actions of Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams, who erroneously call themselves conservatives, little has been said about their mission. To put it succinctly, in the words of former board member Laura Boggs, their intention is to “destroy this district.” Why would anyone want to do that unless he or she had something to gain by doing it?

From their mismanagement of Jeffco’s funds, to extremist attempts alter established AP curricula, to bullying children speakers and other board members, to attempts to intimidate through threats, innuendo, and armed security—their regime seems more like an arm of autocrats of the 1930s in Europe than America in the 21st Century. Their ham-handed attempts at privatizing public education and railroading anyone who would oppose them have, fortunately, awakened a community that values the kind of progressive, award-winning education that their children have gotten in Jeffco for many decades.

Unfortunately, extremist ideologies and corporate profiteers have weaseled their way into the Jeffco School Board and now threaten the district’s very existence as resources have been diverted to non-public/semi-private schools that serve select groups and line the pockets of investors. To destroy a school district one must:

  • Run off the best educators,
  • Cut funds for programs and compensation for staff
  • Increase class sizes
  • Cut funds for construction and maintenance
  • Destroy morale
  • Cut services for schools and community and then hire a PR firm to convince the public that what they’re doing is in the best interest of children.

It’s classic double-speak. In time, the quality of education and the educated will drop. Mission accomplished.

Shame on them when they duped voters in 2013. Shame on us if we allow it to happen again.

Vote to recall Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams. Vote to elect candidates whose interests are genuinely aimed at children and learning. Vote for Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, Ron Mitchell and Susan Harmon.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

9.11.15 Recall will be on November ballot & WNW surprises

If you attended or watched the Sept. 3 Jeffco School Board meeting, you may have heard something you never expected to hear: the three board majority members, Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams, who have said they do not support raising taxes for schools, are thinking about raising your taxes.

We know!

contortionist

Here’s how that played out. Now a year later, the board majority had (yet another) discussion about where to build a school in the northwest Jeffco corridor. They have been considering three sites: Table Rock (Hwy 93 and 58th Ave), Leyden Rock or Candelas, and at the last meeting Witt was pushing pretty heavily for Leyden Rock, despite the reality that a school built at that site will seat less kids and take longer to build. The Sept. 3 meeting was a general meeting, so parents from NW Arvada came to comment, with some strongly advocating for Leyden Rock because, they argued, they’re growing faster than Candelas.

Newkirk opened the Sept. 3 discussion with a long, meandering and pointless preamble about how as elected officials they didn’t need to accept district recommendations. A few minutes later, he finally got to the point and made a motion for the district to build on the Leyden Rock site and for staff to begin soliciting bids to build a school with 625 seats in 24 months at that location.

Reality check: That’s not possible, at least not with the paltry $18 million the district designated for a school. Leyden Rock has some steep slopes that make designing and constructing a school more complex. Retaining walls and a lot of earth moving will be necessary in order to build, and the school will need a couple of building pads and at least one elevator. All in all, that makes for a construction premium of $3.5 million according to estimates, which leaves only $14.5 million for the school building itself. Between the limited budget and topography, Chief Operations Officer Steve Bell and Facilities Director Tim Reed estimate they will only be able to build a 450-seat school and it will take six months longer than construction at the other two sites.

Newkirk later asked if the issue was that companies wouldn’t make such a low bid, but Superintendent McMinimee pointed out that we are building schools to last. Remember the adage about fast, good, and cheap? You can only pick two.

The discussion was lengthy and painful, so I’ll skip to the highlights.

Highlight 1: McMinimee went to bat for his staff, and our hat is off to him for taking a stand. After Newkirk’s grandstanding and motion, McMinimee told the board he felt compelled to respond, and he defended his staff’s recommendations and estimates. He pointed out that the topic had been on the table for more than a year and that their original recommendation was to use Certificates of Participation to build a school and finish phase II at Sierra Elementary to relieve some of the pressure on surrounding schools.

McMinimee also noted that Jeffco was in the process of adding temporary buildings to West Woods Elementary this year, and that the growth issue is not only north of 82nd Avenue. If you missed it, you can catch McMinimee’s comments in the meeting video. You’ll want to scroll to about 2:52:45 in the video which is about where his comments begin.

Jill Fellman eventually called for the board to put Certificates of Participation back on on the table, but it was met with the usual argument from Williams that the issue should be put to a vote of the people. The option of a bond came up, and Newkirk said he would be “very open” to that possibility.

Witt did some grandstanding and claimed that the 2012 bond measure should have been larger and included money to build new schools, which was ridiculous considering that the economy still was weak in 2012 and more to the point: he didn’t even support the very small amount that was needed to keep our students warm, safe and dry and has been trying to take that money and use it elsewhere since he was elected.

Highlight 2: Dahlkemper made the motion to direct staff to present a comprehensive bond scenario for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot, and the motion passed 5-0.

Then there was another painful discussion about whether the district should build the K-8 recommended by the district at Candelas, or just a K-6 because Witt thinks that’s the real growth issue (or something). It was another conversation that was quite confusing, not least because it takes two years to build a school and children will age toward middle school during that time. Finally they agreed to push off the decision about grade configuration until the next meeting, which provides staff some time to put together a presentation about the benefits of each scenario.

School Safety

School safety was another topic, largely because the district’s safety office is stretched to the limit. Suicide assessments are up 600 percent over the last two years. There were also 281 threats last year, which is a 100 percent increase. Safe2Tell fielded more than 700 reports in which Jeffco students reported a friend in crisis requiring immediate help, and 44,091 calls for assistance were made from schools to security asking for help.

Jeffco has 11 patrol officers and 3 management team members to respond to calls. Our law enforcement agencies also provide School Resource Officers–36 of them–at no charge to the district. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the $1.3 million budget they have is not sufficient given the increase in threats and suicide assessments. They need more money.

School Based Budgeting (SBB)

There was a brief report on school based budgeting. The short version is that they are hearing positive comments from principals who have more flexibility to provide resources based on student needs. They also looked at the number of students enrolled in full-day kindergarten.

Here’s the point to remember: the number of children enrolled in full-day kindergarten appears to have increased, but the number of schools offering free full-day kindergarten has decreased from 40 to 32. We’ll know more after the district has an official count later this fall.

Recall to be on the Nov. 3 ballot!

Jeffco United for Action received great news last week after the Jeffco County Clerk said she’s confident the recall can be part of the November general election ballot. There are a few hurdles remaining, but the news is really good. For the full story, check out Chalkbeat’s analysis here.

Now It’s Your Turn

With only a few weeks until the mail-in ballots arrive, we all need to pitch in and help. You can:

https://www.facebook.com/Amanda-for-Jeffco-Schools-604780212991553/timeline/

https://www.facebook.com/Ali-Lasell-for-Jeffco-421746884684406/timeline/

https://www.facebook.com/bradforjeffcokids?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/susanforjeffcokids?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/ronforjeffcokids

  • Walk doors with Jeffco United to educate Jeffco voters about why we need to recall Witt, Newkirk and Williams. You can sign up to walk this Saturday during one of the morning, afternoon or evening shifts, or at any of the multiple other days in September and October.
  • Post a yard sign supporting the recall. Information about getting a sign is posted on their Facebook page.

We need to get the word out and that takes all of us. Any little bit helps, so walking just one shift, donating another $5 or $10 to a campaign, and spreading the word. We don’t want another two years without the respect, accountability and transparency that Jeffco deserves. Our students, our schools and all of us deserve better. Let’s make sure everyone knows it and votes to recall WNW on Nov. 3.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!