Board Meeting Thursday, Superintendent Succession

The Jeffco School Board meets this Thursday, March 9, beginning at 4:30 pm with a musical performance by students from Patterson Elementary.

Ray & Associates will provide an update on the Superintendent Search process during the study session at 5 pm. You can see the proposed timeline for the search process, and the application deadline is April 10.

Meanwhile, we learned last week that Superintendent Dan McMinimee will be stepping back into an advisory role, and current Chief School Effectiveness Officer Terry Elliott will become Acting Superintendent. Elliott also announced last week that he will be taking a new job with the Brighton/27J School District after this school year.

Note that succession plan was outlined months ago in the Jeffco School Board’s Superintendent Successor policy, and that Elliott is listed as the first leader (followed by Kevin Carroll and Amy Weber). Because Elliott has already submitted his resignation, it also means he won’t be a candidate in the Jeffco search, which we feel is a good thing.

Next, the board will recognize schools receiving the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Awards and the John Irwin School of Excellence Awards, and Devinny Elementary, a National Blue Ribbon School. The board will also celebrate several State Wrestling Champions.

It’s a regular meeting, so remember that you can sign up online for public comment if you wish to address the board. Public comment part one is for issues regarding the agenda and part two is for issues not on this month’s agenda.

One note on the Board’s consent agenda: Collegiate Academy, a Jeffco charter school, is up for renewal. We note that enrollment at that school has dropped by about 200 students, or 36 percent in the last 10 years, from 554 in the 2006/2007 school year to just 355 this year. We also note the most recent ACT scores for Collegiate were below both the district and state averages. That renewal is currently part of the consent agenda, meaning it will likely be renewed without discussion. We simply would like to highlight the numbers for the record, especially as some in the community claim that Jeffco is clamoring for more charter schools. Enrollment at Collegiate, at least, suggests otherwise.

The renewal of another charter school, Mountain Phoenix Community School is on the discussion agenda. According to the presentation, the main concern appears to be academic proficiency on state tests, and district staff are recommending a conditional three-year renewal. It will be interesting to hear more details during the meeting.

Next, the Board will receive a legislative update on the current status of state education funding and on any proposed bills that would affect Jeffco.

Board members will also discuss proposed boundary changes for the Pleasant View Elementary students who will now attend either Shelton or Welchester.

The last agenda items are to review a few policies and work on the calendar.

If you can’t make the meeting, remember that you can stream it at this link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

JeffCo Proud!

Guest Post: Jeffco Schools Budget Cut Recommendations

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Today we feature a guest post by one our readers, Bob Greenawalt, a Jeffco parent, taxpayer, and community member, regarding some of the Jeffco Schools budget cuts recommended by the district. Our five Jeffco School Board members are preparing to vote on these recommendations on Thursday and need your input. Greenawalt highlights some of the potential cuts in his post.

On January 26, 2017 the Superintendent’s Cabinet, among other things, recommended:

  • Eliminating all (30) social and emotional learning specialists and a coordinator.
  • Eliminating all (20) literacy interventionists.
  • Eliminating four of 16 resource teachers who help support teachers of students determined to be gifted and talented.
  • Cut the 2 GT teachers who run the District’s only HS GT program at Wheat Ridge.

Let’s hope that the Board was as surprised by these recommendations as I was.

By all indications, these programs are successful and working to help our kids. Schools nationwide are investing in social emotional work, which helps students develop skills to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts and make responsible decisions. District research shows that the literacy interventionists are “closing the gap for our most highly impacted populations.” The targeted cut of the 2 GT teachers includes a 2017 Colorado Teacher of the Year Finalist.

All of these successful programs were designed to help students on the margins. It makes me wonder what message the Superintendent and his Cabinet is sending to teachers, students and the community with these recommendations?

The Board has an opportunity to show the community that it really does care about kids and their education by rejecting these recommendations and finding other ways to fund their desired compensation investment of $25M.

If the Board accepts these recommendations, we will be left questioning their priorities and reasoning, and an at-risk population will be deprived of vital resources.

The School Board needs to remember its responsibility to put the kids first!

We at JCSBW want add that the issues with compensation are real and that $25 million would go a long way toward making salaries in Jeffco Schools competitive with our neighboring districts. However, the board has not yet landed on a specific plan for compensation and the cuts district staff recommended surprised everyone at the Jan. 26 meeting.

District staff recommended the $25 million number. Given that District staff were then only able to present a little over $20 million in recommended cuts, we don’t expect to see anything close to $25 million go toward compensation this year. We also know board members were not a proponent of closing any schools for the 2017-18 school year, or accelerating any timelines regarding the move toward K-5, 6-8 configurations. 

Board members have placed a high priority on teacher compensation because of how important having a great teacher in every classroom is to student success. Jeffco risks losing some of its best educators.

We pointed out recently that in 2010, a Jeffco Schools teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience earned $52,330. In 2017, that same Jeffco Schools teacher only earns $49,839 — compensation has gone DOWN. In neighboring districts, that teacher can earn $57,733. Are those teachers going to head to Boulder or Cherry Creek to earn nearly $8,000 more per year? Sure — especially if they have kids headed to college. It’s a real issue.

However, some of the recommended cuts, such as those mentioned above and the recommendation to close five schools, will have a major impact on our Jeffco students and communities.

The question for board members will be how to balance keeping good teachers in Jeffco while also continuing to invest in educational innovations that we know help Jeffco students achieve.

If you can’t make the meeting tomorrow, please watch the live stream at this link: https://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Budget Proposal for Jeffco Schools (1.26.17 meeting summary)

UpdateAs you’ve undoubtedly heard on the news by now, the budget recommendations from Jeffco Schools staff caught a lot of people by surprise, including the board members who had only received the recommendations a day earlier. A lot took place at the Jan. 26 Jeffco School Board meeting, and we’ll summarize this information as efficiently as possible.

Budget Proposal — School Closings

After voters said “no” to 3A and 3B this fall, Jeffco School Board members asked district staff to find funds to invest in compensation, with a target number of $25 million. As we’ve mentioned many times, teachers make about 10 percent less in Jeffco than they could in neighboring districts, which means we’re not competitive in the labor market for teachers or other resources like speech pathologists and more.

Staff presented those recommendations tonight, including a number of far-ranging cuts to resources and staff, in addition to closing five schools, relocating one school, and reconfiguring some articulation areas to a K-5, 6-8 model a year earlier than planned.

The facilities presentation recommended closing these schools:

  • Peck Elementary
  • Pennington Elementary
  • Pleasant View Elementary
  • Stober Elementary
  • Swanson Elementary

In addition, Long View High School would be relocated from its current location, presumably to McClain High School.

In order to close the above schools, the Arvada and Wheat Ridge articulation areas would need to change to a K-5, 6-8 configuration for the 2017-18 school year rather than for the 2018-19 school year as planned. This means current 5th graders in those two articulation areas would be 6th graders in middle school this August, while the remaining areas wouldn’t reconfigure until 2018-19.

The Chatfield articulation area is also included for reconfiguration for 2017-18, but that reconfiguration has been planned for more than a year, and the community has been working through that process for some time now.

Staff also noted that school performance was not a criteria in the closure recommendations. The criteria used are detailed on the slides, and we’ll post more about the facilities recommendations in a few days.

Budget Proposal – Other Cuts

The budget presentation explained the state funding picture (bleak) and suggestions for various funding scenarios. It also discussed one-time funds.

A separate document details the budget cuts recommended by Superintendent McMinimee’s cabinet. These would be implemented in four phases, with some requiring BOE approval, and others falling under “staff action.” Here’s a summary, but we encourage you to read through the details at this link.

  • Phase 1A: Increase athletic fees and activity card fees, eliminate quarterly financial audit review (external quarterly audit would remain), reduce National School Board membership, increase community building use fees, and close five elementary schools. Total savings: $4,508,410.00
  • Phase 1B: Reduce utility, fuel, sick and personal payout and contingency budgets; reclassify educational research and design staff to other funds or grants; reduce achievement directors, support staff, educator effectiveness staff, and GT teachers; reduce security budget; cut superintendent, technology and human resources staff. Total savings: $7,987,008.00
  • Phase 2: Reduce custodial staff and clean only 60 percent of buildings nightly (vs. 80 percent currently); reduce literary interventionists, content specialists, support personnel and substitute expenses for professional development; reduce achievement directors; reduce central social emotional support; reduce GT resource teachers; eliminate superintendent community relations budget, including administrator welcome; eliminate student device home filtering and reduce technology supply budget; eliminate option school and Outdoor Lab busing. Total savings: $4,554,204.00
  • Phase 3: Eliminate literacy interventionists; eliminate MAP testing in K-2 and mastery content; eliminate social emotional learning specialists. Total savings: $1,815,030.00
  • Phase 4: Reduce assessment coordinator and technician, reduce library coordinator and secretarial support; eliminate 14 social emotional support staff funded to student-based budgeting. Total savings: $1,534,299.00

Total savings: $20,398,951.00

Board members would need to approve Phase 1A, which includes the school closures. The other steps could be taken by the district without needing further approval from the board.

Board Discussion about the Budget Proposal

Board members were surprised by some of the recommendations and immediately emphasized the importance of connecting with the community to do this work in collaboration, particularly regarding school closures. Three of the five schools on the closure list have not been discussed in recent facilities conversations, so this is brand-new information for those communities, board members cautioned.

They also asked staff, “Why the rush?” in regard to the proposed school closures and accelerated reconfiguration schedule for the Arvada and Wheat Ridge articulation areas.

“We have a little bit of an integrity issue here,” board President Ron Mitchell commented, noting that board members have spent months reassuring parents and the community that the K-5/6-8 reconfiguration would be a two-year process.

The closures and reconfiguration would save the district $3.5 million dollars, and Brad Rupert suggested that they could use $3.5 million in one-time dollars to fill the compensation hole and have extra time to plan.

Ali Lasell said she would rather respect and honor the timeline presented to the community with the reconfiguration taking place in Fall 2018 as planned. This would allow all schools and families adequate time to plan and allow communities could make that transition at the same time.

Rupert noted that one of the goals last spring was to create a deliberate process for moving sixth graders to middle school and for any school closures. “This is the opposite of that,” he pointed out.

School-family partnerships are our job, Lasell added.

“Our communities have great memories if we don’t keep our word,” Mitchell added.

Susan Harmon noted that there are costs everywhere, which makes this challenging. Not addressing the compensation issues will mean Jeffco continues to lose ground in attracting and retaining teachers, but the cuts and closed schools have a big cost as well.

Amanda Stevens pointed out that once a school is on a closure list, it impacts enrollment, even if the school stays open. Prolonging closures can also have a negative impact overall.

“We need to get this process right,” Mitchell said. “This is not the end but the beginning, so we need to do it well, do it right.” He also said that he thought the state budget picture would likely mean more school closures down the road, which makes it even more important to have a good process.

Lasell worries that the Wheat Ridge area seems to be taking the brunt of the cuts, and wants to make sure that the district talks with the city manager and mayor if they decide to head in that direction.

Staff is asking board members to be ready to vote on these issues at the Feb. 9 meeting.

Bottom line: Board members need your input, quickly. Please email them with your thoughts at board@jeffco.k12.co.us or feel free to contact individual board members using these links.

Other BOE Updates

Superintendent Search

Staff updated board members on the superintendent search. Jeffco Schools sent a request for proposals to five known superintendent search organizations and posted the proposal request online. Jeffco received three responses.

A committee consisting of Ron Mitchell, Amanda Stevens, Kathleen Askelson (Jeffco chief financial officer), Amy Weber (chief human resources officer), and Betty Standley (director of purchasing), evaluated the proposals on cost, approach, experience, and qualifications. They unanimously selected Ray and Associates, which yes, is the search firm that the Jeffco School Board used in 2014.

The next step is to hear from Ray and Associates about the search procedure, and that will most likely be on the agenda for the Feb. 9 meeting.

Jeffco 2020 Vision

The Jeffco 2020 presentation focused largely on a growing interest in implementing project-based learning (PBL) in schools to meet the goals of Jeffco 2020. About 20 percent of Jeffco’s schools are currently implementing PBL in some fashion. For some examples of what PBL looks like in action, check out this video and the other videos on the Jeffco 2020 page.

Performance-based assessments also provide an alternative to traditional testing and are better aligned with the PBL approach. The district is currently working to redesign curriculum to include the 2020 competencies in addition to the state standards. Staff and teachers are collaborating and expect that to be ready for Fall 2017.

Multiple pathways to graduation and college and career readiness are also in development. New this year: apprenticeship programs for students interested in that pathway.

Contract Negotiations

Jeffco met with the teachers association, JCEA, on Jan. 19 (that meeting can be viewed by clicking the link), and will meet with the classified staff association, JESPA, on Feb. 1.

JESPA has a contract with Jeffco through August 2019 and will negotiate salary and benefits, plus three items that can be brought to the table by each team.

JCEA has a contract through August 2021, and will negotiate salary and benefits, two items that can be brought by each team, and items of mutual interest.

Amy Weber noted in the presentation that compensation will be a major issue, not least because 3A failed. Issue 3A included $12.6 million for compensation that we won’t have, but mill levy overrides in neighboring districts like Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Denver all passed, meaning they’ll have more money available for raises for their staff.

Bottom line: we’re not competitive in the marketplace and we continue to lose ground. Consider this:

Comp

Cost of living has gone up 17.8 percent, but salary increases have only kept up with half of that. Two notable facts:

  1. In 2010, a Jeffco Schools teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience earned $52,330. In 2017, that same Jeffco Schools teacher only earns $49,839. In neighboring districts, that teacher can earn $57,733.
  2. A Jeffco Schools entry-level assistant principal was paid $72,589 in 2010, is paid $73,540 now, but could earn $78,854 in a neighboring district.

Comp2Staff asked the board to commit to funding at least $12 million in compensation increases and proposes funding that through Phase I cuts, as detailed in the budget presentation.

Great Works Montessori charter school application

This was a recent addition to the agenda. As you’ll recall, the board denied the Great Works Montessori School charter school application in November due to concerns about the sustainability of their proposed enrollment numbers and budget figures. GWMS appealed to the state school board, who sent the application back to Jeffco with an order to reconsider it.

The school and staff worked together to address some of the issues, but at the January meeting there was still a lot of confusion about whether the budget would be sustainable. Board members didn’t feel comfortable with the funding model that substantially funded the K-8 students through preschool tuition and were concerned it would lead to immediate funding shortfalls. Enrollment numbers also continued to be an issue. Board members considered a conditional approval, but weren’t sure of the numbers needed. In the end, they voted to deny the application a second time.

GWMS could have appealed to the state board a second time, but their lawyers contacted the district, and they were able to work out a compromise. Amanda Stevens said they agreed to add another 45 letters of intent to the condition, which could make the budget more sustainable and less reliant on the preschool budget.

The conditional approval was unanimous, and GWMS has until April 1 to fulfill the conditions set forth in the approval in order to open for Fall 2017.

We’ve given you a lot of information to absorb, and encourage you to read through the presentations and make your voices heard. The school board members want to make decisions that benefit our entire Jeffco community and need your feedback to do that. Again, please email your thoughts to board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

Despite these challenges, we remain

JeffCo Proud!

Special Jeffco BOE Meeting – 12.15.2016

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This coming Thursday, Dec. 15, beginning at 5pm, the Board of Education will meet for the last time in 2016 to cover a variety of issues including:

After discussion of these issues, the board will meet in executive session to seek advice of legal counsel on a personnel matter. This portion of the meeting will be closed to the public.

Alameda Articulation Area Update

As of this post, the only information available for preview is an Alameda Area Update video and a 14-slide Alameda Area Update that outlines the capital improvements made to Rose Stein Elementary, an introduction to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Program (PYP) that will be offered at Rose Stein beginning next year, the timeline for community meetings and opening of the school, hiring timelines for staff, and IB training and support resources for staff. There are also a few slides outlining the programs available to Alameda Junior/Senior High students. Hopefully it’s just a typo and isn’t correct that the teacher retention rate was less than 5%?!

The board has also asked for an update on student achievement at Alameda International Jr/Sr High School, and we hope to see a presentation given that provides a detailed analysis using PARCC, MAP and other data to show progress, and a detailed discussion outlining measurable goals moving forward.

CAFR Presentation

Colorado revised Statute 22-32-109 requires the district prepare a comprehensive audited financial report (CAFR). The financial report consists of financial information prepared by the district and audited by an independent firm and indicates the financial status of the district at the end of the reporting period. It also provides a starting point for the annual budget preparation process.

Each year of the past 33 years, the Government Finance Officers’ Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) has awarded Jeffco Schools a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, meaning Jeffco has consistently published an easily readable and efficiently organized comprehensive annual financial report. In other words, when you hear Jeffco isn’t financially transparent, that’s simply wrong.

You can read the CAFR here and the audit report summary letter here. Here are two concerning findings from the audit:

  • The summary letter notes a problem with the accounting practices at Golden View Classical Academy (GVCA), and also notes a “scope change” that the auditors “consider to be significant to the responsibilities of those charged with governance of the group.” Our comment: remember that charter schools have their own boards. The Jeffco School Board can approve and renew charters, but otherwise has no jurisdiction over the charter schools unless they are in violation of their charter.
  • The management letter mentions that the district fell for a financial scam, and authorized a wire transfer of $26,564 to an unnamed party before later learning it was a scam. The auditors advise the district to “strengthen its internal controls surrounding the wire transfer process to verify all request for funds have a valid business purpose.” This is excellent advice we hope is heeded!

The CAFR also includes interesting demographic and economic data from Jeffco:

  • The Jeffco Schools property tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value is the LOWEST it’s been in 10 years.
  • The district’s ratio of net debt to assessed value is the LOWEST it’s been in 10 years. (6.51 percent in 2016 compared to 11.33 percent in 2007)
  • Per capita personal income in Jeffco has risen 27 percent in the past 10 years, while the average Jeffco teacher salary has gone up just 8 percent.
  • Enrollment has increased since 2010, yet Jeffco has fewer teachers and other licensed employees AND fewer support services employees, and administration ranks have increased by just 68 people.
  • We note that the CAFR lists 35.54 percent of Jeffco students in the Free/Reduced Lunch Program 10 years ago, but a worrisome 52 percent in the program now. A shout out to programs such as the Arvada Community Food Bank, the Action Center and the Golden Backpack Program for all they’re doing to help Jeffco’s hungry students.

Staffing Considerations

This update ensures board members are aware of the timing considerations for spring staffing and negotiations in light of the 2017/18 budget development cycle. This timeline shows that staff are recommending the board finalize the compensation commitment (and the reductions in the budget necessary to make this commitment) by March so that salaries offered in March for teaching vacancies reflect the new salary structure.

A note to our readers: if you are not attending your school accountability committee (SAC) meetings, you should be. Note that principals will need to confirm staffing decisions for the 2017-18 school year in January. Parents and community members should participate in this process by conveying your staffing priorities to the principal of your schools.

We will let you know as soon as the budget tool, community meetings, and any other opportunities are announced so you can share your thoughts and concerns with board members and the superintendent’s cabinet. Expect to see the budget tool sometime in January.

Charter School Renewal Contracts

Collegiate Academy of Colorado’s Application for Charter Renewal is a whopping 456 pages! We note that the school’s enrollment has decreased from a high in 2001 of 565 to just 397 students in the 2015 school year.

Meanwhile, the Charter Renewal Application for Mountain Phoenix is just 78 pages. That school’s enrollment has grown from 48 students in 2008 to 564 students in the 2015 school year.

In the executive summary, district staff recommend the Board study the renewal applications, with a decision anticipated by February. We will provide additional insight in future posts, before a final decision is made.

Executive Session

Finally, the Board will move into Executive Session at 7:30pm to “discuss a personnel matter involving the superintendent.” At the Dec. 1 regular board meeting, board members noted that Mr. McMinimee’s contract expires June 30, 2017, and that they will need to decide whether to renew it.

Board President Ron Mitchell said they would address that issue in December or January. We assume that is the topic of their executive session. The Board has allotted one hour for executive session and will then reconvene in open session to adjourn the meeting. Expect them to adjourn the meeting from the seminar room where they hold the executive session. However, if board members believe they need to take a vote, they will move back into the fifth floor board room to conduct that business in public before adjourning the meeting.

As always, you can attend the meeting in person at the Education Center (1829 Denver West Drive, Building 27, Golden), or you can stream the meeting live at this link: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310.  You can also watch the archived meeting later at your convenience if one of the many holiday activities scheduled this time of year conflicts with the meeting time.

Jeffco Proud!

3A and 3B – Keeping Jeffco Students Safe

JeffCo School Board Watch supports the Jeffco Schools’ mill and bond ballot initiatives, 3A and 3B. We see these measures as a critical second layer to the work begun last year with the recall.

Now that we have five school board members all working together in the best interest of Jeffco’s 86,000 students, we must ensure Jeffco has the necessary resources to prepare those students with 21st century skills for college and career.

Ballots began arriving this week. Please take time to ensure your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers have the facts about 3A and 3B. Issues 3A and 3B will be at the end of your ballot.

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

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Both 3A and 3B will improve the safety and security of Jeffco students and their learning environments. School safety plays a critical role in student success.

In fact, a recent study found that “significant gains in key measures of a school’s climate, like safety and academic expectations, can be linked to the equivalent of an extra month and a half of math instruction and, in some cases, a 25 percent reduction in teacher turnover.”

Measure 3A will increase school security resources, meaning additional counselors and student support professionals – both inside and outside the classroom, increased school safety education, and more liaisons to Jefferson County and area municipality police, sheriffs deputies, firefighters and 911 dispatch centers.

Measure 3B will upgrade aging Jeffco Schools with state-of-the-art security systems to ensure the district, its schools and its supporting law enforcement agencies can communicate in a timely, efficient manner in case of an emergency.

Jeffco places the highest value on providing safe, secure learning environments for its 86,000 students. On a daily basis, Jeffco Schools’ Security and Emergency Management Department utilizes industry best practices to protect Jeffco’s schools, and Jeffco Schools Executive Director of Safety, Security and Emergency Planning John McDonald is so highly regarded that he is one of the first people called when a major school tragedy occurs in the United States.

We encourage you to watch this video in which McDonald explains how 3A & 3B will will impact school safety in Jeffco by funding new security technology, window safety film that prevents an intruder from coming into a school, and funding new locks on classroom doors.

How does that impact Jeffco students?

A child that feels safe in school is a better educated student. They have higher test scores and better graduation rates. That’s our opportunity to make a difference.

Jeffco’s security experts ensure the district and each individual school all have security and school safety plans, that school staff undergo regular safety procedure training, and that schools are continually working to minimize security issues.

Interacting with nine law enforcement agencies, and 15 jurisdictions in three counties covering more than 800 square miles, Jeffco’s security professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and include patrol officers, emergency dispatchers, threat assessment professionals, emergency planning and critical response services. These are the people who ensure the safety and security of all Jeffco students, staff and visitors each and every day.

You can help get the mill and bond passed. Every donation helps the Yes on 3A and 3B campaign educate more voters. Remember, in the past we’ve seen outside organizations sending mailers with false information to Jeffco voters in the hopes of defeating our efforts. Invest in the campaign so Jeffco voters will invest in Jeffco students.

You can also help by walking door to door or calling voters. Pick up and display a yard sign, and print out a couple of these signs for your car windows.

From those of us at JeffCo School Board Watch – a huge thank you for dedicating some of your time and resources to getting 3A & 3B passed November 8!

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JeffCo Proud!