3A & 3B – Why They Matter, What’s At Stake

Ballots will be mailed in two weeks, and they’ll be crowded. Way down near the bottom of your ballot will be the Jeffco Schools mill levy override and bond3A & 3B.

Why 3A & 3B Matter

Issue 3A will add an additional $33 million to Jeffco Schools’ operating budget, enabling Jeffco to offer competitive salaries to attract and retain the best teachers; ensure Jeffco students thrive in 21st-century classrooms that prepare them for college and careers by expanding programs such as STEM, STEAM, Art, Music, and career tech; and, increase safety, security and mental health services.

Issue 3B will enable Jeffco Schools to upgrade safety and security in school buildings; make long-overdue repairs and improvements to 110 schools; renovate or expand 45 schools; build four replacement schools; and build three new schools in high growth areas. Approval of the bond will also ensure Jeffco students have access to updated technology when they’re learning. Remember, the average Jeffco School is 45 years old, and Jeffco has not invested in new space since the 2004 bond.

What’s At Stake

If 3A and 3B don’t pass, Jeffco’s Board of Education will have to make difficult decisions regarding program and personnel cuts. 14446110_1468048463221612_7019571440195103702_nPossibilities, especially in overcrowded areas of the district, include boundary changes, year round or split schedules – where half of the students attend school during the first part of the day and the other half attend school during the latter part of the day. Jeffco also won’t be able to stay competitive with surrounding districts when it comes to hiring and keeping the best teachers, and may have to cut staff, so expect the exodus of great educators to continue. We will also likely see some schools closed and others consolidated. Class sizes will grow, and bus routes will get longer. Most significantly, there will be fewer classroom resources and educational opportunities for Jeffco Students.

Dozens of school districts around our state are asking voters for additional school funding, including six of the seven largest districts in the Metro Area. Already Jeffco is at or near the bottom of those districts when it comes to per pupil funding from the state, per pupil mill levy override dollars and outstanding bonds per pupil. If those other districts pass their measures and Jeffco does not, our district will be solidly at the bottom, and who knows how long we would remain there.

How You Can Help

There are many ways to help ensure Jeffco voters have the information they need to support 3A & 3B:

Board Community Forums

If you have questions, please attend one of the remaining community forums hosted by Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education members. And consider attending the following forums, which are open to the public to learn about ballot issues and candidates.

Donate to Share the Facts

This video explains why so many districts are seeking local education funding. Donate to the Jeffco Schools mill and bond campaign – Yes on 3A & 3B, to ensure Jeffco voters have factual information about why these measures are so important to 86,000 Jeffco students.

Community Support

We are grateful for the recent endorsements of 3A & 3B by the Jeffco League of Women Voters, the Westminster City Council (unanimous) and the Golden City Council (unanimous).

Thank you from all of us here at Jeffco School Board Watch to all of you for anything and everything you can do to help Jeffco pass 3A & 3B November 8.

3A3B

JeffCo Proud!

5.5.16 FMP & BOE Meeting Preview

Before we get into the preview of Thursday’s BOE regular meeting, we would like to remind you of the importance of reviewing the district’s Facilities Master Plan and then sharing your comments with the board. You can email the board (board@jeffco.k12.co.us), attend one of the 10 remaining community meetings on the FMP to provide your input, participate in a survey online to share your thoughts and/or sign up here to speak to the board at Thursday’s BOE meeting during public comment.

Visit the Jeffco Schools website for more information about the FMP, including Frequently Asked Questions, information on funding challenges, and info on potential funding options.

Your Childs Education

Now, onto the upcoming BOE meeting. The study session begins at 5 pm (note the change: this study session starts a bit earlier than the usual 5:30 pm) a meeting between board members and the City of Edgewater’s mayor and city council members to discuss items of mutual interest. We recognize and appreciate the effort of this board to meet with our local officials to strengthen the partnership between our communities and our schools!

The regular board meeting begins at 6:30 pm.Here’s the link to watch the meeting online:  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

The board will honor Manning School student Ellie Schwiker for her first place award in the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Civil War Roundtable of New York 2016 national Civil War Research Essay Contest! You can read her essay here.

That’s followed by individual member school reports and public comment. Sign up here to address the board during public comment part 1, but remember that this part is reserved only for items on the agenda. If you want to speak on other items, sign up for public comment part 2.

The board will also recognize Jeffco Schools’ Wrestling State Champions from Pomona High School, Lakewood High School and Jefferson High School; and Golden High School and Bear Creek High Schools’ Debate State Champions!

Columbine High School soccer coach, Peter Horvath, will be recognized for being inducted into the 53rd class of CO High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and Ken Caryl Middle School’s principal, Patrick Sandos, will be recognized for his “unanimous and enthusiastic endorsement” for the Distinguished Service Award from the CO Association of School Executive (CASE).

Last, but certainly not least, Green Mountain High School principal Colleen Owens has been named 2016 Colorado High School Principal of the Year by CASE!

Congratulations to all of Jeffco’s amazing students and staff!

Proposed 2016/2017 Budget

After board reports and public comment, district staff will present the 2016/2017 Proposed Budget to the board. You can view their presentation and the proposed budget, and you can sign up to address the board about the budget here. This is a separate public comment period that will occur after the the proposed budget is presented to the board.

Note that the budget will be adopted at the next regular BOE meeting on June 2nd. Current projections suggest that the negative factor remains unchanged, meaning that school districts across the state are receiving $855 million less than they should be receiving under a fully-funded school finance formula.

Consent Agenda

You can review the Consent Agenda items here. Among other items, the consent agenda includes monitoring reports on EL-2, EL-3, EL-4 and EL-10. EL-2 and EL-10, specifically, will be discussed later on in the meeting under agenda item 9.0.

A couple of items are especially noteworthy:

There is a request to change the name of the current Stein Elementary at O’Connell (formerly McConnell Middle School) to Emory Elementary School. The proposal also suggests changing the name of the Rose Stein Elementary campus (currently closed for construction) to Rose Stein International Elementary School when it reopens in Fall 2017. Numerous forums and opportunities for community input were made before proposing these name changes.

In separate news, this time last year the district saw 4 administrator resignation, 5 teacher resignations and 25 classified staff resignations. This year, we have 1 administrator resignation, 2 teacher resignations and 15 classified staff resignations. We are hoping to see this trend continue into the summer. We won’t see the numbers for those who resign this summer until the first regular meeting in September, but we are hearing a renewed trust in the BOE. The big concern remains whether Jeffco can be competitive enough with surrounding districts to attract and retain the best and the brightest!

Third Quarter Financial Report

The final item of Thursday’s agenda that we’d like to draw your attention to is the 3rd Quarter Financial Report. You can review the presentation and the report.

Graduation Season

Congratulations to all students in the Class of 2016! Look for School Board members and other District staff at numerous graduation ceremonies over the next few weeks.

JeffCo Proud!

5.2.16 Jeffco Schools Facilities Master Plan Summary

lakwoodAt the end of April, staff presented an updated facilities master plan to the school board at a study session. First, we want to emphasize that the board has not voted on the plan, nor is it planning to finalize any of the recommendations soon.

What is happening is this: staff are now hosting a series of meetings around the district to explain the reasoning behind the plan, answer questions about details of the plan, and collect feedback from parents. The communications department staff is collecting the feedback and making it available to school board members, staff, and even to the public through links to community meeting feedback and survey feedback received before April 28 on the Districtwide Facilities Master Plan page on the Jeffco Schools website. Comments will continue be posted as they are received throughout the feedback process.

Jeffco Schools has also posted other important links with more information about the plan:

There are also multiple community meetings taking place between now and mid-June:

  • May 4, Conifer High School, 8–10 am
  • May 4, Green Mountain High School, 5-7 pm
  • May 31, Ralston Valley High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 1, Pomona High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 4, Stevens Elementary, 8-10 am
  • June 4, Arvada West High School, 11 am – 1 pm
  • June 6, Golden High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 8, Bear Creek High School, 8-10 am
  • June 8, Wheat Ridge High School, 6-8 pm
  • June 9, Stein at O’Connell, 6-8 pm

If you can’t make any of the meetings (or even if you can, but want to provide additional feedback), you can provide feedback via an online survey that is also posted on the Facilities Master Plan page.

So, you may find yourself asking, why are they doing this now?

There are several reasons:

First, the master plan hasn’t been comprehensively updated since 2011.

Second, you’ll likely remember the debate over how to best fund construction of a new school or schools in northwest Arvada: through a bond issue or through Certificates of Participation (COPs), or by pulling money out of classrooms to fund new construction. This was an issue during the recall election last November. The new board members voted to use COPs to build the K-8 at Candelas and to fund phase II of the Sierra Elementary construction. However, all of them were very clear that they prefer to use bonds to finance capital construction.

With that in mind, the board asked staff to update the master plan and to consider what a potential bond package might look like that also takes into account capital needs throughout the district. The facilities master plan is the result.

Third, we’ve been waiting a long time for the economy to get better and state funding to increase, right? Except that the economy has improved and everyone’s property taxes went up and a new marijuana tax was approved and Jeffco Schools still isn’t going to see much (if any) additional state funding. The “negative factor,” allows the state to keep those additional property and marijuana taxes and allocate it to other parts of the state budget — and in fact, our legislators are not giving those additional revenues to the schools.

Nothing about the current funding patterns seems like it will change anytime soon, so we in Jeffco need to tackle our current capital needs ourselves.

One of the big goals of this plan, besides addressing high-growth areas, school overcrowding, and schools with major maintenance needs like new roofs or HVAC systems, is to reduce the amount Jeffco spends on maintenance overall so that those dollars can be used in the classroom. Updated HVAC and electrical systems some schools will produce thousands of dollars in utility cost savings in the long run. It also means that in some cases, the plan suggests school consolidations or closures, along with the replacement of certain school buildings.

“Why are they closing schools and asking money to build new ones?” is a question we’ve heard frequently. The short answer is that on average, our schools are 45 years old and many have major capital needs. If, however, the school can consolidate two of those aging schools into one new and larger school, they’ll save money in the long run. The equation they use is something similar to the one that all of us use when deciding whether to repair or replace an aging car: at some point it becomes cheaper in the long run to buy a new or newer car than to continue sinking thousands of dollar into a 20-year-old car that’s in the shop every few months. A newer car means few if any repair costs and usually better fuel mileage (or in the case of schools, utility savings) as well.

That said, most of the proposals hinge on a successful bond campaign. Without one, it’s not possible to build a new school or addition necessary to consolidate two other schools. And they want the Jeffco community to have a plan that everyone is reasonably happy with, which is the reason they’re asking for so much community feedback. They want to know which parts of the facilities master plan need to be changed before moving forward.

A few more notes on cost: The plan also suggests a couple of minimal cost options. The first one boils down to what Jeffco is already doing: building a K-8 at Candelas, finishing phase II construction at Sierra Elementary, finishing the Rose Stein construction as planned, and continuing with the district’s deferred maintenance plan overall.

A second minimal cost option is to reconfigure schools in four articulation areas as K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools. It makes use of available space at the middle school level and creates space in elementary schools that may be lacking it. Note that the proposal is not a district-wide proposal to move to a K-5, 6-8 configuration, but rather one based on student numbers in each articulation area. Even in a proposal that is based on bond money, some elementary schools would be left in a K-6, 7-8 pattern in order to not overcrowd the middle school.

Our friends at Support Jeffco Kids posted a summary that includes summary information about each of the articulation areas, and we encourage you read that post or to take time to look at the links we’ve included above.

District staff plan to take the feedback to the board to consider at the board’s June 16 meeting. They are expected to provide further direction regarding the plan to staff at that time. Staff will then incorporate the direction into a new version of the plan, and we’d expect a vote on the revised version at a future meeting. There will also need to be a vote if the school board decided to put a bond issue on the ballot.

As you can see, everything is in the very early stages of planning. Look at the information or attend a forum and then let the board members know what you think through one of the above channels or by simply writing them at board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

JeffCo Proud!

 

 

3.3.16 BOE meeting preview

Here’s a brief run-down of the agenda for the Thursday, March 3 regular meeting. The study session begins at 5:30 and the regular board meeting begins at 6:30 pm.

Your Childs Education

Here’s the link to stream the meeting:  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Study Session: Safety Update

District staff have reviewed the Claire Davis Safety Act and the combined and consolidated recommendations from the Arapahoe High School reports. They will talk to the board about the pieces that apply to Jeffco Schools and how recommendations will be implemented. As of this posting, no attachments have been included for this agenda item..

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

The board will honor Sargent Wayne Holverson of the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office for his leadership over the past three years heading up the School Resource Officer (SRO) unit, his SRO work nearly 17 years ago following the Columbine tragedy, his September 2013 work to evacuate more than 120 students and staff from Mt. Evans Outdoor Lab School due to impending flooding, and his general dedication to protecting our students.
The board will also recognize Jeffco Schools’ Employee Assistance Program for receiving the Outstanding EA Program award from the Colorado Employee Assistance Professionals Association chapter. Kathleen Remington, EAP manager, was awarded the Daetwiler Award for an outstanding professional member.

That’s followed by individual member school reports and public comment. Sign up here to address the board during public comment part 1, but remember that only this part is reserved only for items on the agenda. If you want to speak on other items, sign up for public comment part 2.

Consent Agenda

You can review the Consent Agenda items here. Among other items, the consent agenda includes revisions to several board policies to provide clarity, consistency and alignment with state statute. We’ve read through the proposed changes and would like to call your attention to these changes in particular:

GP-06(3)(d): “Regardless of the method, once an item is removed from the consent agenda, it will be added to one of the discussion sections of the meeting in session. The discussion time limit for the item will be determined by a majority vote of the Board. After discussion of the removed consent item, Board members may take a position on the item in the same or next regularly scheduled Board meeting.” This clarifies this procedure. Board members can pull an item off of the consent agenda for discussion, and even if this is the first time they discuss the item, they can still vote during the meeting or they can opt to postpone the vote to allow time for additional information gathering.

We also noticed in GP-06(4) that it seems public comment will only occur during regular business meetings as there is no mention of public comment during study sessions. As a reminder, the previous board voted 5-0 in favor by the previous board. We’d encourage the board to review this policy further and edit to include that public comment will be permitted during study sessions where a vote will be taken to ensure the public has an opportunity to comment before a vote is taken.

GP-13 has been revised to include additional members of Jeffco Schools’ constituency in the District Accountability Committee. One member of the Jeffco PTA and a CSEA member (classified staff such as bus drivers, janitors, etc.) have been added. Additionally, instead of at-large representatives only being appointed by the board, the policy is being revised to clarify that there will be up to 10 representatives with effort made to represent the diversity of stakeholders.

8.01 Academic Goal Update: Career, Workforce and Post-Secondary Readiness-Graduation, Dropout and Remediation Rates

District staff will share during their presentation there are many positives to be proud of, such as a five-year trend of on-time graduation rates shows an overall improvement of 3.8 percentage points for the district with significant improvements for student subgroups (e.g., free and reduced lunch, minorities, and English language learners). In addition, the remediation rate trend shows an overall general improvement with a decrease of 5.1 percentage points for the district.

However, there is always room for improvement. The district must continue to examine and strive to close performance gaps, such as those between white and Hispanic/Latino students and graduation rates between males and females.

In addition, we’d love a little more information about remediation rates. Currently, the remediation rate only reflects Jeffco graduates who attend a public college or university in Colorado. Remediation rates for students who attend a private college or university, or who attend college out of state are not included in this rate. It’s also not clear whether the remediation rate as reported includes only Jeffco students who have graduated in the last four years or whether it includes any Jeffco graduate who tests into a remedial course. Does it also include Jeffco graduates from the ’80s or ’90s who may be going back to school for a career change? 

We’d really love to see if there’s a way to include data for the private and out-of-state institutions to see what Jeffco’s true remediation rate is. Currently, the only thing we do know is that the remediation rate quoted does not reflect all recent Jeffco graduates.

In addition, we noted that less than half of 2015 graduating seniors reached ACT’s college-level coursework readiness benchmark in algebra, social science and biology. ALL students in Colorado were required to take the ACT (and will be required to take the SAT instead in future years), whereas other states only require those planning to attend college to take either the ACT or the SAT.

The question again is what this data really means. Could it be that students are so accustomed to standardized testing that students not planning to attend college may not take the test seriously because it won’t have repercussions for their high school career? Also, is it possible to break down data from previous years to compare the average ACT score among those students who went on to attend college vs. those who did not?

The board and district should look into the root causes of this statistic and how this data might also play into discussion about multiple pathways for career and college readiness and judging student achievement from a body of evidence rather than a single test score — an issue that seems especially important for career-focused students such as those studying a vocation at Warren Tech. 

9. Discussion Agenda

The projected cost to build a new school at Candelas has increased from $25M to $31M. There are likely several reasons for this, the most likely culprit being inflation. Steve Bell was extremely clear that construction cost inflation was playing a role in the costs associated with the last year of repairs that were part of the 2012 3B bond in previous board presentations.  We’d guess that inflation in building costs is the reason that the cost has increased over the estimate the district staff gave the board a year ago, though we look forward to a more detailed explanation at the meeting.

If the root cause for the increase is indeed inflation, it’s more clear proof that WNW’s insistence on dragging its heels was indeed pennywise and pound foolish.

Jeffco Proud!

2.19.16 Updates: The Summary Version Part 1

It’s been longer than we’d like since we’ve posted summary versions of the meetings, but we’d like to bring you up to date about what’s been happening with the Jeffco School Board in the past few months. The short version is that the vast majority of board members’ time has been spent immersing themselves in the intricate details of the district so that they’re familiar with the processes and facts of the various elements involved before they make decisions.

With that in mind, this post will be split into two main sections: first, 1) board actions, and then 2) other board work, as we summarize what they’ve been doing since their November elections.

Jeffco BOE Actions, Nov. 2015 – February 2016

Returned $15 million slotted for Candelas K-6 construction to the General Fund (1/14/16)

The decision by the previous board to pull $15 million from the general fund to construct a new school had been a major point of contention last year for a number of reasons all outlined in previous posts. This vote puts the money back into the general fund. Note that no plans have been made for those dollars yet. Board members stated they intend to hold that money and wait to see what happens with the 2016-17 budget before making any decisions on those dollars.

Approved Certificates of Participation (COPs) for Candelas K-8 and Sierra Phase II (1/14/16)

This required three votes: one to approve moving ahead with the Candelas site as a K-8 school (as previously had been recommended by the district) rather than as a smaller K-6 school with a planned addition at some point in the future; one to approve the use of COPs to finance construction at Candelas; and, one to approve the use of COPs to finance phase II of construction at Sierra Elementary. These three votes also required a great deal of discussion, both at previous study sessions and during the meeting, and featured the board’s first split vote.

The board heard a two-hour presentation during the 12/17/15 study session to learn about the facilities process and asked questions about specific issues throughout the county. Many board members had also heard the many facilities presentations that had been given since August 2014 on the issue, though all benefited from the updated information and opportunity to ask questions that previous board members had not.

The first vote to reconfigure the Candelas plan to a K-8 and use COPs to fund construction was unanimous, though it followed another intense round of discussion and questions about the benefits of a K-8 and the cost effectiveness involved. (Short answer: it’s more cost-effective for construction costs and for daily operating costs.) There was also a lot of discussion regarding how flexible COPs would be for meeting budget and construction needs. (Short answer: they can be paid off at any time. The board could, for example, take the $15 million they’d just moved back to the general fund and vote to use it to pay a large portion of the COP.)

The second vote to use COPs to finance Sierra Phase II construction was preceded by the same intense conversation and questioning. Several board members had visited Sierra to see the conditions first-hand and all were appalled. However, as board member Amanda Stevens pointed out, Sierra is not the only school with significant facilities issues. She, like the others, prefers to use a bond to finance school construction; Stevens was concerned about committing general fund dollars to paying a portion of COPs in tight financial times. In the end, the vote was 4/1 with Stevens voting against the motion. She said her vote was not at all a vote against the Sierra community (and we’ll note that it was clear the motion would pass by the time Stevens voted), but that she really wants the board to address facilities issues district-wide through a bond issue this November.

To keep this summary from being any longer, we invite you to read the news coverage here and here for more details about the discussions surrounding the three votes.

CASB Membership Renewal (2/4/16)

Jeffco had been a long-time member of the Colorado Association of School Boards, informally known as CASB, until last year when three former board members refused to renew that membership. The new board members took time to get to know CASB’s work, the training opportunities it offered, and other benefits, such as legal advice, plus the work CASB does to influence education policy on the state level, and voted unanimously to approve the board’s membership renewal.

Added Members to the District Accountability Committee (2/4/16)

Last fall, the former board approved changes to split the roles of the former Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (SPAC) between two committees: a District Accountability Committee (DAC) and a new SPAC that would limit its work to strategic planning and not to the accountability work required by state statute. However, our readers will also remember that the former board directed that the new DAC be a board committee, with membership subject to board approval. In the process, they also cut seats previously held by Jeffco PTA and by CSEA (Jeffco’s Classified School Employees Association), among others.

In February, board members added slots to include these and other stakeholder groups, so the new membership looks like this:

  • One parent representative from a school-level accountability team (SAC) from each articulation area (17)
  • Charter school SAC parent representatives (3)
  • Option school SAC parent representative (1)
  • Jeffco Schools teachers, with effort made to represent each grade band: K-5, 6-8, 9-12. JCEA may recommend individuals, and both members and non-members of JCEA are eligible (1-3)
  • Jeffco Schools building-level administrator (1-3)
  • Parent-at-large representatives (up to 10, with efforts made to represent the diversity of stakeholders)
  • Business community representative (at least 1)
  • Jeffco PTA member (1)
  • Jeffco Schools classified staff representative. Both CSEA members and non-members are eligible, and CSEA may recommend individuals (1)
  • Superintendent

Expansion of Two Roads Charter School Contract (2/4/16)

Jeffco Schools has offered a blended learning/online program for elementary school students as part of its Jefferson Virtual Academy (JVA). However, the K-5 program has not met its targeted enrollment and funding doesn’t support continuing the program. Two Roads Charter School expressed interest in taking over the program to continue it for participating and interested families, but was prevented from doing so by their current contract – the standard Jeffco Schools charter contract prohibits charters from offering online programs.

The board discussed amending the contract for Two Roads to take over the K-5 blended/online program during a study session on 1/28/16, and then voted to approve the move at the 2/4/16 meeting.

Expanded Bradford K-6 to a K-8 program (12/10/15)

This vote garnered some criticism, largely because it’s not entirely clear that the move had the support of all stakeholders. The Bradford community was highly supportive of the move to expand the program to include 7th and 8th grade programming, and the district supported the move because it was made with the requirement that the program be capped at 90 students per grade. That cap will avoid any need for building expansion in the future and limits the impact on the feeder schools in the Chatfield articulation area. District officials said the move had the support of principals at those feeder schools, though others noted that those principals did not attend the board meeting to speak to the issue one way or another. School Accountability Committees at feeder schools may not have been consulted either.

This issue was sprung on the board (and the at-large Jeffco community) out of the blue by district staff. Board members questioned district staff carefully about whether the administration at the feeder schools that would be affected supported the proposal. Staff told the board members that they did, so we can hardly fault the board members for doing their due diligence or for wanting to make the decision before the first round of choice-enrollment opened in January. That said, we’d also encourage board members to think about whether a board policy requiring the district to provide a certain amount of notice to the board before bringing an issue for a vote might be in their favor so that there is time to have more discussion before taking action. However, we’ll also note that when it came to expanding the online program at Two Roads (above), board members were quick to make sure there was a study session to discuss options before bringing it to a vote for the next meeting, so that’s a huge step toward respecting process and community engagement.

View our next post for specifics regarding negotiations with JCEA, and other Jeffco School Board actions.

Jeffco Proud!