9.28.15 Apply now for the new Jeffco DAC — or miss out

urgentAs we mentioned in our last post, the Jeffco Schools Strategic Planning Advisory Council (SPAC) is splitting into two groups. The new District Accountability Committee (DAC) will focus on the accountability side of things, and the new SPAC will focus solely on strategic planning.

You may also remember Witt, Newkirk, and Williams want to start fresh, and told district staff to solicit applications for review on Oct. 1.

That’s Thursday.  THIS Thursday.

The district posted application information and other important details today, and we hope you will apply.

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Here’s the catch: you need to apply ASAP because the Jeffco School Board will be reviewing applications at this Thursday’s meeting. Witt was extremely cagey about the application process at last week’s meeting, refusing to provide a specific date by which application should be received and generally rushing the process without any details.

Witt said they’d review the applications they receive at the Oct. 1 meeting, but people could still submit applications. We’re not sure how that process will work, but we suspect that they gave advance notice to individuals they want on the new DAC so they’ll have those applications on Thursday.

It would be very easy for Witt, Newkirk and Williams to look through the applications they’ve received, declare that they have more than enough qualified candidates, and appoint DAC members on Thursday. They’ve said the official vote for members will be at the Oct. 15 meeting, but that doesn’t mean they’ll actually consider any new applications after Oct. 1–unless one of their people procrastinates past the Oct 1 deadline. We wouldn’t count on that.

If you’re a Jeffco Schools parent, administrator, teacher, or a member of Jeffco’s business community, we encourage you to apply. We especially urge you to apply if you happen to chair or be a member of your child’s school accountability committee.

The application form is here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1y3teI4hpNSTulVH1_S3_o2EyKn8wGi8J964P1ab7Xyo/viewform?c=0&w=1

Don’t delay! Witt won’t wait.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

 

 

9.26.15 WNW illustrate why they’re being recalled

Chances are you’ve already seen the videos from the Sept. 24 board meeting. Colorado Pols said it best: Ken Witt Presents: How to Make the Case for Your Own Recall.

It was that bad. The whole meeting was bad. The three items we highlighted in the last post about this meeting? All three of them proved our suspicions. If you’re short on time, here’s the summary version:

  1. Witt, Newkirk and Williams are going for the nuclear option on the new District Accountability Committee (DAC), which was formerly SPAC – the Strategic Planning Advisory Council. They want to wipe it out and start over.
  2. Witt, Newkirk and Williams approved a K-6 school instead of the district-recommended K-8 at the Candelas site and then patted themselves on the back.
  3. A proposed budget increase for Jeffco security was pushed off for another month, and although WNW seemed to suggest they might vote for it, we also saw hints that another surprise is just waiting in the wings.

Now, the details.

Proposed DAC bylaws

The first agenda item was a second review of the proposed new DAC bylaws. The usual process is to review the bylaws, ask a few questions, make any additional revisions, and vote. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Newkirk revived his nuclear option and offered a lengthy motion detailing the membership of the new DAC. Surprise! He didn’t bother to share it with the full board until around 1 pm that afternoon. Somehow, both Witt and Williams had plenty of time to sit down and read it thoroughly. Dahlkemper and Fellman, meanwhile, had no idea that they should even expect anything new to be added with a board meeting only a few hours away. They told Newkirk they were not ready to vote on an item they had just received that afternoon, and had not had time to review it on account of things like work obligations.

And then it got ugly. You know the routine: Witt makes sneering remarks that suggest Fellman and Dahlkemper didn’t adequately prepare for the meeting and condescendingly implies that they aren’t very bright, while Fellman and Dahlkemper argue for following board policy in which a proposal is introduced at one meeting and voted on at the next. (One quote from Witt: “Ms. Dahlkemper, this has been read to you twice, but we can continue to go over it until you feel like you understand all of the terms.”) Dahlkemper and Fellman fought the good fight, as they have EVERY SINGLE MEETING since the board majority was elected. Colorado Pols included this quote from Dahlkemper’s response after she reached a point of extreme frustration, and it’s worth printing again here:

But I will tell you – the mistake that you are making right now is that we have a policy on the table about how we govern. You are throwing governance right out the window because you have some agenda that you feel so critical that we have to vote on tonight…that even a simple request that is to say, “Look, our policy says we review it, and then we vote on it.” And don’t you dare insinuate that I don’t understand this policy. And stop talking down to people on this board, and also people who come forward. Enough.

What Witt clearly doesn’t understand — or more likely, could care less about — is that having a discussion in which people toss around ideas, and reviewing a written document are not the same thing. In this case, the board had reviewed a proposal to split the SPAC into two committees:  a District Accountability Committee (DAC) and a separate Strategic Planning Advisory Committee. Members, rather than trying to cover two large topics, would focus on accountability measures in the former and strategic planning in the latter.

WNW have repeatedly expressed concern that SPAC didn’t adequately conform to state statutes, although even their own board lawyer, Brad Miller, assured them that everything was fine. But then the SPAC members suggested that it would be easier to split the two so each could focus on a separate set of duties. Those volunteers, including the SPAC chair and chair-elect, worked with district staff to write a new set of by-laws.

They met with the BOE at the Aug. 27 meeting to get feedback. For the record, those by-laws included a suggested membership. This was also the meeting where Newkirk suggested they clean house, appoint new members and then direct those members to write their bylaws. As we noted, the idea didn’t go anywhere at the time, but resurfaced in Newkirk’s motion.

There are several problems with Newkirk’s motion. For starters, how many people would be on the new DAC?

the Board of Education shall vote to appoint eleven members, which shall include parents, at least one member of the business community, and at least one and up to three teachers to the District Accountability Committee, which also shall have as members one School Accountability Committee president from each of the 17 parent articulation areas, and the Superintendent of the District

Huh? Newkirk specifies 11 members, but also specifies that the committee would include one SAC chair from 17 articulation areas. The math doesn’t add up.

+ 1 (or more?) parent + 1 business community representative + 1-3 teachers + 17 SAC chairs = 20 – 23 members.

Is Newkirk suggesting that the BOE would only appoint 11 members but there would also be more on the committee? Despite his concerns about poor ACT performance (cited in the motion!) did he not realize that 11 ≠ 20?

We weren’t the only ones who weren’t clear about what this meant. The motion that was eventually approved also directed staff to solicit applications for review a the Oct. 1 meeting (yes–solicit and receive applications in the space of one week). Staff and board members alike were also confused about how, who, and how many applications they should solicit.

Staff asked what information applicants should include. Witt said applicants should include their background and “checkpoints for statutes.” Terry Elliot pointed out that the current SPAC membership includes some School Accountability Committee chairs and some members but Newkirk’s motion only specified chairs. Should they accept applications from SAC members or only SAC chairs? Witt replied that that’s what the bylaw draft says but they hadn’t approved it yet. (Another question: which bylaw draft? Newkirk’s or the other?)

Elliot also pointed out that as written, Newkirk’s proposal didn’t include all of the members outlined in state statutes. The 2013 revision of the law requires a school administrator and at least three parents; Newkirk’s resolution left out the administrator and didn’t specify the number of parents. When Elliot noted this, Witt responded (again condescendingly) that that’s why the “compromise makes sense.”

We ask, how is it a “compromise” to put off a vote on an ill-conceived proposal that would establish a DAC that did not conform to state laws, despite Witt and Newkirk’s constant “concern” that the current SPAC didn’t conform to those very same laws?

That’s irresponsible governance, pure and simple.

It also makes us wonder about Sunshine Laws. Here are some potential scenarios:

a. Newkirk is a severe, chronic procrastinator who simply does not get proposals written until the last minute, and that’s why the membership proposal wasn’t shared with Fellman and Dahlkemper (and presumably Witt and Williams) until the afternoon of the board meeting. Also, Williams and Witt just happened to have the afternoon free and were checking for any last-minute additions sometime between 1 and 5 pm.

b. Newkirk is a severe, chronic procrastinator but he also notified Witt and Williams that a new, different proposal would be headed their way sometime on Thursday afternoon so they could set aside time to review it.

c. Newkirk had written the proposal earlier, shared it with Witt and Williams, and only shared it with Dahlkemper, Fellman and the rest of the public after consulting with Witt and Williams.

Options B and C are clear violations of Colorado’s sunshine laws.

Option A is not, but, if true, is also is a clear example of how this board is not transparent. Posting a new proposal that varies considerably from the membership outlined in the proposed DAC bylaws only hours before the meeting, and pushing to approve said proposal without any public comment (or time to write the board before the vote) is neither transparent nor respectful.

Option A is also the least likely of the three. Too many stars have to align, and we find it curious that two members of the board majority just happened to have checked for last-minute additions and had plenty of time to review them.

K-6 vs. K-8 at Candelas

The vote against district recommendations to build a K-8 school at Candelas wasn’t a surprise but is another example of pennywise but pound-foolish. It’s not clear why WNW pushed for a K-6.

One concern they articulated repeatedly was that students from Leyden Rock would be joining an established cohort at Candelas for 7-8, but it’s equally true that at most of our middle schools, cohorts from the surrounding neighborhoods all merge in middle school. If the Candelas students head to Wayne Carle Middle School, they’ll join cohorts from Lukas and Witt Elementary. If the Leyden Rock kids head to Oberon or Bell Middle School, they’ll join cohorts from the elementary schools in those articulation areas.

WNW also argued that there was only demand for seats at the K-6 level and not in the middle school level. District staff pointed out that although area middle schools have capacity available now, they won’t by the time these developments reach full-buildout. We’ll need those middle school seats in the not-too-distant future. McMinimee cited the current numbers of sixth-grade students at current, overcrowded NW Arvada schools, but WNW ignored those concerns.

A third concern is that it’s much cheaper to build a K-8, even if it will need an addition, that it is to build and maintain a K-6 and separate, future 7-8 building. It’s cheaper to add to a building than it is to construct a new one. One K-8 building is also cheaper because there are less custodial costs and less administrative costs (2 principals vs 1, and so on). Utility costs are also cheaper because you’re only paying for electric and heat in one building. There’s only one gym, one library, one cafeteria, one kitchen, and one set of main offices, as opposed to double of all of that with associated costs.

Staff also noted that the Candelas site could accommodate multiple structures. If they built a K-8, there would still be 10 acres available that could support another building. It’s unlikely that will be possible with two separate buildings.

Also, Witt suggested that he really likes the 7-12 model and wants to see more 7-12 schools. He suggested a “D’Evelyn Northwest” though noted staff would need to flesh out plans. Staff pointed out that the district doesn’t own any other land in the NW area, though that’s only one among many questions we have regarding Witt’s “D’Evelyn Northwest.”

What’s the real reason behind a K-6? Is Witt hoping to put a charter school into the new building?  We wonder.

Jeffco Schools Security budget request

The other main item was a budget request from Jeffco’s Security and Emergency Management department. Director John McDonald had given a brief presentation on the increased numbers of threats and suicide assessments that his department has seen in the past couple of years. His staff of 11 is at capacity and he needs more staff to keep up with the increasing number of issues. About half of the $1.5 million request is for on-going expenses (additional staff), and the other half is for one-time expenses.

The response was surprising. Newkirk asked about the “school to prison pipeline” and what other schools across the nation are doing about it. Keep in mind that the board already had a Q&A session with McDonald two weeks ago. Why this question? Steve Bell had the winning answer, telling Newkirk that the answer is that many of those schools are coming to Jeffco for advice. McMinimee also jumped to McDonald’s defense, telling the board that Jeffco has one of the best systems out there, and that as someone who has worked in four school districts, he could “say this with confidence.”

Williams asked a number of odd question she said she’d been asked, too. She said people were worried about bringing Child Protective Services into the schools like New York. McDonald said he hadn’t heard of such a thing in Jeffco. She asked if FERPA no longer applied if students had contacts with law enforcement.  Answer: FERPA remains in place.

Williams wanted to know whether students knew their rights, and whether policies regarding contact and interviews with law enforcement had been made available to the public. Answer: policy JIH and JIH-R, which are available in BoardDocs. Just click the “policies” tab and type JIH. (Capital letters work better, FYI. And so on). Basically, Williams doesn’t appear to have read the Student Code of Conduct in full, and certainly hasn’t bothered to read through all those pesky district policies either. (But she had time to read Newkirk’s last minute proposal!) Note again that she could have asked McDonald these questions two weeks earlier during his presentation, and that they aren’t related to his budget request. The disconnect is odd.

Witt asked what the funding was for, despite the fact that McDonald had already provided that information to the board two weeks ago. Apparently the document contained some information that could compromise district security, so it hadn’t been posted to BoardDocs. There are plans to extract the information that can be made public and post that soon. Witt also asked where the money would come from, which to us is the only reasonable question we heard on the topic.

The problem is that WNW already allocated all the funding (see $18 million to build a “debt-free” school in NW Arvada), and little discretionary money is left to handle the request. They may be able to borrow money from vacant positions and retirement savings to fund the request this budget year, but money is tight. Fellman asked about pulling half a million from reserves to address immediate needs, but Chief Finance Officer Kathleen Askelson cautioned against it, saying they’re hearing dire news from the state regarding 2016-17 budgets, and that there could possibly even be a recision for the current year.

The plan is to revisit the issue at the Oct. 15 meeting. The board seemed to be in favor, but the odd questions from Newkirk and Williams combined with Witt’s statements also make us wonder if they’re taking the request seriously or if we’ll see another Plan B or other nonsense instead.

What You Can Do

You know the drill:  you can donate to the recall campaign and/or to the five candidates we’re endorsing in this election: Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell. You can donate to the candidates individually or support all five by donating to Jeffco United Forward.

You can write a letter to the editor. You can walk Jeffco to talk to the 70 percent of voters who do not have children in our schools currently to let them know why we support the recall. You can put up a yard sign or wear a button.

You can speak at public comment during the Oct. 1 board meeting, or you can boycott the meeting to speak to Jeffco voters instead. You can write to the board.

Most importantly, you can vote. This is on the November 3 ballot. Watch for your ballot to arrive in the mail, and be sure to fill it out and return it by November 3.

Hopefully you’ve also seen the post about board president Ken Witt telling board member Jill Fellman she would no longer be needed at the district agenda-setting meetings, and that John Newkirk would now attend all of the meetings until the election. If you haven’t seen it, Support Jeffco Kids has that story.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

 

 

9.24.15 What to watch at the Jeffco BOE meeting tonight

UpdateTwo things are happening tonight.

  1. The Jeffco School Board has a special meeting tonight at 5:30 pm in the Education Center. More on that in a minute.
  2. There’s a candidate forum hosted by the Jeffco League of Women Voters from 7 – 9 pm tonight. That will take place at Arvada K-8, 5751 Balsam St, Arvada.

If you can’t make (or cannot bear to sit through) the board meeting, stop by the candidate forum! Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell need your support.

If you’re in the northwest Arvada area and have been following the new school discussion, you might want to head over to the Education Center to watch the school board decide grade configuration at the proposed Candelas school.

Here’s what to watch for at tonight’s board meeting, whether you attend in person, stream it live, or watch it later:

  • The board will review the new DAC bylaws. Whether they will approve them or introduce yet another surprise “Plan B” remains an open question. John Newkirk already suggested the nuclear option last time. It didn’t seem to gain traction, but then again we aren’t privy to the behind-the-scenes conversations between Newkirk, Ken Witt and Julie Williams.
  • Grade configuration of the new northwest Arvada school is also on the agenda. At the last meeting, Witt, Newkirk and Williams were pushing the district to build a K-6 instead of the K-8 recommended by the district. It wasn’t clear why they were pushing against the K-8 option, especially because Williams herself said that she prefers a K-8 or 7-12 option to reduce the number of transitions students make, and yet said she preferred a K-6 at Candelas. She added the even more perplexing suggestion that the district could start building a K-6 and then if the school board approves a bond for November 2016 and the bond is approved, they could add on the 7-8 part.

Our question: Is that supposed to happen while they’re already building the K-6 building, which won’t open until August 2017, or will the site be under nearly-continuous construction for four years if a 7-8 expansion started in August 2017 and finished two years later? Or would waiting for a bond mean that Candelas wouldn’t see a 7-8 school in their neighborhood until 2020 or later?

  • Jeffco’s Security & Emergency Management Office is requesting a budget increase. That item was pulled off the consent agenda at the last meeting and John McDonald told board members about the increasing numbers of threat assessments and suicide calls that they’re receiving.

We talked about those numbers in a previous post and they are concerning. Jeffco’s funding for security is far below that in other districts and they desperately need more staff. We hope approving the request will be a no-brainer, especially with a recall election underway, and especially in this district where we know the risk. But we’re going to watch this one anyhow because with these three, one never knows what WNW might decide.

We’ll let you know what happens, and whether any other surprises pop up tonight at the board meeting. If you attend the candidate forum or happen to tape it, we’d love to hear about that as well. The easiest way to reach us is through the comments section below. And remember,

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

9.1.15 Notes from the Aug. 27 BOE meeting

recallshirtHere’s an update from last Thursday’s Jeffco School Board meeting, just in time to be prepared for the Sept. 3 regular meeting this Thursday.

JCEA contract

The board did approve the JCEA contract on a 5-0 vote but the mood was anything but celebratory. Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman both expressed their disappointment in the contract’s short 10-month duration, with Dahlkemper stating she knew of no other organization that would spend six months and 150 hours to negotiate a contract that would only last for ten. She also pointed to the waste of taxpayer money (spent on a facilitator who would agree to stream and record the negotiations) that could have been funneled back to the classroom.

Fellman also said she thought everyone had better things to do than continually negotiating a contract when the process would need to start over again in five months. Nevertheless, both agreed that it was better to have a contract in place with appropriate protections for class size and more, which is why they voted for it.

Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams, predictably, considered the contract a success. Why? Well for one, all three praised the factor that it was shorter. Seriously? Were people complaining about the number of pages? Did reading all the pages hurt their poor little heads? It’s hard to understand where the inherent victory is in shorter when they spend so much time saying student learning needs to be more rigorous.

Williams also cheered the fact that it had less pages (not that you’re surprised) and said the contract was easier to understand for every “layperson.” Huh? Again, the irony that a school board majority who harps on improving student achievement wants their own material dumbed down so they can understand it.

This 5-0 vote is not a victory but a challenge. Our teachers only have a contract through June 30, but if we want our great teachers to stay here in Jeffco, we need to turn things around in this district by November 3.

We need to get the word out about the recall and about the candidates we support for school board: Amanda Stevens and Ali Lassell to fill the seats that Fellman and Dahlkemper are leaving, and Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell to fill the recalled seats.

SPAC and board committees

A proposal to split the current Strategic Planning Advisory Committee (SPAC) into two committees was presented by district staff. SPAC has been a WNW target for some time now, though the proposal presented on Thursday night seems to have support from SPAC members (besides the usual “minority report” character, even).

One member of SPAC wrote to JCSBW and shared that the request to modify the workload of SPAC came from last year’s SPAC members and not from the board. Among the concerns was that they often didn’t have the time they wanted to be able to adequately analyze and discuss the many issues on the agenda.  That member said she was pleased by the way the workload and emphasis would be divided between the two committees. Both will need to be monitored closely to prevent the majority of members from being board appointees.

The idea is this: the committee would be split into the District Accountability Committee (DAC) and would still be chaired and led by parent members. It would focus on the district’s Unified Improvement Plan and the many other accountability measures required by law. The second committee would the Strategic Planning Advisory Planning Committee, which would focus only on strategic planning, leaving the accountability work to the other committee.

The current parent chair and chair-elect, Julie Oxenford-O’Brien and Orin Levy, would chair the new DAC. The new SPAC would need to be organized, but district officials said they want to get the DAC organized first. Under the new reorganization, DAC would be a board committee, and SPAC would be a superintendent committee.

Witt immediately said that he wants to make sure all DAC members are approved by the board. Williams had her usual laundry list of demands about posting the scheduled meetings (which are already posted), streaming and recording all meetings, including a majority and minority report, reporting to the board on a regular basis, etc.

Williams also questioned one change in the bylaws that would allow the DAC to remove members who didn’t attend on a regular basis or who bullied or threatened other members. The co-chairs explained that they didn’t have a problem with dissenting opinions, but that members needed to express dissenting opinions in socially-appropriate ways (known to parents the world around as “use your inside voice, don’t interrupt and be polite”) — something that certain SPAC members have failed to do at recent meetings. Naturally, Witt also questioned the measure and said that expelling members will be subject to board approval.

Newkirk wanted to go for the nuclear option and start from scratch to create an entirely new DAC. Predictably, he had “worked up some language,” and even more predictably, he had not sent it to other board members before the meeting because well, why show your cards, right? (Oh right, transparency.) He proceeded to read his ideas, including the idea that once they choose new members, the new members should write all the DAC bylaws. Elliot pointed out that what Newkirk proposed was essentially what the district was doing, minus the bit about wiping out all the members and starting over.

Witt also jumped on Newkirk’s plan, arguing that a group of people doing all the same things didn’t sound new to him. McMinimee defended the district proposal. Newkirk responded by proposing that not only should they wipe the slate clean, the new DAC should start its work with only the six members required by law, despite McMinimee’s detailed discussion of how they had looked at comparable districts like Boulder, Cherry Creek and Douglas County, and all of those also had large DAC committees due to their size. Elliot pointed out that the six member requirement was a minimum for small districts who might otherwise have trouble meeting that number. And at this point Dahlkemper jumped in, asking what problem Newkirk was trying to solve.

That problem, of course, has been the elephant in the room during every WNW conversation about SPAC: they clearly want to replace some (or most!) of the current members with friends of theirs. No votes were taken, and the issue will be back on the Sept. 3 meeting, where you can use the public comment time to share your own opinions.

Facilities (the NW Arvada question)

It’s been a year since this board started talking about growing populations in north and central Jeffco, and yet most of those issues remain unaddressed. As you’ll remember from this spring, WNW refused to use Certificates of Participation to address the multiple growth issues in the county, instead choosing to keep $18 million from the classroom in order to build a school somewhere in the NW Arvada area. That led to another problem, which is that the district estimated they could build K-8 schools on two of the sites for $25 million, or a smaller K-6 school on a third site for slightly less.

Thursday’s presentation showed what the district could provide for $18 million, because it is possible (though unwise!) to build smaller schools at those sites under the $18 million budget constraint. The drawback, of course, is that current estimates show 6,000 to 7,000 new students needing seats in the NW Arvada area in the next six years. Building smaller schools on lots that could accommodate larger schools won’t save us in the long run. An argument could be made that those schools could be expanded down the road–but we’ll simply point to the situation at Sierra Elementary, also in NW Arvada–where parents and students have been waiting for just that for seven years, since the 2008 bond measure failed. The district has repeatedly said that Sierra needs to be a priority, but none of the three have discussed it at all.

The conversation in the board meeting was every bit as frustrating and idiotic as they’ve been in the past.

Steve Bell, Jeffco’s Chief Operations Officer, told the board that his goal is to open a new facility in the fall of 2017, and the options he was presenting were based on what they could do with an $18 million budget.

The issue: a project shortfall of 6,784 seats in the next five to six years in the “northwest corridor” (the area north of I-70 and west of Kipling). This area includes the new housing developments in Candelas, Leyden Rock and Whisper Creek (approximately 4,884 seats), as well as a number of smaller projects where “farmettes” in Arvada are now being developed into neighborhoods (1,900 seats).

That number could grow higher because they are beginning to see some neighborhood turnover in the area, as older families move out and younger families replace them. Schools impacted include Fairmount, Mieklejohn, Mitchell, Sierra, Van Arsdale, and Westwood Elementary, along with Drake and Oberon Middle School and Ralston Valley High School.

The three potential sties are Table Rock, located at 58th and Hwy 93, or the Candelas site or Leyden Rock site, both located in their respective subdivisions. The district has recommended Table Rock as the best location to build first, and continued to do so in their presentation.

Here’s what the district can do with $18 million:

  • Table Rock – 625 students in a PK-8 school
  • Candelas – 625 students in a PK-8 school, with room for additional buildings in the future (Bell said they would master plan that site before building)
  • Leyden Rock – 450 students in a K-6 school, plus an additional 6 months of construction time due to the challenging topography of the site

Bell had two goals: how to maximize the number of seats the district could get with $18 million, and how to impact the most schools positively. Based on those goals, he recommended the Table Rock site, or secondarily, the Candelas site.

And this is where the conversation got interesting.

Witt asked if Bell was suggesting that they should never build on the Leyden Rock site. Bell said they would need to build on that site, but under the current budget constraints and with the number of students expected, he wanted to maximize how the money was spent. The cost to build the Table Rock or Candelas schools is about $28,800 per student, but the Leyden Rock school will run about $40,000 per student.

Witt suggested that goals that maximized the use of money and impacted the most schools were not “shared values.” (Got it? Using money effectively to benefit children is not a value Ken Witt shares.) But Witt continued to press for the Leyden Rock site. Why?

Why build a smaller school that will take an additional six months to construct when other sites will provide seats for more students more quickly?

Why focus on Leyden Rock? There doesn’t seem to be any data that would suggest Leyden Rock is growing faster than Candelas, or that Leyden Rock will have a noticeably larger number of students who need a school than any of the other areas.

We have many theories about Witt’s obsession with Leyden Rock, and suspect that there’s $$$ involved somehow. Some have suggested potential real estate investments or ties to campaign donors who have financial interests in Leyden Rock. Some have also suggested that perhaps a new Leyden Rock school would not become a neighborhood school but a charter. Either way, we smell a rat.

The issue will be on this Thursday’s agenda as well, and district staff are recommending they build on the Table Rock site. What are the odds the board agrees? We think the odds are better that Witt or Newkirk pulls something out of their pocket (language they “worked up” or whatever they drew on a napkin) to propose an entirely new plan, while Julie Williams continues to push for a building that can be printed by a 3D printer.

Whatever happens, it won’t be dull.

Other agenda items for this Thursday’s meeting

The regular school board meeting is this Thursday and starts at 5:30 pm in the Education Center board room (5th floor) with a study session about master’s degrees and compensation, as well as “draft policy language for study by Board members regarding codifying equal funding and compensation in Board policy.” Witt is supposedly writing that language, though as of Wednesday morning it had not been posted (or written? Perhaps he’s waiting for the muse?).

Also on the agenda: a presentation about college and career readiness with a focus on ACT, AP and algebra results, a monitoring report on school safety, and a student based budgeting update. If you can’t attend, you can watch the live stream here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

We also encourage you to write the board about issues that concern you at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, and to sign up to speak at public comment. Individual board member addresses are also listed on the Jeffco Schools website, though keep in mind that if you only write individual members, they are not required to respond nor do they have to include your message in the official board correspondence that is available for the public to read each month.

You have until 3:30 pm on Thursday to sign up to speak about agenda-related items on Part 1 or to sign up for non-agenda items on Part 2. Remember that you have, at most, 3 minutes for public comment (10 if a group), and that if there are enough speakers, your time will be reduced to 2 minutes or even 1 minute. Be prepared to only have one minute to speak (5 minutes if a group) because that is the most common scenario.

Keep watching and keep fighting, JeffCo!