1.12.17 Board Meeting – Don’t Miss It!

Happy New Year!

We hope 2017 is off to a great start for you and yours! We wish we could say that 2017 is off to a good start for our school district, but we are dismayed at the way the Jeffco Schools Communications Department is handling, or rather not handling, the press release announcing that “the Board will vote on whether to start a search process for a new superintendent.”

In our opinion, Diana Wilson, the district’s Chief Communications Officer, has once again shown her unsuitability for her position with her irresponsible, unprofessional quote reported by Chalkbeat: “That the item is on the Jan. 12 agenda “essentially means they are not offering Dan a contract extension,” said district spokeswoman Diana Wilson.”  We are shocked that Wilson would make such a statement as a vote has NOT been taken by the BOE, and it is not her place to attempt to read between the lines or make some sort of projection or guess as to what direction the BOE will take. This quote has fed a media feeding frenzy that has included accusations of a lack of transparency, etc.

The reality is that the BOE issued the news release specifically as an act of transparency to let the public know that although they had to meet in Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter (McMinimee’s performance and contract), they do intend to have a discussion during the next regular BOE meeting on Jan. 12, will listen to public comment on whether to retain McMinimee, and then will have a vote – in public.

This board is acting transparently and respectfully with regard to McMinimee; the district’s Chief Communications Officer is out of line and being disrespectful of the process. We find it extremely concerning that neither McMinimee nor Wilson have addressed her error nor retracted the statement.

We’re also disappointed in the memo Jeffco Schools Chief School Effectiveness Officer Terry Elliott sent to staff.terry-elliott-memo  Here again, his words imply the BOE has already made a decision, leading the media to assume the BOE has acted inappropriately. That is not true. The BOE has followed the proper process for these discussions.

If you have an opinion on whether the BOE should retain McMinimee as superintendent, you can email comments to the BOE or sign up for public comment to share your thoughts with the board members at Thursday’s meeting. If you can’t attend the meeting, you can always watch it from the comfort of your own home via livestream.

Here are just a few letters of concern regarding McMinimee sent to the board this past month:

  • C-16-800 from Don Cameron with a detailed analysis showing how the previous Supt search consultant focused on board preferences for the Supt as a priority over preferences expressed by parents, community members, administrators, teachers and others. Cameron goes on to point out his lack of trust in the current district leadership’s ability to “gain the confidence of voters to allow us to pass a mill and bond,” and that “some of that needs to be laid at the feet of the chief messenger [McMinimee].” We should all remember that the bogus superintendent search that landed McMinimee in this position was a key issue in the recall.
  • c-16-801 from Angie Blomquist asking that McMinimee not be retained for several reasons, to include “standing mutely by” while other board members, staff and students were mistreated by the previous, recalled board majority, and taking his $20,000 bonus knowing the inability of the district to adequately compensate employees as a result of the on-going budget crisis. She feels “McMinimee is out of touch with what it means to be a teacher,” feels “his inexperience leads to poor decisions,” and is “overpaid and under qualified for his current position.”
  • c-16-806 from Terry Cooper who points out the very concerning need to “rebuild the trust between teachers and district admin” and that “new leadership needs to address the riff created by the old board.” Terry goes on to note that “change and support will come when…a caring leader steps in with a  crew that truly supports teachers and begins the much needed work of healing a divided district.”

These are just a few thoughts from a very few people concerned with the leadership in the district. We have talked with teachers, staff and administrators and are so discouraged to hear time and time again, especially from administrators, that Dan McMinimee is not an inspiring leader. Jeffco needs an inspiring leader. Someone who can heal and unite our district; guide and inform our board of education directors; hire the strongest and most experienced cabinet members who work with and listen to the staff they’re hired to support; build strong relationships with community and business leaders (and not just have conversations with these leaders when the district is asking for help with passing a mill/bond); and support and advocate for students, teachers and staff.

With that said, let’s dive in to the agenda for the January 12th meeting.

The meeting begins with a study session at 5 pm that will provide an update on Student Based Budgeting (SBB), which is the district’s method of funding the schools. The discussion will provide details on the changes to SBB for the 2016-17 school year as well as insights on the implementation of SBB by school principals.

We look forward to this update and ensuing discussion as we have several concerns about SBB that we hope the BOE will ask, such as:

  • Smaller schools receive additional dollars; however, once the school reaches a certain pupil count, they lose those dollars and struggle with the allotted budget. Does this discourage schools from allowing additional open-enrollment students?
  • In some schools, enrollment changes year by year and classroom by classroom. When a school experiences a dip in enrollment, the principal is faced with a resulting budget cut that may force the loss of an employee or more. However, when enrollment rebounds in a subsequent year that staff member is gone and the principal is faced with having to find a new teacher to fill that position. What is being done to address this issue?
  • Some schools have more highly impacted student populations that require more resources. How will SBB dollars be allocated to address these additional needs at certain schools?
  • SBB causes competition between schools for students. We are seeing a negative impact to schools and students as a result. Competition can be a healthy thing – to a degree, but it can also be a detriment. Schools in the south, for example, are seeing a negative effect as a result of unhealthy competition. Deer Creek Middle shifted to a 6-8 model when they began offering a STEM program to attract more students. Bradford succeeded in making the shift to a K-8 model when they suffered the financial consequences of losing many students to the STEM program at Deer Creek and the new charter, Golden View Classical Academy. Many of the schools in the south now use SBB money to pay for advertising in the local newspapers. Collegiate Academy, a Jeffco charter school, has gone so far as to develop a 15-page Marketing Plan and set aside $16,000 annually for marketing (to include $8,000 for a marketing coordinator). Is this good for students? Is this healthy competition? How does marketing improve student achievement? Wouldn’t marketing dollars and efforts be better spent in the classroom?

Next up, the OELS (Outdoor Lab) foundation will present at check to Jeffco Schools (thank you OELS!), Marna Messer, Jeffco Schools Director of Choice Programming, will receive the O’Rourke Prize (an annual award given for Distinguished Achievement in Professional Development), and students from Evergreen High School will be recognized for their performance in the State Tennis Championship.

We are happy to see that the “Board Reports” item has returned to the agenda! This is a great opportunity for board members to share their observations as they visit schools and participate in activities across the district with their fellow board members. We always enjoy this portion of the BOE meetings.

The BOE will also once again review the Great Works Montessori charter school application. This application was denied in November largely because it did not appear to have a sustainable budget and representatives were unable to address those concerns satisfactorily.

One specific issue concerns the proposed charter’s desire to attract low-income students who might thrive in a Montessori environment, while also needing a number of preschool families who can pay $1,500 per month to keep the school budget in the black. Preschool families would pay on a sliding scale, but unfortunately, that also means that the more successful the school is in attracting low-income students, the more their success harms their budget. The charter school representative told board members she was sure they could find additional funding for the budget if they needed it, but could offer no concrete suggestions or information at the meeting. Board members said they wanted to see a sustainable budget before approving a new charter school.

An additional concern was the lack of attention and details regarding how the charter school would address the needs of their target families, such as ELL resources, Spanish-speaking teachers and staff (for students and parents), and how the needs of students with IEPs, 504 plans and ALPs would be met. Another concern for the target population is transience. The charter school does not have a plan to integrate students coming from a traditional school setting, and only has a 1% contingency fund for emergencies, which is much too risky especially with consideration of weathering the loss of revenue from transient students.

Great Works appealed the Jeffco School Board’s decision to the State Board of Education, and the State Board ruled that Jeffco should take another look. Please look at this letter from Chris von Lersner, who was originally helping with Great Works but now has concerns.

Bottom line: with all Colorado schools facing cuts in the 2017-18 year, it’s more important than ever for new charter schools to have sustainable budgets that match realistic enrollment goals. We want them to be set for success, not destined for financial hardship and failure.

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!

2.4.16 BOE meeting preview

It’s already February and time for another board meeting. Here’s a brief run-down of the agenda for the Thursday, Feb. 4, 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: Legislative Update/Platform Review

The boardwill revise its legislative priorities and receive an update (also see the the Jan. 31 legislative update here).  As has been the case in past years, Ed Bowditch continues to serve as the district lobbyist.

Sadly, one bill of special interest in Jeffco has already been sent to the “kill committee.” Senator Andy Kerr and Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp proposed Senate Bill 16-101 to hold School Boards more accountable by creating a five-member ethics commission within the Department of Education to hear ethics complaints against members of school district and charter boards.

Then onto the regular meeting at 6:30 pm.

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

This board will honor: 

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

Among other items, the consent agenda includes contract renewals for Addenbrooke Classical Academy, Compass Montessori Wheat Ridge and the New America charter schools. It also includes a contract modification for Two Roads Charter School that would allow it to operate an online K-5 program. The board discussed this at the Jan. 28 study session and an update in request to their questions is included in Board Docs.

It also includes a few revised board policies and contract awards. Last year at this time, 13 licensed staff (mainly classroom teachers) resigned. This year, we see only 4 resigning.

7.01 Student Achievement and Growth: MAP Fall and Winter Results

An update on student achievement scores from the MAP tests. The presentation, and a presentation from Dakota Ridge High School are in Board Docs.

Among the highlights: Jeffco’s reading performance exceeds MAP national norms in upper level performance ranges (“high” and “high average”) in ALL grade levels; and, Jeffco’s sophomores improved their math performance in the “high average” category.

Challenges include declines in “high” and “high average” winter MAP reading and math in most grade levels; and, persisting performance gaps for certain subgroups (e.g. Hispanic, Black, free/reduced lunch eligible, students with disabilities). We hope the board will ask Jeffco’s experts how our district can better replicate the successes and reduce the challenges, while also carefully asking district experts whether the “declines” on the test are an indication that schools need to be covering content more effectively or whether they are an issue of students adjusting to a new test format. In other words: the board should carefully consider how we use these tests to keep tabs on student achievement and how we can improve it, while also remembering that even these scores only represent a single snapshot on a single day.

8.01 CASB (Colorado Association of School Boards) Membership

We’ve been anticipating this item on the agenda since the new board members took office. As you’ll recall, WNW refused to renew Jeffco’s longstanding membership in the organization. Superintendent McMinimee told the new board members that he thought there were multiple benefits in renewing Jeffco’s membership, including additional legal and other resources. Our new board members have already benefit from some of those resources at CASB’s annual meeting, and we look forward to seeing Jeffco be part of that larger organization again.

9.01 – 9.04 Policy Work

Policies being reviewed include:

  • Governance Process Policies 1-17
  • EL-5, Financial Planning/Budgeting
  • EL-6, Financial Administration
  • EL-11, Communication and Counsel to the Board
Supporting documentation and potential changes are all linked in Board Docs.

After that, there’s the second part of public comment and the board calendar.

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Don’t forget to attend one of the upcoming community forums to weigh in on the budget and other priorities. Due to this week’s snowstorm, the Monday evening forum at Pomona High School has now been moved to Wednesday, Feb. 10, from 6 – 7:30 pm.

Here’s the full list:

Sat., Feb. 6

  • Arvada West High School auditorium, 9 – 11:30 am.

Wed., Feb. 10

  • Evergreen Fire House auditorium, 7:30 – 9 am
  • Deer Creek Middle School cafeteria, 3:30 – 5 pm
  • Pomona High School library, 6 – 7:30 pm

Remember to weigh in and make your opinion heard!

Jeffco Proud!

 

10.4.15 WNW Rewrite History Again

Have you seen the latest mailer from Americans for Prosperity?

One side claims that equal funding is working. Their proof? ACT scores (from tests taken before charter schools were equally funded) and graduation rates from 2012-13, before Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams had been elected.

That’s right: the AFP claims that actions taken by the current board majority months after they were elected influenced events that had happened before the election.

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Yep, this is another attempt to rewrite history.

The mailer references a February 2014 Denver Post article about improved graduation rates in Jeffco. The rates are from the 2012-13 academic year, and those students graduated nearly six months before the 2013 election.

The mailer also references ACT scores, but full equalization wasn’t approved until after all of Jeffco’s juniors had taken the 2015 ACT. How would that work? Oh wait, it doesn’t!

We’d also like to remind our readers that as recently as Thursday evening, WNW were citing “poor” ACT scores as the very reason they need to appoint a new membership to the newly-formed District Accountability  Committee and throw out all the work that has been done by volunteers to write bylaws for the new DAC in the past few months. One part of Newkirk’s DAC membership proposal reads as follows: “Whereas, the Board of Education has concluded that the percentage of students meeting the college and career ready standards on the ACT test taken by all students in Colorado is not acceptable…” (emphasis ours). Witt also has argued that the urgency of this issue is why they need to rush ahead with a new DAC membership, even if the application makes it clear the membership application process is a farce.

Don’t forget that WNW also tried to censor AP classes and has suggested that they’d rather see other options like concurrent enrollment instead of Advanced Placement.

Note that a previous AFP mailer claimed that so-called reforms like pay for performance — which Witt didn’t even introduce until August 2014 — also increased the 2012-13 graduation rate. The AFP is clearly delusional.

The reality?

  • Improvements in the number of Jeffco students who are career and college ready is due to the dedication and diligence of their teachers and parents
  • Improvements in Jeffco AP scores is due to students, parents, teachers and community members who fought long and hard last fall to keep those classes untouched by WNW’s partisan agenda
  • Improvements in the 2012-13 Jeffco Schools graduation rate are due to the dedication of teachers, staff, and former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, and those largely took place between 2008 and 2013.
  • All five of the clean slate candidates — Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell — have said they will will keep equalized funding, so our Jeffco charter families can rest easy on that issue.

Our teachers continue to be dedicated and our students continue to succeed, but this is despite the havoc wreaked by Witt, Newkirk and Williams. Meanwhile, more than a thousand teachers have chosen to leave rather than deal with the lack of respect shown to them by WNW, and more are considering it.

It’s time to recall Witt, Newkirk and Williams. Please spread the word. Make sure that your friends, family, and co-workers know that WNW and the AFP are rewriting history again, and set them straight on the facts.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

 

 

7.30.15 Jeffco Speaks Out (Our 3rd Guest Column — Non-“Union Operative” Division)

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Remember these comments, by a former Jeffco communications director on a certain right-wing talk radio station?

The so-called parents that they’ve drummed up…

There’s no way young students could have put those together.

There’s clearly some sort of mill where they create this correspondence….

When a so-called scandal erupted, which was always created by this group, then there would be these, right away there would be this flood of correspondence about this “issue” by these same characters — the Wendy McCords, the Tina Gurdikians, their buddies, there’s a long list of names.

But we’re not “so-called” parents or “characters.” We’re parents, taxpayers and voters, and we will not be silenced.

Here’s another submission from our guest column contest:

I am a grandmother in north Lakewood and do not have any affiliation with the teacher union. I am a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science in New York City and I was raised to value science and math and to respect my teachers. I am extremely upset to see what has happened in the Jefferson County School District.

My children graduated from Jefferson County schools more than twenty years ago and now I have a grandson going into fourth grade in Jeffco. I have never seen such disrespect of parents and teachers in all the years that I have lived here.

I see these conservative members of the Jeffco School Board taking credit for Jeffco achievements that were years in the making. They are taking credit for achievements that they have not worked for, and they have lied to the public about their goals. These three members have turned the School Board into a political football! I am worried for the future of my grandson.

— Diana Suslak-Spriggs

We’d like to hear your voice too. If you are a parent, student, community member, it’s not too late to enter the contest. Details are here.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!