8/26 Tuesday Report: The Weekly Do List; Sat. Meeting Recap; & Thurs. BoE Meeting Prep

Your Childs EducationA lot has happened and will happen between last Saturday and the coming Labor Day Weekend.  We will try to keep it brief, but….

Saturday Meeting Review Summary –

Witt is still trying to act as if he is CEO of JeffCo instead of simply the member of the Policy-Governance Board whose main job is to make sure that all Board members are heard from.  The fact that they had to call on former Board member Jane Barnes to ‘facilitate’ speaks volumes about his success at that.

Another sign of Witt wanting to radically change the power and role of the position of President is that fact that he wants to reduce the power and position of the Superintendent within the District.  He tried to do this by proposing to change the wording of BSL-01 from where it says, The Board’s sole (emphasis added) connection to the operational organization of the school district is the superintendent.” Witt wants to change ‘sole’ to ‘primary’ which would allow him to directly interact (read: meddle) with the District’s personnel and actions.  That change would, in fact, mean that McMinimee’s authority would ahve been reduced and the District would have been at the mercy of Witt’s whims.

McMinimee quickly squashed that, pointing out that he is the one who is supposed to be accountable to the Board (in fact the Board policies explicitly state that the Board has only ONE employee – the Superintendent).

McMinimee might now be wondering what kind of overlord Witt see’s himself to be.  McMinimee may not be worth $280,000 as Superintendent, but if he is to maintain his independence of WNW and not become a sock-puppet, he will definitely earn large portion of it in fending off Witt’s grandiose ideas about the role of President of the Board.

Witt responded the way we expected on the aging Facilities issue.  Instead of being concerned about our children being taught in sub-standard buildings, he seemed more excited that there is empty space in some of these schools.  One could almost read his mind:  ‘charter school space!’

Witt’s ignoring of what would concern anyone else, was just getting started.  When the discussion turned to the 2015-16 Budget, he came out and stated what surveys say the people of JeffCo want as priorities in the District has no impact on what priorities the Board will actually set.  (This attitude can be found also in Newkirk’s comment about there being too many public comments and the comments being ‘off topic and repetitive’.  See the link here.)  In short, WNW is telling the public that democracy stopped when they were elected.

When it came to the Budget Process, Lori Gillis wants the 2015-16 budget to be adopted in May instead of June to give the District more time for planning for the upcoming school year.  Also, apparently McMinimee has been talking to Gillis about a different method of allocating resources called “Student-based Budgeting”.  We had not heard of this and have done a little research, but by no means exhaustive.  It is a funding approach apparently created by Educational Resource Services (ERS), a non-profit organization located in Massachusetts.  We are doing more research on it and hope to be able to tell you more later this week.

When the agenda turned to community engagement, WNW are apparently of the opinion that there can be too much of it.  Witt seems to think that as the number of people who want the Board to hear their concerns increases, the amount of time they have to speak should decrease.  Other ideas included having one night set aside for public comment…although that is exactly what happens now, since WNW will not allow public comment a Special or Study meetings, even though District policy says comment on agenda items should be allowed.  One of the more outlandish ideas was that the first 20 people get three minutes, the next 10 get two minutes, and everyone after that get just 1 minute.

When it came time for the scheduled Executive Session on the JCEA negotiations, a vote was never even called for.  Perhaps Witt (or more likely Miller) has learned that trying to force an Executive Session with this Board simply will not work, and indeed, gives Dahlkemper and Fellman a platform in which to air more of WNW’ s dirty laundry.  So instead, issues surrounding the Board’s reneging on the tentative agreement were still aired out in public.  When McMinimee was asked about the Fact Finding phase that WNW has forced the two side into (despite there being only one or two issues in dispute), Witt jumped in and said that only after the Fact Finding was completed would there then be a decision on what to do next.  He seemed to imply this would then put an end to the negotiations.  We suspect that an end to the negotiations is not the same as arriving at a contract.  WNW has pulled this rope-a-dope maneuver before (i.e., the constantly changing objections and demands surrounding Free, Full-day Kindergarten), and in our opinion, they are doing so on the JCEA contract.

Very little of this surprises us.  What did surprise is a ‘what the dog did in the night’ observation.*  What did not happen were several things:

  1. WNW did not push hard to overly limit public comment (although there was at least a leaning towards it).
  2. No mention was made of supporting charter schools instead of regular schools at the 58th & Highway 93 neighborhood.
  3. WNW did not try to force an Executive Session on JCEA negotiations.

In short, WNW has throttled back their steamroller…at least for the moment.

There could be several tactical reasons why they did this.  They may have learned that steamroller tactics attract unwanted attention.  Or they are hoping things calm down, so later they can slip changes by unnoticed.  They may even have realized the error of their ways (okay, low probability on that one).  But one thing is sure…your vociferous participation has had an effect!

Small “d” democracy works.  It involves showing up at meetings, speaking out, writing letters & posts, talking to friends, and generally making sure that the people of aware of the actions of those hired in the people’s name.

So if you have participated in any of the above, or other small ‘d’ activities, allow yourself a bit of congratulations.  You have helped slow them down…..

* Reference to the Sherlock Holmes story, “Silver Blaze”.  The fact that the dog did nothing in the night was an important clue.
……….

Thursday Meeting Prep:

BOE Meeting 2014-08-28 (Thursday night)
Date and Time:  Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items
Location: Seminar Room

Agenda Item: 1.01 Negotiations Direction with District Employees regarding the JCEA Tentative Agreement and Fact Finding
Type: Action, Discussion
Estimated Time: 50 minutes
The Board of Education will meet in executive session in the Seminar Room to provide negotiations direction with respect to the Fact Finder’s report as it pertains to negotiations with employee associations, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

After the vote to move into executive session, this portion of the meeting is closed to the public.  The Board will reconvene in open session at approximately 6:20 p.m. to adjourn the special meeting to move to the Board Room to begin the regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.  Any action to be taken by the Board will be posted to a meeting agenda.
Our Comment:  You can be in the Seminar room until a successful vote for Executive Session is taken, and we highly recommend that you are.  This way if Dahlkemper and Fellman feel that they should vote against Executive Session, there will be witnesses to watch and see what kind of strong-arm tactics WNW+Miller pull this time.  If nothing else, it does seem to make Miller and Witt uncomfortable, which by itself makes it worth showing up!

FYI – The next item of interest for JeffCoWatch readers is 3.04.  This is honoring Jeffco Executive Chef Yani Sanow for wining a nationwide contest for coming up with a healthy recipe that follows USDA guidelines that kids love.  This is in contrast to DougCo’s “it’s too hard” response, thus giving up about $150,000 in Federal money, but preserving over $900,000 in revenue for the local Subway Sandwich operations group.  Another DougCo ‘priority’ we do NOT want up here!

Location: 5th Floor Board Room
Agenda Item:6.01 Resolution: State Education Funding
Type: Action
Estimated Time: 5 minutes
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the April 24, 2014 special meeting, Board member Julie Williams requested the Board of Education take action on a resolution on state education funding.
  2. OnMay 1, the Board of Education reviewed the draft resolutions, discussed revisions and requested the resolution return on June 5 for Board action.
  3. On May 7, the 2014 legislative session ended.
  4. Due to other pressing matters in June, the Board postponed action on the resolution to the August meeting.
  5. Please open the attachment below to review the draft resolution on state education funding. An update may be posted on Monday.

Supporting Documents:  Resolution-Funding 1 signature.pdf

Our Comment:  Nobody likes the ‘negative factor’ in Colorado’s education budget.  Everyone knows (though not everyone will admit it) it exists because TABOR prevents the legislature from increasing the taxes to fund the increase in Education spending that the voters have mandated and that any sensible person knows is needed.  Still, one would think the acrid taste of hypocrisy would begin to upset WNW’s  stomachs, if not their conscience.  Witt and Newkirk, in particular, constantly complain about being given new state requirements and goals without being given the money to achieve them.  All the while they blithely give the District schools new mandates on reading and math scores, yet deny those schools the resources needed to make it happen, such as an expanded free, full-day kindergarten.

This resolution will pass, of course.  But hopefully at least of twinge of conscience might make them pause a second or two before they turn around and do the same thing the our kid’s teachers and schools.

Agenda Item:6.02 Resolution: PARCC Testing
Type: Action

Estimated Time: 25 minutes
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the April 24, 2014 special meeting, Board member Julie Williams requested the Board of Education take action on a resolution regarding PARCC testing.
  2. OnMay 1, the Board of Education reviewed the draft resolution, discussed revisions and requested the resolution return on June 5 for Board action.
  3. On May 7, the 2014 legislative session ended.
  4. Due to other pressing matters in June, the Board postponed action on the resolution to the August meeting.
  5. Ms. Williams arranged for presenters to address the Board on this resolution: video-conferencing forSandra Stosky, Ed.D., member of theCommon Core Validation Committee, National Governors Association; Mr. Henry Burke, (board correspondence c-14-931), will be on speakerphone.
  6. Please open the attachments below to review additional background material and the draft resolution on PARCC testing.  An update may be posted on Monday.

Biographical Information on S.Stotsky and H.Burke.pdf (70 KB)
HB Common Core Standards Jefferson County Implementation Costs.pdf (52 KB)
HB Common Core Standards Colorado Costs Chart.pdf (48 KB)
Resolution PARCC 1 signature.pdf (65 KB)
HB Common Core Standards Colorado Implementation Costs.pdf (78 KB)

Our Comment:  While everyone yells about “Common Core”, what most people really mean is the testing that seems to accompany it.  PARCC or “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers” has become the latest political uproar (although there are signs it is waning).
As we have stated before, no consensus on PARCC or Common Core has been reached by JeffCo School Board Watch, and so we have not taken a position on it.

What we do feel qualified to do is question the manner, method, and participants in this agenda item.  While Dr. Stosky appears well qualified to offer expert advice on PARCC, we must confess puzzlement at the inclusion of Henry Burke.  Mr. Burke is apparently a retired Civil Engineer.  His credentials match someone well qualified to build a bridge, a road, or even a skyscraper.  But there is no mention of any accredited study in the field of education.  His sole connection seems to be that of an avid article writer on many subjects, including education, for several extremely conservative blogs.  To presume that this gives him expert status on something as complicated as PARCC testing is equivalent to saying a journalist who has written several stories on surgery is qualified as an expert in a malpractice case.

Another oddity we noticed was that the language of the resolution seemed extremely precise and detailed, a bit unusual for someone of Ms. Williams manner.  So we did a little search.  We found the exact same resolution in at least three other school districts:  Akron, Elizabeth, and Lamar.  This indicates that someone or some group has put this together and is circulating it around sympathizing school board members.  We are not saying it is wrong, but we do wish we knew the actual source of the resolution. 

The final thing we will note is that Williams is apparently not interested in a fair hearing on PARCC since she invited only critics.  In short, she has made up her mind and has no desire to entertain any alternative ideas.

Where’s the rest?

After those two items, the only two substantial items are reviews of the Governing Policies on Board member code of conduct and conflict of interest.  These do hold the small chance of a surprise attack by WNW on either or both Dahlkemper and Fellman, but we do not see that as likely.

What is most curious is what is missing!

In the Board Work Calendar (BWC 2014-2015.pdf), this meeting was supposed to also include a presentation on STEM and a report by the Choice Steering Committee.  Neither one of those items is currently on the agenda.  It is possible that they will be added late, but if so, it seems strange that there is not even a placeholder for them in the current Agenda.

With the absence of the STEM and Choice presentations, this first full meeting of the school year appears to be on the light side when it comes to content.  That puzzles us a bit, and makes us a bit wary.  We will be there, and hope you will be to.

Weekly Do List:  Getting Ready for Thursday!

  1. Sign up to speak at the Board Meeting
    4.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related)
    8.01 Public Comment (Not On Agenda)
  2. Read through the Meeting Agenda here.
  3. Go to the Board Meeting on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.!

Oh, and one more thing:

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

8/25 – Julie Williams to BYOA (Bring Your Own Audience)

Fool People - Mark-TwainJulie Williams is apparently very concerned that her big night may not be attended by an appreciative audience, so she has arranged to bring her own.

Of course, she has tried this before, and the numbers that actually showed were pretty small.  On the other hand, the fact that the email also wants everyone to sign up to speak means that intentionally or not, she is trying to shut out comments from anyone but her supporters.

So please sign up for to speak.  You might even want to comment on the propriety of a board member who tries to bring her own favored political group in to stack the audience and the public comment (would WNW move to limit that public comment?).

Here is the link for speaking on an agenda item

Here is the link for speaking on a non-agenda item

And let’s…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 

(Note:  We will be posting tomorrow our analysis of last Saturday’s meeting, plus a review of what is coming up this Thursday.)

Below is an email sent out by the Jeffco South Tea Party.

At our last Tea Party meeting, we decided to attend the next Jeffco School Board meeting instead of having our monthly activist meeting. Board Member Julie Williams is introducing two very important resolutions opposing Common Core and opposing accepting unfunded state or federal mandates. There are three things I’m asking you to do to support these very important Common Core resolutions.

1. Sign up for the meeting and speak. Do this right away to get in line to speak in support of Julie’s resolution. Read the rest of the email for instructions about how to do that.

2. Call all five school board members and ask them to support Julie’s resolutions. I will be sending another email with phone numbers and talking points shortly.

3. Send an email to all five school board members and ask them to support Julie’s resolutions. I’ll be sending a third email to you with their email addresses and suggested points to make on that subject shortly.

Here’s how you attend and signup to speak at the meeting.

1. Click on this link right now to sign up to speak.

Sign up to speak against Common Core

2. Keep trying to sign up. It supposedly went live at 10:00 am this morning. But it is late so far. Refresh your screen each time you check to see if you can If you have trouble signing up, call Helen Neal at 303.982.6500.

3. When you sign up to speak, indicate that you want to be heard on Resolutions 6.01 and 6.02.

4. The meeting is this Thursday night at 6:30. It will be held at 1829 Denver West Drive #27 Golden, Colorado 80401.

See you Thursday night!

Frank Francone
Chairman, South Jeffco Tea Party

8/23 Saturday Post: Deconstructing the ‘Deformers’

Stand-Up-Be-CountedFirst, if you are reading this and it is before noon on Saturday, August 23rd, STOP!  Do not read anymore!  Go the Education Center at 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, in Golden.  When you get there, go up to the 5th Floor Board Room and let WNW+M³ know that the public is watching their every move!

If you cannot get there, then click on this link to watch a live stream of the meeting:

Board Meeting Live Video Stream

After the meeting is over, you can resume reading!

========================================

A comment by Diane Ravitch brought this post to our attention.

Dismantling Public Accountability & Transparency in the Name of Accountability & Transparency?

School reform, which began in the late 1970’s had laudable goals…to help schools and school district’s become better at educating our children.

One early idea included giving teachers the freedom to innovate through adjunct or ‘chartered’ schools, who would then be brought back into the regular system to share and spread what they learned. From this, districts could establish best practices, and measure results carefully to learn what works and what does not.

But this earnest motivation was soon overwhelmed and betrayed by outsiders claiming they wanted ‘to help.’ ‘Education Reform‘ became a political tool in the hands of extremist politicians looking for wedge issues. Next, a number of religious and political ideologies saw it as a way to get the public to pay for schools where their children and the children of well-meaning, but misinformed parents could receive covert indoctrination into a particular political and/or religious philosophy. Conservative business groups got involved, seeing the possibility to use the good-faith goals of many to disrupt and destroy the unions. Other ‘business’ people saw it as an opportunity to get wealthy at public expense. And now, the Koch Brothers, through AFP, the Independence Institute, and other similar organizations, see it as their last, best hope for altering the basic fabric of our country.

Somewhere along the road, the idea of helping teachers teach our children better…disappeared. It has not so much gotten lost, as it has gotten trampled by opportunists who are seeking only their own profit, be it money, power, or the destruction of perceived enemies. Such are the supporters of WNW.

—–

We of JeffCo need to realize that we have many dark days yet ahead of us. We have slowed WNW+Miller down, but not stopped them. They still hold a majority on the Board and can ram through almost anything they want. And make no mistake about it, they will.

Now is the time to take inspiration and heart from our own history. There was another time when a small but powerful group of people tried to take control of the political process of our country. They had everything on their side; money, power, people in influential positions, and a ruthless determination to win at all costs.

The public of the time was divided not only on what to do, but also whether it was even worth fighting. How could they win? And the first few years showed that more often than not, they could not. At least not if winning meant the other side stopped trying to control them. But they did win the most important battle. That was for their morale. Instead of giving up, they kept fighting. And eventually won. The British were defeated and the American people threw off their control.

A bit melodramatic? Maybe. But the lesson it offers is clear, practical, and as applicable as ever – WNW and all their cronies and hidden backers only truly win if we give up. And we won’t, will we? After all, our forebears fought tougher wars and smarter opponents than Witt, Newkirk, and Williams, even with Miller’s tutelage!

So long as we do not give up, we can’t lose…but they will.

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


 

Tomorrow – Saturday Board Meeting…and we need YOU!

Uncle_Sam_pointingTomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. in the JeffCo Education Center (at 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden) Witt, Newkirk, and Williams plus Miller, McMini- mee, and Morgan (WNW+M³) will be hoping you are slowly waking up, maybe having a second cup of coffee, while reading about the Texans coming to play the Broncos at 7:00 p.m.

What they are dearly hoping you are not doing is waiting for them in the 5th Floor Board Room, coffee and a sandwich at hand, watching them as they prepare to wreak more havoc on our School District.

As they have shown in the previous ten months, WNW (now with “M³”) prefers to work in the dark, where no one can see them and they do not have to justify themselves to the public.  The fact that one of the items on the agenda (2.04 Communications Processes) could lay the groundwork for them to greatly restrict public comment shows just how sensitive they are to the harsh light of public scrutiny.

Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman need your support!  Show up and let them know that their battle with these so-called ‘reformers’ (Diane Ravitch calls them “Deformers”) is not unheralded, nor unsupported.  The more of us show up, the more the mainstream press feels the pressure to report.  The more of us who watch WNW+M³’s every move, the more uncomfortable they feel.  The more uncomfortable they feel, the more hesitant they become; the more hesitant they become, the more they feel the need to justify and…the more they slow down!

Your presence and voice has made a difference.  Keep making one!  Show up and let WNW+M³ know that we plan to…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

(Want to know what is on the agenda?  Check out our Tuesday post. Can’t make the meeting?  Watch it live on http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom)


 

 

Why You Should Go to Saturday’s Board Meeting

school-crossingSaturday!
The day we relax, unwind, and…go to JeffCo’s Education Center (1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden) at 9:00 a.m. to let the three so-called ‘reformers’ (Witt, Newkirk, & Williams, aka “WNW”), their puppet-master Brad Miller, and their two new minions Dan McMinimee & Syna Morgan (aka “M³”) know that what ever they try to do, it will be in full view of an aware, aroused, and armed (with facts) public!

We are now in the middle-game of WNW+Miller’s plan to make-over the JeffCo School District into DougCo North.  They have control of the Board, have forced out the previous superintendent, rammed down our throats a protégé of the leader of the most radicalized school district in the state (Douglas County).  Along the way, they have been financially irresponsible and set up the District for future program cuts by dramatically increasing the spending on charter schools, refused to expand free, full-day kindergarten to more than 300 poor students, restricted public comment and free expression (no signs in the Board room!), ignored their own consultant’s advice on the selection of a new superintendent, hired an unprecedented private attorney at taxpayer expense just for themselves, , hired a new communications firm to slick up their image, ignored warnings from the District CFO on the impact of unsupportable charter school funding, created a Board Work Calendar that spends half it’s free time focused on 10% of the students (the ones in charter schools), less than 8% of its time on the teacher negotiations, negotiations that it has needlessly prolonged (after reneging on it’s own bargaining teams’ promises), ignored legal advice on a key lawsuit, then had their attorney threaten other members of the Board with legal action if they did not fall in line.

Whew!  And that is only ten months into their term!

One thing we know for sure.  They are counting on you having spent the last nine weeks forgetting about their previous eight months of tragedy, treachery, and travesty.

Show them they are wrong!  Show up, with coffee and a lunch (they say they are going to “work through lunch”) and

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

(Want to know what is on the agenda?  Check out our Tuesday post)