8/20 Wednesday News Roundup

ed-news-colorThis week we are highlighting stories on TCAP & charter schools, new schools in JeffCo, why business processes and teaching do not mix, a successful school model that only JeffCo and Aurora are following, and finally the difference in how DougCo and JeffCo handled healthier USDA lunch standards.

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From Denver Post:  Latest scores are big test for growing Denver charter school network

Our Comment on the above article:  The Denver Post went pretty easy on STRIVE in this article.  A 7% drop in scores is a shocking failure.  Kudos to the CEO of STRIVE for taking responsibility, but their analysis of why it happened opens up as many questions as it answered:  They cited too rapid of expansion in the number of schools, too many new innovations being tried at the same time, high-turnover among young teachers, and struggling with adjusting the  curriculum to meet new state standards (based on Common Core).

Any of this sound familiar?  WNW wants to rapidly expand the number of charter schools, push in new and untried teacher assessments, has no real plan to help young teachers get through the first crucial years, and is scaring off experienced teachers with their rope-a-dope tactics on JCEA negotiations.  The only difference is that thanks to the leadership of Cindy Stevenson (who they forced out), JeffCo has been teaching to the new standards for over two years now.

Of course, the WNW clone siblings in Denver will argue that STRIVE should be given another chance.  What would they be saying if it had been a regular public school that had a 7% drop?

In the meantime, JeffCo scores went up as pointed out in Chalkbeat

Jeffco Public Schools officials pointed out their TCAP scores “remained relatively stable.” Newly minted Chief Academic Officer Syna Morgan highlighted math and ACT increases while pointing out the the tests are just one data point.

“In math, we saw great gains with our Jeffco eighth and ninth graders who gained three to four points in proficiency from last year. Jeffco continued to outpace the state on the Colorado ACT scores by raising the score from 21.2 in 2013 to 21.5 in 2014. While the TCAP results provide one view of the academic performance of Jeffco students, we look forward to providing a body of evidence to show the full picture of student success.”

Expect WNW to take credit for this, even though they had NOTHING to do with it!  Also expect them to ignore the weaknesses the STRIVE results showed in a large scale charter school approach.

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From Westminster Window: Jeffco considering new school in 93 Corridor

Our Comment on the above article:  The proposed new K-8 school is one of two to be talked about in the Facilities portion of the agenda this Saturday.  As we noted in our LAST POST, this will be where we see if WNW+M3 actually walk the walk of believing in neighborhood schools, instead of just talking the talk.  We remain skeptical.

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From New York Times: Teaching Is Not a Business

Our Comment on the above article: The title of this article prompts one to say, “Well, duh!”  But on second thought, maybe that has not been so obvious to many of the self-named ‘reformers’ of American education. Because almost every single district-wide ‘innovation’ that is now being pushed by these ‘reformers’ is either a straight business practice or a modified one.  In fact, many of the business practices that are being forced on American schools are actually discredited processes that the business world itself has discarded…but are now making a comeback in our schools.

The arrogance of this approach is manifest.  Bill Gates and other ‘successful’ business people are guilty of outrageous hubris in  thinking that experience in cutting the competition’s throat is directly transferable to the teaching all students regardless of background, ability, or experience.  Yet we find our district (among many in the country) under the dictates of business people far less successful than Bill Gates, touting their business acumen as the reason they know better than professionals who have spent their entire adult lives in the serious study of education.

We will recover from this, sooner or later.  But in the meantime it is our children who will have to bear the biggest cost.

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From Denver Post:  Hilker: At two Colorado technical schools, “education that works”

Our Comment on the above article: This is an opinion piece by a retired Denver newspaper editor.  He looks at two technical school programs that are successful in keeping kids who like working with their hands in school and finishing with skills that either take them to college (67%) or into good paying jobs (i.e., not flipping burgers).  The two schools?  Pickens Technical College in Aurora and Warren Tech in JeffCo.

What this article raises is the question, why hasn’t WNW placed on the agenda how to expand Warren Tech beyond it’s Lakewood and Arvada campuses?  It is a successful program.  Only one of two in the state.  With a proven track record.  

The article raises another question:

“The success of the two schools and the key role they play beg the question: Why aren’t there more schools like Warren and Pickens?

There should be. But they are more expensive to operate than traditional high schools, and even mid-sized school districts likely don’t have the resources or the school population base to make them practical. The obvious answer would be two or more districts combining to create a Warren or Pickens at a central location. You’d think more school boards would examine those possibilities.”

If DougCo’s reformers are focused on ‘what works’ then why have they not created an equivalent?  Maybe instead of JeffCo imitating DougCo, DougCo should take a good hard look at JeffCo!

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From KWGN (CW2): Creative school lunches aim to taste good and be healthy at the same time and Denver Post: Students at Jefferson County Public Schools get healthier food option

Our Comment on the above articles: Initially you may think this is simply a ‘fluff’ piece and wonder why we included it.  The reason is that it forms a contrast to how DougCo handled the same Federal requirements.  If you remember our 7/30 Wednesday News Roundup, we had two articles that talked about how DougCo decided to give up $167,000 in federal funds rather than meet the new USDA requirements for school lunch programs:

(From the Denver Post:Douglas County high schools opt out of federal lunch program & From Douglas County News-Press:Board adopts resolution on lunch opt-out)

The DougCo Board cited as their excuse that the pizza they tried to make that met the guidelines failed a kids’ taste test.  Of course the DougCo Board made no mention of the fact that adhering to the new guidelines would also mean that the local Subway Sandwich operation would lose out on a school lunch contract valued at over $950,000.

JeffCo, on the other hand, appears to have listened to the kids and made tastier meals that still comply with the USDA requirements.

So the ‘reformed’ district hits a bump and makes a decision favoring big business.  The district that needs ‘reforming’ hits the same bump, learns, improves, and provides healthier meals to our kids.

Maybe we need to change who needs reforming!

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Stay alert and informed.  Go to the Board Meeting this Saturday at 9:00 a.m. in the Education Center, 5th floor Board Room and most important of all,

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


 

JeffCo Board Meeting Coming Up! – Saturday 8/23

MeetingThis Saturday morning the Board has its’ first meeting of the new school year. Technically a ‘Study Session’, this is where WNW tries to lay the groundwork for many of their most controversial actions.  Below is the current agenda with our comments.

Plan on being there!  If we can start off with a very large group, then we will be serving notice to the Board, Miller, and McMinimee (plus his transplanted co-worker, Syna Morgan) that our concern, focus, and energy have not dissipated away over the summer break.  It is always a good thing when government policy boards know that they are under close observation!

BOE Meeting 2014-08-23
Date and Time:
 Saturday, August 23, 2014, at 9:00 a.m.
Where: Education Center 5th Floor Board Room,1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items
Agenda Item: 2.01 Norming with the Superintendent
Type:
 Discussion
Estimated Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
PRESENTING STAFF: Daniel M. McMinimee, superintendent, Jane Barnes, facilitator
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to reach agreements for board behaviors, board/staff relationships and goals for board and district work for 2014-2015.
BACKGROUND: On July 1, Dan McMinimee started work as Jeffco Schools superintendent.  This work session is the first opportunity for the five-member board to meet and discuss with the superintendent how they will work together in the coming year, and review goals and expectations for district work.
Supporting Documents: Annual Work Plan GP6 exhibit 2014-2015.pdf,  BWC 2014-2015.pdf
Our comments: This really should have been called “familiarizing McMinimee with JeffCo’s standard annual plan for the Board and making agreed upon modifications”.  Or maybe simply “Board/Superintendent Annual Work Plan Review”.  We are unsure why the term “norming” was used.

More importantly, you will definitely want to review the Board Work Calendar (BWC 2014-2015.pdf).  Here we find just what WNW plans on looking at and strong hints at the restructuring they plan to force on JeffCo, i.e, Charter Schools.  Why do we say that?  Look at the key agenda items they have specified for the coming year:

8/23 – Communications:  Engagement, Correspondence, Public Comment, Contacting Staff (Pay careful attention to this – a chance for them to minimize public input and allow direct contact from the Board to the District employees), In Exec Session – Employee Negotiations

8/28 – Choice Steering Committee – If no Exec Session on 8/23, then Employee Negotiations

9/4 – Board Attorney Scope of Work (FINALLY!), New Charter School Applications, 2015-16 Budget Development

9/18 – Community Engagement (Jeffco Diversity Council) & Facilities Planning

10/2 – Public Hearing on Charter Apps, Collegiate Academy & Mt. Phoenix Loan Updates (should be very interesting, especially Collegiate), Choice Steering report

10/16 – School-based budgeting (required by state law)

11/6 – Facilities Master Plan, Charter Apps, Technology Report, 2015-16 Budget, School-Based Budgeting, Capital Financing

11/20 – Choice Survey Findings (There is going to be another survey!?)

12/11 – Comprehensive Annual Financial Review (CAFR), Mill Levy (3A/3B anyone?)

(The agendas for the remaining meetings are not complete yet.  Consent, Ends Discussion/Monitoring, General Discussion, and Policy Review items are currently blank.  It is expected that these will be filled in as the school year goes on.)

1/15 – Exec Session: Employee Negotiations (First time since August!?)

2/5 – Charter Renewals, Budget Direction

2/19 – Legislative update

3/5 – Budget Update

3/19 – nothing currently scheduled

4/2 – Budget Update

4/16 – Draft BOE Meeting schedule for 2015-16

5/7 – Budget Public Hearing, Budget Presentation

5/TBD – Budget Adoption

6/11 – nothing currently scheduled

6/25 – nothing currently scheduled

By our count Charter or “Choice” related items are on the agenda 11 times, the 2015-16 Budget 11 times, Facilities five times, JCEA negotiations twice, School-based budgeting twice, Brad Miller once, and STEM once.  No where do we see Free, Full-Day Kindergarten for disadvantaged children, expansion of IB and AP programs, GT issues, Special Ed issues, healthy lunches, bus services, arts and music, high school electives, teacher training, and many others.

In fact, if we remove the budget agenda items (which are more or less preset by the budget cycle), the number of times the Board will consider Charter or “Choice” items equals all the times it will consider the physical condition of our schools, teacher negotiations, implementing a new and complex accounting system, the role of Brad Miller, and STEM education!

There is an old business adage that you can tell what someone is focused on by how much time they spend on it.  By WNW’s choice of agenda items, their focus is clear:  Charter schools.  And the rest of the District and 90% of the student population can make do with what is left over.

Agenda Item: 2.02 Facilities Planning Preview
Type:
 Discussion, Information
Estimated Time: 1 hour
PRESENTING STAFF:     Steve Bell, chief operating officer, Tim Reed, executive director, Facilities
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to be informed of the state of facilities, enrollment/utilization issues, short and long range planning issues.
BACKGROUND: In order to be prepared for future discussions, the superintendent requested time with the Board to provide an overview of the Facility Portfolio; enrollment and utilization issues district-wide at elementary and middle schools; and, the need to receive guidance at a future board meeting to address these needs.   Additionally, the District-wide Facilities Master Plan needs to be updated with Board of Education direction on planning issues to be taken into consideration as part of that process.
Supporting Documents: State of Current Facility Portfolio
Our comments: When it comes to our facilities condition (buildings & grounds) JeffCo is on the borderline between average and below average with the industry with almost $470 million in renovations needed over the next five years (versus $2.4 Billion in total replacement costs).  12 facilities need replacement, another 111 are in either poor or very poor condition, 21 in below average condition, nine in average, and 15 in either good or best condition.  In short, 123 of 168 facilities or ⅔’s of JeffCo’s facility square footage (7,964,334ft2) is in need of replacement or serious maintenance work.  Please keep in mind that Lori Gillis was warning the Board about this last June when WNW pushed through the increase in funding to the charter schools!

Among the other work proposed by the Staff is a new K-8 school on the north side of Golden (58th & Hwy93).  This will be a test of WNW & McMinimee’s proclamations of support for neighborhood schools.  This area ten years ago was almost exclusively used for ranching and farming.  Now, it is a major northern suburb for Golden.  In short, a new neighborhood.  As such, it should get its own neighborhood school.

If WNW begin talking about instead of a traditional neighborhood school placing a Charter school there, then another one of their public statements will be shown not be worth the electrons it takes to record them.  Solterra/West Lakewood is another location where their public pronouncements will be tested.

Anyone care to place some bets?

Agenda Item: 2.03 Budget Development Process
Type:
 Discussion, Information
Estimated Time: 1 hour
PRESENTING STAFF:     Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer, Lorri Dugan, budget director
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to receive early recommendations and provide input on the 2015/2016 budget development process.  Staff will share planned changes and improvements to budgetary practices.  The discussion will include budget objectives, budget timelines, and specific questions regarding Board information needs.
BACKGROUND: The Board of Education requested information and discussion time on the 2015/2016 budget development process.
Supporting Documents: Budget Development Process Presentation.pdf
Our comments: This is one of those times when you will want to stay wide awake through what looks like a boring process. (One benefit of a WNW-controlled Board – they alter the atmosphere of the driest, most routine Board process to one of severe apprehension, resulting in intense focus on the part of both participants and observers.)  WNW almost has to tip their hand on what they see as their next step. The goals and guidance they give Lorie and Lorri will tell us where the battlefields will most likely be as the year goes on.

Agenda Item: 2.04 Communications Processes
Type:
 Discussion, Information
Estimated Time: 30 Minutes
PRESENTING STAFF: Daniel M. McMinimee, superintendent, Lynn Setzer, chief communications officer, Helen Neal, chief of staff
PURPOSE:For the Board of Education to receive information to improve current practices on board correspondence, public comment, community engagement and board contact with staff/principals.
BACKGROUND: Following the practices of Spring 2014, the Board requested that the superintendent review with an eye to improving how public correspondence, public comment and community engagement are handled.
Supporting Documents: Board Correspondence Current Process.pdf (94 KB), Board Correspondence Issues-Concerns.pdf (102 KB), Correspondence- KDA Correspondence from the Public.pdf (307 KB), PC-Policies Agenda Script.pdf (3,580 KB), Public comment practices from other districts.pdf (91 KB)Strategies BOE public engagement.pdf (105 KB)
Our comments: One of the things last year that proved to be a very nasty surprise for WNW is just how large, vocal, and determined is the opposition to their radical agenda.  It is not surprising that they are following the path of DougCo in desperately trying to shut down public comment. We fully expect that WNW+Miller will try to modify the Correspondence- KDA Correspondence from the Public.pdf (307 KB) document to eliminate even a hint that they should allow public comment in non-regular meetings (such as this one!).  Look for them to pick and choose among the other ‘standard practices’ the ones that will most severely limit the opportunity for JeffCo residents to participate or even know what is going on.  Especially look for efforts to restrict the number of people who can talk, the length of the public comment sessions, and an effort to move it to a telephone townhall with a moderator, which will allow them almost total control over who talks.  Authentic Tea Partiers, Liberals, Conservatives, and Independents alike should be outraged if this is what they do.  It would be a severe and unwarranted restriction on one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution:  The right petition for a redress of grievances.

Agenda Item: 3.01 (Executive Session) Negotiations Direction with District Employees regarding the JCEA Tentative Agreement and Fact Finding
Type:
 Action, Discussion
Recommended Action:  to move into executive session to provide negotiations direction with respect to the fact finding report that is expected to be issued the week of August 18 discuss, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

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 2:00 p.m. to adjourn the meeting.  Any action to be taken by the Board will be posted to the August 28, 2014 meeting agenda.
Our comments: Here is when the biggest fireworks of the day is most likely to occur.  For the Board to go into Executive Session requires a ⅔ majority vote.  In the case of JeffCo’s five member Board, that means a minimum of four votes in favor.  Last spring Dahlkemper and Fellman resolutely refused to do this, apparently after having been railroaded several times by WNW in these sessions not only over JCEA negotiations, but also the hiring of McMinimee, and the refusal to appeal the 2090 S. Wright ownership decision by a Lakewood judge.

The betting right now is that they will continue to refuse to vote for Executive Session.  This is very contentious.  In fact, Brad Miller, in an effort to force Fellman to vote in favor of an earlier Executive Session, sent her an email that could be described as extortion, telling her that refusal to go along with his advice could expose her to personal liability lawsuits (something that other attorneys have told us is nonsense).

On top of that, the JCEA negotiations are a hot spot all to themselves.  Last spring, a tentative agreement had been reached between JCEA and the District’s negotiating team, when Witt surprised his own team (and everyone else) with an additional, non-negotiable demand.  When JCEA went ahead and approved the original agreement, WNW then voted down the contract, pushing it into a “fact finding” mode.  Witt then showed his real intention (no contract at all) by insisting on fact finding on all contract items, not just the one in dispute.  This not only dramatically drags out the amount of time negotiations will take (getting WNW closer to the end of the existing contract), but will also cost the District an additional (and unnecessary) tens of thousands of dollars.

With all this at stake, we do not see Dahlkemper or Fellman agreeing to the Executive Session.

With all this going on, who needs to watch NFL pre-season games?  There is a lot more excitement at the Board meetings!  So Show Up!  And…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


 

8-18 Monday Do List: Back to School Advice for Teachers & Staff – Personal Internet Security

KeyholeToday is the first day of school for most of JeffCo. Teachers, of course, have been back for a while, and District staff have never left. It is also the first day of school for Witt, Newkirk, & Williams (plus Miller) two imports from DougCo: Dan McMinimee as Superin-tendent and Syna Morgan as Chief Academic Officer.

McMinimee, for all the justified criticisms of his credentials, does have one key ability he has already called upon:  he knows how to schmooze.

We have seen his calm demeanor absorb and de-energize a lot of anger and fear that has been verbally directed at him.  While he reacted angrily in early sessions with the public, he now speaks soothing words that seem to minimize the radical talk coming from WNW.  Because of that, many educators, staff, and parents have tentatively decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

On the other hand, many of us here at JeffCo School Board Watch have long experience with corporate marketing and sales.  We have seen more than our share of corporate climbers come and go.  McMinimee’s manner of tranquilizing the fears of those now under him smells to us too much like the corporate aroma an organizations’ new hatchet man (or woman) exudes when trying to lull to sleep those he or she is about to take for a ride.

We hope we are wrong, but this has been the pattern of DougCo, Denver, and many other districts around the country where Libertarian-like extremists have taken over a school board.

So today’s Do List is for the teachers and staff of the District – protect yourself from the kinds of snooping that can set you up as a target.

A target?  Yes.  There have been several cases where DougCo teachers, after exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech, and criticizing the DougCo Board and District, then found that at the end of the year, mysteriously there was no teaching position left available for them. Or if there was, then it was split between several schools miles apart.

Already we have evidence of snooping via public media, specifically, Julie Williams verbal and written ill-aimed tirade against two JeffCo volunteers for twitters taken out of context.

If, as we believe, WNW has no intention of coming to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with JCEA, the next school year will see JeffCo with every teacher being an “at-will” employee.  That means they will be able to be fired for any reason that is not prohibited by law.  In short, if you look cross-eyed at McMinimee, or Morgan decides she does not like a bumper-sticker on your car, your position can suddenly just…vanish.  And you will have no recourse.  That is what “at-will” means.

With current social media, email, twitter, etc., it is all too easy for people to monitor what you say or write.  There have been several court cases where a company’s right to snoop on their employees Facebook pages and then fire them for something they posted there has been up held.  Further, your email is not necessarily ‘personal’ when it comes to your employer.  In today’s environment, there is no such thing as semi-public speech, and pure private speech is under heavy assault.

So what can you do?  The first thing is to not be an obvious target.  You can do that by following a few simple guidelines:

  1. NEVER use your JeffCo email for anything you do not want McMinimee or WNW to be able read.  That email ID actually belongs to the District, which right now means WNW.  They have the right to read anything you send or anything sent to you.
  2. NEVER use the JeffCo network, wired or wifi, to send personal emails or visit websites they may not like (such as ours).  If you use JeffCo resources (i.e., their network and access to the internet) even with your own personal device, they have a right to snoop on what you send, receive, or where you electronically visit.
  3. NEVER keep anything on your JeffCo PC that is not strictly related to your job. Even using a USB drive is not necessarily safe. You may have on your USB keydrive the MS-Word file of your private diary in which you castigate some loopy decision by WNW, such as not funding additional free, full-day kindergarten for poor children.  But if you edit it at work on your JeffCo PC, MS-Word generally will keep a copy of your document on the PC’s own hard drive for editing purposes and then ‘delete’ it…except it is not really deleted. Most of the time it is still there. Even a non-techie can find plenty of utilities that will be able to find that file and ‘recover’ it.
  4. ALWAYS use a private email address for private communications.  We suggest using Google’s gmail or other free email service.  The first and best step is simply to make sure that the email ID does NOT have your name or any other identifiable information in it.  It should be generic enough that no one can do a simple search and discover that your dog’s name is your email ID.  Pick something obscure that means something to you, such as “MileHighLife@gmail.com” or “TheAnswerIs42!@hotmail.com”.
  5. If you are on District property and you need to send or receive a personal email, ALWAYS use your own computing device (i.e, laptop, smart phone, tablet, etc.) and a non-JeffCo link to the internet i.e., through a cell connection on your phone, or a mobile hotspot, or simply wait until you can go off the premise and use a local restaurants’ wifi.
  6. Even when you are at home, NEVER do anything private on your computer while connected to the District via a VPN link!  That VPN link is designed to secure your communications with the District from outside prying eyes.  But it also can serve as a tunnel INTO your computer.
  7. SECURE your Facebook account!  Currently state law prohibits an employer from asking your for your Facebook password, but that does not mean they cannot snoop on what you have listed as public. Here is one article on securing your Facebook account. To be doubly secure, you may even want to create a Facebook account with your new email ID, but keep it anonymous.  This way you can still link, comment, and join groups that you like without risking someone reporting your name as “disloyal”.

Many of you may think this is a bit extreme.  Unfortunately, we must disagree.  In addition to the reports coming out of DougCo, we have also heard from people who have been pressured to ‘de-friend’ us by co-workers or business partners.  Others have told us they hesitate to ‘friend’ us for the same reasons.

If that is the case for you, we do understand.  You can still receive notices of our posts by registering directly on our blog site: www.jeffcoschoolboardwatch.org.  The notices of new posts will come directly to you in an email.  Our list is private and your information will not be shared without your explicit consent.

Please note that our Facebook link is open to the public, but as we prepared this post, we realized that people who had ‘friended’ us, potentially have had that status made public through us.  This may not matter for parents and community members, but can matter greatly to employees of JeffCo.  So we have changed our setting on the viewing of Friends so that only we can see them.  So long as you do not make your ‘friend’ list public, you should be safe from that standpoint.

Staying safely in touch!  That is one way we enable ourselves to…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

8/06 Wednesday News Roundup

ed-news-colorUnlike last week, this week has been a bit lighter on education news. Topics this week include the status on an initiative to force all public school negotiations to be public, Pot revenues for schools, the latest DougCo craziness, and a look at what Common Core actually looks like when being taught.

From Chalkbeat: Backers of public negotiations initiative turn in signatures
Our Comment on the above article:  Having negotiations be public rather than private has always been an option in the JeffCo-JCEA contract, and is being done this year.  This initiative, however, would not give anyone a choice.

Public vs. Private conduct of public business has been a challenge since the beginning of our Republic.  The Supreme Court almost from the beginning recognized that there were times and functions when a public entity needed to keep it’s proceedings private in order to be effective.  For example, the ability of the JeffCo Board to go into Executive Session in cases dealing with personnel issues.  

Because in essence, contract negotiations with an employee association is also a personnel issue,  how is holding private negotiations with a bargaining unit fundamentally different from conducting interviews with Superintendent Candidates?  Both are dramatically impacting the public business, cost public dollars, and impact public policy.  But the backers of this initiative do not seem to feel that there was anything wrong with the closed sessions WNW had when it came to hiring McMinimee.  Is there something wrong with this picture?

From Denver Post: Pot revenues starting to help select schools on pricey projects
Our Comment on the above article:  This article is confirmation of an article last week on Chalkbeat – that “Sin” taxes are not a very good way to fund education.  The money is small, sporadic, rarely as large as promised, and often tied up in ways that limits who can get it.  A quote in the article from the Pueblo School District’s business services director sums it up well.

“I feel like the word on the streets is marijuana funding is going to schools, but certainly it’s not going to schools for operating costs,” said Ryan Elarton, director of business services for the Pueblo district. “And not every district gets it.”

Passing “Sin Taxes” to fund public schools is liking eating cotton candy.  It looks big and inviting, but is mostly full of air and very little nutrition.  A fun dessert, but it does not replace a healthy meal.  Keep this in mind when marking your ballot for the casino initiative.

From Douglas County News-Press: Ballot won’t have school question – State funding plan portrayed as unfair

Our Comment on the above article: The DougCo Board has refused to try to raise funds (put a bond issue on the ballot) to fix their growing school infrastructure problems.  This is a scary article for a number of reasons, not the least of which we are already seeing the same attitude from WNW.  

The DougCo Board has ignored the warnings from their equivalent of JeffCo’s SPAC (Strategic Planning and Advisory Council) for years.  Right now, DougCo has $275 million in needed capital repair and improvements that is going unfunded.  At the last Board meeting for JeffCo, WNW turned a deaf ear to Lori Gillis and SPACs calls to address a looming Capital Infrastructure problem here.  

We are not certain if the motivations for this wilful deafness on both Boards is simply ignorance or something deeper.  Certainly WNW seems to hate the ideas of taxes (while be very cavalier in their spending, at least when it comes to charter schools).  One possibility that has been floated around is that if they allow general public schools to deteriorate to the point they are unsafe, then WNW can close down that school and promote a charter school in its place.  Is this the reason?  We do not know, but given their past actions…?

From National Public Radio (NPR): Postcards From The Common Core Classroom

Our Comment on the above article: This is a very hot topic right now, but many people do not realize that Common Core is already being taught in JeffCo and many other school districts around the country.  This radio story (the link is to the text version) looks at how Common Core curriculum is actually being taught around the country.

Stay informed and

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

8-4 Monday Do List: Write/Email the Board – Again!

woman_writing2It would be very nice if substantive change could be achieved with just one big public outcry.  But that rarely happens, and if we are smart, we will not expect WNW to be the exceptions to the rule.  It will take constant, significant, active pressure from all parts of Jefferson County and Colorado to make that change.  Now is when we begin to really put the pressure on Witt, Newkirk, and Williams (plus Miller and McMinimee).  And we start by sending them emails – again!

Letters and emails to the Board, under Board policy, must be answered and entered into the public record.  This is different from oral questions asked at Board Meetings.  Those they can (and usually do) simply ignore.  Forcing them answer is a way of making sure that they actually had to read your question and, at the very least, figure out some way of dodging giving a substantial answer.  So if nothing else, it takes up their time and lets them know they are not pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

For the email to be entered into the public record it must be addressed to the entire Board. It cannot mention a students name. It should also ask at least one question.  You can also ‘cc:’ the Board members as individuals.  We have listed the Board’s email address plus the individual members addresses below.  We tried to find McMinimee’s email address so he to can be contacted by JeffCo voters, but were unsuccessful.

Below is a sample email format and some suggested questions.  But do not just cut and paste this!  Use your own words!  That has far more impact!  The email addresses and suggested email template is below:

Email addresses

Board email: board@jeffco.k12.co.us
Board U.S. mail: 1829 Denver West Dr., Golden CO 80401
Julie Williams, 1st Vice President – District 1: juwillia@jeffco.k12.co.us  
John Newkirk, Secretary – District 2: jnewkirk@jeffco.k12.co.us  
Jill Fellman, Treasurer – District 3: jcfellma@jeffco.k12.co.us
Lesley Dahlkemper, 2nd Vice President – District 4: ldahlkem@jeffco.k12.co.us
Ken Witt, President – District 5: kewitt@jeffco.k12.co.us

<suggested email below>

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To the Jefferson County Board of Education,

I am writing to you as a JeffCo voter and <“parent”, “taxpayer”, “community member”, “business person”, “concerned citizen”, etc., which ever and however many categories are appropriate>.  

I find the recent actions taken by the Board this last spring and early summer deeply concerning and disturbing.  As a JeffCo voter and taxpayer, I would like you to answer the following questions:

<pick one to three of the following questions or come up with your own>

  • Why did the Board feel it necessary for the first time ever to hire an attorney to represent specifically just the Board?  And if Mr. Miller represents only the Board, then why is he paid using District funds?  Furthermore, why does the Board refuse to have public discussion of Brad Miller’s hiring and contract?
  • Why does the Board loan more than $850,000 to poorly managed charter schools with no strings attached?  If there are strings, please explicitly list them.  Also, what is the security or collateral pledged to the District if the schools fail to pay back the loans.  The is especially important given the Bond rating drop that Collegiate Academy of Colorado recently experienced.   
  • If the only reason the Board did not approve the tentative agreement with JCEA was the issue over an increase for teachers rated “partially effective”, why did you vote in favor of requiring discovery for all issues, greatly increasing the cost and length of the fact-finding process and thereby delaying significantly any contract agreement?
  • Why did the Board ignore almost every study on the efficacy of full-day Kindergarten for at-risk children and remove $600,000 for free, full-day Kindergarten for schools with 35%+ Free or Reduced Lunch-qualified students?  If English language competency is a priority for the Board, and early exposure to English in a classroom is the most effective way for young children to become fluent in English, why is the Board talking about rescinding the existing free, full-day kindergarten which would disproportionately impact young ESL children?  Will not this actually increase later ESL costs and lower the very test scores the Board says it wants raised?
  • Why did the Board send an extra $5.6 million to the charter schools without any feedback from the charter schools on how it will be spent?  How can this be reconciled with the Board’s stance on the free, Full-Day kindergarten de-funding?  Does not equity require a taking into account where children are starting from and who needs the most help?  And since that additional funding will result in the $10 million in cuts that Mr. McMinimee is talking about needing to make, should not the charter schools also be required to take cuts along with the rest of the District?

I am sure that you realize that for democracy to work, the public needs to be fully and honestly informed of the intent, reasons, and actions of its elected public officials.  Complete and total transparency as well is required by the public agency, as well as treating its constituents with respect.  I urge you to begin doing so, beginning with your prompt and fully forthcoming response to this letter.

Respectfully,

<your name & address>

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Now get that letter or email sent today so we all can…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!