Didn’t They Learn Last Year? Koch Brothers, Leave Jeffco Alone!

The Koch Brothers, supposed champions of “local control,” are once again trying to influence Jeffco elections–in this case, the mill and bond.

For what reason? If the graphic here looks familiar, it’s because it is. We used it last year as the Koch Brothers poured money in from the outside in a wildly unsuccessful attempt to save the inept and controversy-ridden school board posts of Witt, Williams, and Newkirk. Well, the Koch’s network has so much money in it, they don’t know where to spend it, so they’re back and taking aim at Jeffco…again!

Koch

No one will forget the fact that the Koch Brothers and their political machine, AFP, directed hundreds of thousands in expenditures in Jeffco to prop up a school board majority that they probably never even met. The results had to be one of their worst investments ever: a 2-to-1 humiliation with voters rejecting their ideological intervention.

We thought that they’d think twice about meddling in a place as fiercely independent as Jeffco again. Looks like we were wrong.

Check this out: a full-on press by the Kochs to do what? Prevent the funding of our schools on a local level, even though the state and TABOR prevent adequate state funding of schools.

The Kochs and their allies profess to prioritize “local control” but then they’re working against communities funding their schools when the state can’t. What’s really going on?

With respect to the superficial allegations made by the Kochs, here are a few observations from a local e-newsletter we received this morning:

“First, PERA – that’s mandated at the state level, not the local level. Concerns about PERA need to be addressed at the Capital – not taken out on local school districts.

“What is the basis for allegations that funding isn’t going to the classroom?

“I’ve heard the statement made that ‘Jeffco is too top heavy – money is wasted on district-level staff.'”

The latest data from the Colorado Department of Education shows that for the 2015-16 school year, Jeffco had 4787 teachers and 412 administrators. Of the 412 administrators 307 were principals or assistant principals in Jeffco’s 153 schools. That leaves just 105 administrators at the Ed Center.

In comparison, DPS, which is very close in size to Jeffco, has 813 administrators.

“The district is very transparent with where the bond funds will go and where the mill levy funds will go. Please do your own research to understand how 3A & 3B deserve your YES vote! Jeffco graduate, grandparent, community leader and education advocate, Marta Murray, reminds us that the Sunshine Review recognized Jeffco for financial transparency.

“Now – more than ever before – we need your help! Yes, we need you to vote YES on 3A and 3B. But we also need you on social media, on the phone and walking door-to-door to share information on the benefits of a YES vote – and the ramifications of a NO vote!

“The Board of Education would have to direct staff how to decrease the budget. Some possible impacts:

  • School closures and consolidations
  • Split schedules
  • Year round schools
  • Changing boundaries and transportation radius
  • Limited ability to meet basic deferred maintenance
  • Continuing to lose great staff
  • Larger class sizes
  • Higher fees for parents
  • Lack of resources for student learning
  • Cutting programs and opportunities for students”

Here are the ways to help:

Here’s how you can help:

  1. DONATE!
  2. WALK!
  3. TALK!

Walking & Talking

With the AFP announcement of their impending social media strike against school districts across the state, it’s imperative that we have everyone on deck in this final stretch! Please sign up to walk – not only in your neighborhood, but in others across the district. Please also sign up to phone bank!

Can’t Walk on Saturdays? Days or times for Phone Banking Don’t Work for Your Schedule?! Write Nate or Chris – they can provide turf to walk and people to call on your schedule!

Boots on the Boulevard #Yeson3A3B Style!

Dust off your boots and get back out on the boulevard! Please join us this coming Friday from 3:30-6p for Boots on the Boulevard 4.0!! Make your own signs supporting 3A and 3B or bring your yard sign!

This action is IN ADDITION to walking, knocking, and talking to voters which is the most effective way to get our community to vote #Yeson3A3B

Below are the intersections for this action. Go to the one that is most convenient for you. See you on the Blvd. this FRIDAY.

Chatfield & Wads
Bowles & Wads
Yale & Wads
Alameda & Wads
Colfax & Wads
38th & Wads
52th & Wads
72nd & Wads
88th & Wads
Church ranch/100th & Wad

#WeAreJeffco

THANK YOU!!

 

“One can only do so much”!

3A – Funding to Address Student Achievement, Whole Child

Less than one year ago, the Jeffco community came together to make a critical change to our school board. By a 2-1 margin, Jeffco voters made it clear that they wanted school board members who have Jeffco students’ best interests at heart.

We at JeffCo School Board Watch support the five new school board members’ decision to put a mill levy override and bond on this November’s ballot. We are pleased to see that funds from the mill, 3A, will be distributed equitably to benefit all of Jeffco’s 155 schools – including every neighborhood school, option school, and charter school.

Charter schools, which educate 10 percent of Jeffco’s students, will receive 10 percent of the mill. And that same equitable distribution will be true for all neighborhood and option schools in Jeffco.

Under the current school budget system, known as Student Based Budgeting (SBB), Jeffco’s schools have a small amount of discretionary money that allows them to choose the services, programming, and support that will most benefit their unique student population. The mill levy override will provide much-needed funds so that schools can fully afford choices that support student achievement while also nurturing the whole child.

Exciting options include more hands-on learning opportunities, enhanced and expanded art, music, career and technical education, as well as additional investment in and expansion of STEM – science, technology, math and engineering – programming.

Schools that only have a half-time librarian might use some of the discretionary money from 3A to pay for a full-time librarian, while other schools may choose to invest the dollars into a full-time counselor, math or reading interventionist, or additional hands-on opportunities for their students.

Jeffco’s 2020 Vision talks about what a successful graduate in the year 2020 will be able to do, and places a priority on providing all Jeffco students – from the youngest to those heading off to college or a career – the necessary educational experiences to achieve this vision.

Students need 21st century skills so they’re prepared for the jobs of the future. They need greater access to STEM, technology and hands-on experiences.

They need to hone their abilities when it comes to teamwork, critical thinking, strong math and science knowledge, and a strong reading and writing base. The Jeffco 2020 Vision also requires multiple pathways and differentiated learning supports based on student needs.

As a community, we rely on Jeffco students to become our future leaders. Issue 3A invests in Jeffco students’ future.

Our district needs your help to ensure voters have the facts so they can support this measure. Please donate to help the Yes on 3A & 3B campaign educate more voters.

We fully expect the ousted school board members and their cohorts to invest in mailers that distort the truth. By investing in the campaign, you can help  Jeffco voters understand the important of investing in Jeffco students.

The Yes on 3A and 3B campaign could also use your help walking door to door, or calling voters, or writing a letter to the editor.

Pick up and display a yard sign, and print out this sign for your car window.

After you vote, start using this graphic in your social media profiles to encourage others to vote, too.

img_7421Please join all of us at JeffCo School Board Watch as we work together to pass 3A and 3B November 8!

 

JeffCo Proud!

3.3.16 BOE meeting preview

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

Your Childs Education

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

Study Session: Safety Update

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

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

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

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

Consent Agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Discussion Agenda

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

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

Jeffco Proud!

Board Study Session (12/17/15) Preview: Starting to Tackle Big Issues

The Board holds a study session at the Ed Center this Thursday, December 17, beginning at 5:30 pm. If you can’t attend, please watch via live stream.

Update

Detailed Facilities Analysis. The first two hours will focus on the state of Jeffco’s facilities, with a presentation from Chief Operating Officer Steve Bell and Executive Director of Facilities Tim Reed. Over the next five years, Jeffco will have nearly $800 million in facilities needs based on building condition and/or educational adequacy. In addition, enrollment in parts of the district is expected to increase significantly.

This letter from the Capital Asset Advisory Committee to the Board notes that “at least 7,200 more students are expected to enroll in the Candelas, Leyden Rock, West Woods and Solterra neighborhoods within 10 years.” The committee noted, “if you approve plans now, 1,050 additional seats can be ready for the fall of 2017 to serve the growing wave of new families. If you do not approve moving ahead, triage [use of lease arrangements for modular classrooms] and inefficient use of scarce funds will become the norm, further exacerbating the situation.” Look for Bell and Reed to propose several ideas (slide 48 of the presentation) for accommodating this growth. While the former Board acknowledged the need to look at asking the voters for a bond package to address facilities needs, the needs are pressing and cannot wait for an election.

Our hope is that the Board will consider a combination of Certificates of Participation (COPs) to address immediate needs coupled with asking the voters for a bond to address more long-term facilities needs. Although debt-funding isn’t typically preferred, COPs provide a reasonable alternative given a situation that has been left to go on for too long.

CMAS Results: Information and Looking Ahead. Next up, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Syna Morgan and Executive Director of Instructional Data and Educational Research & Design Dr. Carol Eaton will spend about an hour discussing CMAS results. The new test has five performance levels (rather than four, as in the previous tests): exceeded, met, approached, partially met, and did not yet meet. Met and Exceeded Expectations are considered “college and career ready” performance.

There remains some confusion about the difference between the “approached” and “partially met” levels. They’ll share data from Jeffco students by grade, and break out additional results for subgroups such as English Language Learners, students on Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) and Advanced Learning Plans (ALPs), Free & Reduced Lunch (FRL) students, etc.

Overall, Jeffco performed better than the state in all subjects and in all grade levels, except in 8th grade math. The notable exception is a trend across the district of lower grade-level math performance beginning in 8th grade. Some reasoning for that may be that high performing students are not taking grade level math, but are instead taking higher level math courses and doing really well, especially in the 8th and 9th grades.

However, there is also a marked decrease in overall math performance beginning in 10th grade and continuing into 11th grade. This could be due to over-testing, and because students realize by high school that there are no rewards or consequences for test performance, coupled with their shifting focus to the ACT and SAT. They may just not be taking the tests seriously. We hope the Board will note this trend and ask District staff to look especially into this dip in 8th grade (and beyond) math performance and report back with root causes and thoughts moving forward to address this trend.

We also see that our Hispanic students, those on IEPs, those with FRL, and ELLs really struggle, and we hope the Board will look to and direct experienced staff to continue to investigate root causes and opportunities for improvement. Drs. Morgan and Eaton will also discuss results from the fall district assessments using the new MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) system, which replaced Acuity, and DIBELS, which is used in the primary grades.

Financing a New School in Arvada. Beginning at 8:30pm, the Board will revisit the $15 million underspend that the previous Board directed be used to build a school in the north end of the district. You’ll recall that district staff recommended that the school really needed to be a $25 million K-8 facility, but the previous Board chose instead to approve only enough for a too-small K-6.

Look for the new Board to consider a supplemental budget to amend some previous budgeting decisions. Both senior Staff and the conservative Financial Oversight Committee and the Capital Asset Advisory Committee recommend moving the $15 million back into the general fund, using COPs to fund the new school, and considering a one-time $5M pay increase (not to be added to base ongoing salary) for employees, and holding $10M in reserves to offset any potential state reductions for 2016/2017.

We wholeheartedly agree that operational funds should not be used to fund capital construction and that $15M should go back into the General Fund. We think putting some of the money aside into reserves is wise, and considering some kind of bonus for employees is admirable as the district needs to get employee pay back on track to be competitive with surrounding districts.

However, we are hearing across the district of the impacts to smaller schools by student-based budgeting (SBB). We would like to see the Board ask district staff first to seek input from schools as to their needs and pressure points that require immediate relief and support, address those items as much as possible, set aside a portion of the $15M to cover payments on COPs for initial years as much as possible, consider whether some of the funding should be used for the security budget increase requested earlier this fall, and then look at a bonus for staff and a contribution to reserves. The former Board did include a contribution into reserves in their budget, and district staff should be consulted to determine what additional contribution, if any, is recommended.

Community Engagement in the Budget Process. Chief Financial Officer Kathleen Askelson will share community engagement plans for the upcoming budget development process. Due to low turnout in previous years, Ms. Askelson is not recommending community budget forums this round, but is recommending a survey that each school accountability committee (SAC) will be asked to complete and a district-wide survey marketed to all stakeholders. Both surveys would be hosted by an independent third party.

Because this board was elected on a platform of increasing community engagement, we hope that the board will reject the proposal to discontinue budget forums. The budget forums are a great opportunity for the community to engage. Those of us at JCSBW have participated in these budget forums and always see parents and community members at the forums that don’t attend board meetings, so these forums definitely reach the district’s constituents.

A better approach might be to ask that a question or questions pertaining to the usefulness and/or desire for budget forums be incorporated into the community survey so the Board has a clear understanding of the direction to go with regard to future budget forums. Perhaps TeleTown Halls could be implemented as a new way to reach district citizens.

Bradford K-8 Concerns. One thing we didn’t see was an agenda item to address concerns that have arisen over the decision to make Bradford a K-8 school, which the Board voted to approve at last week’s Board meeting. (We will write a separate post about that issue sometime in the next week or two.) We hope the Board will address the community’s concerns, and will commit to engaging the entire Chatfield articulation area when fleshing out the plan for the articulation area as a whole.

Judicious Use of Executive Sessions: When and Why? Lastly, we thought we’d weigh in on the concern expressed by some over the Board members meeting in Executive Session at the end of last week’s Board meeting after receiving a general overview of the Open Records and Open Meetings laws. We agree with many on all sides of the recent school board issues that executive sessions should be rare and judiciously used, and the reasoning behind executive session was explained. The overview was conducted in the public meeting (as we thought might be the case when we last posted), and specific questions for the attorneys was reserved for executive session. Keep in mind that some of the questions board members may have asked are, in fact, confidential. One of the examples of this would include questions about the Claire Davis law, which holds school districts responsible for acts of violence if a court determines that every security issue had not been taken. The answer to those questions would involve confidential information about Jeffco Schools security procedures, and can only be answered in executive session so as not to compromise our students.

We will continue watching any use of executive session over the long haul. And we’ll remind everyone that it is unusual for all five board members to be new to the board. Board members explained that they had personal and privileged matters to discuss with the attorneys that could not be shared with the public. For example, Brad Rupert is an attorney with clients, and had some questions about conflicts of interest.

Could board members have met individually with the lawyers outside of the board meeting? Yes, but meeting together was a more cost-effective and efficient use of everyone’s time and the district’s funds, and meeting individually would still be behind closed doors anyhow. We stand by the Board’s decision to discuss these matters in private with legal counsel. We don’t expect this Board to misuse their ability to meet in executive session, and view this concern to be unnecessarily blown out of proportion.

Again, this meeting is a study session, with no votes planned, and should wrap up by 10pm on Thursday.

Jeffco Proud!

 

11.18.15 Ready for a New Era

motivation-is-when-your-dreams-put-on-work-clothes

As you can tell, we’ve been enjoying some rest the last couple of weeks (translation: we’ve been tackling all the stuff we put off until after the election, and this proves that we’re actually parents and not a funded 24/7 machine!). But we’re not going away. Yes, we’re excited about the Clean Slate. We’re thrilled that we’ll have a full set of school board members dedicated to tackling the many challenges that Jeffco Schools faces with careful consideration and community input.

But we also know that WNW supporters are incensed that voters exercised their critical thinking skills and clearly stated that partisan politics have no place in our schools. They’ve always been fired up, but their outrage took on a new level at the Nov. 5 board meeting. We’re not going to repeat their drivel here because it doesn’t deserve the light of day (and can be heard on the recording of the meeting anyhow). It’s clear that our job is not done.

What we know:

  • There are challenging decisions ahead
  • The new board members will solicit community input
  • Community input needs to be based on good information
  • WNW supporters are already working to spread their lies and rumors.

So we’ll continue to watch. For the time being, we hope to simply highlight the topics that will be addressed at upcoming board meetings and to provide a summary of the meeting afterward. We’ll try to highlight big issues and give you a more detailed picture as it comes. And we’ll let you know what else we’re seeing and hearing out there. Brad Miller, WNW’s board attorney hired under extremely questionable circumstances and the top vote-getter among a poll of our readers, has already resigned, opening the door for less partisan legal counsel and discussions.

We hesitate to say that we’ll let you know what we’re seeing from “the other side” because this is not an our side/their side fight. But — and we cannot emphasize this strongly enough — the Independence Institute, Jeffco Students First, and the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity do see this as an our side/their side fight. They don’t see middle ground nor do they value it, and they are already making it clear that they will fight anything that doesn’t align to their very strict, partisan ideology with every lie and rumor they can fabricate. Jon Caldara also made it clear they intend to start working now, “ruthlessly” and “24/7” in order to be successful in 2017 when the three seats are up for election again.

We, on the other hand, recognize that there are many perspectives on education, many needs to address and insufficient resources for doing so. We hope the board members are able to successfully navigate the decision-making process and find the middle ground — and that they’re equally successful in communicating that message to the public.

We’ll continue watching and hope you’ll continue reading.

The Clean Slate members, Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell will be sworn in this Thursday, 11/19, at 5:30 pm in the board room. They’ll decide leadership positions, and then will hear public comment if you’d like to sign up for a slot. It should be refreshing to have five board members who care about what we think. We’re looking forward to it.