11/6 – Election Analysis & BOE Meeting Tonight

Victory is won in inchesWe all wish we would have more to celebrate yesterday.

Tuesday was seemingly filled with disappointments.  After the hard work we all put in, the temptation to feel that we lost all around is strong.

Resist it!

Because we did make a difference.  We did win some victories.

We need to understand that our opponents, the people who support WNW’s reign of terror, are well prepared, well financed, and well controlled.  Such are ‘astro-turf’ groups.

On the other hand, we are still coming together, financing things out of our own pockets, and battling our way up a steep learning curve.  Such are real grass-roots.

Did we win all the fights we wanted to?  No.  But we won more than the opposition thought possible!

Our efforts to get the word out, to get people aware, to get people voting, succeeded.  And we made a difference!

Bob Beauprez, who openly supported Julie Williams and the WNW agenda, was defeated in a close election.  He lost by just under 28,000 votes.  Almost 15,000 of those came from Jefferson County.

Laura Boggs, the high-priestess of WNW’s ‘Reform’ agenda, lost to Jane Goff by almost 15,000 votes.  Close to 11,000 of that margin came from us defeating her here in JeffCo.

Tony Sanchez, who boasted of Julie Williams endorsement as far back as the primaries, lost to Andy Kerr by just over a 1,000 votes.

In fact, of the six candidates who openly supported and endorsed WNW’s anti-American effort to censor curriculum and replace it with indoctrination, three lost!

This is despite of the massive amount of money, misleading campaigning, and unethical advertising that they put into their efforts.

They had their victories, but where the issue of the JeffCo Board was raised, they lost half their battles.

Because us.

So, we do have some things to celebrate and take heart from.  Imagine what we could have done if we had had their time, money, and organization?

If you have not already, go to our page Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda and find one to sign up with!  Because Tuesday was just a small skirmish.  The real battle is yet to be fought!

And speaking of fighting…

Tonight’s Board Meeting should be VERY interesting:

Agenda Item 5.13 – New Chief Legal Counsel/ HR Relations: Why does Craig Hess have absolutely NO school district experience? How on earth is he qualified?

Agenda Item 6.01 – Alexandria School of Innovation Charter School Application: Why would the Board approve of a Charter school whose application is so flawed it did not even use the right District name throughout its application? And will be run by a for-profit company that got tossed out of the other school it created? Review Margaret Lessenger’s analysis.

Agenda Item 6.02 – Golden View Classical Charter School Application: How many exemptions are too many? And why do they fear parents so much that they made sure that parents can never take control of the Board?  Review Margaret Lessenger’s analyis on this one too.

Agenda Item 6.04 – Superintendent Goals: The revised goals were finally published.  McMinimee is to ‘Show leadership’.  No specifics of what that means.  He waves a magic ‘leadership’ wand?  How about some genuine goals on the order of the ones found here: 10/15 Post – Why Tomorrow’s BOE Meeting Will Probably Be Interesting…

Agenda Item 7.01 – Hiring a Canadian company that specializes in Canadian municipal surveys to survey JeffCo on Education Spending? Huh????

Agenda Item 7.02 – Curriculum Review Committee – Why is the Board ignoring the Denver Post, the Dallas Morning News, even the Caspar Star-Tribune and is going ahead with this censorship/indoctrination review committee?

If you can’t make it, watch on Livestream: Jeffco Boardroom

We Have Been Fighting, JeffCo!

And we have won some victories. 

Now let’s go out there and build the foundation for…

More And Bigger Victories!

 


 

 

11/3 Halloween Tricks, Monday Do List, & Thursday BoE Meeting Prep

20100830193250!The_ScreamHalloween is over and in a very late posting of the agenda, we have found numerous Halloween ‘tricks’ from WNW+M3 for District students and teachers at large with treats only for a favored few.

We review their mainly “Trick” agenda below.

But first, the Monday Do List!

Monday ‘Do’ List:

  1. VOTE!
  2. Get all of your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, strangers on the street to VOTE!
  3. If someone is not registered to vote, let them know they can (and should) register at a Voting Service Center and vote the same day!
  4. If you are not sure where to drop off your ballot, or where you nearest Early Voting or Election Day Voting location is, please check out the Google Map we created to help you find where you need to go!  Jefferson County Voting Locations
  5. Review our new “Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda” page. Pick one group and contact them, asking how you can help.
  6. After you are done with items 1-5 above, review the Meeting Prep below and make plans to attend this Board meeting.
  7. Sign up to speak at the meeting!  We will post the link to sign up as soon as it goes live at 10:00 a.m. Monday morning.  The links went live at 10:20 a.m. this morning. Here is the link to speak on an Agenda Item (see our list below for Below are some subjects worth speaking out on that cry out for Public Comment).  Here is the link to speak on non-Agenda Items.  Sign up quick!

    Agenda Items That Need Public Comment:

  • Agenda Item 5.13 – New Chief Legal Counsel/ HR Relations:  Why does Craig Hess have absolutely NO school district experience?  How on earth is he qualified?
  • Agenda Item 6.01 – Alexandria School of Innovation Charter School Application:  Why would the Board approve of a Charter school whose application is so flawed it did not even use the right District name throughout its application?  And will be run by a for-profit company that got tossed out of the other school it created?
  • Agenda Item 6.02 – Golden View Classical Charter School Application:  How many exemptions are too many?  And why do they fear parents so much that they made sure that parents can never take control of the Board?
  • Agenda Item 6.04 – Superintendent Goals:  How about some genuine goals on the order of the ones found here:  10/15 Post – Why Tomorrow’s BOE Meeting Will Probably Be Interesting…
  • Agenda Item 7.01 – Hiring a Canadian company that specializes in Canadian municipal surveys to survey JeffCo on Education Spending?  Huh????
  • Agenda Item 7.02 – Curriculum Review Committee – Why is the Board ignoring the Denver Post, the Dallas Morning News, even the Caspar Star-Tribune and is going ahead with this censorship/indoctrination review committee?

 BOE Thursday Meeting Prep:
When: Thursday November 6, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: 5th Floor Board Room, Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden
(If you cannot attend, please watch via live video stream at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom)

Key Agenda Items
Agenda Item 1.02:  Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) Discussion
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 1 hour)
PRESENTING STAFF: Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer, Dr. Carol Eaton, executive director, Instructional Data, Educational Research and Design
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to receive information regarding the results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) testing on Science and Social Studies.
BACKGROUND: The new Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests in science and social studies show that Jeffco students are exceeding the state averages in both subject areas according to results released by the Colorado Department of Education on October 27, 2014.

The CMAS tests measure student performance in a new way on the more rigorous Colorado Academic Standards and set a baseline for Colorado students.
The new tests measure performance against higher expectations for students and are given online for the first time.

Student performance falls into one of four categories in the CMAS assessment:  1) distinguished command, 2) strong command, 3) moderate command, and 4) limited command instead of the TCAP achievement categories of unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient, and advanced.

Attachments: CMAS_The New Baseline.pdf (1,997 KB)

Our Comments: Basically, this is the results of CMAS test.  The big change seems to be in the classification terminology, i.e., no more ‘partially proficient’, but instead ‘moderate command’.  Slides include comparison against state averages (where JeffCo is better in all circumstances) and against other Metro area Districts.  When measured against the rest of the Metro area, JeffCo consistently outperforms DPS, Aurora, Colorado Springs, and Adams 12 schools.  Jeffco also matches up very well with Cherry Creek, Littleton, and Boulder, sometimes a bit being higher, sometimes a bit lower.  When compared to DougCo, JeffCo ranked higher (adding Distinguished and Strong Commands together) on 8th grade science and 7th grade social studies, tying DougCo on 4th grade social studies, and being lower than DougCo only on 5th grade science by only two percentage points.

From these results, if JeffCo should emulate anyone, it’s Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Littleton, not DougCo.

All that being said, we fully expect the spin from WNW+M3 to make it sound as if JeffCo is just below the lowest performing District in rural Alabama.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 5.13: Administrative Appointments
Adm. Employment – 11-14.pdf (13 KB)
Add’l Background – Administrative Appointments.pdf (17 KB)

Our Comments: Here is where WNW+M3 try to slide in their first little surprise.  This item is in the Consent Agenda, where non-controversial items are grouped for rapid approval. Buried in the attachment Adm. Employment – 11-14.pdf (13 KB) you find for Administrative Appointment 6.C Chief Legal Counsel, Employee Relations one Craig Hess, effective last week.

For those who were are the January 16th Board Meeting, you probably remember how Witt, Newkirk, and Williams made a huge stink about how Dr. Stevenson put the hiring of a new Chief Legal Counsel on the Consent Agenda, and then proceeded to excoriate Dr. Stevenson for that temerity.
Some how, we do not think they will treat Mr. McMinimee doing the exact same thing the same way!
By the way, a quick Google search of Mr. Hess yielded his LinkedIn Page here.  No Facebook page currently found.  The one thing we noticed was that he has No Education!

Given WNW’s current hiring pattern, it is apparent that actual experience in the job is not a requirement for being hired.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 6.01:  Alexandria School of Innovation Charter School Application
Type: Action (estimated duration: 30 minutes)
Attachments: Charter Application Review Committee for ASI – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (228 KB), Department Reviews of Rubric for Alexandria rev.pdf (568 KB)

Our Comments: We stand by our original comments:  Approval of this charter application is a disaster waiting to happen.
There are so many things wrong with this application, it is not even funny.  We will try to hit some of the most outrageous, but will assuredly miss some:

  • The proposal was originally written for DougCo, then hastily converted to JeffCo.  This is evident by the repeated references to “DougCo” instead of “JeffCo” in the original application.  It was obvious they had not really reviewed the document prior to initial submission.
  • Their plan assumes they will have 450 students to start!  But only 150 have sent letters of intent, and it is unsure how many of them were for when the school was proposed for DougCo, not JeffCo.
  • Their marketing efforts have been primarily in DougCo and Littleton, not JeffCo!
  • They have no identified location for the school.
  • Their budget counts on ‘soft money’, contrary to state guidelines.
  • While the school is non-profit, the Brannbergs own the for-profit management company that would be ‘hired’ to run the school.
  • Judy Brannberg would run the school despite having NO formal teaching or school administration experience!
  • The Brannbergs have rigged the Board so that the parents CANNOT take control of the school…ever!

The stories that whirl around the Brannbergs are chilling.  Charismatic, hyper-sales people, they sell others on the ideas by promising anything and everything.  One example was at the public presentation they made to the Board.  When asked about Free, Full-day Kindergarten, Judy Brannberg immediately said they would love to offer it.  It took another, more informed member of the Alexandria team, to inform the Board that they could not answer that question, and that Judy did not understand everything that Free, Full-Day Kindergarten actually meant.  And she is supposed to run the school?

With all that, we expect the application to be approved, 3-2.  After all, WNW has shown time and again that they believe that training, experience, and proven competency are not essentials when it comes to educating children.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 6.02:  Golden View Classical Academy Charter School Application
Type: Action (estimated duration: 30 minutes)
Attachments: Charter Application Review Committee for GVCA – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (215 KB)
Department Reviews of Rubric for Golden View rev.pdf (588 KB)

Our Comments: While we have definite problems with approving this school, competence in putting together the application is not one of them.  Compared to Alexandria, this is an extremely well edited document.   We do have significant problems with the political/philosophical orientation of this school.

Our first issue is that the structure of the school is such that it will become an extension of Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative.  Why?
Because:

  • The teachers are to receive initial and continued training at Hillsdale College.
  • The curriculum is prepared by Hillsdale College, and
  • All new members of the Board of Directors are to be selected by the existing Board members, not by the parents.

This means that the school will effectively be under the control of Hillsdale College, not the parents of the students who attend.  Hillsdale College

Our second issue can be found in section “O” of their application, Waivers they are requesting.

on page 14 of the Department  Reviews document.

Some waivers are to be expected.  But they should be around district policies on teachers, pay, Administrative training, etc.  Golden View has those…and then a lot more!
They want to be exempt from restrictions on what material may or may not be in a school library.

  • They want to be exempt from District Policy and State Law that prohibits teachers from selling things to their students without expressed permission of from the JeffCo School Board.
  • They want to be exempt from providing Kindergarten.
  • They want to be exempt from when, how, and what is taught about Human Sexuality.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on unlawful discrimination.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Environmental and Safety programs.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Data Security.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Violence in the Work Place.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Personal Records and Files.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Health Education.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Teaching about Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Teaching about Controversial/Sensitive Issue.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Prevention of Bullying.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Students Rights and Responsibilities.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Student Organizations.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Public Gifts/Donations.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Public/Parent Concerns and Complaints.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Public Concerns/Complaints about Instructional Resources.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Relations with Parent Organizations.

In short, they want all the money from the state, the District, the community, and the parents in the form of tax dollars, but want to be exempt from anything and everything that would hold them accountable to that same state, the District, the community, the parents, and most of all, the students.

In short, the very thing our students objected to, that even the Denver post found going too far, will be handed on a platter to Hillsdale’s Golden View campus.

Agenda Item 6.03:  Student Achievement – Third Grade Reading
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 1 hour)
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. With the Board of Education’s continued focus on student achievement, time was requested to discuss third grade reading performance toward meeting the Board of Education goal in Ends 1 Student Achievement to increase students’ third grade reading in TCAP from 80% to 85% by August 2015.
  2. Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer, and Dr. Carol Eaton, executive director of Instructional Data in Educational Research and Design, will provide information on successful practices that have resulted in high reading achievement.  School leaders will join Dr. Morgan and Dr. Eaton for the Board of Education discussion.

Our Comments: It will be interesting to see how the Board handles the most likely answers:  Improve early reading abilities by focusing on Kindergarten and getting children ready for school.  Also, highly experienced teachers, well supported by instructional coaches.  Things they have already taken a stance on as opposing.  Or will Dr. Morgan (the third “M”) cobble together something that sounds good but actually has no track-record and is meaningless?

Agenda Item 6.04:  Superintendent Goals

Our Comments: Currently no attachments, although they are promised later today.  What we expect is a slightly cleaned up version of the travesty of goals McMinimee presented three weeks ago, i.e., a promise to ‘show leadership’ with no actual hard goals, times, or measures.  Be prepared for more bad acting from Newkirk.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 7.01: 2015/16 Budget Development Community Engagement Tool
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 20 min.)
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the August 23, 2014, Board of Education meeting, staff presented recommendations for the 2015/16 budget development process. 
  2. A component of that process is gathering community input on budgetary priorities. Staff engaged the services of Citizen Budget, an independent third party specializing in engagement and feedback of budgetary priorities, to develop the community engagement tool.
  3. On September 4, 2014, the Board provided input and approved the budget development process and timeline.
  4. Staff provided the Board with draft questions for the tool in the October 24, 2014, Weekly Update in preparation for input and revisions at the November 6, 2014, Board of Education meeting.
  5. Because discussion was moved from the October 16, 2014, Board of Education meeting, an overview of the engagement tool was provided to the Board in the October 17, 2014, Weekly Update.
  6. The purpose of this discussion is for the Board of Education to provide final direction and approval of the questions for the community engagement tool as part of the 2015/16 budget development process.

Our Comments: When you do not get the answers you want you have three options.  The most intellectually and morally correct action is to accept the answers and adjust your perception of the world accordingly.  A less moral and ethical response is to ignore the results and do what you want anyway.

We already know that WNW could not find the integrity to do the first, and chose the second last spring.  This year, they plan on taking an even nastier and sneaker third option:  change who is asking the questions until you get the answers you want.

FYI – Citizen Budget is a Canadian company.  Their experience is in Canadian municipal budgets.  They have one U.S. customer:  Mankato, MN, a small town southwest of Minneapolis.

Why The SCREAM is an appropriate image…
Agenda Item 8.01:
 Policy Revision: GP-13 Committee Structure
Type: Action – estimated time: 10:25 p.m. (estimated duration: 2 minutes)
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. Following Board direction on October 16 and other necessary updates, Board governance process (GP) policy 13, Committee Structure, is brought forward for Board adoption of revisions.

Attachments: GP13 Revisions.pdf (164 KB)

Our Comments: Remember the “Curriculum Review Committee” proposed by Julie Williams?  Remember the protests our students made over the Board wanting to be able to exercise censorship and implement political/ideological indoctrination?  Remember how almost a hundred students, parents, and community members spoke against it?  Remember how Julie Williams said that she did not want to raise “little rebels”, and how Witt called the students “pawns”?  Remember Fox News calling them “punks”?

Well, this is the ‘policy change’ that will put everything our students, you, and our community fought against into action.  This is the creation of the mechanism that gives Julie Williams everything she wanted.

Remember this!

and Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


 

10/29 Destructive Distractions: WNW’s Reaction To JeffCo’s “Pawns”

distraction
The dark money backers of Jeffco’s Terrible Trio must be looking back on the last two months with mixed emotions.

On one hand, their WNW minions followed the DougCo-inspired game plan and wreaked further damage on JeffCo and its’ students by

  • imposing a ‘rule by decree’ teacher comp plan;
  • changed a ‘review’ of Brad Miller into a quick ‘renewal’ of his contract;
  • lavished praise on the applications of two new Charter schools, one with such a flawed application that it kept referring to JeffCo as “Douglas County”, and the other which appears to be a puppet of an extreme religiously-oriented college from Michigan;
  • getting rid of Lori Gillis, the independent CFO, making it easier to ‘massage’ the numbers.

On the other hand, over 1,000 JeffCo students from 16 different JeffCo High Schools garnered international attention and praise for protesting Julie Williams’ heavy handed motion to censor their AP U.S. History course, and in doing so, helped wake up JeffCo’s parents, students, business community, and concerned citizens.

The impact of this is still growing and spreading.

We suspect that Witt, Newkirk, Miller, McMinimee, and their hidden backers must of have been wishing they could muzzle Julie Williams. It was, after all, her surprisingly open and honest espousal of the WNW vision for JeffCo’s curriculum that woke up the students.

Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.  Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”
(from the last paragraph of Williams’s original proposal)

In short, political indoctrination of our students, an action so reprehensible, so contrary to our history, so anti-American, that even their best spin doctors could not hide its horrific intent.

After the students walked out, WNW pushed through a fake ‘compromise’ that had no input from the rest of the Board and completely ignored the impassioned pleas from almost 100 students, parents, and JeffCo citizens. The censorship committee was effectively approved, with only the honest reasons for it being omitted.

But the damage had been done.

The students’ response…and the response of our country and the world to the actions of our students, helped us all to remember two key lessons of American History.

First, there is always someone who feels it is their divine right to force their beliefs on the rest us.

Second, that it is only by uniting and fighting them together, that can they be defeated.

WNW finally was confronted with an issue that they had not planned on, nor had a scripted response to.

Fundamentally, WNW showed that they are not flexible, nor in-tune with the public. Their very responses, calling our students “pawns“, saying they did not want to raise “little rebels“, and trying to paint the issue as a just ‘labor dispute’ showed how little imagination or true concern they have for the District and its students.

Even their media supporters at FOX News showed their tone-deafness when they called our students “punks”.

Now our students wear with pride shirts and buttons proclaiming them to be ‘rebels’ and ‘knights not pawns’ and that Fox called them ‘Punks’. So do many JeffCo parents and residents.

Since then, WNW has done everything it can to divert attention away from their Censorship Committee and their hatred of AP courses.

Along the way, they have continued to blunder about. Three state senatorial campaigns photoshopped a picture of the students protesting and then improperly used the JeffCo School logo in a campaign mailer. First Witt, and then Williams were caught not complying with CORA requests. Letters to the Board continue to go unanswered weeks after they were sent.  They failed to assuage the League of Women Voters who issued a letter saying that the JeffCo Board has a ‘governance problem‘.

WNW and their backers have also continued to try and paint the students as ‘pawns’ of evil teachers, dropped hints at refusing to negotiate a contract with JCEA, and just this last week, have let hints come out that they want to change the mountain school area of JeffCo (Conifer, Evergreen, etc.) to a four-day school week.

In short, they are all but begging us to trumpet these things from the tree-tops.

Why?  Because they will do anything to take the public’s attention away from their censorship and indoctrination agenda.

Do not get us wrong! All of those things are terrible, and they just add to the list of awful, wasteful, and destructive actions they have committed in just 11 months. But the public reaction to those atrocities is something for which they have a set of pre-planned responses. Their maskirovkas for those outrages are well honed and ready.

But it is the reaction to the open proposal of Julie Williams to censor course material and indoctrinate blind obedience into our students for which they have no pre-planned response.

For Julie Williams has revealed to everyone what they truly are and what they truly believe.

And they are desperate to hide that.

So, for the next 30 days or so, we expect them to actually accelerate their outrageous actions. We expect a rubber stamp for at least one (if not both) of the badly flawed Charter School applications. We expect them to launch even more tight restrictions and punitive actions on the teachers and students who oppose them. We expect them to try and spin JeffCo’s success with students into sounding as if we have the worst district in the state, instead of the best. We expect them to blast the teachers with manipulated statistics, innuendo, and misleading statements. We expect them to try to sound as if they are reasonable when they commit the most unreasonable acts.

We also expect them to try and quietly load the new Censorship Committee with their partisans who will go off to find ‘horrible’ things being taught to our students. We expect them to begin the process of belittling and demonizing the AP courses and then begin talking up alternatives involving Colorado Christian University. We also expect them to try and hide these actions from the public behind their other outrages.

What can we do?

The first and most important action is to vote in this election. The second most important is to get everyone you know to vote as well.

If you are not sure who to vote for, you can check Support Jeffco Kids list of endorsements.

Even WNW is not immune to public pressure (although they are very resistant to it). There are several candidates for several different offices who openly support and praise WNW.

What if they all lost?

That would be a body blow to WNW. No longer could they pretend they had a mandate. No longer could they look for political cover when they take horrific actions. Those among them with political ambitions (Witt & Newkirk) might actually think twice about their chances on their present course.

Then, after the election, we need to continue to put pressure on them and other elected officials. We also need to keep the news media focused on the JeffCo School Board. And the best way to do that is to show up at every Board meeting, in force.

We then need everyone to step forward and begin building the organizations that will eventually wrest control of our District away from the WNW extremists.

Below is a list of organizations already working to do just that.

Organizations that can help you make even a bigger difference!

  • Support Jeffco Kids.  “SJK” is a 501(c)4 organization, and so can accept donations and engage in political activities.  It has worked hard at organizing opposition to WNW policies in the community, and they seem to be one of the key groups.  You can join their mailing list here, and donate here.

  • Jeffco Exodus – What they are (from their ‘About us’ page):
    Gathering facts, Sharing stories
    Jeffco Exodus is a community network focused on two primary activities:

    • Gathering and sharing factual information to raise awareness

    • Sharing teacher, staff and family stories of exodus from Jeffco

    We’re hoping to have two or more volunteers in every Jeffco school – neighborhood, option and charter – to establish a communications network through which we can  share factual information. Jeffco has a problem – the new School Board Majority. But not enough people in Jeffco understand the issues. We want to raise community awareness.”

    Jeffco Exodus is run entirely by Jeffco parents and is in no way affiliated with any professional associations or other formal organizations.​

    Who they are looking for (volunteers):

    Parents with children in JeffCo schools.  “We hope to have at least two people at every Jeffco school who can quickly disseminate factual information we will share.”

    Ways to contact them:

    email: JEFFCOEXODUS@GMAIL.COM
    Website: www.jeffcoexodus.com
    FB: https://www.facebook.com/jeffcoexodusContact Page: http://www.jeffcoexodus.com/contact-us.html

  • Citizens For Responsible Education is focused on reaching out to those in JeffCo who do not have a direct connection to the school district.  Their mission is to help those citizens realize that the fate of JeffCo’s schools, students, and teachers directly impacts their business, their jobs, their home values, and them.
  • Your local PTA.  Even if you do not have a child in school, your local PTA can use your help and input. Michelle Patterson, the President of JeffCo PTA, gave a blistering speech to WNW at the meeting.  What ever happens, the JeffCo PTA will be in the thick of things.  Either contact your local school or the County PTA here: JeffCo PTA Volunteers.
  • Jeffco Students For Change  is a group of students representing most or all of Jefferson County’s high schools that have gotten together to add their voice to the public outcry against the WNW deconstruction of their schools.  If nothing else, go and ‘Like’ their page.  These are students we all should be very proud of!

Join. Volunteer. Donate.

If you find yourself hesitating, if you find yourself unsure, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. If not here, then where?
  2. If not now, then when?
  3. If not me, then who?

Come. Together we WILL make a difference!

Because we will…

Fight Together, Jeffco!

 


 

Part 2 Public Education Nation – (Astro Turf) Charter Schools and Authentic Reform

charterland_0
Last weekend, the
Network for Public Education (NPE) held a Public Education Nation conference at the Brooklyn New School in Brooklyn, NY. JeffCo School Board Watch sent two of its members to the forum.  Yesterday they reported on High Stakes Testing and ‘Failing’ Schools.  Today, they continue their report, now covering ‘astro turf’ charter schools and authentic reform.

Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g. political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations more credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection.” – Wikipedia

The afternoon sessions of this event focused on charter schools and the privatization of schools across the country. Key speakers were: Karran Harper Royal, a parent in New Orleans, where 93% of the public schools have been shut down and replaced with charter schools. Wendy Lecker, a Connecticut writer, lawyer, and activist who has exposed for profit charter management companies and their practices. Gary Rubinstein, a New York teacher and blogger.

These speakers presented the pitfalls and perils of charter chains, charter management companies and yes, ‘for-profit’ charters. Karran Harper Royal spoke about the loss of community throughout the district. Since the lottery applies to almost all of the schools the students no longer attend neighborhood schools and are bussed throughout the city.

The Recovery School District of New Orleans (RSD) has touted the success of these schools, however, there has been minimal increase in test scores; and most schools are still rated as D or F schools. In fact NONE of these schools are rated A or B. NONE.

And many of the improvements touted are actually a function of changing the formula used to calculate the grades. A great explanation of those changes can be found here.

The district now has over 40 school boards, covering 107 schools. Many of these boards do not allow for parent representation. The is one of hallmarks of an ‘astroturf charter’ as opposed to a genuine grassroots charter.

Of course, some increases are expected. It’s easy when you suspend over 69% of your students, as George Washington Carver Collegiate did in 2012-13. The large number of suspensions in these schools often lead to attrition and eventually higher dropout rates.

The atrocities in RSD mount even higher when you consider the lack of stability in the students’ lives.

Since charters are exempt from hiring licensed teachers, RSD signed contracts with Teach for America.  It then began laying off licensed teachers en masse and replaced them with college graduates with minimal teacher training. TFA ‘teachers’ are brought in from outside New Orleans, creating a situation where the teachers lack the diversity and culture of the student body.

Since teaching is not their chosen profession many TFA teachers only last for a couple of years.

Even worse than the teacher churn, is the school churn.

Yes, even schools last only a few years.  Unable to fulfill the goal of improving education using low-paid TFA ‘teachers’ with only five weeks of training, they shut their doors only to be replaced by a different charter company.

Again, a sign of Astro Turf charters– they make money for a few years then they move on.

Wendy Lecker presented even more appalling facts about charter management companies taking over the northeast. Half of the charter schools in the U.S. are now part of charter chains.

In Connecticut in 2008, the Jumoke charter management company was allowed to run an elementary school, collecting $345,000/year fee. Jumoke was run by Michael Sharpe.

After 2 years the scores dropped, yet more schools were turned over to Jumoke. In fact, he was given $53 million dollars over the following years.

Accusations of nepotism flew. This summer it was revealed not only had Sharpe falsified his academic credentials, he was a convicted felon. What had he been convicted of?  Embezzlement of public funds.

Other charter management companies have ‘partnered’ with construction firms that are then awarded the contract for building a school. In fact, the Harmony School chain has been investigated for awarding contracts to cohorts regardless of the lowest bid.

And the list goes on.

In light of this what does real reform look like?

Robin Hiller, Brian Jones, Phyllis Tashlik and Greg Anrig pointed to Cincinnati.

Several years ago Cincinnati overhauled their district. Rather than using the nuclear option of closing a school and turning it over to private entities, Cincinnati instead invested in the struggling schools.

They invested in teacher and leadership training. They focused on the struggling elementary schools. They used stimulus money to extend the school year (a 5th quarter) that allowed them to add enrichment, music and arts programs.

Finally they collaborated (WNW look it up, we are not sure you know the word exists) with the community. They approached community service providers, looking at the elements of a child’s life the school couldn’t control.

The Cincinnati community came together and created an umbrella organization, the STRIVE Partnership.  More than 300 local organizations agreed to participate. Participants included the YMCA, and the United Way. They also ranged from private businesses to mental health providers. Their mantra is “Every Child, Every Step of the Way, Cradle to Career”. The goal was a collective impact to support, nurture, encourage, and guide every child from before school age to stepping into their career.

Along the way, they created StriveTogether.org to help take what they have learned and developed and pass it on to other communities.

And it is working. Significant gains have been made in everything from Kindergarten readiness to college enrollment. A full report of results and partners can be found on the STRIVE website.

The true reformers had a few key points.  Reform should be teacher developed, student focused with external assessors.  There should be top down support for the bottom end.  True reform encourages teacher collaboration, not teacher competition.  It should be within the public system, because public education is a public responsibility.

The STRIVE model does not rely on the dubious magic of ‘choice’.  Instead, it applies diligently and comprehensively practical, down-to-earth things we know works.  Click here for the StriveTogether Theory of Action_0

The ‘Choice’ model of WNW says if you got a house that needs some roof work, tear it down, then hire inexperienced builders who employ novice carpenters and electricians to build a new one.  Then if you have problems with that one, do it again…and again…and again…and so on.  Eventually, they say, you will have a good house…or school.

The STRIVE model says, check over your whole house.  Identify what needs repair, and what keeps damaging the house.  Bring in experienced, well-trained craftsman, and give them the tools and support they need. Help them repair the damage and then take steps to prevent it from happening again.  At the same time, start keeping the rest of the house in good repair.

Whose house do you want to trust in a storm?

  • Imagine a school district not focused on failing, but improving.
  • Imagine that rather than a board that denigrates teachers, a board that focuses on training, trusting, and empowering teachers.
  • Imagine a district that rather than seeing students as ‘pawns’ or ‘punks.’ instead sees them as human beings that they invest in from cradle to career.
  • Imagine taking the lessons from STRIVE and applying them to Jeffco.
  • Imagine taking a great school district like Jeffco and making it into the nation’s model for a superior school district.

We have a choice to make, JeffCo.  No matter what, we cannot go back to the way things used to be.  We can only move forward.

We have two paths in front of us.  WNW’s ‘magical’ ‘let the free-market decide’ path where there are always losers.  Or the example set by STRIVE, where we come together, honestly look at ourselves, identify what needs to be done, and then set about doing it.  Together.

We know which one we choose.  That’s why we are in this fight.

Come fight with us, JeffCo!  

For our children and our future!

 

Resources and References

For further information on the Recovery School Districts real numbers check out this.

And then look at the STRIVE model.


 

10/18 – Public Education Nation, Part 1 of 2: High Stakes Testing & ‘Failing’ Schools

pub-ed-nat-3Last weekend, the Network for Public Education (NPE) held a Public Education Nation conference at the Brooklyn New School in Brooklyn, NY. JeffCo School Board Watch sent two of its members to the forum.  Today and tomorrow, they will report on what they found, heard, and learned there.

The NPE is focused on stopping the dismantling of public schools, and their growing privatization.

For many of us this may sound impossible – the privatization of schools?

Public schools are a cornerstone of our democracy. Although public schools did not spread across the U.S. until the mid-1800s , our founding fathers recognized the importance of education. Thomas Jefferson believed education should be provided by the government, free from religion, and free of charge. George Washington was also a supporter of public schools. John Adams wrote, “Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a human and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

Our public schools have long represented our country’s freedom.  It’s promise.  It’s future.

Our desire to educate every child, no matter what race, religion, gender or economic status is a testament to our deep seated belief that All Men (and Women) Are Created Equal. This conference delved into how that system has come under attack.

A key discussion at the conference was the Opt Out Movement and mass stakes testing. JeffCo School Board Watch maintains a neutral stance on Common Core, but this discussion brought up some interesting questions for parents and educators to ask.

There is no doubt that schools need standards. And that metrics are needed to track those standards. But at what cost? And to what purpose?

The current standardized tests tell us what students are meeting standards. However, the NPE panel pointed out that the teachers are never given data on WHAT questions a student missed.

The tests are also used to decide what schools are ‘failing’. But rather than work to repair these schools, that failing grade is often used to simply close the school and disperse the students. And in doing so deprive them of their community and their community of it’s voice.

And finally, in some cases, the tests are used to measure our teachers. Regardless of factors that can affect the student’s test scores even more than the teacher:  If the child taking the test is gifted.  If English is their second language.  Or if the child is simply living in such a state of poverty that when they took the test they hadn’t eaten since the previous day’s lunch or they had slept in car with their family that night.  Yet, there are proponents for whom this is the only valid measure of a teacher.

Here is an analogy: Imagine you are an engineer for a car company. You build the car, manufacture copies of it and THEN send it to testing (remember most standardized tests are administered in the spring with results coming to the families weeks or months later).

The testing company tells you the car failed the safety test, but they do not inform you what failed. Did the brakes fail? Did the air bags not deploy? How can you fix the car if you don’t know the mode of failure? Maybe the problem is a simple one, that with extra training or extra resources, could not only be fixed, but amazing cars could be produced.

However, rather than dedicating the resources to fixing the problem, the CEO simply throw up his hands and closes the plant.

Our kids are not objects! They are human beings. They deserve better than a school district giving up on them, closing their schools, breaking up their communities and dispersing them.  And our commitment to them needs to be deeper than the a ‘return on investment’ calculation.

At the conference education and parent leaders pointed out that this is what has been happening to our inner city schools for years.

Labeled as failing, districts led by ‘reformers‘ are throwing in the towel, closing schools. Worse, there are ‘reformers‘ that deliberately look for ways to force schools into failing. They then replace them with private charters. Charters that do not comprise children from the community, but of a mix of students from all over the city, breaking up the neighborhoods, and fracturing their communities.

Many of these charter chain schools (not actual neighborhood-developed charters) are run by companies who intend to make a profit from running the schools.

And the boards that run them are not made up of parents nor are they community members.

These students and parents have lost their voice in their schools and in their communities. This sentiment was echoed throughout the forum. As the stakes of testing getting higher, they feel their only option is to stand up by opting out. (Again, the JeffCo School Board Watch is not taking a stance on this.  We are simply reporting the concerns of the NPE and the people who attended the forum.)

Quite frankly, we allowed these school takeovers to happen because we thought it couldn’t happen to us. Jeffco has great schools. Jeffco has a great community. And we elect our Board of Education. So it couldn’t happen to us.

But it did.

Now WNW is falsely labeling our schools as failing.

We have high schools with over 70% of the students graduating going to college, higher ACT scores than anyone else in the state, higher average AP test scores than the world. But Witt, Newkirk, and Williams say we are failing.

Do we have schools struggling? Absolutely.

Do we have schools that need help? YES!!!

But what is their plan for helping those schools, specifically?

When a school is at 170% capacity and the board offers no solutions, is that school being set up to fail? Are we, as a community, simply closing our eyes because that school has a Free/Reduced Lunch rate over 90%?

Now that we, as a district, are falsely labeled as failing, are we willing to wake up and see what this panel is fighting for? Not just neighborhood schools, but good public neighborhood schools (Note: We refuse to call them “district assigned.”  That is a blatant propaganda ploy by WNW, trying to turn our neighborhood schools into a cold sounding prisons.)

Presenter and New York Principal, Carol Corbett Burris, challenged the audience with Martin Luther King, Jr’s letter from jail in Birmingham.   She quoted this part of the letter, “In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.” We at the Board Watch implore our readers to follow these steps:

  1. Collect the facts.  Subscribe directly to JeffCo School Board Watch or ‘Friend’ us on our Facebook link.  Do your own research.
  2. Negotiate in good faith (which WNW seems incapable of doing). Send emails to the Board.  Ask your questions.  See what the answers are (if any).
  3. Self-purification – as Diane Ravitch pointed out, we elected this board.  We ignored other school attacks.  We bear some guilt.
  4. Finally, Direct Action – Come to a board meeting, talk to your neighbors about what is going on, put up a yard sign, give to Support Jeffco Kids or join Jeffco Exodus.

Finally, in the spirit of the edict presented by these school leaders, many who have had their schools hijacked for years, and in the words of Dr. King:

MLK speaking

 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. …. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”.

 

Tomorrow – Part 2: CHARTER SCHOOLS and AUTHENTIC REFORM

 

Resources and References
Visit their website for more information on the Network for Public Education.

Other great resources include: Diane Ravitch’s blog.

And a new one that we discovered at the forum – speaker Yohuru Williams represented the BadAssTeachers (BATs) Association.  We recommend you start with his post:

All I Really Need to Know about Corporate Education Reform (and why we should fight it) I Learned in Kindergarten