9/29 Monday Post: Do List & BOE Meeting Prep

2014 Sept Protests 1First let us say to our high school students that last week made  every American proud! Our ‘little rebels’ showed the country that at least in JeffCo we have not forgotten that protesting to stop censorship is patriotic!

So, our deepest thanks to high school students who left their classrooms last week and the Friday before.  You have shown us that our hopes for the future are in good hands.

With that said, we do offer one bit of advice – keep to your plan to protest on Saturday, and be in school on October 1st.  Any revenue hit caused by an undercount would not concern WNW in the least.  They have already shown how little they care for our District, our schools, and you, our students.  Instead, they would most likely delight in taking it out on the teachers, whom they already have accused of somehow mesmerizing all of you into making your protests.

So be in school on October 1st…and at the Board Meeting on October 2nd, followed by your demonstration on October 4th.  We welcome you to the fray!

The Monday Do List:

Email the Board (board@jeffco.k12.co.us) asking why Julie Williams’ “Curriculm Review Committee” is not on the agenda.  To bring more pressure on the Board, copy your email to three or more of the local media companies below:

Chalkbeat (Contact Form)
The Colorado Independent  (Email Address)
Colorado Pols (Email Address)
The Colorado Statesman (Email Address)
Colorado Media Publications (Contact Form): Arvada Press, Golden Transcript,  Lakewood Sentinel,  Littleton Independent, North Jeffco Westsider,  Westminster Window, Wheat Ridge Transcript
Columbine Courier (Contact Form)
The Denver Business Journal (Contact Form)
The Denver Post  (Email Address – 150 words max)
El Hispano (Spanish, Email Address)
La Prensa (Spanish, Contact Form)
Westword (Contact Form)

CBS 4 (Contact Form)
Fox31 (Email Address)
7News (Contact Form)
KRMA 6 (PBS): (Contact Form)
9NEWS (Contact Form)
CW2 News (Email Address)

And Keep Fighting Everyday!

Finally, go to the meeting on Thursday!  If you can’t make it, then make plans to watch it on line at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom

Thursday Meeting Prep:

Note:  In an effort to make the posts shorter, we edit down to key information only.  We will include a link to BoardDocs site as well as one to the agenda in a form suitable for printing.

BOE Meeting 2014-10-02 (Thursday night)
Date and Time:  Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Education Center, 5th Floor Board Room, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items

Agenda Item 2.05 Approve Agenda

Type: Action

Recommended Action: to approve the agenda for the regular business meeting of the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education for October 2, 2014 as presented.

Our Comments: An amazing thing!  The Curriculum Review Committee proposal that caused JeffCo students to make international headlines…is not on the agenda!

As Lesley Dahlkemper noted on her Facebook page last Thursday, the normal practice is to discuss at one meeting and then vote at the other.  WNM+Williams has certainly done this for everything else!  But for some strange reason, they are not doing it now.  You don’t think that the ongoing national and international attention it brought could have something to do with it, do you?

Believe it or not, we want this item on the agenda!  We want Witt, Newkirk, and Williams to do their dirty deed in the bright lights of public awareness.  We want a full and complete review followed by an up or down vote.

But they do not seem to want to do that.  Instead, they seem to want to cheat the public of an actual decision in public.   Among other things, by having no agenda item for this topic, they can push any public comment to the very end of the meeting, when the press has gone, and maybe the high school students (who will undoubtedly be there) may have tired and gone home.

…Or maybe not.

The Public Agenda Part One call for public comment on “Agenda Related” items.  We suggest that an appropriate topic for comment is the lack of having the Curriculum Review Committee proposal on the agenda.   This is a completely appropriate topic for public comment:  Why is the Board not addressing the issue that brought such fame to tens of hundreds our high school students and such ignominy to the School Board?  For those of you who want to address the Board on the Curriculum Review Committee, we strongly urge you to sign up for the Public Agenda Part One public comment, listing Agenda item 2.05 as your topic, and your question being “Why is the Curriculum Review Committee proposal not on the agenda tonight, especially after local, national, and international attention has been brought to it?”

Agenda Item 3.02 Lori Gillis, Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Type: Recognition

The Board of Education is pleased to recognize Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer, for her years of service as she leaves the district effective October 2.

Our Comments: Lori Gillis deserves our profound respect.  With her in charge of the District finances, we knew we could trust the numbers coming out of the District.  With her leaving, that certaintity will be gone.  But we cannot blame her for wanting to get as far away from the amatuerish machinations of Witt and Newkirk, not to mention the toadying presence of McMinimee.

We will miss her, and wish her well.

Agenda Item 4.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related)

Type: Information

Sign up online here to speak (the signup becomes available at 10 a.m.)

Our Comments: There are three items that definitely need people to speak to.

  • Agenda Item 6.01 – Alexandria School of Innovation charter application – list all the problems found by the Charter Application Review Committee (see our Comments below)
  •  Agenda Item 2.05 – Why is the Curriculum Review Committee proposal not on the agenda!  (See our Comments above)
  • Agenda Item 6.02 – Golden View Classical Academy – list all the problems found with this application (see our Comments below)

Agenda Item 6.01 Public Hearing:  Alexandria School of Innovation

Type: Discussion, Information

Pertinent Facts:

  • According to Board executive limitation policy EL-13, Charter Schools Application and Monitoring, the superintendent shall not allow charter school applications to be recommended if fiscal jeopardy or failure to make consistent progress towards their stated objectives is a likely outcome or is evident.       
  • On August 15, 2014, Alexandria School of Innovation submitted an application for approval by the Board of Education to become a district charter school.       
  • The Board of Education accepted the proposal for study on September 4, 2014.       
  • A public hearing is being held in order for the Board of Education to “obtain information to assist the local board of education in its decision to grant a charter school application.”       
  • Representatives from Alexandria School of Innovation will be present to answer questions from the Board of Education.

File Attachments: Alexandria School of Innovation, Department Reviews of Rubric for Alexandria.pdf (502 KB), Charter Application Review Committee for ASI – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (228 KB), ASI Jeffco BOE PP.pdf (7,278 KB)

Our Comments: This proposed charter school is a disaster waiting to happen.

The Alexandria proposal is less prepared and has more problems than the proposed Cornerstone Academy from last spring (that one was supposed to come back when they had fixed their issues – they have never come back).  Below we highlight the concerns the Charter Application Committee has about Alexandria:

  1. The proposed management (STEMVentures) does not have a currently operating school.  The owners of STEMVentures were involved in the DougCo STEM Academy startup, but after a series of fiascos, including the principal, vice-principal and several staff members resigning just a few weeks before year after the school opened, the Brannbergs were removed from control.
  2. The DougCo application STEMVentures made last year was for a K-6 STEM school.  DougCo turned it down, stating it had deficiencies that needed fixing.  Instead of fixing those, STEMVentures instead applied to JeffCo at the last minute for a 6-12 STEM school!
  3. They want a five-year contract, but three is normal.
  4. Their enrollment projection is not fully backed up.  Need more data on the actual demand.
  5. Apparently all they did was add an engineering course to a typical High School curriculum and think that qualifies it as “STEM”.
  6. JeffCo already has STEM programs at Deer Creek, Bell Middle schools.  Chatfield and Golden High Schools are expanding STEM pathways, Project Lead the Way is at Bear Creek.  Several other schools are exploring STEM options.  Deer Creek is working with Martin-Marrietta and Golden High School is working with the Colorado School of Mines.
  7. Evidence of support goes back to 2009 data – FIVE YEARS OLD!!  No new data supporting demand.
  8. Letters of Recommendation are not from top management, but mid-level and could have been a form letter they sent out.
  9. Boilerplate pages and paragraphs were repeated verbatim throughout the application.
  10. 153 letters of intent, but target of 450 students in the first year!  No detail on the ages of the 153, so no way of knowing if they will be of 6-12 age range.  No evidence that the 153 are close to the south JeffCo location they say they want to serve.
  11. Unclear if cited parental support is from DougCo or JeffCo parents. Why are they not disclosing students names to the District?
  12. Grading system is confused.  First part of application shows them using EM&N (“exceeds standards, meets standards, needs improvement”), the middle part has them using percentage scale (i.e., 90%, 75%), then at the end they are back to EM&N!  Which is it?  Why are they so sloppy as to have this kind of mistake?
  13. Compared their proposed Colorado school with one in Fairfax, Virginia!  Very different demographics!
  14. Outdoor education!?  What?  Why?
  15. They will need very talented teachers but their proposed pay scale would be low.  Where will the qualified teachers come from?
  16. No specifics on fund-raising other than they will do it.
  17. Talk about start-up grant money, but do not mention any other start-up money to hire the staff to write the grants applications and material such applications involve….
  18. They are applying for CDE startup money in years 0,1, & 2.   The norm is years 1, 2, & 3.  Will the CDE go along and give money to them before they actually startup?  (They seem to want startup-startup money.)
  19. Student population numbers do not make sense over the projected years.  They do not seem to realize that one years 6th graders become next years 7th graders.  They plan on adding an elementary school, but have no proof they will have the room.
  20. Salary estimates have many errors – an 8% raise for everyone in year 2?
  21. No margin for error on their budget.
  22. They project 60% of their teachers will be first year teachers!  For a STEM School!
  23. The budget does not work.
  24. They have “Class A” and “Class B” Board of Directors.  STEMVentures nominates three Class A.  Eventually parents can elect two Class B. (There is no way for parents to actually control the school!)
  25. Directors can be employed and receive compensation from the school!  (Can you say, “conflict of interest?”)
  26. Job Descriptions are written so specifically as to predetermine who gets what job.
  27. Relationship between STEMVentures and Alexandria school is unclear in the application (STEMVentures is a for-profit company).
  28. They claim they will draw from across JeffCo, but will be located near DougCo.  How will they draw from anywhere north of Bowles?
  29. Want to give preference to accepting students from the “founding families” of the DougCo STEM school!?!
  30. They do not address how they will work with low income students or low achieving students.
  31. In one part of the application they state they will go with the District lunch program, then in another part they say they will not have a lunch program at all!?!
  32. No transportation plan.
  33. None of the plans show the six classrooms they would need.
  34. They have not requested a Type D waiver for Judy Brannberg, the proposed head of the school.
  35. Special Ed – they intend to hire staff from the District for their first year which is not possible.
  36. The review group did not have an opportunity to directly meet with the Brannbergs.

The conclusion of the review team was that STEMVentures should take another year to improve their plan and application.

We will add in a couple notes of our own:

The Brannbergs actually have NO education degrees or licensed training.

 The only way DougCo could get the original STEM Academy to succeed was by kicking the Brannbergs & STEMVentures out.

This is less an application for JeffCo and more a door-to-door salesperson looking for a less critical customer.

In short, their application raises a lot more questions than it answers!

Agenda Item 6.02 Public Hearing: Golden View Classical Academy

Type: Discussion, Information

Pertinent Facts:

  1. According to Board executive limitation policy EL-13, Charter Schools Application and Monitoring, the superintendent shall not allow charter school applications to be recommended if fiscal jeopardy or failure to make consistent progress towards their stated objectives is a likely outcome or is evident.
  2. On August 15, 2014, Alexandria School of Innovation submitted an application for approval by the Board of Education to become a district charter school.The Board of Education accepted the proposal for study on September 4, 2014.    A public hearing is being held in order for the Board of Education to “obtain information to assist the local board of education in its decision to grant a charter school application.”Representatives from Golden View Classical Academy will be present to answer questions from the Board of Education.
  3. File Attachments: Golden View Classical Academy application, Department Rubric for Golden View.pdf (522 KB), Charter Application Review Committee for GVCA – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (215 KB), PRESENTATION GVCA to JeffCo.pdf (1,367 KB)

Our Comments: This proposed charter school will definitely benefit from going second – after the Alexandria proposal ANYTHING else will look good.

As we stated in our 9/4 Post, there is a lot that concerns us about this school.  Not the least of which i  Below we highlight the concerns the Charter Application Committee has about Golden View:

  1. They seem to think that “Core Knowledge” is a curriculum rather than a recommended standard or process.
  2. Teachers are to go each year to Hillsdale College in Michigan for professional training.  No budget is given for that.
  3. Plan calls for 498 students in the first year, but they only have 171 family responses so far.
  4. They switch  back and forth from Saxon Math to Singapore.  Can be very difficult in professional development (and confusing for the students).
  5. Concern over having to spend District & State dollars to send staff out of state to a religious college for training.
  6. Concerns over political, religious, and partisan affiliations the school would have with Hillsdale.
  7. Outside group controlling a JeffCo school like a puppet?
  8. Teacher contract is longer than JeffCo normal (201 days) but no mention of additional pay is made.
  9. No explanation where start-up money comes from.  They have the Daniels Fund giving $30k in year zero for “marketing”.
  10. Liability insurance is too low.
  11. Self-perpetuating board – no chance of parents ever gaining control.
  12. Their definition of part-time is 35 hours – not compliant with ACA. (One reader of the post has told us the school may have enough employees to avoid that issue – Hat Tip to Brian Terpstra)
  13. In one place, they say staff cannot be on the Board, in another place they say the staff can be on the Board.  Which is it?
  14. They want to not have to follow the District Conduct Code – not possible.
  15. They want to not have to give the state mandated alcohol/sex education course.

This would be the school of Julie Williams dreams.  For all that makes us shudder, as we said before, they look great compared to Alexandria.

Our Final Comments: It is very interesting that Witt is now scheduling the real meaty stuff for “Study Session” meetings where public comment is not allowed, but the regular meetings where the public is able to speak are filled with mainly fluff and almost no voting.  We some how doubt it is all coincidence.

Whether this meeting has any real substance to it will depend primarily on you.  If you tell your neighbors.  If you email the Board.  If you sign up to speak.  If you go and let WNM+Williams know, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot avoid public scrutiny for ever, then something of consequence will occur.  We will have moved one significant step closer to taking back our school district!

So turn the “If”s into “I did”s and help us…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 


 

9/15 BOE Meeting Prep: WNM+Williams Bulldozes JCEA & JeffCo

Bulldozing HouseThe quiet summer is definitely over and WNM+Williams must have spent much of their summer planning this latest blitzkrieg. At Thursday’s meeting, they will finish ramming down JCEA and JeffCo’s throats Ken Witt’s ‘I just jotted down some ideas’ teacher compensation plan.  

This is on top of the news that Lori Gillis, who has been doing her best to keep honest books, is now fleeing, seeking sanctuary in the Arvada city government, and no one can blame her. Then last Thursday, JCEA took the serious step of voting a resolution of ‘No Confidence’ against Ken Witt. We expect this Thursday to be another battle between those who are trying to destroy the District and those who are desperately trying to save it.

Unfortunately for all of JeffCo, the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

So we need everyone to ‘gird up’ and get ready. We need as many people showing up at the meetings, writing letters, and talking to people as we can get.

Monday Do List:

  1. Email the Board (board@jeffco.k12.co.us) asking why a teacher compensation package is being rammed through with no consultation with JCEA, no time to do a full staff study to understand the full impact, no full scale debate by the Board, and no opportunity for public comment.
  2. It is also high time that the rest of the public starts to pay attention to what is going on here. One of the ways we can make that happen is by getting the local media involved.  If enough of us send emails to them, then maybe they will start giving it the coverage it needs and deserves! Simply email (or enter a comment on their comment page) telling them briefly what is happening here in JeffCo and asking why they are not covering it more in depth?Pick three or four a day to do each day:

Chalkbeat (Contact Form)
The Colorado Independent  (Email Address)
Colorado Pols (Email Address)
The Colorado Statesman (Email Address)
Colorado Media Publications (Contact Form): Arvada Press, Golden Transcript,  Lakewood Sentinel,  Littleton Independent, North Jeffco Westsider,  Westminster Window, Wheat Ridge Transcript
Columbine Courier (Contact Form)
The Denver Business Journal (Contact Form)
The Denver Post  (Email Address – 150 words max)

El Hispano (Spanish, Email Address)
La Prensa (Spanish, Contact Form)
Westword (Contact Form)

CBS 4 (Contact Form)
Fox31 (Email Address)
7News (Contact Form)
KRMA 6 (PBS): (Contact Form)
9NEWS (Contact Form)
CW2 News (Email Address)

Finally, go to the meeting on Thursday!  If you can’t make it, then make plans to watch it on line at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom

And Keep Fighting Everyday!

Thursday Meeting Prep:
Note:  In an effort to make the posts shorter, we edit down to key information only.  We will include a link to BoardDocs site as well as one to the agenda in a form suitable for printing.

2nd Note:  This meeting is a “Special – S/D” (Study/Discussion) session. That means that WNM+Williams will not allow public comment, contrary to Board & District Policy (specifically policy BEDH, the second sentence of paragraph four).

BOE Meeting 2014-09-18 (Thursday night)
Date and Time:  Thursday, September 18, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Education Center, 5th Floor Board Room, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items (9-15 BOE Meeting Prep – Printed Version)

Agenda Item 2.01 Community Engagement: Jeffco League of Women Voters
Type: Discussion
PRESENTING STAFF: Patricia Mesec, president, League of Women Voters of Jefferson County Lead members, LWV Jeffco
PURPOSE:  For the Board of Education to meet with members of the Jefferson County League of Women voters to discuss items of mutual interest, including the following questions (requested by the Board).

  1. What are your plans to address the needs of all students in Jefferson County, including children of poverty, English Language Learners, special needs children, and students in pre-school?
  2. How are the governing policies for the Board of Education developed, implemented and amended?  Are these policies the backbone of governance?
  3. What processes does the Board of Education use in responding to advisory boards, staff recommendations, surveys, and public comment?
  4. What strategies are you planning to use to reassure the community that you are placing a priority on maintaining the reputation of high standards and effective governance in Jefferson County Public Schools?
  5. Discuss the roles of the superintendent and the Board of Education and how they interrelate in the decision making process?

BACKGROUND: The Jeffco League of Women voters wrote to the Board of Education in March 2014 requesting time to meet with the Board of Education as boards have done in the past.

The League of Women Voters of Jefferson County Positions on Education and Government Boards and Commissions is provided below.

File Attachments: LWVJeffco Positions for BOE.pdf (72 KB) Cover letter for BOE LWVJeffco.pdf (415 KB)

Our Comments: Have you ever wished that WNM+Williams would be faced with a knowledgeable, strong group of people who not only ask questions, but can also ask follow-up questions when WNM+Williams use avoidance answers?  You may just get your wish this Thursday.

The League of Women Voters (national site here, JeffCo chapter site here) has a long and highly respected tradition of non-partisanship advocacy for little ‘d’ democracy, i.e., not only getting as many people involved in voting as possible, but also monitoring government groups for being responsive to their constituents.  If both sides live up to their reputations (WNM+Williams for furtive evasiveness and mendacity, the League for being experienced, tough-minded questioners), then the fireworks may begin early!

Read the LWV attachment.  It spells out pretty well what they expect out of government…and you can fill in for yourself where WNM+Williams fall short!  We will watch with this session with a lot of anticipation!

Agenda Item 2.02 Facilities Planning
Type: Discussion, Information
PRESENTING STAFF: Steve Bell, chief operating officer, Tim Reed, executive director, Facilities
PURPOSE:  For the Board of Education to receive additional information on districtwide facilities in order to provide direction on the development of the draft Facility Master Plan and urgent facility needs.
BACKGROUND: The Board of Education received preliminary facilities planning priorities on August 23, 2014 in anticipation of additional, in depth discussion in September.

File Attachments: PRESENTATION Facilities Planning.PDF (1,701 KB)

Our Comments: The largest part of the presentation focuses on coping with ‘over utilization’ of schools, also known as school crowding.  There are 17 schools specifically discussed: Meiklejohn Elementary, Wayne Carle Middle, Van Arsdale Elementary, Sierra Elementary, Oberon Middle, West Woods Elementary, Fairmount Elementary, Mitchell Elementary, Drake Middle, Deane Elementary, Stein Elementary, O’Connell Middle, Devinny Elementary, Rooney Ranch Elementary, Hutchinson Elementary, Kendallvue Elementary, and Dunstan Middle.  Some of the options include building new schools at Table Rock Mesa and Solterra (SW side of Green Mountain), expand Sierra Elementary, and re-opening Zerger at 9050 Field in Westminster.  Other options include expanding a number of existing Middle Schools from 7-8 to 6-8.  As well there is a proposal to build a South Area Athletic Complex to relieve the pressure on the two existing sites.

If you know someone whose child attends one of these schools, please let them know that Thursday’s meeting will involve their school to one degree or another.

We will not be surprised if WNM+Williams use this as an opportunity to push for charter schools in these areas.

Agenda Item 2.03 Choice Programming Update
PRESENTING STAFF: Terry Elliott, chief school effectiveness officer, Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer
PURPOSE:  The Board of Education requested an update on the work in the district related to school choice practices and policies as well as an update on STEM programs in Jeffco Schools.
BACKGROUND: Jeffco Schools provides families the ability to select schools and instructional programming through the choice enrollment policy (JFBA).  Students can select to attend their assigned neighborhood school or they may seek enrollment into:

  • another neighborhood school
  • a charter school
  • an option school

During the 2013/2014 school year, the Board of Education created the Choice Steering Committee and tasked this committee to assess current practices supporting choice enrollment and programming.  This committee concluded its work in June of 2014 with a list of recommendations for consideration.  District staff has continued to enhance the processes and policies which support student choice.

Additionally, the expansion of STEM in two middle schools was discussed in January 2014 by the Board of Education and as interest in STEM continues to grow, the Board has expressed an interest in an update on this particular choice program in Jeffco Schools.

File Attachments: PRESENTATION Choice Programming.pdf (118 KB)

Our Comments: The presentation is heavy on color and large fonts while be light on actual content.  We will have to see how the discussion goes on most of this.  One thing that drew our eye was a reference to “Mining of responses to the Choice Parent Survey…” (slide 3).  This was the first we recall of hearing the results of the ‘Choice Parent Survey’.  There are a lot of questions we would like to ask about this survey, including:  Who administered it?  What was the methodology?  What was the sampling universe?  Where is the raw data?  How come this has not been published to the JeffCo School District Website?  At least it is not listed on the Choice Steering Committee page. In fact, this page, while showing that a Choice Survey was in the works, makes no mention of the final form of the survey, nor when it was conducted, nor when the “focus groups” mentioned in the original plans were conducted.

In short, this presentation raises a lot more questions than it answers!

Agenda Item 2.04 Progress Monitoring: Ends 5
Type: Discussion, Information
PRESENTING STAFF: Terry Elliott, chief school effectiveness officer
PURPOSE:  For the Board of Education to receive a progress monitoring report on Ends 5: every student will become a responsible citizen.
BACKGROUND: The Board of Education assesses the district’s performance through Board Ends policies, or goals, directing the work of the superintendent and district.  Ends policies are an essential component of the Board’s governance structure.  Updates on the five Ends policies are to be provided to the Board on a regular basis.

File Attachments: BOE Ends 5 Update Sept 2014.pdf (117 KB)

Our Comments: Normally this would be a ‘ho-hum, this is important but so non-controversial’ that we could safely ignore it.  However, Witt, in particular, has surprised us before.  Remember the “I don’t like that word” response to “diversity”?  So keep at least one eye open on this one….

Agenda Item 2.05 Teacher Compensation Model
Type: Action
Recommended Action: To approve staff recommendations regarding implementation of teacher compensation model.
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. On September 4, 2014, staff presented information on the proposed teacher compensation model in response to Board of Education questions.
  2. On September 4, 2014, the Board adopted the proposed compensation plan for teachers for the 2014-2105 school year, and requested staff to bring back information on ‘over market’ and the timing of implementation.
  3. The attached presentation provides the Board of Education with the additional details required to begin implementing the approved plan.

File Attachments: BOE Meeting Sept 18 2014 Teacher Compensation.pdf (278 KB)

AND

Agenda Item 2.06 Resolution of Outstanding Negotiation Items
Type: Action
Recommended Action: To approve staff recommendations regarding implementation of teacher compensation model.
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. On September 4, 2014, staff presented information on the proposed teacher compensation model in response to Board of Education questions.
  2. On September 4, 2014, the Board adopted the proposed compensation plan for teachers for the 2014-2105 school year, and requested staff to bring back information on ‘over market’ and the timing of implementation.
  3. The attached presentation provides the Board of Education with the additional details required to begin implementing the approved plan.

File Attachments: Resolution to Decide Unresolved Negotiation Issues Sept 18 2014.pdf (297 KB)

Our Comments: From being represented as an off-the-cuff idea by Witt at the August 28th meeting to approval at the September 4th meeting, now being finalized at the September 18th meeting, this is not just a WNM+Williams railroad, it’s a bullet train.

There are so many things wrong with this it is hard to know where to start, and we could do multiple posts just dealing with the words “above market”.  But we do not want to overwhelm you, so we will focus on just one aspect:  public trust & comment.

The lack ability for the public to comment on this proposal is horrific and non-democratic.  It has all the fairness and openness of a Kangaroo Court.  

Witt brought this proposal up as a surprise at the first regular Board meeting, but he did it in such a way as to prevent the public from commenting on it.  

The normal, above-board, and honest way to handle this proposal would have been for Witt to notify Helen Neal, the Chief of Staff for the Board and Superintendent, of this proposal several days in advance. Then it would have had it’s own agenda item number and been placed in the discussion session of the meeting. The proposal would have had time to be examined by all the Board members and the public. The public would have been able to prepare comment and questions for the Board prior to it’s adoption.

That is not what Witt did.

He brought it up in agenda item 1.01 which simply mentioned the JCEA negotiations.  If you look at the time stamp on the document KW comp2014 7 points.pdf you will see that the email was sent at 6:21 p.m., while the meeting was going on! Likewise with his misleading graph.  Yet the language and graph presentation make it obvious that this was something that he (and others?) spent a lot of time on.

He then pushed through a vote to force the staff do a study in time for the next meeting, only five business days away!  Five days to examine the impact on 8,000 teachers and a significant if not majority of the JeffCo budget!

At the Sept 4th meeting, Witt had the plan scheduled in the Study/Dialogue section of the agenda (item 1.02), with only discussion and information showing as being planned.  This meant, as with the previous meeting, when WNM+Williams pushed for a vote on the compensation plan (contrary to their own policies), it was done prior to any possible public comment!

In this upcoming meeting (Sept 18th), we are seeing the past repeat itself.  By scheduling the issue in a “Special Meeting”, WNM+Williams are deliberately avoiding any public comment on this plan!  This is because WNM+Williams have consistently refused to allow public comment in Special Meetings, contrary to Board Governance & Operations Policy BEDH – Public Participation at Meetings (see the second sentence of paragraph four).

One the ultimate ironies of the situation is that Open Negotiations – Proposition 104 is based on the idea that close door negotiations between a school district and teachers is a bad thing.  Here in JeffCo, the JCEA welcomed open negotiations.  It is WNM+Williams that has tried to do everything in secret, even from the rest of the Board.

This compensation plan is being rammed through with all the finesse of a bayonet drill…and the first victims are JeffCo teachers.  The next victims will be JeffCo students (as their best teachers leave) and then the JeffCo community and taxpayers.

Agenda Item 2.07 Resolution: Study Committee on Common Core Standards, PARCC assessments and AP U.S. History
Type: Action
Recommended Action: To discuss the proposal to establish a Board study committee on Common Core Standards, PARCC assessments and Advanced Placement U.S. History; and, to determine next steps on the proposal.
PRESENTING STAFF: none
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to discuss the proposal presented by Board member Julie Williams to create a Board study committee on Common Core Standards, PARCC assessments and Advanced Placement U.S. History.
BACKGROUND: On September 4, Ms. Williams agreed to bring an action plan for Board discussion to create a Board study committee.

File Attachments: None so far, but something promised for sometime Monday.  We will update the post as soon as it becomes available. JW PROPOSAL Board Committee for Curriculum Review.pdf (21 KB) (Posted on JeffCo BoardDocs site Monday, September 15th)

Our Comments (9/14): What Julie Williams has been trying to do since August 28th might actually happen…sort of.  She was wanting an up or down vote on a resolution calling on the state to require a new look at the ‘unamerican’ slant of AP history, the burden of PARCC tests and the unfairness of Common Core.  Twice now Witt has cut her off at the knees.  This agenda item which is supposed to be a discussion of the idea of a resolution is all she managed to get.  It will be interesting to see if Witt does a bit of ruffled feather soothing, or if he goes on with his normal tone-deafness when it comes to other people’s feelings.

Please keep in mind that we are not taking sides in the Common Core and PARCC issues, and the actions Ms. Williams would like to take on the ‘unamerican slant’ of AP history fills us horror.  Still, we are also puzzled at how Witt feels he can completely ignore one of his essential votes. Indeed, the one vote that has already few occasions broken ranks with him.  We certainly hope that Witt continues to take Williams for granted, as we feel pretty sure that sooner or later, those chickens will come home to roost.

Updated Comments (9/16):  Now that we have read Julie Williams proposal, if possible, our horror has increased. There are several points that truly terrifying.

In effect, she proposes to place on top of the District-based existing curriculum and text selection process a Text Book Purity committee.  This committee would be staffed by WNM+Williams partisans.  They would be in a position to enforce their particular world, social, economic, and moral views on our children.

There are four main aspects to this monstrosity:

1) The committee selection method is badly flawed.  In 9/4 meeting, Leslie Dahlkemper asked if each Board Member would be allowed to appoint members and was assured that would be the case.

That is not what Williams wrote.  She proposes that each board member nominate members.  The Board would then vote on each candidate, a majority vote being required.  This would go on until all nine members are ‘elected’.

Any guesses as to how those votes would turn out?  This would allow WNM+Williams to prevent any person whose viewpoints differ from their from becoming a member.  In short, they can control the entire makeup of the committee, and then pass it off as ‘representing the public’ when in fact it would do no such thing.

2) This is no longer a committee to review PARCC, Common Core, and AP History, but a Board Committee that is empowered to review all JeffCo texts, all the time.  There is no limit on their scope, nor on how long they serve.  Further, they would continually review texts.  This means that they would be in a position to oversee the implementation of a policy that they helped formulate.  This would violate point 5 of  GP-12 Board Committee Principles

3) Williams is trying to sneak in another issue:  Sex Education.  She specifically states that the Committee’s first two priorities are AP U.S. History and “elementary health curriculum” (last sentence of the second paragraph).  This would allow her and her fellow believers to enforce their views on our kids.  Instead of a factual exploration of human sexuality, Williams would be in a position to force her personal views into the curriculum for our children.

4) Not content with banishing any fact, viewpoint, or scientific conclusion that offends them, Williams proposes that this committee require that texts promote “respect for authority” and “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife, or disregard of the law.”

This means that Julie Williams’ preferred history texts would have to condemn the Freedom Riders of the 50’s and 60’s who fought Jim Crow segregation laws in the South by deliberately violating them.  In fact, all of the history of the Civil Rights movement would either have to frowned on or redacted (and we know how WNM+Williams love redacting) from the history texts.  The Underground Railroad that smuggled escaping slaves from the South into the North and later to Canada, would have to be described in the same terms we would use for terrorists and criminals today.  Ironically, this requirement would also mean that the event that her personal political group takes its name from, the Boston Tea Party, would also have to be condemned!  Likewise, that phrasing would require texts denounce the acts of the George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Henry Lee, John Hancock, and the rest of our founding fathers as illegal and immoral!

But it does not stop there.

Because of the broad range of the Committee’s charter, not just history texts would be subject to review, but also science texts, English literature, economics, theater, music, debate, journalism, foreign language,…in short anything in the realm of text, her committee would become the final arbiters of.  She would now have a tool to strike out any scientific theory, practice, conclusion, fact that offends her view of the world.

In effect, Williams proposes a non-academic censorship group whose job it would be to delete any fact, viewpoint, or analysis that does not agree with the Curriculum Review Committee, and then insert their own views, representing them as ‘fact’.

This is structured not be a neutral, representative, curriculum review committee with a narrow focus and limited powers.  This would be her equivalent to the ‘House Un-American Activities Committee’ of the McCarthy era.  George Orwell’s 1984, written small.  Apparently this is acceptable to WNM+Williams (does anyone believe that J. Williams even sneezes without asking Witt’s permission?) because they would get to be ‘Big Brother’.

Final Comments:

We feel the bulldozer photo is apt for this meeting.  WNM+Williams have lined up the bulldozing of a new compensation plan down the throats of JeffCo’s teachers. They are doing this without the time for a full analysis, without any real idea of the full ramifications of the plan, without knowing it’s cost, and without knowing it’s full impact.  They are doing it without consulting JCEA, without full debate on the Board, and without public comment.

The only bright spot will be early on, when the League of Women Voters asks their questions about open, honest, government processes that include full public comment as an integral part.  Watching WNM+Williams trying to bob & weave their way through those questions should provide some amusement at least.  It will also show an even brighter spotlight on the perfidious actions.

And that is what we need to strive for now.

It is at this point that WNM+Williams and their hidden backers expect you to fold and give up.  They are counting on it.  They have been trying to wear you out.  If we give up, stop talking, blogging, attending, and demonstrating, then they can continue their bulldozing of JeffCo with little public notice.  That will allow them to construct a pleasing narrative for the rest of the world.  A narrative that would bear little semblance to reality.

And we stop that by showing up at this meeting, and the one after that, and the one after that.  We take the first crucial steps in stopping them by making sure that everything they do is done in the blazing light of full public scrutiny and criticism.  The glare from that brightness, ultimately, WNM+Williams cannot tolerate, and they will be driven out.

We have already started and have made enormous headway.  Our first posts in January only a couple of hundred people.  Now we regularly reach several thousand, while some of our posts have reached tens of thousands.  And the curve is on the upward swing!

Let’s show WNM+Williams how wrong they are!  Show up Thursday night! WNM+Williams may not allow us to speak verbally, but we can show our resistance to their arrogance visually.  Wear t-shirts, buttons, and hats that proclaim our insistence on open and honest government.  Let them know, by our presence, that in the end, we will take back our District.

And we will do that because we…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 


 

9/13 Saturday Post: The Kindergarten Puzzle…Solved?

FFK Puzzle 1Since last spring, most of us have wrestled from time to time with this question: 

Why do WNM+Williams* seem to dislike poor Kindergarteners so much?

After all, even though they voted to increase the District’s goals for 3rd and 4th grade reading and math, they continue to reject a time-tested, proven strategy that is relatively low-cost, straight-forward, and fairly simple, e.g., expand free, full day Kindergarten for schools with high numbers of children on free or reduced lunches.  This is not even a new program, but rather a modest expansion of an existing one, in line with every major educational study on improving test scores.

But WNM+Williams have raised one objection after another:

March 13th – Witt led an attack on free, full day Kindergarten expansion (FFK) saying there were studies that showed such programs did not really work.  Dr. Beck, then JeffCo’s Chief Academic Officer (now superintendent of a school district in Oregon) said she knew of no study that said that, that, in fact, multiple studies show just the opposite.  (Here are links to a few articles on the subject:  Full Day Kindergarten, Early Childhood Education for Low-Income Students:A Review ofthe Evidence and Benefit-Cost Analysis, Early Childhood Education, Education Funding And Low Income Children:  A Review of Current Research)

April 3d – Dr. Beck said she had reviewed the literature and all of it said this type of early intervention pays big dividends.  Julie Williams said she thought the “only difference between half and full day kindergarten were naps, more recess, and some ‘specials’ such as music or art.”

Witt demanded of Dr. Beck to know if any of the studies she cited had been done specifically in JeffCo, and when Beck said no, Witt then said that the national studies meant nothing and he wanted to see some that were specific to JeffCo.  He then led Newkirk and Williams in voting 3-2 to remove the funding.

(Dr. Beck and her team offered to conduct that research for the board this school year if the board would allow the program to move forward but “compromise” is a dirty word to WNM + Williams.)

May 1st (Bear Creek High School and over a thousand people attending) –  Several kindergarten teachers, spoke to the board of the huge results they see in their low income students attending full day K and pleaded with the Board majority to fund the kindergarten expansion.  Most impressive, a group led by Wendy McCord Tina Gurdikian, Kelly Johnson, Terri Straut, Amanda Stevens, and Tammy Story presented a report assembled from statistical data from JeffCo that showed conclusively that free, full day kindergarten (FFK) generates a strong, consistent improvement in the test scores of children who participate (see full report here: FFDK Report).  Regardless, after a motion to restore the funding for full day K expansion by Lesley Dahlkemper, WNM+Williams voted it down saying that giving poor children free, full day kindergarten would be unfair to the parents who could afford it for their own children!

June 5th – Dahlkemper and Fellman brought the issue up again, immediately after WNM+Miller voted to increase the already increased diversion allocation of funds to charter schools to more than $5 million, using mill levy funds and thus breaking promises to voters and the community.  Obviously, if the District had additional money available for the charters, then there had to be some available for poor children. This time Newkirk, in typical Newkirk fashion, threatened to cause general chaos (this seems to be his MO) by questioning the entire FFK program, and said he threatened to explore canceling all of it and ‘repurpose’ the funds. Witt, again, led voting down the expansion of Free Full Day Kindergarten to poor children, 3-2.

With all the above, one has to wonder, what do WNM+Williams have against poor children in desperate need of a good start?  There are hundreds of vulnerable five and six year olds who are this year missing out on the benefits of full day of Kindergarten.  This is an educational deficit that can never be made up.

Why do WNM + Williams not care about the future of these children?

Or maybe they care about something else more…perhaps something that would increase the number of charter school expansion?

Our first clue to this was actually posted before JeffCoSchoolBoardWatch was even existed. You can find it in the following video posted on YouTube by Transparency JeffCo.  Pay very careful attention to what Cindy Stevenson says at the 50 second mark and Witt’s response:

Did you catch it?

When Dr. Stevenson said there was plenty of space at Deer Creek Middle School, Witt’s reaction was, “A good place to co-locate a charter school.”  At the time, we thought it was simply a pavlovian response on his part. ‘A school building with space?  Put a charter school in it!’  It never occurred to us that this type of reaction could or would result in premeditated action…but it sure seems to.

This summer we decided to go back and reread a lot of the material that had been produced during the budget cycle.  It was then that we stumbled on the second and decisive clue.  If not a smoking gun, it at least, is a recording shots fired in the dark.

We began rereading the self-titled “Minority Report” written by Tom Coyne and Rachel Swalley (a copy can found here: SPAC Minority Report).  Both of these people were specifically placed on the Strategic Planning and Advisory Committee (SPAC) by Witt & Associates.  On the bottom of page 11 of this 70 page report, we read:

…SPAC received a proposal from District staff for an additional $600,000 to be spent on adding 13 more full day kindergarten classrooms at five schools. However, this issue was not on the Choice Committee’s agenda, despite the fact that the availability of classroom space is a critical constraint on their potential options and ultimate recommendation to the Board.” <emphasis added>

This report was given to the Board on March 6th, one week before WNM+Williams first voted down the FFK expansion.  It was made available to the Board members prior to that. We believe that when WNM+Williams read those two sentences, they deliberately decided to short-change the most vulnerable in our society, in order to further their own peculiar sense of ‘equity’.

Even then, they could have come right out and said why they were turning down the FFK expansion.  WNM+Williams have the votes to do almost anything they want.  But, as we have seen for nine months now, for some reason, WNM+Williams seem to need to believe that their true agenda and motivations are always hidden or masked.

So instead, they hurled one absurd objection after another at the staff and teachers.  As soon as the District staff refuted the first one, they hurled a second.  When teachers and parents refuted that one, they came out with a ridiculous ‘fairness’ argument.  When that was shown to be farcical, Newkirk resorted to threatening the entire program if any further argument was made.

And they won.

There is no expansion of Free, Full Day Kindergarten in JeffCo this year.  Those classrooms with WNM+Williams precious emptiness will be empty all year.  WNM+Williams undoubtedly hope that some outside corporate group will see the opportunity to use public school property to launch a charter school…and make money off it.

And this, we believe, is the most likely reason Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams voted against the best interests of almost 300 At-Risk children.

Is there even more to it? Perhaps….

Former Jeffco BOE member Laura Boggs has regularly disparaged schools with high proportions of low income students, asking pointed questions about race, ethnicity, and crime.  Her questions often seem to presuppose that those children, many of whom are English Language Learners, do not deserve a public education.

Boggs is staunch supporter of WNM+Williams and is reputed to have met repeatedly with Witt, who is also reputed to be something of a follower of hers.  It would not be much of a stretch to think that WNM+Williams feel the same way.

Whatever the motive, WNM+Williams action has put many of our low income schools at greater risk of not being able to improve test scores, which may lead some even to be declared ineffective for those children.  The consequence?  Given this Board, those schools will then be turned over to charter schools, who very well may offer the same free, full-day kindergarten that WNM+Williams have rejected.  Except, of course, this time WNM+Williams will cheer them on, since instead of having FFK funding spent by public schools, it will be spent by quasi-private ones, many of which will be run by for-profit companies.

In the meantime, we will have lost another year’s worth of desperate children.  None of which will matter to WNM+Williams as they seek to implement their radical political “reform” agenda.

—–

So what are you going to do about it?

If you have not emailed the Board.  If you have not called your local office holders and candidates (see these lists: 2014 Jefferson County Election Candidates State Officials Jefferson County Officials).  If you have not contacted your friends, family, and colleagues.  If you have not stopped people in the street, in the stores, in our schools, and told all of them about the atrocities that this new majority is visiting on the children of JeffCo, now is the time to do so.

Join us, as we

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 

* – As we noted in our 9/8 post, it seems only appropriate that we change our acronym. Miller is now is acting more obviously as a peer of Witt and Newkirk instead of a subordinate contractor..  Whereas Julie Williams is behaving more like a bewildered, but loyal tag-along.  She apparently takes the betrayal and neglect by Witt and Miller as a minor thing.

Note:  JeffCoSchoolBoardWatch.org is a group of volunteers who work hard at keeping people informed about the actions and probable consequences of the new majority on the School Board.  We do not accept donations, nor are we a political organization.  We see ourselves as an information source for the community.

However there is a group that also has a charter to keep people informed about WNM+Williams and does accept donations:  SupportJeffcoKids.org.  If you want to get involved more in the fight against this ongoing atrocity, please visit their site.


 

9/8: WNM+Williams – Breaking Trust, Breaking Faith, Breaking the Rules

broken-trustAt the Board Meeting last Thursday (9/4), Witt, Newkirk, Miller plus the blind support from Julie Williams, showed us just what we can expect out of Board meetings now that McMinimee has begun to exert control over the District and WNM have decided that they can rely on the blind following by Julie Williams.  The Reformista Train has been assembled and is beginning to rumble down the tracks.

(Side note: it seems only appropriate that we change our acronym, since Miller now is more obviously acting as a peer of Witt and Newkirk, whereas Williams is acting as the bewildered, but loyal tag-along.  She apparently takes betrayal and neglect by Witt and Miller as a minor thing.)

At almost every point in the meeting, WNM+Williams is ignoring the Board’s rules, their own previous promises, logic, reason, and democratic principles.  In short, they are not doing things the “American Way”.

In doing so, they are breaking their own rules.  By breaking those rules they are now  side-stepping public notification of pending Board actions, blind-siding Board members not part of their clique (i.e., Fellman and Dahlkemper), and are poisoning the well of public trust for democratic government.

For example, let us look at the specific description of the first two items on last Thursday’s agenda.  Below is the exact, verbatim Agenda Item Details for items 1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation and 1.03 Board Attorney Work. Pay careful attention to Type of item each one is supposed to be:

1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation
Meeting      Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting

Category    Study/Dialogue Session 5:30 pm
Subject       Proposed Model on Compensation
Type            Discussion, Information

estimated time: 5:30 p.m. (estimated duration: 30 minutes)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Amy Weber, Chief Human Resources Officer

Lorie Gillis, Chief Financial Officer
Jim Branum, District Legal Counsel

PURPOSE:
To further discuss Board of Education requested information regarding funding of the teacher compensation proposal presented to the Board at its meeting on August 28, 2014.

——————————————–

1.02 Board Attorney Work
Meeting      Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting
Category    Study/Dialogue Session 5:30 pm
Subject       Board Attorney Work
Type            Discussion

estimated time: 6:00 p.m. (estimated duration: 20 minutes)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Brad A. Miller, board attorney

Dan M. McMinimee, superintendent

PURPOSE:
For the Board of Education to discuss the scope of work for the board attorney and past eight months of work with the Board of Education.

——————————————–

In 1.02, the “Type” field shows “Discussion, Information”.  In 1.03, the “Type” field shows only “Discussion”.

Now look at items 7.01 and 7.02 under the Discussion section of the Agenda:

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Resolutions and Delegate Selection
Meeting              Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting

Category            Discussion Agenda
Subject               Colorado Association of School Boards Resolutions and Delegate Selection (GP-1)
Type                    Action, Discussion
Recommended Action    to appoint a member to represent Jeffco Schools Board of Education at the CASB Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September and the CASB Annual Conference in December.

estimated time: 8:35 p.m. (estimated duration: 30 minutes)

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The Board of Education will review the resolutions directing the efforts of the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) during the 2015 legislative session and provide guidance to the Board’s delegate to the Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly on September 26-27, 2014.
  2. The Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) holds its annual Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September in preparation for legislative work in Colorado on public education.
  3. At the Delegate Assembly, positions are taken on resolutions which effect state school districts.  As the largest k-12 school district in the state, the work of CASB may impact the district’s work.

——————————————–

7.02 Monitoring: EL-6, Financial Administration
Meeting              Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting
Category            Discussion Agenda
Subject               Monitoring: EL-6, Financial Administration
Type                    Action
Recommended Action    to approve the monitoring report on Board executive limitation policy, EL-6, Financial Administration.
Goals                  EL-6, Financial Administration

estimated time: 9:05 p.m. (estimated duration: 5 minutes)

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. An important component of the Board of Education’s governance model isGP-6, Annual Work Plan exhibit and  GP-6, Annual Work Plan policy which provide a schedule for monitoring the work of the superintendent.
  2. The monitoring report on Board executive limitation policy,EL-6, Financial Administration, is scheduled for review four times a year: September, November, February and June.
  3. The monitoring report is brought forward to approve the superintendent’s reasonable interpretation of the executive limitation.

——————————————–

Did you notice the difference?  Items on which the Board is expected to take an action, have as Agenda Type “Action” followed by a Recommended Action and a list of Pertinent Facts. Further, these items occur after public comment has been made on agenda items.  So the any action the Board takes is after they have heard from the public on it. But both of the items in the “Study/Dialogue” section show only “Discussion” or “Discussion, Information” with no “Recommended Action” and no list of “Pertinent Facts” and are held before public comment. Why?  Because no action was supposed to be taken on this items!

But it was.  In the first case, Witt used an almost “oh, by the way” maneuver at the 8/25 meeting (see our post) to get his and Miller’s ‘compensation plan’ into the minutes, officially making it the first meeting in which it is mentioned.  Then in this meeting, he and Miller list it under the “Study/Dialogue” portion, which technically means that no action on the subject was to be taken in that meeting.  But now this is the second meeting in which it is brought up.  So with Julie Williams slavishly following Witt, WNW voted to cram a new compensation program down the throats of the District, the Teachers, and the Taxpayers.

Then they did it again.  Witt & Miller listed the Miller contract for “Discussion” and then broke the Board’s own rules again by pushing in an unscheduled, inappropriate motion to extend Miller’s contract for 12 months.

And they did so before hearing a single word from the public on these actions!

In short, WNM+Williams mugged Dahlkemper, Fellman, the JCEA, and the JeffCo community and taxpayers.

What puzzles us most is:  Why are they doing this?

We do not mean why are they pushing through their highly partisan and political agenda. We expected nothing less. What has been puzzling us is why are they playing dirty political games in order to do it?

They do not have to!  They have the majority.  They could follow every rule to a “t”, allowing Dahlkemper and Fellman a full and respectful time period in which to raise their objections, and still vote their agenda through.  They could have simply said back in the Spring, “We have already decided on McMinimee from DougCo as our next Superintendent” instead of going through the charade (and expense) of a ‘national’ search. They could have proposed Witt & Miller’s compensation plan, allowed for full discussion, and then voted to approve it in the October regular meeting.  They could accomplish everything they have set out to accomplish in an above-board, honest, and open fashion.

But they choose not to.

Why?

We do not have an answer.  We do have some speculations, but they feel incomplete. Perhaps, some of us at the Watch have said, they cannot really believe that they are a majority, and so still act like a minority, sneaking their items through.  Others argue that their actions indicate that they fear how the public might react if the full extent of their destructive goals were known. A small number wonder if they have a dual goal:  not only destroy the school district, but also destroy the publics’ trust in its’ governing institutions (this is sometimes referred to as a ‘scorched earth’ strategy) thus preventing any real rebuilding of the District.

Whatever the reason, one effect is already apparent. Most observers of the Board would now trust a used car salesman sight unseen before they would trust Ken Witt, John Newkirk, or Brad Miller.  They might trust the word of Julie Williams, but only so long as Witt is not around to crack the whip on her.

A quick summation of the actual actions is below:

Agenda Item/Type

1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation / Discussion, Information
Contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order and the Board’s own policies, an unscheduled motion to adopt this model was made and passed over the vehement objections of Dahlkemper and Fellman.  In our estimation, if this model is put into force, District legal costs will go up, the average District teaching experience will go down.  Trust in the District leadership by the average teacher, already incredibly low, will drop further.  McMinimee is already showing his true colors by not fighting this tooth and nail to protect his best teachers.  The best and most experienced teachers will leave, fleeing to Districts that know how to value them (this is already occurring – see Support Jeffco Kids post on this).

1.03 Board Attorney Work / Discussion
After Miller and McMinimee consumed the vast majority of the alloted 20 minutes, mainly complaining how ‘unfair’ the observations and comments have been on how he was contracted, why he was contracted, and his actions taken while under contract.  At this point, Harry Truman’s adage, “If you can’t stand the heat…” started running through our heads.  

Newkirk, showing himself to be in command of inappropriate and inaccurate remarks, while not in command of rational thought, logic, reasoning, and accuracy by stating that since both Dahlkemper and Fellmans’ husbands are attorneys, they (Dahlkemper & Fellman) get free legal advice, so it is only appropriate that Witt, Williams, and himself get taxpayer-funded advice(?).  This really offended Fellman, who pointed out that her husband works on local government law, not education law.  Newkirk, sticking his other foot in it, said that Witt told him that Fellman’s husband was heavily involved in the Lobato case, which Fellman hotly denied.  All of that was, of course, another effort by Newkirk at misdirection.  (Is Witt feeding these dumb attacks to Newkirk?  If so, is it only Williams nose Witt has a ring in?)

At the end of it, again, contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order and the Board’s own policies, an unscheduled motion to extend Miller’s contract for 12 months was made and passed over the strong objections of Dahlkemper and Fellman.  

Initially, our opinion was this was a very needless action on the part of WNM+Williams…unless they fear that they are going to lose control of the board in the next year (are they hearing the word ‘recall’ in their darker moments?).  Upon further thought, we now believe that WNM+Williams will use this action to try to shut down any further efforts on Dahlkemper and Fellman’s part to keep raising the issue.  We hope and trust that this effort fails.  In the meantime, Miller has already sucked up over $60,000 of taxpayer money already.  Now he gets a least another $90,000.

The next two items we thought worth following were

5.06 Charter School Application – Alexandria School of Innovation

and

5.07 Charter School Application – Golden View Classical Academy

Since these were on the Consent Agenda, there was no discussion, and indeed, not much that could be done either way.  Anyone can submit an application.  Both now enter the evaluation process.  Both applications have serious flaws (see our post), including in how the Boards limit inclusion of parents and are structured to make sure that the originating organizations never lose control of them.  In the past, JeffCo staff have cited this last issue as something that needs to be fixed before the application is approved. How this will fare under McMinimee with WNM+Williams pulling his strings remains to be seen, but we are not hopeful.

Note:  Every single existing charter school in JeffCo needs to be very concerned about this. If these two applications, which have governing boards that cannot be run by the parents, are approved, then existing charter schools may try to change their Board member selection process.  This would functionally eliminate parental influence over a charter school’s activities, curriculum, agenda, teacher selection, and management.

This corporatization of charter schools threatens not only severe disruption of traditional school districts, but imperils the entire concept of public education and democracy.  When parents and taxpayers have no say in what schools are approved (or disapproved), what teachers are hired and under what conditions, what management style is used, what disciplinary actions can be taken, what textbooks are used, and what is actually taught, then we no longer have a public school system and we will have lost another key part of our democracy.

We strongly encourage current charter school parents to thoroughly think through the ramifications of these new types of ‘charter’ schools.  In our opinion, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

6.01 2015/2016 Budget Development Process

1) School Accountability Committees are supposed to have more say in what an individual schools budget priorities are.  That has been on the road map for sometime.

2) WNM+Williams really did not like last years community survey on budget priorities, and so promptly ignored the results.  This year, the District says a third party tool will be used.  Our projection is that WNW will probably not like the results of any truly non-biased survey and will continue to find fault with the results and ignore them.

3) Lori Gillis is very excited by the idea of Student Based Budgeting.  Apparently, JeffCo ha been looking into this for the last three years.  Training of principals begins next month.  There was no real explanation of ‘locked’ versus ‘unlocked’ resources, or what kind of dollars are assigned to various needs or categories.  As our previous post put it, “The devil is in the detail” and we want to see all the detail as soon as possible.

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Resolutions and Delegate Selection

First, Jill Fellman is currently JeffCo’s delegate to CASB.  Since this was a holdover from pre-WNW days, no one expected that to last much longer.  WNM+Williams voted to make Newkirk the new delegate, but they may run into a snag.  The same snag may be blocking the resolutions they wanted to present at CASB…since the registration time for the conference delegates and resolutions may already be past.  (Isn’t that what the Board Secretary’s position is supposed to track, Mr. Newkirk?  Did Mr. Miller fail to warn you?)

None this may make much of a difference since Witt already said he did not see much value in JeffCo being a part of CASB.  Many observers feel this is preparatory to a WNM+Williams adopting another DougCo stance and functionally pull out of CASB.

7.03 Committee to Study Common Core, PARCC and AP History

This was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting at Williams request.  She wants a committee to examine the PARCC test, Common Core compliant curriculum, and AP U.S. History texts for historical distortions (can you say ‘un-American influences’?).  Surprisingly, Williams went along with Witt on tabling this issue until the next meeting.

We find ourselves in an odd place.  We are horrified at Williams efforts in this vein, as it smacks of censorship and an effort to ‘cleanse’ our students history textbooks of anything even remotely critical of the United States in general, or Williams’ personal American mythology in specifics.  On the other hand, to watch Witt once again have her on a leash and give Williams a tug, functionally saying “Down, girl!”, may even be more repulsive.

Williams obeyed Witt yet again.  And once again, lost face in front of her supporters. We are left to wonder how long will she allow that to go on….

The next scheduled Board meeting is September 18th.  The agenda has not yet been posted, but the Board Work Calendar (which WNM+Williams is only following about 60% of the time) should include Community Engagement with the JeffCo Diversity Council (there is that word that Witt hates!) and Facilities Planning.  As soon as the agenda is published we will work to get a post out on it.

In the meantime, don’t let WNM+Williams get you down.  In the long run they can only win if we don’t…

Keep Fighting, Jeffco!

9/4: Why Go to the Meeting tonight? How about 2 New Charter Apps?

school-crossingThere is a lot going on in the BoE meeting tonight (5:30 p.m. Education Center – if  you can’t make it, watch the live stream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom).  We have Witt’s Compensation Trojan Horse to start things off, then a review of the Miller contract (eight months late), followed by two new Charter school applications, and then an introduction to School Based Budgeting (SBB).  It promises to be a very interesting night!

And the new Charter school applications trouble us.  They are very different from the charter schools currently in JeffCo.

The current charter schools in JeffCo are basically run by the same people who banded together to create them.  In short, these charter schools are home-grown.  Their supporters are truly ‘grass-roots’ people.  They may have issues, and we may challenge them on various grounds, but basically they are started, supported, and run by JeffCo people for JeffCo students.

Not so Alexandria Innovation or Golden View Classical.

In both cases, the management of the schools will be done, for-profit, by an outside group.  The Barney Charter School Initiative from Hillsdale College for Golden View, and STEM Ventures for Alexandria.  Basically, where JeffCo’s charter schools have historically been independent, these two would be franchises run by non-JeffCo people for their own purposes.

Why is that a concern?

Because we have no assurance that they have the best interests of JeffCo, it’s parents, taxpayers, or (most importantly) its students at heart.  With Boards that are not subject to parental control, the amount of transparency and accountability diminishes rapidly.

Alexandria School of Innovation

In the case of the people proposing Alexandria, this is especially troubling because of the near disaster that occurred when they opened up the STEM Academy in DougCo a few years ago.

We heard from parents who had enrolled their children there, based on promises made by the Brannburgs, the owners of STEM Ventures, the Charter Management Organization (CMO) that is proposing Alexandria.  Promises that they turned out not being  be able to keep.  Within the first few weeks of the school opening, many children were pulled out of the school and went back to their original schools.  The original principal left.  There are also reports that the Brannburgs’ children had paying jobs at the Academy, giving the appearance of nepotism.  Apparently the Board fights were ferocious, and eventually the Brannburg’s were off the Board.  Since then the school has stabilized and grown.

There are other things that bother us immensely.  Barry Brannburg boasts of his experience as an entrepreneur with some kind of engineering background, yet his LinkedIn page shows only STEM Ventures and the STEM Academy & High school in Douglas County.  No other background is given.

The Staff listing on STEM has no one with any specific professional educational training or background.

Their website continues to say that the Alexandria school will be opening in DougCo (you would think they would have changed that by now).  There is no mention of applying in JeffCo.

We also have concerns about the accountability of the school’s Board to the parents.  The Brannburg’s Board structure is designed to make sure that they stay in control and that the parents are never able to actually take over the running of the Board.

Section 3.2. Number, Tenure and Qualifications.

(a) The Board of Directors will consist of five directors. Three directors will make up Class A Directors. Two directors will make up Class B Directors elected from the members. Members are defined as parents or guardians of currently enrolled students of ASI as mentioned in Section 2.1. Initially, there will be five appointed Founding Board directors from the original Development Team -two of which have prospective students who will attend the school. On September 1 of the 3nd year of operation, two of these original five directors will be replaced through a general election of the members and will serve a three-year term.

Apparently the Brannburgs’ learned from losing control of STEM High & STEM Academy and have no intention of losing control of Alexandria.  It is also apparent that they have no respect for the parents of the children they propose to teach…otherwise why would they make sure that parents can never control the Board?

Another clause that concerns us is found in Appendix E, which is the legal agreement that a Board member must sign in order to serve on the Board:

Board members will not question any decision made by the Head of School – Executive Director (ED) in any public arena.

Since the proposed Head of School – Executive Director is Judy Brannburg, it is apparent that she does not want any decision she makes to be publicly reviewed, much less criticized.

So much for transparency.  And with the lack of transparency, we also lose the accountability for how JeffCo tax dollars are spent.

Golden View Classical Academy

Golden View concerns us from other standpoints.

Basically, Golden View will be run as a franchise of Hillsdale College of Michigan, a highly conservative institution.  Much like McDonalds, they have stringent rules for how their ‘franchisees’ run their schools.

For example, professional development of the teachers is to be provided by Hillsdale.  How will that work logistically? Can teachers only be trained there? If so, how does that work over time when teachers leave? Does our district pay for their private instruction through this private institution?

Golden View and Hillsdale boast how their “Classical” curriculum is so superior.  How has it be shown that it has the ability to close the achievement gap? Are there independent reports that indicate this?

The report implies that the curriculum is still being developed. How will applicants know what the final curriculum will look like if they attend? Without that information, how will parents know if their child will be prepared to enter a tier 1 university?

It does not look like this school will prepare students to take AP level classes, nor are they available at this school. Why not? Colleges look upon these favorably. Gifted kids should have them in their portfolio. High schools that do not offer IB or AP classes are not looked upon as favorably by top colleges.  They also tend to be more skeptical about the rigor of the students preparation.

Golden View plans to open as a K-10 school, yet there seems to be no plan to make sure that students leaving the 10th grade there will be ready for the 11th grade curriculum in a JeffCo high school.  This raises the possibility that the  students would likely need to do remedial work in order to achieve  their high school diploma at Lakewood, or D’Evelyn, or Columbine.

Finally, there is the emphasis on teaching from a Judeo-Christian/ Greco-Roman viewpoint.  In our opinion, this borders on the teaching of religious principals with public taxpayer dollars.

Summary

In so many ways, Jeffco has been very lucky with its charter schools.  They have been rooted in the local community, run by local people for the benefit of their own children.  Now a new phase is starting, one that has been seen elsewhere and is beginning to show an ugly face – the corporatization of charter schools and the running of them for either profit or religious/political indoctrination.  Alexandria and Golden View seem to us, to be examples of this forked development.  We should tread very carefully, with eyes wide open, and a very skeptical ear.

Show up at 5:30 so we all can

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!