April 3rd Meeting Review – Yet another view:

Study Session

1.02 Superintendent Search Update: Bill Newman of Ray & Associates – the firm heading up the district’s superintendent search – presented on the themes from the stakeholder forums that were held last month. You can see their report at here. Page 4 is interesting in that you can see what the different groups’ priorities are, including the BOE.

Mr. Newman pointed out 2 discrepancies where BOE priority gave priority to something other stakeholders did not:

Quality/characteristic #16: “Non-traditional or “hybrid” with background in military, business and/or education” – was ranked as a #3 priority for the BOE (with 3 votes) vs a ranking of 33 for teachers, 32 for administrators, 32 for support staff, 30 for parents, 30 for students, 32 for non-parent community member and 32 for other.  That’s out of a possibility of 33.  Wow.  That’s a pretty clear message!

Quality/characteristic #24:  “Has demonstrated strong leadership skills in previous positions.”  This received a ranking of 9 from the BOE and rankings of 20, 20, 15, 15, 12, 20 & 15 for other stakeholder groups as identified above.

Ms. Dahlkemper noted the disconnect on #16 between what the majority of the board wants vs what the majority of other stakeholders want.  Note that in the interest of not wanting to discourage candidates from applying, the flyer that will be distributed by Ray & Associates will state that Jeffco is looking for a traditional, non-traditional or hybrid candidate – even though the majority clearly stated that having a non-traditional candidate is at the bottom of their priority list.

Ms. Dahlkemper wanted more emphasis on a proven track record of experience with educator effectiveness.

Based again on stakeholder input, Mr. Newman suggested that the board consider adding to the candidate profile and flyer that we want a leader who “had leadership skills to respond to challenges of ethnic & cultural diversity.”  This had a ranking of 17 for the BOE, but a ranking of 7, 8, 5, 10, 12, 6, and 5 for the other stakeholders as indicated above.  Mr. Witt was “not interested” (his words) in adding this quality to the candidate profile and shot down any attempts to further discuss this matter.

Mr. Newman noted that Jeffco set a new record w/their firm – Ray & Associates received over 3,000 responses from the Jeffco community; their previous record was 1,958 responses.  Way to go!

Despite these disagreements, Witt somehow remarked, that he could see ‘substantial agreement’. One wonders if he was attending the same meeting everyone else was.

Regular Meeting

5.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related): Public comment was over 2 hours long.  In the past, such as the January 16th meeting when parents who supported the Deer Creek STEM program expansion that Witt did not like, Witt required them to speak as a single group since they were speaking on the same topic. (Witt and Newkirk voted against the expansion, Williams, Dahlkemper, and Fellman voted for it). This night, in clear violation of board policy (click here), Witt not only did not require those speaking on the same topic (charter equalization) to speak as a single group, but he allowed (also against board policy – click here) this public comment period to go on for 2 hours as opposed to cutting it off at 45 minutes and requiring others to wait until the end of the meeting.

Also, board policy states that if more than 25 people sign up to speak, individuals are to be given 2 minutes to speak (instead of 3) and groups given 5 minutes (instead of 10) to speak.  There were way more than 25 speakers (see signup list here) and they were given their full 3 & 10 minutes to speak.

The Facebook site Transparency Jeffco has an excellent video highlighting this here. So much for a fair and impartial treatment of the public.

7.03 Progress on Board Goals: Math Instruction (Ends 1, 2)

This was apparently postponed to another meeting.

7.04 Board Direction on the 2014/2015 Budget

The goal tonight was to review those items in yellow (worksheet here) that required additional discussion. No decisions made tonight are final – there is still time for discussion – but here is where this board majority stands as of tonight:

Teachers/staff – you need to be paying careful attention to this. Look at lines 19, 20, & 21 in the worksheet. Witt wants the placeholder for compensation to only read as $11,725,100. He wants the $3,727,200 PERA contribution and $500,000 Affordable Healthcare Act fees rolled up as if included and not separate/distinct from employee compensation. So instead of being a total compensation of $15,952,300 to include compensation, PERA & AHCA – it’s all rolled up in a pretty package w/a price tag of $11,725,100.  That’s a $4.2+M cut to compensation. Yes, that’s right – $4.2 MILLION DOLLAR CUT TO EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION. Again, keep in mind that this is a placeholder, but that’s what Witt wants to do for now. This was approved by another 3-2 WNW decision.

The Board then approved the $4.5M to increase wireless infrastructure (accessibility & capacity) in the district. (This has a lot of people confused, but WiFi throughout the district is spotty and this includes the landline links out of the schools. Building a campus-wide WiFi network that can support hundreds of simultaneous links is not the same as hooking up a consumer wifi hub in your house or small business. Plus, security on the network has to be a LOT tougher than what is available on consumer products.)

WNW then voted to completely cut out of the budget the $600,000 that was to fund 13 sections of full-day free kindergarten for schools where there are 35% or more free and reduced lunch kids (e.g., low income students). There justification? Julie Williams thinks – from her “experience” – that full-day kindergarten just adds specials (art, music & PE) – that it’s not additional academic time. And Witt isn’t satisfied w/national data showing that kids who receive full-day kindergarten excel and are better prepared for 1st grade than those who attend 1/2-day. Nor is he satisfied w ith national data that shows low-income students benefit greatly from a full-day K program. Nope. He wants to see Jeffco data on this. (Is this another example of ‘my mind is made up, don’t bother me with the facts’ non-thinking?)

The Board then added a $855k amount to line item 39 for the Gifted & Talented program for additional resource teachers to help out on ALPs, professional development, and better identification of GT kids.

Charter School Equalization: WNW voted to put a $3.7 MILLION for charter school equalization.

The Board added a line item w/no dollar value to address their ends goal to address remediation rates – they need more information before identifying a dollar value, and will discuss this at the next board meeting. It’s interesting that they want more detail on this, and had specific reasons for giving the GT program more money, but require no such level of detail on giving more money to Charter schools.

Lorie Gillis, the District’s CFO said that there is a lot of misconceptions & confusions about Charter School funding and recommended 1-2 hours to discuss charter school funding to ensure that everyone is on the same page on how it works and who gets what and why. Witt instead suggested adding a 30-min discussion to the next meeting.

Reserve Fund – Because of the changes above, instead of putting in the recommended $2 million into the the Reserve Fund, the District will only be able to put in between $200 to $400 thousand. According to WNW, this should be enough to keep the District’s current bond rating. (Strange, we were under the impression that the primary purpose of a reserve fund was to be help the District ride out an economic downturn…like the one we just had. You build a reserve fund during better times. So much for prudent fiscal management….)

Cornerstone Academy charter school update. Apparently since the lady in charge of this charter has a full-time job, she can’t be reached very easily to keep this moving. The original target date to open was August 2014 – that’s not even remotely achievable – at best will be 2015. Mr. Carlton, the charter school liaison tasked w/working w/Cornerstone, asked for 4-6 weeks to get back to the board with an update. The school still does not have a location identified.

10.01 Board Work Calendar:

Last big topic of the night – Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman asked that the board allocate 30 minutes at the next board meeting to have a conversation about the contract with Brad Miller – the BOE’s attorney – to discuss his fee, the contract, and what exactly it is that his firm has been doing for the district. CORA requests (click here)show Brad Miller activity on virtually every day of the month in January – of course the “activity” is blacked out so we have NO CLUE what they’ve been doing – and neither do Ms. Dahlkemper or Ms. Fellman. A conversation sounds pretty reasonable considering this was supposed to be a month-to-month contract, but it hasn’t been discussed ONCE in SIX MONTHS – and obviously Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman haven’t been privy to any of the work BM has been doing. Nope – WNW voted NOT to have a conversation.

Another Witt steamroll. Nice.