From Chalkbeat Colorado: Interview with McMinimee
Our Comment on the above article: This interview was done just before McMinimee’s first official day (July 1st). We will get into an analysis in a bit, but first we wanted to note some good news the article brings up. Under the “Lost Time” section, where McMinimee says that due to the turmoil between WNW and the community (you!), “The last six months some momentum may have been lost.”
If you were wondering if your efforts were making a difference, there is your proof right there. We have, at the least, slowed them down. And slowing down is the first part of stopping! Way to go, JeffCo!
Aside from that, there are a lot of platitudes uttered by McMinimee in this article. Phrases such as “My door is wide open”, “want to be engaged”, and “move toward common goals”, permeate the first paragraph. But we remember Witt’s statement in November, “We want to be the best Jeffco we can be, not Douglas or Denver County” after which WNW promptly began implementing the same steps taken in Douglas County. When it comes to WNW and their minions, do not listen to the words so much as watch what they do and where the money goes.
The sections in this article that you should read and consider most carefully are the ones titled “Statewide Education Policy Issues and JeffCo” and “Budget”.
In the “Policy” section, McMinimee states that he plans on “leveraging…his old Douglas County contacts” and his focus is on teacher evaluation, testing, and state funding. Note that none of his focuses are on how to meet the Board’s goals for increased scores in literacy and mathematics. His focus does not appear to be on Education as in teaching children, but Education as politics. Nor is there any reference to providing leadership to the District Staff on educating our children or any mention of filling the voids in the top District leadership created by people who have recently left.
Finally, in the last and most important section (if you have children in JeffCo), “Budget”, we find the most concerning comments. First, a recap of the 2014-15 budget process.
At the last Board Meeting of the 2013/14 school year, with the news that the District was going to get some extra, probably one time, money from the state, WNW went on a spending spree similar to the proverbial ‘drunk sailor’. They increased the increase being given to charter schools by 50%, and hid it behind a fake cost-of-living raise offer to the teachers (fake because the raise only takes effect if a contract is signed, and the contract can change the amount. Besides, WNW shows themselves to be in no hurry to sign such a contract – so the raise will not actually take effect for a long time, if ever). When they did this, Lori Gillis, the District’s Chief Financial Officer repeatedly warned that this continuing allocation was going to cause the Reserve Fund to drop as much as $10 million below the $65 million target within the next two to four years.
This is very bad news. The Reserve Fund is a key element in the District maintaining it’s AA- (S&P)/AA2 (Moody’s) Bond rating. The Bond rating directly impacts the amount of interest the District has to pay it’s Bond holders. It’s like a consumer credit score. If the rating goes down, then the amount of interest the District has to pay goes up, which costs the District more money. It’s like a family with a credit card. If the family maintains it’s credit rating (saves money, does not spend more than they are taking in), they are seen as a good risk and the interest rate they pay is low. If they go on a spending binge and their savings shrink, banks see this as increasing their risk and so increase the interest rate, which costs the family more money which leaves less money for other things the family wanted or needed to buy.
In earlier Budget meetings, it was agreed that the District needed to maintain about $65 million in the Reserve Fund in order to keep it’s current bond rating. Lori Gillis and her people figured out how to do that with the original Charter school funding increase. With the increased increase, the Reserve fund now starts draining down by over 10% within four years. In the 2016-17 and 2017-18 budget years, an additional $5 million in cuts each year to the general budget will be required to avoid dropping the Reserve Fund below the $65 million threshold. And this is with the most optimistic assumptions! It assumes that we will not have any economic slow-down, that state funding continues to modestly increase, and that there is no shortfall in local property taxes. In short, it pretends that the recessions of 2001 and 2007-2010 cannot happen again!
The really unfair part of these cuts is that the Charter Schools that received the extra funding that is causing the shortfall will not be subject to any of the cuts! This is because their money comes out of the revenue side of the balance sheet, not the expense side. To translate the accounting speak: Spending on Charter Schools in not considered an expense that can be cut! They take their money “off the top”, and the District gets what is left over. So the $10 million in cuts that McMinimee is talking about and is caused by the increase funding of the Charter Schools is will come only from the regular public schools budget. The Charter Schools money will be untouched!
Such is the “equity” of WNW.
Also from ChalkBeat Colorado: The Further DougCo-ization of JeffCo
Our Comment on the above article: When Chalkbeat interviewed McMinimee last week, he did not hint that he had already picked, interviewed, and today, hired another DougCo crony to take ‘DougCo-ization’ another step. Replacement Dr. Beck as the chief academic officer is Syna Morgan, who had been DougCo’s ‘Chief System Performance Officer’ since the radicals took over DougCo. We are not quite sure of what she did at DougCo that qualifies her to step into Dr. Beck’s shoes. A quick look at her LinkedIn account shows that for 47 months of work, she has no description of her job, and exactly one project to her name. In fact, her job description for JeffCo (Yes, she got that updated fast!) is actually more detailed than her DougCo job. Of course, if you are old buddies with the new superintendent, then an actual competitive job search for the most qualified person is nothing to worry about…it just won’t happen.
Mr. Witt, what happened to the ‘JeffCo is not DougCo’ promise you made in November?
We need to slow them down some more, JeffCo!
From PoliticoMagazine:Why I Left 60 Minutes
(Politco.com is a non-partisan news gathering organization, specializing in political covereage. It is highly reputable, and has delivered punches to the left, right, and center over the last several years. Depending on the article and your own personal views, you may either love or hate Politico on any particular day, but if you are smart, you will never dismiss it.)
Our Comment on the above article: If you are wondering about why the Denver Post or Channel 9 News are not doing the kind of investigative reporting of WNW+Miller they deserve, this article will answer a lot of that question. The impact for us in JeffCo (and DougCo and Denver Public) is this: we cannot expect or hope that the news media will do a serious investigation into the on-going scandal. What we can expect is that they will continue to print/broadcast any well tuned sound-byte that WNW+Miller gives them. If there is going to be any snooping around and digging up the real dirt on these people, it will be done us. Only after we have made it a topic for public discussion will local TV and the Denver Post do a story on it.
From Chalkbeat Colorado:7th District of Colorado State Board of Education Election
From near the bottom of the article: “There is a general election contest for the board’s 7th District seat, which covers Adams and Jefferson counties. Democratic incumbent Jane Goff received 28,724 votes in the primary, while Republican challenger Laura Boggs, a former Jeffco school board member, received 33,781.”
Our Comment on the above article: Want to contemplate something scarier than WNW+Miller (now with McMinimee!), how about Laura Boggs sitting on the State Board of Education? That’s right. The woman who paved the way for WNW and was rumored to be their initial pick for Superintendent is the Republican candidate for the 7th District seat of the State Board. First be afraid. Then get active!
Stay alert and informed, JeffCo. Send us any articles you come across concerning education, the radical education ‘reformers’, and JeffCo for inclusion in our weekly round-up. And most of all…