Board Mtg 1/30/14 – Summary

Below is a review of the Jan 30th Special Board meeting held at the Education Center in Golden (near Denver West off of I-70).

The first part of the meeting was held in Executive Session (no public viewing) and covered the status of negotiations with the different employee associations.  At 6:30 p.m., the public part of the meeting was convened.  Overall, there appeared to be a strong interest in anything charter school related.

Agenda Items

3.02 Legislative Update

Ed Bowditch talked about the pending school related bills.  Several possible upcoming bills were discussed.  Witt seemed to take a very keen interest in a possible bill called the Charter Construction Bill Loan.  He wanted to know the status of it.

3.03:  Cornerstone

The District and Cornerstone are in the Facilitation Process.  Cornerstone is still waiting on some grants.  This will be put back on the agenda in March.

This is one to watch.  The original application was badly flawed (see our post “Cornerstone Charter is Back!”) including inadequate financing and no actual location in the area they claim to want to serve.  If the “WNW” majority approves the application without these faults having been remedied, it will prove that they love all things “charter” without any real evaluation on each application’s merits.

3.04  Data Management

This was a discussion in data governance.  There was a study conducted by an independent parent who works in IT at a private firm.  She took a thorough look at the security of information.  She made some recommendations, and a few upgrades to security were made.  All agreed that data security was being taken very seriously and being dealt with adequately.  As we all know, “In Bloom” is not being used.  They continue to use the old system called Dashboard.

3.05  Audit Committee & Financial Oversight

7 Items were highlighted:

  1. $8 million increase in healthcare costs, and who should pay for this?
  2. A requested teacher pension breakdown
  3. Reserve balance and status
  4. Charter Equalization and how that fits into the budget
  5. A review to make sure that promises of 3A/3B are being met
  6. Capital construction needs
  7. Special Education – determine whose needs are still not being met by the district.  What are the costs for them to go outside of the district?

At the end of the audit discussion, Witt asked if we could also do a teacher work load audit.  He was informed that that would be an operational audit, not a financial audit.  Stevenson said that it could be done, but costs tend to be high.  Dahlkamper asked Witt why he wanted such an audit.  Witt refused to give a reason, stating he would “table” the question for now.

Why is Witt so interested in this type of audit?  Despite being pressed by Dahlkamper as to why he needed this audit, he would not give an answer.  So much for his vaunted concern for “transparency”.

The Board is responsible for giving the Audit committee direction.  This can give us an idea as to where they are heading.  In light of that, the first four items are very concerning.  The first two go to how well teachers are compensated.  Then the reserve fund tells them how much money is on hand.  Then the next topic is about giving charter schools more money.  If you connect the dots, the image is starting to look ugly.

3.06 Policy Review

Williams wants taxpayers throughout Colorado to be able to come and speak at our Board meetings.  Her proposal was taken under consideration.

???!!!  Why should someone from the western slope or the eastern plains be concerned about how JEFFERSON COUNTY spends its money?  Why should we listen to them?  This would have the impact of giving people who do not live here, work here, or have children who attend here a dramatic say in how we educate our children!

3.07  Representation at Committees and Events

They want all committee reports to be readily accessible.

Witt discussed how he thought any board member should be able to show up announced at any committee meeting throughout the district.  Oddly, he extended this to the PTA and the Jefferson Foundation even though they are legally separate entities.

They agreed that they would give notice when they were going to visit a school site.  No mention was made of giving the same kind of notice to the PTA or Jefferson Foundation.

This is a very odd request and reminiscent of Laura Boggs’ antics.  Why is this so important to him?  Anyone is free to attend the meetings of these two organizations, but why do these two stand out to him?

3.08  Budget Survey

Witt requested that many of the questions be reworded.  He thought that they contained a bias.  The original questions contained the idea of a tradeoff.  For example if you wanted a full day kindergarten, the question originally stated that the cost of this would have been subtracted from somewhere else.  By removing that text, in effect, the questions now would you lead you to believe that there is extra funds to run many new programs without making any changes to the budget.

This is being fiscally responsible?

3.09 Supplemental Budget

More money had come in, but it was explained that the school is still about $3 million over budget.  At this point in time, there are not any additional monies to use on new programs or other new items.

Overall feeling:

No real fireworks such as happened at the Jan 16th meeting.  But it is in these quiet little meetings that bigger things are often started.  It was at a similar Special meeting in December that Witt first learned of spare capacity at Deer Creek which would be absorbed by the STEM expansion to 6th grade.  In the video of that meeting, Witt can be heard to say “a great place to co-locate a charter school”.  At the next full Board meeting (Jan 9th), he killed the STEM expansion, citing concerns over limiting the options for “GT kids”.  It was only after an enormous public protest at the Jan 16th meeting that Julie Williams changed her vote (Witt and Newkirk still voted against), and Deer Creek got its STEM expansion.

What we see in this meeting is:

  • How much money is the District spending on teachers?
  • How much money does the District have?
  • How much spending is going to charter schools?
  • How heavy is the current teacher workload?
  • Shouldn’t non-JeffCo residents have a say in how JeffCo spends JeffCo money? 
  • Eliminate the idea that funding one thing takes funding away from another thing.

We cannot predict where things are going next, but this meeting provided some ominous overtones.

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