Feb 6th Board Meeting Agenda – Cornerstone again!

Here is a link to the official Meeting Agenda.  The meeting will take place in room 4E at the Education Center at 5:30 p.m. (map here).  Currently no Executive Session is scheduled so the public part of the meeting will start at 5:30 p.m.

Below is our summary of the upcoming meeting and any concerns or comments we have:

Agenda

1.02 New Agenda Item – The Board wants to discuss the EL-11 monitoring report…again!  They reviewed this during the January 30th meeting.  Why again and why at the last moment?

1.03  Monitoring:  Second Quarter Financial Report (EL-5, EL-6)Routine board review of quarterly results.  Documents attached here:  DEC 2013 Summary Letter, 2nd Qtr Financial Report, 2nd Qtr Report Presentation, CLA Procedure Report.

The CLA report is very interesting.  There is a General Fund has a deficit right now, but that is normal until the spring and summer property tax revenue arrives.  Also the Technology Fund spending is on pace, but it’s admin and utility/telephone expenditures are running higher than projected, causing a request for a spring supplemental appropriation.

The most interesting part, however, is at the end of the report.  In their review, CLA helped the District create a Yellow/Red flag systems for funds or activities that are out of the norm.  Four items were flagged… all Charter Schools.  Specifically:

Mountain Phoenix – Was authorized to borrow $38k, has actually borrowed $57k, and a $165k payment to a construction contractor is overdue.  The District requested info from the Mountain Phoenix principal and board in December, but has had no response.

Rocky Mountain Deaf School – Has borrowed $186k from the District, but the school’s excess cost rate for 2013/2014 has not been approved by the Colorado Dept of Ed.  No billings will be processed until the rate is approved.

Two Roads – The school can borrow up to $40k at the end of June 2014.

Collegiate Academy – The Board approved a $400k line of credit, to be repaid in full by 2017/2018 (see our post on Collegiate Academy under “Bad News” point 1).

4.01 – Public Comment on Agenda Related items.

If you want to comment on an agenda item (and you really should!), sign up here.  Not sure what to ask questions about?  Try these:

Subject:  1.03 – 2nd Quarter Financial Report.  Question: After the 2nd quarter report showed a number of charter schools in financial difficulty, how can you seriously consider a new charter school application with shaky finances?

Subject: 7.04 – Cornerstone Academy. Question:  In Cornerstone’s original application, they said they wanted to serve the children of South Lakewood.  But their three possible locations were in north Westminster, one in Evergreen, and only one in Lakewood – next to Johnny’s NY Pizza on Wadsworth…and there is no vacant space there!  How do can a charter school in Westminster or Evergreen serve South Lakewood?

Subject:  7.01 – TS Gold. Question: Why did the Board initially reject the TS Gold grant?  If you had questions about it, why did you not ask the District staff for a quick explanation then?  We could have avoided the issue needing to be brought up again with some simple questions being asked before hand.

Subject: 7.03 – The Board’s Retreat.  Question: At the Board’s retreat in December, a copy of the Board’s Engagement Letter with Brad Miller was passed around.  The Minutes call it “Attachment A”, yet there is no such attachment on BoardDocs.  Where is the copy?  For that matter, where is the copy of the contract for public viewing?

Subject: 7.02 Performance Evaluation Council.  Question:  It is obvious from the questions the Board is getting at it’s meetings that there is a large part of Jefferson County is troubled by the Board’s apparent direction.  Since the Board is now reviewing in detail all appointments to the Performance Evaluation Council, how can we be sure that the Board will include those whose views are different from the Board and more in-line with the public?

Subject:  7.05 Financial Oversight Committee  Question: At the Jan 30th Board Meeting, during the review of the Financial Oversight report, Mr. Witt asked if a workload study had been done.  It was pointed out that such a study was more of an operational audit than a financial audit and it would be very expensive.  Mr. Witt was asked why he felt a workload study was important, but did not answer, instead “tabling” the matter.  In the interest of government transparency, I would like to know why Mr. Witt feels a workload audit is necessary?  What is his concern?  What does he hope to learn?  How does he intend to apply what he learns?

6.01 – Compensation Redesign (presentation here)

This report states that the data on individual performance pay is not clear and so JeffCo should not move to an individual basis yet.

It will be VERY interesting how the Board reacts to this!

7. Discussion Agenda

7.01 – TS Gold in Preschool (CDE provided info on TS Gold)

TS Gold is an assessment of effectiveness.  It has been used for three years by JeffCo for it’s part of the Colorado Pre-school Program.  It basically provides state money to get disadvantaged kids into preschool.  There are only two assessments approved by Colorado – TS Gold and HighScope COR.  HighScope would cost $94k.  In December, the Board (led by WNW) voted to refuse the CDE grant to pay for TS Gold.   The CDE has told JeffCo that they MUST use one of the two and if JeffCo does not, then JeffCo will lose funding for the students that the CPP would normally pay for.  JeffCo would then be faced with choosing to either refuse to enroll CPP students or cover the $94k cost from other programs.

This issue is being brought back up as a result of a 3-2 vote in the January 16th meeting (Dalhkemper, Fellman, and Williams).

This should be a no-brainer.  Every study ever done says that the earlier you get challenged kids into pre-school, the better.  The future cost-savings to society is enormous!  Any dissenting vote on approving the grant would be truly bizarre!

7.02 Membership in the Performance Evaluation Council

The Board did not approve at the 1-16 meeting the two appointments recommended by Cindy Stevenson, the Superintendent.  They wanted to discuss the membership selection at this meeting.

This is another effort by the new WNW led-Board to get as much control over operations in the District.  The Council is supposed to be non-partisan and drawn from a broad spectrum of the community.  If the Board persists in vetoing anyone that WNW does not like, then it will be a WNW clone.

7.03 Board Retreat Report

(Presentation given at the retreat here.)

7.04 Cornerstone Academy Application

Facilitation with Cornerstone began today (Feb 3rd).  The Board wants an update from staff and Cornerstone whether or not to grant conditional approval.

???!!!  This application had 28 separate faults!  Not the least of which was not actually having a location.  Cornerstone says they want to serve the South Lakewood community (i.e., near US-285).  Since then, we have learned that one of the three locations they proposed is no longer available…and it was the only one in Lakewood!  The other two are in north Westminster by I-70 and in Evergreen!  At the meeting last Thursday (Jan 30th), it was revealed that Cornerstone had not received one the grants they had counted on for an already underfunded effort.  Cornerstone & JeffCo have had ONE DAY of “facilitation”…and Cornerstone is somehow ready for provisional approval???

In the Quarterly report, the CPA firm highlighted how the District is already on hook for loans to charter schools that are in trouble.  One of them has not even paid their construction contractor!  And now they want to look at Cornerstone again?

If this is approved at this meeting, then it will mean anything with the word “charter” is JeffCo’s equivalent of “Too Big To Fail”…and JeffCo taxpayers on the ones on the hook.

7.05 Direction for Financial Oversight Committee (background doc here)

As was observed in the summary of the Jan 30th meeting, their focus is on how much are we giving teachers, how much do we have on hand, and how are the charter schools doing.  If your kids go to a regular neighborhood school… just not important enough to be on the Board’s Financial concerns list.  Kids whose parents can drive them to north Westminster or Evergreen have priority.

8.01 Public Comment (Not on Agenda)

To speak to the board on issues not on the agenda sign up here.

Not sure of what questions to ask?  Try these:

Subject:  Neighborhood schools. Question: At the last several Board Meetings, I have heard a LOT about charter schools and things the Board wants to give them.  The only reference to a regular neighborhood school was Deer Creek Middle School…and there some of you tried to take away 6th grade STEM!  On the agenda tonight there is again a lot of emphasis on charter schools.  When will the Board turns it attention to helping the neighborhood schools that the majority of JeffCo students attend and the majority of JeffCo residents support?

Subject: Attorney for the Board.  Question: I heard about the controversy involving the Board hiring Mr. Miller as it’s representative.  During the Jan 16th meeting, Mr. Newkirk and Mr. Witt argued that his hiring was a replacement for Mr. Taggert who served as the District’s attorney and head of Employee Relations.  When I looked at the minutes of the December 12th meeting, I found it said that the hiring of Mr. Miller was not to replace Mr. Taggert, but rather “The Board President requested a discussion with the Board of the need for an attorney to represent the Board of Education separately from the district’s chief legal counsel.”  Separately from the district?  Does that mean Mr. Miller’s fiduciary responsibility is to the members of the Board and not to the District as a whole?  If so, then how can Mr. Miller in good faith act for the District?  What happens if the interests of the Board and the District are different?  Would not Mr. Miller’s legal obligation be to the Board and not the District?  And this is being paid for by District money, which in part is paid by my taxes?  I ask that the Board follow through on the implied promise Mr. Witt made at the December retreat that “terms the Board doesn’t like can be renegotiated” and that the contract be publicly reviewed.

9.01 Board Work Calendar (copy here)

9.02 Special & Regular Meetings

  • February 8th (Saturday) from 8-11 a.m. Study Session – Budget Overview
  • February 13th (Thursday night) – 5:30-7:30 Community Engagement: SPAC
  • February 18th (Tuesday night) – Superintendent Search Firm Finalists Interviews
  • February 20-21st – CASB Winter Legislative Conference (Jill Fellman and Julie Williams)
  • March 3rd (Monday night) 6:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Budget Forum at Standley Lake and Evergreen
  • March 5th (Wednesday night) 6:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Budget Forum at Chatfield and Arvada West
  • March 6th (Thursday night) 5:30 p.m. – General Meeting (discussion on cost & value of CASB membership)
  • March 8th (Saturday) 9:30-11:00 am – Budget Forum at Lakewood and DRHS
  • March 13th (Thursday night) – 5:30-7:30 Community Engagement: SPAC
  • March 20th (Thursday night) – Community Engagement:  City of Westminster