The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. Board President Ken Witt began by addressing rumors, stating there have not been any decisions made about eliminating electives or changing employee salaries. He also announced that reducing fees for parents and a bonus for employees has been put off this year.
The board then heard a budget presentation from Chief Financial Officer Lorie Gillis and Budget Director Lorri Dugan. (The slide presentation here).
Gillis stated that the budget is based on many variables and is not finalized as employee negotiations and final state funding numbers are still unknown. Dugan explained the different factors involved in school funding like the negative factor (which keeps $98 million a year from our schools – and which WNW voted to support), the current school funding formula, the mill levy override and categoricals such as English Language Learners, Gifted and Talented, etc. The amount of funding each school receives is prescribed in the current Colorado School Finance Act.
Board Members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper asked questions about the negative factor and the plan we have heard from WNW to use 3A funds to equalize charter school funding (see Kelly Johnson’s testimonial on the subject – one of the co-chairs for the 2012 Mill & Bond 3A/3B.) which Witt also asked about. The board did hear an explanation of the promises made to voters during the 3A/3B campaign and the importance of keeping those promises.
Charter schools receive the following funding:
Charter schools purchase the following services from the district:
There was then some discussion of PERA and health care costs due to the Affordable Care Act. Both are mandated by law, including the percentage the district must pay into employee’s retirement program. The district does NOT pay into social security.
The budget for 2014-2015 currently has a placeholder for a 2.5% employee salary increase (approximately $11 million). Employees have not had any pay increases since 2009 and, in fact, voluntarily took a 3% pay cut (that included two furlough days) in 2012 and 2013.
The presentation continued with a discussion of the high cost of students placed out of the district (POODS) for special needs and special education the district is unable to meet. By law, the district must pay for these services. The discussion included an increase in the At-Risk population along with the transportation costs for Special Education students.
Approximately $560,000 has been proposed in next year’s budget for data privacy and security. Also discussion of the cost of increased technology that includes mobile device readiness and the increasing costs of wireless service in our 154 building sites.
$2 million is budgeted to increase elementary literacy proficiency from 80% – 85% (One of the board’s Ends [goals]). Also bugeted is $5.8 million for new math materials and professional development to increase the percentage of math proficiency.
$600,000 has been proposed for full day kindergarten classes, $400,000 to increase safety in athletics for both equipment and transportation (currently many students must transport themselves to events which increases the chance of accidents. Busing these students would be much safer.)
The expansion of the Jeffco Virtual Academy of grades K-6 is $700,000.
Community Budget Forum
The board then moved on to a discussion of the Community Budget Forums, reviewing their script and the video to be shown to the community. The board agreed the video was too long and needed to be cut down. Fellman said, “When I saw the 54 slides I said, oh my gosh” people want to talk and ask questions in these.”
They seemed to struggle with how to accurately convey the budget process to the public. They then agreed the community is looking to hear from them and for the chance to network with one another.
Superintendent Transition Plan
Probably the most notable moment of the night was the board’s decision not to appoint an interim superintendent to run a district of 14,000 employees and 85,000 students. Read Lisa Cook’s article on this in The Examiner.
The board currently has five senior district staff reporting directly to the school board (which is a violation of the board’s own policies – see GP-05 blog post.)
Fellman and Dahlkemper expressed their desire to appoint an interim superintendent. Fellman stated that while all their executives are wonderful, running this district essentially by “committee” is not a good idea. Dahlkemper added that in the case of an emergency a point person much be in place.
Newkirk seemed more worried about causing the new superintendent, when he or she is selected, problems by having an interim than anything else, saying having an interim for a short time may complicate matters.
Williams said this is a time for “senior staff to shine” rather than a time for any big changes. She and Witt are worried about creating cost and creating confusion for a new superintendent.
Dahlkemper asked the two of them to define exactly what cost and confusion they are worried about. Fellman asked if they would be paying the top five execs reporting to the board extra pay for a higher workload.
Witt stated he and Dahlkemper met with senior staff this week and he is fine with not having an interim.
In a vote of 3-2, WNW, the board chose not to appoint an interim superintendent, choosing instead – despite their supreme lack of qualifications – to violate their own policies and micromanage a school district of 14,000 employees and 85,000 children rather than to simply follow the superintendent succession plan in place.
Employee Relations (which also currently has no executive director to replace Allen Taggert) will report to Steve Bell, the district’s Chief Operations Officer and the communications department will report directly to Chief Financial Officer, Lorie Gillis.
Executive Session/End Meeting
The board then moved into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.
Of specific concern to all of us should be the discussion of the board president’s role (GP-05) on the agenda for Thursday, March 6. A policy governance board president should not be granted more power than Witt currently has (though he is violating this policy already.) We encourage you to speak before the board during public comment March 6, 6:30 pm at Golden High School on this matter and other matters pertaining to Thursday night’s agenda. You can find the agenda here. You can also email your concerns to the school board at firstname.lastname@example.org.