1-16-14 Board Meeting Summary

Sorry this is so long, but A LOT happened last night, some good and more not so good.  The meeting went from 5:30 p.m. to almost midnight.

Good News:

  • Deer Creek Middle School will expand it’s STEM program to include the 6th grade
  • An effort to reduce the rebuilding of the reserve fund by $7 million was put off until the 2014-2015 budget cycle.

Bad News:

  1. A $400k 5 year loan was approved by Witt, Newkirk, & Williams (hereafter referred to as “WNW”) for troubled charter school, Collegiate Academy of Colorado (“CAC”). CAC ran into serious financial trouble ($50k in the hole) two years ago and has replaced two different administrations in a row. Attendance has fallen about 25%, causing an even bigger shortfall. Their turn around plan sounds like the one for cell phone manufacturer Blackberry. There is a good probability that the school will have to close in the next two years. The District would then lose it’s $400k loan. Approved 3-2.  Note: This kind of problem CANNOT happen at a regular public school. How many more CACs are there in JeffCo? 
  2. WNW refused to replace Allen Taggert as Chief Legal Counsel and director of Employee Relations, saying they wanted the new Superintendent to have a say…six months from now. First Witt tried to move this into Executive Session with no public viewing allowed (so much for transparency!). Got a 3-2 vote to do it, but it needs a 2/3’s majority, so their dirty laundry was aired in public. The argument got very nasty. Witt proposed a motion to not fill the position and use to existing HR and Miller to cover in the meantime. Approved 3-2.  (Lakewood Sentinel article covering this here.)
  3. The Board voted unanimously to move an undeveloped property block from West Woods Elementary to Van Arsdale Elementary articulation area.  WNW insisted this be debated, citing concerns that “families will be affected”. No families CAN be affected, as the area being moved is a proposed new development that has not even broken ground! This never should have had a full discussion agenda point, but rather could have been handled by the consent portion. Apparently WNW did not bother to ask Cindy Stevenson ahead of time. It is obvious that NWN does not ask Stevenson questions on anything they are unsure of.
  4. A two-fold surprise! First, an item that did NOT appear on the Board’s Agenda website. Witt proposed spending $7 million this school year to: give $3 million as staff bonuses, $2 million to reduce “parent fees”, and $3 million for ‘Charter School Parity’. Witt was trying to push this through fast because by statute, any changes to the current school year has to be approved by February 1.No prior public notice of this rather substantial financial change had been made!This year JeffCo had budgeted $9 million to go to reserve, lifting it to $53 million. Reducing that amount by $7 million would reduce the new reserve amount to $2 million. She went on to point out that right now the district is very cash poor and any distribution of actual cash on that scale should wait until April or May after the property tax revenue comes in. Also that the State funding was $4 million less than had been expected.After a lot of heated discussion, Dahlkemper called for the vote…and (2nd surprise) the motion was defeated! Julie Williams quietly said “No”! Defeated 2-3.Newkirk immediately moved that the issue be scheduled for the 2014-2015 budget. Expect this this to come up in the budget discussion study meeting on January 30th.
  5. Fellman motioned to add to the next meeting agenda a review of the Board’s contract with Brad Miller. This debate was very hot. Newkirk parroted Paula Noonan’s op-ed piece in the Jan 3rd Denver Post. Newkirk then threatened to demand a close examination of every ‘professional services contract’ the District which could tie up the District business staff for weeks.Dahlkemper and Fellman argued that there had been NO discussion before and they wanted clarification on some sections of the contract. After almost 20 minutes. Witt called for the vote, NWN defeated it, 2-3.
  6. The board will reconsider the CDE TS Gold grant it had refused in the last meeting. This was after very good appeal by teachers, administrators, and parents from the proposed area. The issue will be removed from the consent portion of the agenda and discussed at the next meeting.
  7. The Deer Creek STEM expansion to include a 6th grade component received the second good surprise. Fellman proposed to approve the STEM expansion. Over 25 people had spoken earlier (including five 5th graders) appealed for the program (only two spoke against, and then not really against – they just wanted to go slower).Witt and Newkirk argued that it would be expanding Deer Creek from a general 7-8th grade to a 6-8th grade. Dahlkemper kept insisting that it was an expansion of ONLY the STEM. Only STEM 6th grade would be at Deer Creek. Williams then gave her second surprise of the night and voted with Dahlkemper and Fellman! Approved 3-2.
  8. Under pressure, Witt reluctantly admitted this money was currently earmarked to rebuild the reserve fund. Fellman stated that she felt this belonged in the budget discussion for the next school year, 2014-2015. Lorie Gillis, the CFO for the District pointed out that the CDE recommended reserve level for a school district is between 10-15% and that JeffCos was currently at 4% because of draw downs over the last few years.

There was other debates, speakers, activity, and oddities that went on.  Future posts may deal with some of it, but for now, the above is a pretty good summary of the substantive actions.

That ended the public session. The next full meeting will be Feb. 6th, most likely at Golden High School. There will be a budget study session in January 30th and possibly on February 1st.

—Added the following links & comments after initial posting:

9News Coverage – Nelson Garcia was there with a camera operator, but only stayed until the break about 7:30 p.m.  It was after that the fireworks really started!

Arvada Sr. High’s “The Crimson Report”s coverage of last night’s meeting.