What’s at Stake – November 2021

Jeffco school board election 2021

Laura Boggs is puppeteering your local school board election – again.

For those who are new to the Jeffco Schools scene, Laura Boggs is a former Jeffco School Board of Education Member who was censured – twice, for agreeing with a radio host that the then superintendent “should be shot” and for threatening to “tear this county apart.” Yes, that Laura Boggs:

She’s also known to have hidden behind an easel in a meeting trying to avoid being noticed, and even wrestled a high school classroom from a teacher’s control and then told the students that school is “stupid.” Yes, that Laura Boggs.

Unfortunately this very same effective manipulator Laura Boggs, “conservative” “reformer,” who, by the way, is really neither, has been identified as the mastermind behind the current opposition slate of Shelton, Miks, and Wilhite (SMW). People have been saying on social media they want proof; well, here’s the proof, clear as day.

This email screenshot is being spread all over social media in response to outrage that Varda, Parker, and Reed didn’t show to a Christians Who Care forum. More on that later. In this email, the forum organizer clearly identifies SMW as “her candidates.” Enough said. This alone should give everyone pause and raise your blood pressure, and hopefully, send you running to tell everyone you know who might be considering voting for “her candidates” to think again.

When the campaign took issue with Boggs being copied on the emails, this is how the forum organizer responded:

Further, Boggs has been an active part of the “grassroots” “independent” group that is promoting the opposition slate since the beginning, as seen in this Facebook discussion from January 2021.

Elections matter. We say this every election. And, seemingly, every election, Laura Boggs tries to come back. So what’s at stake this time? What’s different this time?

The short version: the (“conservative”) politicization of school boards on a national level as part of a national strategy. Laura Boggs and her Jeffco pals are trying to tap into this national strategy.

For example, from Fairfax, Virginia:

Note the last sentence.

Screen shot is from this longer thread: https://twitter.com/JuddLegum/status/1450081018040492038

The above quote comes from Fairfax County, VA—one of the largest school districts in the nation–where a so-called “grassroots” group calling itself Parents Defending Education is working for a Republican takeover of what should be nonpartisan school boards.

In one recent example, a parent told the Fairfax County school board that the high school library contained two books containing pedophilia—a claim that is completely untrue. As is often the case with such groups, Parents Defending Education isn’t particularly interested in facts, instead retweeting her public comment and repeating the allegation. Conservative school board candidates also continued to repeat the lie, arguing, “I believe that parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”

Mind you, no such books exist in the school library.

In another story out of Southlake, TX, a school administrator told teachers that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom they should offer students books from an “opposing” perspective. Teachers were told this after a parent complained that a fourth grade teacher had a anti-racism book in her classroom (the book in question was This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell) and the school board voted to reprimand the teacher. We can’t make this stuff up.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965

The story also notes that a group of parents in that district have been fighting to block new diversity and inclusion programs in the school district there, as part of a broader national movement led by people opposed to lessons on racism, history, and LBGTQ issues—often referred to by the now-population catchphrase “critical race theory.”

Bringing it Home

And now, Laura Boggs and Friends are cutting-and-pasting onto your social media all over Jeffco…

Careful readers may have noticed that and several other similar phrases being thrown about on social media and news stories in Jeffco. We’ll post a few screenshots for those of you who, wisely, have avoided social media for a while. For example:

Or there’s this one:

And this one, in response to a post for Varda, Reed, and Parker on Nextdoor:

Hive mind? Just a steady stream of slogans from the same echo chamber?

Unfortunately, it’s part of this larger strategy to politicize school boards—one that has been alive and well in Jeffco for some time now.

Today, JCSBW just wants to focus on one of the issues: all the stuff found under the catchphrase “Critical Race Theory.”

That battle over Advanced Placement United States History from 2014? Here it is again, wrapped in shiny new packaging.

The claim is that (mostly white) children might feel badly about themselves if they learn about our country’s past. Last time around the fear was that our children might not become patriotic if they knew our country’s history (i.e., American Exceptionalism).

If the opposition is elected, we’re going to be right back to this same battle.

Some examples:

  • First, a recent Colorado Sun article highlights a curious pattern in which conservative candidates around Colorado are focused on the same issues.
  • That Parents Defending Education group we talked about above? It’s also actively involved in the Mesa County School Board race. Yes, that Mesa County, the one where County Clerk Tina Peters was recently banned from having any role in the November 2021 election.
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado Sun also reported that in Colorado Springs, Church Voter Guides published candidate responses to a series of questions, including queries about critical race theory, sex education and coronavirus protocols, and the El Paso County Republican Party sent a questionnaire to board candidates in that county that included questions about critical race theory, mask and vaccine mandates, and false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

See the pattern yet?

If not, how about this from the Summit County School District where another so-called “grassroots” group claims to be concerned about budget issues, academics, and politics in schools.

One of the Summit County candidates is also very concerned about school library books (just like in Texas), and wants to see books with “left-leaning points of view” balanced with books from a conservative perspective. She also is concerned about social justice and gender identity being incorporated into coursework, claiming it’s “the job of parents” to teach those issues at home.” Not content with that viewpoint, she raised the bar, claiming that teachers think they have the right to “almost raise our kids for us.”

One version of this played out here in Jeffco night before last, at a candidate forum by a group calling itself “Christians Who Care” —a group that is loosely organized at best because JCSBW couldn’t find any information about the group at all. Much ado has been made on social media because the pro-public education candidates, Danielle Varda, Mary Parker, and Paula Reed pulled out of the forum at the last minute.

Why?

Let’s start with the questions that candidates were provided ahead of the forum (typed as written in the screenshot, with three bolded by JCSBW for emphasis):

  1. What are your qualifications for being a Board of Education candidate, and what do you see is the most important issue you would like to address?
  2. 55% of Jeffco’s 3rd graders are not at grade level reading. 74% of sixth graders are not at grade level math. Overall student achievement as declined as has student enrollment. In contrast, annual spending continues to increase. How do you explain these statistics and trends, and as a Board of Education member, how do you plan to address these issues?
  3. We are aware that the Union has endorsed certain Board of Education candidates. How does a Union endorsement or non-endorsement influence your decisions, when making critical education-related decisions?
  4. Several of the most highly contested issues in the educational systems in Jefferson County relate to mandated masking and vaccinations. As a Board of Education member, how would you address parents’ concerns? [JCSBW note: Neither Jeffco nor Colorado has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and any future mandate would be approved by the state legislature, not the school board.]
  5. As a member of the Board of Education, how would you address the increasing intrusion of government into educational systems wherein the rights and responsibilities of parents are eroded?
  6. From a Christian and parent perspective, how will you address the canceled culture/Woke mentality in schools with special attention to the political themes of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory?

No wonder VRP declined to show to this forum. It was clearly a trap.

JCSBW apparently is not “woke” enough to understand what “woke indoctrination,” “woke curricula” or “woke mentality” are, much less “canceled culture,” but none of them are tied to grassroots movements.

Turns out that some of those questions come directly from Parents Defending Education. Their website includes encouraging parents to create social media pages to “document examples of woke indoctrination” and waging lawsuits against “woke” curricula. 

Now consider the questions in bold above. Coincidence? No.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to protecting our Jeffco neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

JCSBW supports three candidates — Varda, Reed, and Parker — who will support all of our local schools and all our students.

If she gets her way, Laura Boggs won’t just be organizing candidates, she’ll be commanding them to “tear apart” the county again.

There’s more to come. In the meantime, remember to vote for Varda, Reed, and Parker. Ballots are due by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 2!

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Finalist Jason Glass

It’s an exciting week in Jeffco, as the Jeffco School Board prepares to vote on superintendent finalist candidate Jason Glass.

We are very excited both that Dr. Glass, currently superintendent of Eagle County Schools, applied for the position and that he emerged as the clear finalist. JCSBW has quoted Dr Glass’ columns in the Vail Daily in the past because he speaks so articulately about the funding issues and other challenges facing public schools in Colorado. Having him right here in Jeffco is a true privilege and pleasure.

Things we’re most excited about:

  • Dr. Glass is an articulate communicator who doesn’t hesitate to reach out to students, families, and the larger community.
  • He not only understands the challenges of local and state funding, but has been actively involved in a successful mill and bond campaign in his own district last fall.
  • He has previous experience as a superintendent, having served as Eagle County’s superintendent for the past four years.
  • He has a doctorate in education.
  • Dr. Glass also brings national experience to the district, having served as Iowa’s Department of Education Director and Chief State School Officer from 2010 to 2013.
  • He was also appointed as a member of the National Board for Education Sciences board of directors in December 2016 by then-President Obama.

You can see his resume here. There have also been several articles in local newspapers that are worth checking out, including the Denver Post and the Arvada News.

We’re extremely hopeful that Dr. Glass will be able to continue writing columns for one of the local papers that serve Jeffco families. If you haven’t seen his columns, we’d encourage you to read one of his most recent columns, or this one.

The board will vote whether to approve Dr. Glass as superintendent this Tuesday, May 16. The meeting starts at 4 pm (please note the earlier time, which we also missed in our original post!). Time for public comment is scheduled to start at 4, and we encourage you to sign up and share your thoughts with the board.

We are thrilled to have such a great candidate and very pleased with the transparency with which this search was conducted. The community’s voice was used to find and select the finalist, and results from community comments and meetings, including nearly 3,900 surveys and 1,000 comments are available on the Jeffco Schools superintendent search page.

We also know much more about the search than we did three years ago. For example, we know that:

  • 825 contacts were made to potential candidates in 46 states,
  • 69 applications were received
  • 11 candidates from 9 different states were recommended for consideration
  • 6 candidates were interviewed from 6 different states (including Colorado, obviously)
  • 5 of the interviewees were currently or had been superintendents
  • Dr. Glass emerged unanimously as the strongest candidate, far surpassing the others

Tuesday is your last chance to give the board input into this extraordinarily important decision. If you can’t attend, consider emailing the board members with your thoughts.

And as always, we remain

JeffCo Proud!

Superintendent Search Update

We’re quickly coming to the end of the Board’s search for a new CEO of Jeffco Schools. The district’s Superintendent Search website shows the Jeffco School Board is still on track to announce one or more finalists the week of May 1.

What We Know So Far

On Wednesday, the hired search firm, Ray & Associates (R&A), released data about the search thus far. R&A initially contacted 825 potential candidates, representing 46 states. Sixty-nine people submitted applications, with the size and location of Jeffco attracting significant attention.

R&A evaluated and screened applicants based on the strength of their administrative experience and academic background, then focused on the qualities and criteria Jeffco wants in its next leader. The top candidates were then given a comprehensive interview by R&A  and thoroughly investigated through references, state officials, other school administrators and people who knew them.

Eleven candidates — representing Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee — qualified for additional consideration. At the end of tomorrow night’s board meeting (which begins at 5 pm), board members will hold an executive session to learn the names of and discuss these candidates. However, they also have the ability to review all applications received, not just those R&A has pre-selected. We recall from one of the community forums hosted by R&A that board members will also have a chance to view video responses from each candidate to a series of questions.

Next Steps

On April 26, board members will interview the candidates they select tomorrow night.

When asked recently about the public’s role in this process, Jeffco Chief Human Resources Officer Amy Weber said that board members and the district want a process that ensures the deepest pool of qualified candidates, and many of the potential candidates have expressed a need for confidentiality.

Other Jeffco School Board Agenda Items

Also on the Board’s agenda tomorrow night:

If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can  watch the live stream. Videos of the meetings are also available there to view later.

JeffCo Proud!

2.10.17 BOE Meeting Summary & Action Items

UpdateSo we’ve mostly recovered from the 8-hour marathon Jeffco School Board meeting, and wanted to quickly outline some of the decisions.

First, we’d like to commend our Board President Ron Mitchell and board members Susan Harmon, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, and Amanda Stevens for their work Thursday night. They listened to students, parents, teachers, and even state and local legislatures with respect and consideration.

The atmosphere was vastly different than it was two years ago. No one was cut off. No one was escorted out. Board members made it clear they wanted to hear all voices, and voted to move the agenda item about winter MAP results to a future meeting in order to fully focus on public comment and the budget.

The discussion about facilities and budget issues was articulate and responsive to both the issues at hand and to the many letters and comments they had heard from the community.

After hours of public comment, Superintendent Dan McMinimee opened the budget discussion by telling board members that he was backing away from his original recommendations, based on the outcry from the community. Instead, McMinimee said his staff was able to identify $11.8 million in cuts plus $9 million in retirement savings that could be used for compensation, without affecting the classroom.

While this was welcome news, JCSBW wonders why McMinimee couldn’t have figured this out earlier. Board members had directed him to find money in the budget that didn’t affect the classroom. Proposing to close five schools affects a lot of classrooms, and the many other proposed cuts caused two weeks of apparently needless stress to hundreds of families throughout Jeffco.

The original budget cut proposal was bad leadership by McMinimee, pure and simple. Blindsiding several school communities with unexpected closure news and even more by telling them their current fifth graders were not going to complete their sixth grade year in elementary school — only to say “never mind!” two weeks later is inexcusable.

We’d also like to commend the Jeffco community for advocating for students. About 150 people spoke to the board members on Thursday night, and about 500 packed into various rooms in the Education Building. There were three overflow rooms for those who couldn’t fit into the main board room. Thank you for making your voices heard.

Here’s a brief summary of the decisions made at the meeting.

School Closures Update

The board members discussed the proposed school closures in detail and voted to keep Peck, Stober, Swanson, and Pennington open.

The future of Stober and Pennington remain the most uncertain for following years, board members said, largely due to the condition of the facilities and small size, but they agreed that more time needs to be spent looking at the issue. Board members also expressed concern about closing a school that had no prior warning that it was on a potential closure list.

Pleasant View Elementary, on the other hand, will close at the end of this school year. Board members voted for the closure with the stipulation that one-time funds be provided for mental health services for those students. We urge the district to present plans for boundary changes, bussing options, opportunities for families to tour their new schools, classroom and staffing configurations and other key factors as soon as possible to avoid extended limbo for these impacted communities.

Arvada and Wheat Ridge 6th Grade Update

The board rejected a proposal to accelerate the timeline and instead voted to stick with the original plan to move sixth graders to middle school in Fall 2018. All five said they wanted the move for sixth graders to be a success, and they wanted school communities to have the time to do careful, thoughtful planning for the transition.

The Chatfield area will continue plans to move its sixth graders to middle school in Fall 2017, as previously decided.

Middle School Additions

This item was tabled, in part because school board members wanted to better understand how the schools on the list for additions (Drake, Dunstan, Ken Caryl, and Creighton) had been selected. They will revisit that issue at a later board meeting, and a final decision might be on hold until the board hears more about state funding.

Meanwhile, the facilities department plans to move forward with the design phase of the projects so that if the projects are approved, they can immediately begin work and have construction completed by Fall 2018.

Deferred Budget Cuts

McMinimee’s new budget proposal defers several of the proposed cuts. The “D” in the far right column indicates that the proposed cut is now deferred, which means that in most cases, it will only be revisited if the funding numbers from the state get ugly. For now, those items are safe.

This means that the current recommendations keep the following positions and programs as is:

  • The Wheat Ridge High School GT Center program (**This is the one item that board members said they wanted completely removed from the list, but there seems to be confusion about funding for the program. Lasell, Mitchell, and Stevens all told staff very clearly that they did not want to see the program on a cuts list ever again, and were assured by staff that it wouldn’t be an issue. Please watch for our next post about this item for more info.)
  • Custodial services
  • Literacy interventionists
  • Mastery Connect
  • optional MAP testing for K-2
  • Busing to option schools and Outdoor Lab

Superintendent Search Update

If you haven’t already, please take this quick online survey about characteristics you think Jeffco needs in a new superintendent:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JRH7N3T

It’s available through Thursday, Feb. 23.

And mark your calendars for one of the upcoming community forums hosted by the search firm to provide more input about what kind of leadership Jeffco needs:

  • Tuesday, February 21
    • Alameda Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 7 – 8 pm
    • Dakota Ridge High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
  • Wednesday, February 22
    • Warren Tech Founders Room, 9:30 – 10:30 am
    • Arvada West High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
    • Evergreen High School Library,  7 – 8 pm

Ray and Associates told the board that they recommend advertising a base salary around $300k, based on what they’re seeing in current superintendent searches. This document goes into a little more detail about how they calculated that number.

Board members decided to advertise around $300k, but said they would negotiate that number based on experience and qualifications.

Please stay involved and engaged, not only at Jeffco but at the state level to encourage legislators to work harder to address school funding issues here in Colorado. And remember that we are

JeffCo Proud!

1.26.17 Board Meeting – Be Sure to Tune In: Supt Search, Budget & 6th Grade Recommendations!

The Board of Education’s next board meeting, a study session, will be this coming Thursday, Jan. 26, starting at 5 pm. If you can’t attend in person at the Ed Center, we encourage you to tune in via livestream. There will be some very important conversations regarding the superintendent search, budget recommendations, and suggested direction for moving 6th graders to middle schools district-wide.

Before we jump into the agenda for the upcoming BOE meeting, we would first like to emphasize the importance of participating in the budget process. Please start with this brief video, which provides an overview of the budget crisis. Note that we are funded $985 less per student than Amendment 23 requires and $2,200 less PER STUDENT than the national average! Our teachers make, on average, 10% less than surrounding school districts, and they make, on average, 17% less than similarly educated individuals nationally, requiring many to work 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet.

Bottom line: we need competitive compensation to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers and staff for our children. Please be sure to complete the budget survey by Feb. 10.

In addition, the district will host four telephone town halls where you can learn more and make your voice heard: Feb. 1 and Feb. 7 at 6 pm and 7 pm on both nights. The number to call is 855-312-2107. Please plan to participate.

If the budget tool and the tele-town halls aren’t for you, you are encouraged to email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us to share your concerns. They are going to be making some tough decisions with the budget. Make sure to let them know your thoughts.

First up on the agenda for the evening is the legislative update. It isn’t good news. The Gallagher Amendment will reduce the Residential Assessment Rate almost 1.5 percent, which will in turn reduce school district property tax collections by approximately $135M! To address this shortfall, the Governor has proposed legislation to reduce the Senior Homestead Exemption by half, which would save the state $68M. He has also proposed legislation to raise the tax on recreational marijuana from 8.0-12.0 percent, which would raise $42M.

We don’t see how either of these “band-aids,” which will hurt seniors and make the discussion even more confusing regarding pot money and schools, will help our funding crisis. We need real solutions.

Also in the legislative update, we’ll hear about some interesting proposed legislation, including these bills: a bill to require an additional $42M for Full-day Kindergarten, a house bill to let districts decide whether to administer certain state tests, a house bill to allow concealed carry in public schools, a senate bill to provide handgun safety training for school employees, a house bill to prohibit corporal punishment (just in case you thought that wasn’t allowed already!), a house bill to address teacher shortages in CO, a senate bill that requires districts to equalize mill levy override payments with charter schools (Jeffco already does this), and many others. Check them out! As a refresher, here are the board’s legislative priorities.

Next up is an update on the superintendent search. If you missed our last post about the board’s decision to move ahead with a national superintendent search, please read it and understand the expectations our BOE has for Jeffco’s superintendent. Note that the search needs to begin no later than January to take full advantage of a national candidate pool. Looks like attachments providing more info are coming soon, but as of the release of this post, attachments had not yet been provided.

Following the superintendent search update, we’ll hear from staff with an update on the Jeffco 2020 strategic plan. The presentation highlights that 20 percent of Jeffco schools are implementing Performance Based Learning (PBL) and Assessments (PBA) that allow for collaborative partnerships with the community and businesses and measure students’ abilities by allowing students to problem-solve in real-world context as opposed to traditional testing.

Slide 12 shares the results from the 2015-16 employee survey (with 5,666 employees participating!) of Jeffco 2020 questions by school level and shows that while teachers highly rate the job Jeffco does at increasing student performance in content mastery, the results are clear across school levels that “self-direction and personal responsibility” is rated the lowest by employees. Just above that is civic and global engagement.

Parents — we can really help out here. Self-direction, engagement, and personal responsibility are skills that must be taught and reinforced at home as well in order for our kiddos to be successful at school.

Next, we will hear an update on employee negotiations. JCEA negotiations began on Jan. 19 and will be streamed. Here’s the negotiations schedule. You can watch the livestream here. At this time, there is no recording from the Jan. 19 negotiations meeting, but we’re assuming that will be available soon.

Note the concern on slide 6 that as a result of Jeffco not passing our mill levy override while other surrounding districts did, we are even further away from the mark in providing competitive compensation to Jeffco employees, which puts us in danger of losing and/or not attracting the best and brightest teachers and staff. While the BOE had asked staff to find $25M to be allocated for teacher compensation, we’re seeing on slide 10 in this presentation that the ask is for a commitment to find a minimum of $12M to keep us level — but “level” does not make Jeffco competitive in the marketplace.

Next, cabinet will present their recommendations for the budget. Staff will address the impact of the reduced property valuations on our budget (the Gallagher Amendment). A few items of note from the presentation are:

  • a projected 242 student decrease across the district
  • $6M retirement/turnover savings – possibly as much as $9M
  • Cabinet has prioritized a four-phased system of reductions and fee changes to provide $20.4M towards the BOE’s $25M goal for compensation increases (the worksheet detailing the recommended reductions will be available on BoardDocs by Jan. 27)
  • the General Fund ended the year with $24M more than anticipated, a portion of which can be used to supplement urgent facility needs and provide a contingency for unforeseen state budget shortfalls
  • a public hearing on the proposed budget will be held in April and the budget will be adopted in May
  • next steps include implementation of Phase I reductions and preparation for implementation of the next phases set to begin on March 16, 2017. That means budget cuts will affect this school year.

The next item (2.06) addresses recommendations from facilities staff in light of the failed 2016 bond effort and the budget crisis. There are no attachments, and thus no details available at this time on BoardDocs to give us insight into what staff recommendations may be.

However, we know items for consideration include closing schools and boundary adjustments. It does seem from the wording, “the approach presented will involve recommendations for moving sixth grade, implementing limited capital improvements to middle schools…” that we can expect to see staff make recommendations to move forward with plans to transition to K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools across the district, at least to some degree.  This should be an interesting conversation you don’t want to miss if you have elementary-aged children.

Finally, the BOE will review board/staff linkage (B/SL) policies per the annual work plan.

As you can see, this upcoming meeting is one you don’t want to miss. We’ll post after the meeting to let you know what happened if you’re busy with after-school activities and more.

JeffCo Proud!