As much as we want to (and have) celebrated a clean slate thanks to the amazing Jeffco community, we still have work to do. The new board will not take office until November 19, so we have to put away the confetti and get back to business. Tomorrow, on Thursday, November 5, WNW will reign over one last board meeting.
There are 3 items to highlight for this meeting. The first comes in the consent agenda. The ratings are out and overall McMinimee is PARTIALLY EFFECTIVE. With 12 goals he was rated Highly Effective in 2 areas, Effective in 3, Partially Effective in 5 and INEFFECTIVE in 2. Using the simple 4 point elementary grading system that works out to a 2.4 (keeping in mind being Ineffective gives you a 1 from the start).
This brings up a few questions. Is McMinimee, with no experience leading a large school district, in over his head? Was he truly the best candidate WNW could find? (That’s rhetorical). Now that we are saddled with his contract, what will the clean slate do?
Bothersome is that PARTIALLY EFFECTIVE will result in $9,500 in bonuses. That is 4.3%. In a year when EFFECTIVE teachers will see less than a 1% raise and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE will see just over a 1% raise, McMinimee will be awarded a 4.3% bonus.
Knowing that DR. Stevenson chose to forego bonuses in times when teachers saw no raises, will MR. McMinimee choose to follow her example of leadership? Or will he take the 4.3% bonus?
Doral Charter Application
The next questions for Thursday night, will WNW continue to ignore the community? Will they go out with the same disrespect they have reigned with? Or will they make a mature, graceful decision?
Before them is the Doral Academy Charter Application. Doral presented virtually the same application to Cherry Creek last month and it was unanimously rejected.
Here are our concerns with this application:
This would be the first charter school in Jeffco to be run by a Charter Management Organization (CMO). And not just any CMO. This CMO is Academica. Academica is currently under federal investigation for financial conflict of interests. So it is particularly troublesome that according to the charter “Academica will be responsible for the DAC’s bookkeeping and financial reporting. Academica will also be assigned by the Board to bid out third-party services that the school requires …”
(For more information on who profits from these deals, we recommend you read this article.)
Another concern is the misrepresentation of this school as an arts school. The curriculum clearly states it is an arts integrated school (meaning kids learn using songs, like children learn the presidents in their neighborhood schools). However, in an effort to make a case for the school at the last presentation, Newkirk repeatedly tried to draw parallels to the Denver School of the Arts – which the charter panel never denied.
DSA is a wonderfully successful program, but it requires auditions and focuses on the arts. It is not arts integration. Would it be great to have an arts option school in Jeffco some day? Yes, but Doral Academy is NOT an arts school.
A third concern raised by the charter review committee was fiscal feasibility. With 285 students needed to break even and 121 letters of intent, Doral is far from reaching that number. Even then, the committee pointed out the budget was lean on staffing, infrastructure and food services.
As a parent though, the seating of the board is the most concerning element of the application. The board terms are FIVE years (and a member can serve 2 terms), which seems lengthy. The original board is formed from the founding committee with staggered terms (nothing unusual there). However, as the terms expire the BOARD votes for their OWN replacements. A self-perpetuating board DENIES any voice from the school’s community in their board. Furthermore, with a board as large as possibly 9 members, there are only 2 seats allocated to parents.
This is far from the grassroots charters that thrive in Jeffco, and it is very far away from the community/parent voices this election advocated for. When you add Academica in the mix – where school board members for one of their schools was none other than the President of Academica, the seating of the board becomes a vital issue.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Our ideal would be that this contentious issue be tabled for the new board to vote on since they will be left with the fallout of the decision either way. Unfortunately, state statute requires a response within 75 days, which may not be possible given the timing of the application submission. Barring tabling the vote, our recommendation is that the application should be denied at this time due to: the fiscal jeopardy from lack of interest, the association with the troubled and beleaguered Academica, and the overly self-perpetuating structure of the board.
Public Comment Proposal
We commend Jill Fellman in this last act. She has proposed that in study sessions that have 2 or more action items requiring a vote, that public comment be allowed. Thank you, Jill, for being open to ALL voices.
District Accountability Committee (DAC)
Finally on the agenda are the revisions to the DAC. Our hope is merely that when the Clean Slate takes office they will revisit this committee, returning the voices of PTA, parents, faith leaders, etc. We also hope that the application for these positions in the future will include more than name and child’s school so that the candidate can be vetted properly. Our final request is that a new policy would also include appointments from all members, rather than a majority vote that silences the minority.
THIS IS NOT FAREWELL: A PERSONAL NOTE FROM JEFFCOFACTS, ONE OF OUR WRITERS
A little over a year ago I met the founder of Jeffco School Board Watch for coffee. I had never been involved in politics and had no desire to be. But I was appalled at the actions of WNW and had been so for months. As coffee progressed I heard more about the agenda of Americans For Prosperity and WNW. At first, I honestly thought – conspiracy theory. But I agreed to write on occasion for Board Watch. I chose the moniker JeffcoFacts, because I wanted to present a fair analysis based upon facts, not theories. With time there were days that my emotions did ride high – when I saw the disrespect to students, teachers and board members. When I saw the complete disregard for community surveys. Some days JeffcoFacts and the Jeffco parent in me could not be separated.
Today we celebrate the end of the reign of terror. And today in the spirit of Thanksgiving I give thanks to the many community leaders that stepped into the fray – too many to name. And I thank the passionate founder (turns out he wasn’t a crazy conspiracy theorist) that gave me a voice here.
This election is not farewell. I have learned so much about what makes great schools and what a true reform movement within a community can look like, that I can’t go back to the cocoon of inattention. For the sake of not just the children of Jeffco, but for the schools fighting this battle in Thompson, DougCo and throughout the country.
What does the future of Board Watch look like? It is too early to know. But I can say that even the Clean Slate of candidates knows we are watching and we will always fight for our children, regardless of who is in office. To do anything less, would be disingenuous.
Finally I want to say thank all of you – our followers. I never thought I could do this. And there were days I seemed so unqualified. But then on occasion a comment would come in on an article and it lifted me up. Or I would see the number of reads and I knew you were listening and sharing. You are the reason the recall was successful. Thank you for that and thank you for supporting us.