6.10.15 – We need you at Thursday’s BOE meeting

The June 11 Jeffco School Board meeting is the final budget hearing for the 2015/16 budget. We need you there. Why? To make sure the board keeps its priorities straight.

Some of the main issues this year?

1. We need to finance new schools in the west Lakewood and northwest Arvada area. WNW has consistently refused to approve Certificates of Participation, despite the recommendations of district staff and McMinimee himself.

Julie Williams wants the district to build a modular school in the NW Arvada area, despite McMinimee’s point that a similar school in Douglas County, was cheaper because it was built during the recession when building costs were down and which, notably, has needed considerable repairs during that time. John Newkirk thinks the district can convince the developers to enter a new era of partnership in which they also donate money or other services to help build a school. (McMinimee’s response [slightly paraphrased]: “In my experience, the developers see their contribution as the land they already donated to the district.”) Ken Witt is hostile to the idea of debt, as is Newkirk, who likened debt to a fire extinguisher behind glass that says “break in case of emergency.” (That comment reveals so much privilege and so little experience of the real lives of the Jeffco taxpayers, doesn’t it? One might also suspect that they were big supporters of 2010’s Amendment 61 — one of the “bad 3,” all of which were voted down 2-1 by Colorado voters.)

The BOE voted to allocate $15 million of unallocated dollars for a new school, but as we’ve pointed out, $15 million won’t build a $25 million school (the district’s estimate). Where’s the other $10 million coming from? Who knows!

What they should do: approve the COPs and free up that $15 million for compensation, reserves, and classrooms. Their priorities are our children, not their high-handed ideals about how all debt is bad and new schools can just be built by cutting the budget.

2. Put more money into facilities and reserves. Instead, thanks to the $15 million that will only build part of a school, we’re putting less into reserves. It’s something, but its insufficient. Remember, we pulled heavily from reserves when the budget cuts hit. We need to build them up before the next round, which is forecast for 2017 or so. Reserve funds also affect our credit rating, which in turn gives us better interest rates on existing bonds and for any bonds the district might pursue in the future.

Facilities maintenance has also been neglected for a number of years. Some of the $15 million should be allocated back to facilities where it belongs.

3. Teacher compensation is without a doubt our number one priority. The district has made some increases available, though a large portion is eaten up by PERA and ACA increases. Another portion was allocated to increasing compensation for new hires and hard-to-fill positions like speech pathologists. Unfortunately, despite the district’s emphasis that more money would need to be available in order to equalize salaries for veteran teachers, WNW’s response has been “maybe next year.” A small increase of 1 percent is available as JCEA and the district continuing negotiating, but that amount isn’t likely to be distributed evenly (see: performance pay) and isn’t nearly enough to equalize salaries with the newcomers.

Yes, you read that right: salaries for new hires with the same years of experience and same education would be higher than the salaries of our veteran teachers who agreed to the pay freeze during the rejection and have stuck with us while we all waited for the economy to improve.

At the May 26 meeting — the first budget hearing — they had a chance to change that. They didn’t. Newkirk said he’d like to, but maybe next year because the budget money has already been allocated (see #1, above).

The board majority doesn’t care about retaining our excellent Jeffco teachers.

Do you?

If so, it’s time to speak up. Be there: June 11, 6:30 pm. (Come at 5:30 if you’d like to hear about the strategic plan and Acuity results during the study session.) You can sign up to comment on the agenda here or for the budget hearing here. Have a comment about a topic not on the agenda? Click here to sign up for public comment part 2.

Here’s a basic summary of the budget changes to-date:

  • a proposed 1% compensation increase
  • an additional staff-recommended $1.152M compensation increase for targeted employees (principals, assistant principals, hard-to-fill teacher positions and master’s degree recognition for teachers),
  • a $763k substitute teacher pay increase
  • a $2.014M increase in student-based budget (SBB) funding for neighborhoods schools
  • $3M transfer to reserve
  • $186k increase for charter school mill levy override equalization

There’s plenty more going on. For those events, we’ll link you to the posts from our friends at Support Jeffco Kids for news about a new marketing and communications hire (sneak peak: she’s been working for the Independence Institute and loves those vouchers!), Communication Chief Lisa Pinto’s resigntation, last weekend’s rally in Jeffco, and more.

Can’t make it to the meeting? Please write the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us and tell them what you think.

The meeting will be streamed live (we hope) at http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

5.22.2015 Clear your Tuesday calendar

We know that many of you, like us, are deep in the glut of end-of-school concerts and activities, but things are heating up just in time for Tuesday’s board meeting. Here’s a brief summary of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks.

May 7 – The BOE majority votes to move $15 million from the budget “underspend” (dollars that aren’t already allocated) all for a new school in the NW Arvada area. The problem? There are many. Among them: $15 million is still $10 million short of the amount the district estimated for a K-8 school in the area. In addition, the vote puts less into district reserves than originally planned, and crushes all other options for those dollars. District staff had recommended the $13.5 million be distributed to teacher compensation, students, facilities and reserves. For more details about that discussion, check out the Jeffco Schools Examiner story.

Witt also targeted a high school student for the “crime” of clicking the favorite button on a tweet that came from the parody @notlisapinto Twitter account. During the meeting, which went way into the wee hours of May 8, he said he would not meet with Jeffco Students for Change because he claimed that their leader had favorited a Facebook post that contained a racial epithet aimed at a Jeffco staffer. Well, as it turns out, (1) it was Twitter, not Facebook, (2) there were no racial epithets, and (3) it’s a violation of board policy and probably a number of other laws to put the full name of a Jeffco student up on the screen in full view of the board room during the board meeting.

Angry? Us too, though we also wonder whether it was meant to be a distraction for what came next.

May 12 – The district’s new compensation plan was put on hold by a Jeffco judge, who ruled that the district may not pay new hires under that plan–at least if they were hired after May 1. It’s unclear what will happen to those hired between the decision and the May 1 date. For more details, check out Chalkbeat’s fine article.

May 18 – Jeffco refuses to host a bill signing for Governor John Hickenlooper at Lakewood High School, claiming that it would be too inconvenient with students taking finals and would create a security staff shortage (or something along those lines). So, hosting Katy Perry last year (an event early in the morning that the governor also attended, by the way) isn’t a problem, but a bill signing is. Please. We have amazing security experts in Jeffco. They would handle it fine–if only they’d been given the opportunity.

May 20 – Contract negotiations with JCEA took a turn, after the district realized it needs some plan to pay those new hires. Again, check out Chalkbeat for the details.

May 21 – Jeffco’s talks with JCEA stall. We’re sure you’re shocked. Not surprisingly, the district continues to maintain the position that they want to remain competitive for new hires, never mind the salary gap and the fact that our veteran teachers are not being recognized in any way for sticking with the district through the years of pay freezes. The JCEA Twitter feed is one among many that gives a feel for Thursday’s conversation, but you can also watch the video feed here or read the Chalkbeat article.

District officials blame the budget–and this is where your help is needed. The first hearing for the budget is this Tuesday, May 26 (note the date change!). It’s time to help the school board remember what its priorities should be: compensating our teachers fairly and focusing on the classroom. Instead, they’re claiming the budget is too small to give much if anything to veteran teachers, but that apparently isn’t stopping them from awarding a $5,236 raise to Chief Communication Officer Lisa Pinto.

Wait, you say? How is she getting a raise when she clearly has not proven to be a highly effective or even effective employee? Where’s the data that her position has improved student achievement–which is Witt’s usual rallying cry? Instead, she’s increased the amount of negative press that Jeffco has, including the May 19 Denver Post editorial by the criticizing the district’s refusal to allow the bill signing. Pinto didn’t make that call, but her response to the governor’s office was far from professional (as is any communication that begins with the phrase “for your information”). She is not effective and by Witt’s own rules, does not deserve a raise until she becomes effective. We’re still waiting.

If you don’t like what’s going on, it’s time to speak up. Sign up for public comment here (and if you do, plan for public commented to be shortened to 1 minute for individuals). Can’t make it to the meeting? Write the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, and mark off June 11, which is the date of the second budget hearing.

Finally we’re sorry to report that Lesley Dahlkemper will not run for her seat again this November. She made that announcement on her Facebook page on May 3. But all is not lost, as Jeffco parent Amanda Stevens will run for that seat. Amanda has been a strong voice for our students at board meetings, and we hope you will like her Facebook page and support her in every way possible through the coming months.

Keep fighting, Jeffco!

We cannot give up now.


 

5.15.15 Students Survey Teachers…They are not happy

The fully student-based Jeffco Student Network for Change has posted the result of a survey they wrote, pushed out, and analyzed.  An attempt was made to present this at the 5/7/15 meeting of the BOE, but the speaker, a minor, was only allowed 2 minutes and unable to present the full results of their work.  She did a great job in the two minutes she was given, hitting the highlights very well.  We at Jeffco School Board Watch repeatedly have said that teachers are being devalued and there is a lack of trust.  Three graphics from this student survey help to verify this.

Do you feel valued as a district employee?

 (1238 responses)

And this graphic below shows a lack of trust too.  Some of the written comments back this up, with the sad remark that regardless of what the negotiating team does, Ken Witt will try to destroy any negotiated agreement.

Do you trust the district personnel to negotiate with the bargaining team in good faith?

 (1238 responses)

Card

Well, regardless of the BOE, has the superintendent earned the trust of teachers?  Data says otherwise.

Do you have confidence in Dan McMinimee as superintendent of JeffCo Public Schools? 

 (1238 responses)

Please take time to look at the student’s full survey results.  It is clear that this BOE has destroyed the good working relationship with the teachers association.  What is best for students is to have teachers in the classroom who feel valued and can see a future in Jeffco.  The survey results paint a grim picture if a reasonable contract is not negotiated.

Keep watching!

And keep informed as we head to this fall’s elections.


 

5.6.15 A Well-Deserved Thank You

To our teachers and administrators,

We recognize you for what you are – warriors for children and education.

Each time a stone has been thrown at a school community in Jeffco by our hostile, politically-charged board majority, you have continued to wake up each day to walk through the front doors of your school and teach our children.

There are people all over this district pretending to know what’s good for our students. There are publications hitting mailboxes, email blasts entering thousands of computers, and professional trolls and propaganda masters working on making the BOE3’s agenda seem valid. In all reality, these people have never walked into a classroom.

They have never actually experienced the joy of watching a student sit up straighter with the confidence of having learned something that matters.

They have never stayed up late to finish a unit plan or swiped their credit card to buy school supplies for their students.

They have never watched a shy student raise their hand for the first time or seen a classroom erupt into an awe-inspiring Socratic seminar.

You are someone who knows that.

You are someone who chooses to educate our amazing children in a politically hostile district.

You are someone who deserves a standing ovation.


 

BOE Agenda for 5/7/15 – Or should we say Hidden Agenda?

The school board will meet in regular session on Thursday 5/7/15. Here’s the link to the live stream: http://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

After public comment is complete and Julie Williams is properly chastised for her Day of Hate post, the meeting will discuss many issues.  Among the more interesting consent agenda items is a delay, after 90 days, for an additional 30 days to extend the charter for four charter schools:  Free Horizon Montessori, Lincoln Academy, Montessori Peaks Academy and Rocky Mountain Deaf School.  Why the delay until June?  We will only know in June!  Is this a classic attempt to move it out of the public spotlight?  Especially since the chief financial officer raises some Yellow Flags on some of these schools?

One of the main agenda items is a review of the fiscal third quarter. Thanks to so many people leaving the district and unfilled positions, there are actually savings being realized in the expenditures due to staffing holes.  Despite this, in  five places in the presentation, the chief financial officer may be asking for supplemental appropriations for COPs, Building Fund, Debt Service, Activity Fund, and Enterprise Funds (Food, Childcare, Property Management).

There is a discussion item on Ends goals.  But no supporting documents as of Sunday May 3rd.  Why?

There is a discussion of the tabled motion on Facilities.  The board has heard repeatedly from district staff that there needs to be building in the north part of the district.  Again there is to be a presentation to the board on this.  Will they listen this time?  Who knows.  Meanwhile, there is no presentation available again on the day the agenda is posted.  Meanwhile, read about a conflict of interest for Witt elsewhere around building schools.

One of the normally sleeper topics, review of board policy is interesting.  This document EL-02, covers Treatment of Parents, Guardians, and Community. Reference to another document posted here, is being removed and replaced with a generic statement about cooperation of the superintendent with the public.  Why the fear of having a well-defined process?  Afraid of accountability?  Who knows?

With this BOE, the mysteries just grow and never really get solved. Sure, they could argue that the policy should stand on its own and not reference another document. But what is left has no appeal process.  Yet another way to close the public out of the debate about what is best for kids.  Here are parts of a brochure describing the policy.  All of this will be rescinded with the change proposed by “district staff.”

How do you feel you have been treated so far?  Expect worse.

A couple of other housekeeping notes:

1. Have you written to the BOE and/or the district and received a dismissive, demeaning or otherwise unprofessional response? If so, we encourage you to reply and copy board@jeffco.k12.co.us. Note that your question was not addressed, even though someone clearly had the time to respond. This will ensure your response gets into BoardDocs and the public will be able to track the number of unprofessional or otherwise inappropriate responses to JeffCo parents and community members.

2. A number of people have been surprised by the public comment rules, which are definitely confusing. Here’s what you need to know if you want to speak to the board at Thursday’s meeting:

  • Signup time is limited! It opens at 10 am on Monday, and closes at 3:30 pm on Thursday. Don’t wait!
  • If you are speaking on an agenda item, sign up for Part 1 of public comment. If not, sign up for Part 2.
  • The amount of time you are allowed to speak varies, and you won’t know how long you have until you’re at the meeting. In general, there are enough people signed up for public comment that individual speakers are limited to 1 or 2 minutes while groups of receive 5 minutes. Play it safe: plan to speak no longer than 2 minutes, and have a 1-minute version you can use just in case. The way it works is based on the number of people who sign up:
    • 0-20 speakers = individuals 3 minutes, groups 10 minutes
    • 21-30 speakers = individuals 2 minutes, groups 5 minutes
    • 30 + speakers = individuals 1 minute, groups 3 minutes

 Keep watching, keep fighting JeffCo!