3A & 3B – Why They Matter, What’s At Stake

Ballots will be mailed in two weeks, and they’ll be crowded. Way down near the bottom of your ballot will be the Jeffco Schools mill levy override and bond3A & 3B.

Why 3A & 3B Matter

Issue 3A will add an additional $33 million to Jeffco Schools’ operating budget, enabling Jeffco to offer competitive salaries to attract and retain the best teachers; ensure Jeffco students thrive in 21st-century classrooms that prepare them for college and careers by expanding programs such as STEM, STEAM, Art, Music, and career tech; and, increase safety, security and mental health services.

Issue 3B will enable Jeffco Schools to upgrade safety and security in school buildings; make long-overdue repairs and improvements to 110 schools; renovate or expand 45 schools; build four replacement schools; and build three new schools in high growth areas. Approval of the bond will also ensure Jeffco students have access to updated technology when they’re learning. Remember, the average Jeffco School is 45 years old, and Jeffco has not invested in new space since the 2004 bond.

What’s At Stake

If 3A and 3B don’t pass, Jeffco’s Board of Education will have to make difficult decisions regarding program and personnel cuts. 14446110_1468048463221612_7019571440195103702_nPossibilities, especially in overcrowded areas of the district, include boundary changes, year round or split schedules – where half of the students attend school during the first part of the day and the other half attend school during the latter part of the day. Jeffco also won’t be able to stay competitive with surrounding districts when it comes to hiring and keeping the best teachers, and may have to cut staff, so expect the exodus of great educators to continue. We will also likely see some schools closed and others consolidated. Class sizes will grow, and bus routes will get longer. Most significantly, there will be fewer classroom resources and educational opportunities for Jeffco Students.

Dozens of school districts around our state are asking voters for additional school funding, including six of the seven largest districts in the Metro Area. Already Jeffco is at or near the bottom of those districts when it comes to per pupil funding from the state, per pupil mill levy override dollars and outstanding bonds per pupil. If those other districts pass their measures and Jeffco does not, our district will be solidly at the bottom, and who knows how long we would remain there.

How You Can Help

There are many ways to help ensure Jeffco voters have the information they need to support 3A & 3B:

Board Community Forums

If you have questions, please attend one of the remaining community forums hosted by Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education members. And consider attending the following forums, which are open to the public to learn about ballot issues and candidates.

Donate to Share the Facts

This video explains why so many districts are seeking local education funding. Donate to the Jeffco Schools mill and bond campaign – Yes on 3A & 3B, to ensure Jeffco voters have factual information about why these measures are so important to 86,000 Jeffco students.

Community Support

We are grateful for the recent endorsements of 3A & 3B by the Jeffco League of Women Voters, the Westminster City Council (unanimous) and the Golden City Council (unanimous).

Thank you from all of us here at Jeffco School Board Watch to all of you for anything and everything you can do to help Jeffco pass 3A & 3B November 8.

3A3B

JeffCo Proud!

3A & 3B – How You Can Help (Thank you!!)

Because we have such a far-reaching list of followers, we wanted to dedicate a post to how you can help the Jeffco Schools mill and bond campaignYes on 3A & 3B.

Canvassing

Also known as door-knocking, canvassing is one of the most important and effective ways of reaching voters – especially the 70+% who aren’t associated directly with Jeffco schools. It’s simple – you just walk from home to home in designated neighborhoods talking to people about the importance of 3A & 3B for Jeffco students.

You can sign up to walk in your neighborhood and others throughout Jeffco. It’s even better when you walk with a friend. Training and all materials are provided.

Information Tables

Another great way to help is by volunteering at a school or library information table. Again, all materials are provided. You simply pass out campaign information and answer any basic questions people may have. You don’t have to be an expert – it is always OK to offer to have the campaign chair – Bill Bottoms – or one of the campaign co-chairs – Frank DeAngelis, Angela Geier or Chris Webber – get back to interested voters. To help with a school information table, contact one of these amazing area chairpeople:

Support Jeffco Kids is also arranging information tables at area libraries. You can sign up here to help with that effort.

Easy, Free Publicity

Feeling artistic? Help paint car windows with 3A & 3B messages. Or, help pass out 3A & 3B campaign literature at area events. Contact Melissa at melissa@monoski.com for more information.

Campaign Presentation

Arrange to have someone from the campaign speak at your next Garden Club meeting, HOA meeting, Book Club or other gathering. Contact Melissa at melissa@monoski.com to schedule.

PTA Advocacy

Vital funding to upgrade security and technology, keeping quality teachers in the classroom and ensuring students have the necessary skills for college and the workforce – all benefits of 3A & 3B and all reasons why Jeffco PTA endorsed the two ballot measures. For information on how to get your school to add its name to the growing list of PTAs endorsing the mill and bond, contact Katie Winner at Katie.Winner@nyu.edu.

Yard Signs

Display a yard sign (here’s where you can get one). And, if you are or know the owner of a parcel of land or a business where a “Yes on 3A/3B” banner would be seen by many Jeffco voters, please email Suzanne Adams at spavelka74@yahoo.com.

Meet with Board Members

Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education members are hosting community forums this fall so you can talk with them about current happenings in our school district. They’ll share updates on topics such as Jeffco 2020, budget, and the mill and bond ballot initiatives and you’ll have plenty of time for questions and discussion:

  • 9/28, 6-7pm – Wheat Ridge High School Library
  • 10/10, 6-7pm – Bear Creek High School Library
  • 10/11, 6-7pm – Columbine High School Library
  • 10/17, 6-7pm – Pomona High School Library
  • 10/25, 6-7pm – Evergreen Firehouse

Bottom Line

Our community has accomplished amazing things when we’ve all come together for an important cause. A very sincere thank you from all of us here at Jeffco School Board Watch to all of you for anything and everything you can do to help Jeffco pass the mill and bond November 8.

3A3B

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco Schools mill & bond will be on November ballot

Our original post noted that the increase would be $3.50 per $100,000 assessed value. That number was based on previous projections, so we’ve corrected the numbers in this post to reflect what was approved on Tuesday night: $4.12 per $100,000.

On Tuesday, the Jeffco School Board approved a motion to put the mill and bond on the November ballot. The ballot question will ask voters to approve a bond package totaling $535 million dollars, and a mill levy override of $33 million.

Your Childs Education

Also note that we’ve seen some suggestions that this is a “billion dollar bond,” mostly from groups that have struggled in the past to grasp basic math concepts about the Jeffco Schools budget. This is a $535 million bond — just over half a billion — to address aging facilities and fund new construction.

Our friend Tina Gurdikian sent out a newsletter about the topics, and agreed to let us reprint it to explain more about the mill and bond. We’ve cut some portions that refer to the then-upcoming Tuesday meeting.

“Architects of Our Own Solutions” – Jeffco BOE Treasurer, Brad Rupert said this at tonight’s board meeting and I jotted it down ’cause I thought – that pretty much sums it up for me too. We can’t sit back and wait for the state to come through with the funding we need to provide an education for our kiddos that prepares them to be college/career ready. It’s way too late for that, and it just simply isn’t going to happen. Since 2009, when the “negative factor” was implemented, Jeffco Schools have missed out on ~$490 MILLION – and we don’t see an end to the negative factor any time soon, unfortunately. So what are we going to do about it? We are going to be architects of our own solutions!!

Here are a few of the details of the proposed bond issue:

  • This is an “extremely favorable interest rate environment” – meaning we can get an excellent interest rate. Typically when you buy a home, you’re told that the actual principal/interest you’ll pay over the life of your loan is 2-3 times the cost of the home. Jeffco can get a rate such that our principal/interest payments are less than 2 times the principal for a term of 25 years.
  • This would be a $535M bond with a maximum principal/interest repayment of $987.22M – with a not-to-exceed annual principal/interest payment of $72.6M annually in any given year.
  • Essentially we are looking at 4 primary priorities with this bond package:
    • Priority 1 – K-5, 6-8 grade reconfiguration
    • Priority 2 – growth and/or equity
    • Priority 3 – efficiencies
    • Priority 4 – deferred maintenance
  • What do these priorities mean exactly? You can see the breakout of the proposed capital improvement projects by area and school here so you can see the direct impacts to your children’s schools.

What about the $33M mill levy override? The mill levy override (MLO) is an annual increase to address operational needs (as a result of the negative factor and decreased funding in per pupil revenue from the state), whereas the bond addresses capital/facilities needs. Page 4 gives a great description of the needs to be addressed by the MLO, but I’ll sum up:

  • $12.6M – to retain and attract the best and brightest teachers, administrators and staff
  • $3.7M (this is something I feel so strongly about) – to provide a half-time counselor for every elementary school
  • $800K – for security and emergency management
  • $12.2M – increase student-based budgeting (SBB) dollars to schools, especially smaller school hit the hardest by SBB.
  • $400K – additional support services needed for the new school at Candelas
  • $3.3M – charter school dollars for compensation, curriculum, technology, etc. (10% of the MLO)

So what does this mean for you and your bottom line? Support Jeffco Kids broke it down for us. Per $100,000 of assessed home value, this bond package and MLO – combined – would cost you…$4.12/month. That’s right – if you’re home’s value is $300,000, you’re looking at an increase of $12.36 month.

This is how I, personally, see this. Our daughters swim. A lot. And if your child has ever been on a swim team, you know that breakfast burritos are what EVERYONE eats at a swim meet – considering these crazy summer meets start with warm-ups at 6am! Our team sells burritos for $3.50 each. So to me, it’s like buying a few breakfast burritos a month, right? Are my kids worth it? Heck yeah!

Are your kids worth it? Heck yeah! Remember, it takes a village to raise a child – we are all in this together – whether you have kids or grandkids or none at all, the value of excellent public schools is priceless for a community! Seriously!

Support Jeffco Kids has been really busy this summer. Please check out the following articles they’ve published recently, which shed additional light on some of the issues around the need for the mill/bond:

Lead Contamination?

While I’m talking about facilities needs, let me touch on the other topic of discussion at tonight’s board meeting – contaminated drinking water. Jeffco staff have been very busy this summer testing fixtures in our schools for lead contamination.

Since June 3, the district has tested 80 elementary schools and drawn ~3,500 samples in an effort to ensure drinking water in our schools is safe for our students, staff and parents. By the time school starts, all elementary school fixtures in buildings built before 1990 and all water fountains in elementary schools built after 1990 will have been tested.

Any fixtures found to exceed the 15 parts per billion EPA limit for Lead will be deactivated or labeled “Do Not Drink” depending on the level of Lead detected. While testing of middle and high school fixtures will not be complete by the start of the school year, district staff will work with principals to get the word out to parents to let them know the status of the testing. Bottled water may be provided at older facilities where fixtures have a greater probability of higher Lead levels.

Again, just another example of the types of maintenance district staff face with our aging facilities. 

 

We’ve waited long for additional state money, and it’s not coming. Jeffco needs to find its own solutions to long-deferred maintenance issues and so much more.

 

Let’s continue to be

JeffCo Proud! Keep fighting, JeffCo!

Special Jeffco BOE meetings: July 28 & August 2

UpdateDear readers,

It’s hard to believe it’s almost August—which means it’s time for the Jeffco School Board members to start making decisions about a mill and bond issue for the November ballot.

They are holding two special meetings to gather public input on a mill and bond:

  • Thursday, July 28, 5:30 pm
  • Tuesday, Aug. 2, 5:30 pm

Thursday’s meeting is your first opportunity to comment on the proposed mill and bond and it will be followed a board discussion about potential ballot language and priorities for a $33 million mill levy override would fund and a $535 million bond package. If you want to sign up to speak on July 28, follow this link.

The Aug. 2 meeting will also allow the community to comment and ask questions, and will be followed by a vote to approve the ballot language. Public comment signup for that meeting will open on Thursday morning.

At issue is this ugly reality: state budget cuts. Jeffco has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted during the last five years, and more budget cuts are projected. Despite this, we need to support our students and teachers in safe, well-maintained schools.

Jeffco Schools staff started to look for solutions this spring when they put together a proposed master plan, some of which aims at creating facility efficiencies to free up money for classrooms. Staff then presented the plan at multiple community meetings and gathered feedback late this spring. That community feedback was incorporated into the plan and informed the priorities for the proposed bond package.

At those meetings, two messages were very clear:

  • Jeffco values its small neighborhood schools and wants to avoid closures or consolidations
  • The community is open to the idea of moving to K-5, 6-8 configurations to free up space in already-crowded elementary schools, but the new reconfiguration needs to be implemented district-wide.

The revised plan, and proposed bond, prioritizes these issues.

We’ll write more in the coming days, but for now, please keep these issues in mind:

  • The 2012 bond fixed the most urgent repair needs to keep our students warm, safe and dry, and did so within budget. However, continuing state budget cuts have caused a growing backlog of repairs, including leaky roofs, faulty wiring, and out-dated fire alarms.
  • The average Jeffco Schools building is 45 years old. Replacing dated and inefficient HVAC systems, boilers, and plumbing could save the district tens of thousands of dollars on utility bills.
  • Jeffco must continue to attract and retain excellent teachers, and continue the district’s commitment to high academic standards and accountability — but when other districts pay as much as 19 percent more, we’re quickly losing our ability to be competitive.
  • We must provide students the skills and technology necessary to prepare them for 21st-century jobs.
  • We must address the growing mental health needs in our schools with more counselors and in-school mental health programs.

We urge you to please attend the July 28 or August 2 meeting to tell the Jeffco School Board what you will support so they can make an informed decision. They want and need to hear from us.

And as always, you can stream the meeting: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Jeffco Proud!

 

 

2.19.16 Updates: The Summary Version Part 2

Here’s part 2 of our summary of board actions and other board work to-date. If you missed it, start with part 1, which summarizes some of their work regarding Certificates of Participation and other major issues.  This post will focus on negotiations and other Jeffco School Board actions.

Employee Negotiations

Negotiations season is just kicking off, and the board has heard from both the district and JCEA about the process and issues that will take center stage. The board heard a presentation from JCEA at the 2/18/16 study session and gave the district negotiating team some direction regarding upcoming negotiation sessions.

JCEA identified some issues they’d like to address in negotiations:

  • Increase professional development funding (it was cut during the recession)
  • To include JCEA as part of the teacher induction program again (last August they were refused)
  • To restore association leave for leadership roles. JCEA pays for subs during a member’s leave, and this issue was previously part of the contract.
  • A predictable, comprehensive salary schedule for all employees (a grid system)

JCEA agrees that teachers need to be rated effective or highly effective to move a step but want a rich conversation with the district about other things that should be happening annually, like regular professional development or other expectations.

In addition, JCEA said they do not want to see a distinction made regarding effective and highly effective teachers when it comes to the salary structure currently because they are not confident in the current inter-rater reliability within schools or across the district. They also think it reduces collegiality within the schools. They see the primary purpose of evaluations as leading to growth rather than being tied to income.

Many of the same issues, especially regarding competitive pay and a predictable schedule, were mentioned by the district as well.

The district’s negotiating team also asked board members to list some of their priorities at the Feb. 18 meeting. Board members said:

  • Be more competitive in compensation, within the restraints of the budget and with the understanding that Jeffco will likely never offer the highest salaries in the area
  • Compensation for masters degrees, though some board members want to see that tied closely to a teacher’s subject matter or to teaching in general (as opposed to someone with a completely unrelated master’s degree)
  • Compensation for additional credit hours beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • Additional compensation for hard-to-fill positions, like speech pathologists and school psychologists
  • Compensation tied to experience

There were other issues where the board remains uncertain:

  • Compensation tied to performance

All indicated they’d like to see some of that, but the how and why are very unclear. There are concerns about the reliability of the evaluation system, about whether a distinction should be made between effective and highly effective, and how to measure that appropriately.

Susan Harmon was very clear that she doesn’t want to see performance tied to test scores; Ron Mitchell said he sees effective and highly effective ratings as a continuum, and that he doesn’t think there’s much difference between a teacher who’s at the high end of effective or a teacher at the low-end of highly effective.

  • Additional compensation for school subjects

Board members were split on this question, which largely applies to high schools. Some argued that a math teacher should be paid more than an English teacher if those positions are harder to fill; others said that if you have a highly effective music teacher and a highly effective science teacher, both have a major, positive impact on students and the school so it’s hard to justify paying one more than the other. No decisions were made there.

  • Additional compensation for placement in more challenging schools

Board members are very mixed on this one. They all agree that something should be done to make those positions more attractive, but whether that will be through providing some sort of additional compensation, additional recognition, or additional resources and support remains to be decided.

Much of the research indicates that additional compensation might be enough to bring a teacher to schools with higher poverty rates and other challenges, but isn’t usually enough to keep them there. Feedback from the “strategic comp” project also indicated that what teachers find more compelling are strong leaders, a cooperative team, and lots of support and resources to help with the challenges.

The negotiation sessions are being streamed and archived. Archived sessions (which of this writing only include the 2/6/16 negotiation session) can be viewed here: http://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/4781604

Negotiation session dates are posted here: http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=A6TT4P718068

Other Jeffco School Board actions

Charter School Contract Renewals

Charter school contract renewals are typically on the consent agenda unless there is a special issue at stake. We’re noting this under other business because the board dedicated part of a study session on 1/28/16 to learn about the renewal process.

Facilities Master Plan

The board heard an update on the facilities master planning process at the 1/28/16 study session. Expect to hear more about the updated facilities master plan in March.

Technology and Date Privacy Advisory Committee

The 1/28/16 study session included an update from the TDPAC.

2016 Legislative Season

The board has received a few legislative updates and is working on a TABOR statement. They’re also expected to take positions on upcoming legislation soon, likely in March, but some board members wanted more time to read through the full bill before voting one way or the other.

Board members also met with Jeffco legislators on 1/26/16, largely to discuss school funding issues, but also to talk with them about other proposals that affect education.

Budget Process & Board Ends

Since taking office, the board has had multiple presentations about the budget process as well as the community engagement process. In addition, they recently heard from the community directly at a series of community budget forums held Feb. 1-10.

Board members discussed what they’d heard at these forums at their 2/18/16 study session. Everyone noted that they heard lots of positive feedback about the Jeffco 20/20 Vision, which was good news. The community forums also focused on board ends and the budget.

Most heard a fair amount of dissatisfaction regarding board ends, with concern that the ends didn’t consider the whole child, weren’t sufficient, were unrealistic in some ways, relied on test scores too much, and were not specific enough in other ways. More project-based assessments, parent involvement (including diversified pathways for that involvement), more pathways for college and career planning, and more focus on special populations was mentioned.

Parent involvement in middle school and high school also was noted as an issue, as was the continued push to offer free full-day kindergarten throughout the district. The board is looking to schedule a retreat to discuss and revise those ends further sometime this spring.

When it came to the budget, many members noted that community members really wanted “both/and” (a feeling that’s familiar to most of us in these years of tight budgets). Technology needs, employee compensation, free full-day kindergarten and the needs of special populations were also prominent in those discussions.

Board Policies

There have been multiple long conversations about current board policies and wording. We’ve noted significant changes above. The rest are (to our eyes) minor, so we invite interested parties to look at the various revised documents from the 1/14, 2/4 and 2/18 meetings via BoardDocs.

The board’s next regular meeting will be March 3. We invite you to join us there or to watch via streaming.

Jeffco Proud!