9.24.15 What to watch at the Jeffco BOE meeting tonight

UpdateTwo things are happening tonight.

  1. The Jeffco School Board has a special meeting tonight at 5:30 pm in the Education Center. More on that in a minute.
  2. There’s a candidate forum hosted by the Jeffco League of Women Voters from 7 – 9 pm tonight. That will take place at Arvada K-8, 5751 Balsam St, Arvada.

If you can’t make (or cannot bear to sit through) the board meeting, stop by the candidate forum! Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell need your support.

If you’re in the northwest Arvada area and have been following the new school discussion, you might want to head over to the Education Center to watch the school board decide grade configuration at the proposed Candelas school.

Here’s what to watch for at tonight’s board meeting, whether you attend in person, stream it live, or watch it later:

  • The board will review the new DAC bylaws. Whether they will approve them or introduce yet another surprise “Plan B” remains an open question. John Newkirk already suggested the nuclear option last time. It didn’t seem to gain traction, but then again we aren’t privy to the behind-the-scenes conversations between Newkirk, Ken Witt and Julie Williams.
  • Grade configuration of the new northwest Arvada school is also on the agenda. At the last meeting, Witt, Newkirk and Williams were pushing the district to build a K-6 instead of the K-8 recommended by the district. It wasn’t clear why they were pushing against the K-8 option, especially because Williams herself said that she prefers a K-8 or 7-12 option to reduce the number of transitions students make, and yet said she preferred a K-6 at Candelas. She added the even more perplexing suggestion that the district could start building a K-6 and then if the school board approves a bond for November 2016 and the bond is approved, they could add on the 7-8 part.

Our question: Is that supposed to happen while they’re already building the K-6 building, which won’t open until August 2017, or will the site be under nearly-continuous construction for four years if a 7-8 expansion started in August 2017 and finished two years later? Or would waiting for a bond mean that Candelas wouldn’t see a 7-8 school in their neighborhood until 2020 or later?

  • Jeffco’s Security & Emergency Management Office is requesting a budget increase. That item was pulled off the consent agenda at the last meeting and John McDonald told board members about the increasing numbers of threat assessments and suicide calls that they’re receiving.

We talked about those numbers in a previous post and they are concerning. Jeffco’s funding for security is far below that in other districts and they desperately need more staff. We hope approving the request will be a no-brainer, especially with a recall election underway, and especially in this district where we know the risk. But we’re going to watch this one anyhow because with these three, one never knows what WNW might decide.

We’ll let you know what happens, and whether any other surprises pop up tonight at the board meeting. If you attend the candidate forum or happen to tape it, we’d love to hear about that as well. The easiest way to reach us is through the comments section below. And remember,

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

4.15.15 New changes to BOE retreat speakers

cipherIn our last post, a Jeffco parent questioned why GOP Chair Steve House had been tapped to speak about innovation in education at a JeffCo School Board retreat this Thursday. We had the same question.

On Monday, Colorado Pols reported that House had withdrawn from the retreat.

But in true board majority spirit, new speakers have been added since Monday. In addition to the already-scheduled speakers, Tony Lewis and Scott Fast, three others have been added:

Michael Cushman, senior fellow, DaVinci Institute
John Evans, Ph.D., J.D., executive director, School Leaders for Colorado
Tammy Thorn, School Leaders for Colorado

School Leaders for Colorado is an alternative licensure program for principals. One new initiative they are touting is “Troops to Principals,” which they describe as a principal leadership training program former members of the Armed Forces of the United States. “Potential candidates may hold the rank of colonel, lieutenant colonel, or master sergeant with thirty to thirty-five years of military experience. They may come from the National Guard or the Reserve. They may be recently retired or have working experience in other careers. Their military experience has taught them one important thing—leadership.” Even better, they can complete the program in just 9 months!

Their presentation for the board is here.

A reader also inquired about Scott Fast’s education qualifications. Here’s what we do know. Fast has an education blog, and is a nationalist strategist for innovateducate. Rumor also has it that the Accenture Foundation, of which he is a retired executive director is a major contributor to the KIPP charter schools. He provided this document to the board as “pre-meeting reading.”

Never a dull moment here folks!

The meeting will be streamed, or you can attend it live in the Education Center board room in Golden.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

The Hypothetical Dan McMinimee

broken-trust

Mr. McMinimee appears to have a full repertoire for evading questions and not committing to any particular path, presumably to not create obstacles to the ultimate political goals of the school board majority’s handlers. One of those tools he has employed more often lately is refusing to answer questions if he deems them to be “hypothetical.”

In recent conversations with teachers and the community, Mr. McMinimee has taken to setting ground rules. Some of the ground rules appear to be the usual, like behaving respectfully. Unfortunately, he is also increasingly using the manipulative “I’m not answering hypothetical questions” sleight-of-hand, and establishing that as one of his up-front ground rules.

Of course, he actually talks about hypothetical events all the time. Certainly, when he interviewed for the job he talked about hypothetical events. Certainly, he believes in the purchase of appropriate insurance for the district despite the fact that the insured events are hypothetical.

He is mandated to plan strategically, accounting for some hypotheticals.  We are sure that Mr. McMinimee plans his weekend despite some uncertainties in his plans. The “hypothetical” escape hatch might not be his most disingenuous answer, but it is perhaps the perfect example of his get-out-of-the-way-of-WNW leadership style. To be sure, there are limits to the reasonable hypothetical nature of questions, but real leadership is talking about things that really concern people and that aren’t just remote possibilities.

Yet when competent, veteran teachers ask about what life might be life after an association contract, there is some level of dismissal by Mr. McMinimee as such questions being too hypothetical. These are teachers whose long and distinguished careers are defined and undergirded by working conditions spelled out in their contract. Based on what happened in Douglas County, and WNW’s relationship with the Independence Institute and other reflexively anti-collective bargaining forces, questions about life after a teacher contract are far from hypothetical.

Mr. McMinimee bristles at the idea that there’s a lack of transparency, but his dodging uncomfortable questions with this cynical trick only deepens the mistrust. Once again, Mr. McMinimee’s shocking lack of real leadership promotes the idea that he was paid primarily to talk in circles, to shirk tough questions as deftly as possible, and to do the will of forces operating outside of Jeffco, all the while giving the appearance that he has some separation and independence from the board majority. At a meeting on Wednesday night, he answered that he sometimes stands up to some board members, but behind closed doors, of course.

True leaders give authentic and transparent answers to their employees’ questions, especially when those questions involve the conditions of their work and their livelihood. We will gladly give credit if things change. But for now, Mr. McMinimee’s weak dodges will only cement the idea that his primary goal isn’t really student achievement, but rather to get paid a comfortable salary while playing the part of a pawn. That’s not hypothetical.

Keep fighting JeffCo!