As the many dedicated and highly involved volunteer parents and community members from SPAC (the district accountability committee) have been fired by the Board Majority, we wanted to stop and thank all of them for their sincere dedication and volunteer hours. Over the years, SPAC has included a collaboration of a variety of perspectives and voices and led to great conversation, great decisions and programs implemented by the district and previous boards. Real parental and community engagement is a huge asset to serving our Jeffco kids and this is yet another loss that will impact the futures of our children.
Jonna and Shawna have firsthand knowledge of the committee as both have been chairs and have witnessed the changes in person over the past two years. We expected them to dismantle the committee as they publicly questioned the value many times over the past nearly two years. On a few occasions over the past year, security was even requested to attend due to the behavior of a board appointee.
WHAT KIND OF BOARD OF EDUCATION QUESTIONS THE VALUE OF PARENTAL ENGAGEMENT?
Witt never even attended one meeting and Newkirk came only once for a few minutes because the committee norms were being discussed due to the unprofessional behavior of one of his appointees. To her credit, Williams did attend several of the meetings.
Board Minority Members, Dahlkemper and Fellman have attended nearly every meeting over the past four years and when they were not able to, always sent a note to the chair of the committee to let them know of their absence and thanking the committee for their work. They have always valued conversations and community input and have tirelessly worked at parental engagement.
So, because we are becoming Dougco at the whim of the Board Majority, we asked our parent friends in Douglas County how the dismantling of their district accountability committee occurred and what is happening there now.
The following is from Dougco Parent Laura Mutton:
Unfortunately, I wasn’t involved at the district level when DCSD rewrote the By-Laws of our DAC, but we do have an administrator and a charter school parent. We don’t have classified staff and we don’t have PTO representatives (although I doubt we ever did). Here’s a link to the DAC Bylaws in DougCo: https://www.dcsdk12.org/sites/default/files/boardofeducation/districtaccountabilitycommittee/DAC%20Bylaw%20Revisions%20with%20Signature%2010-1-13_FINAL.pdf
What I can tell you is how the role of our DAC has changed under this board:
The District Accountability Committee in Douglas County is completely ineffective. Membership is selected by the Board of Education and “Because they are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Board, DAC members are subject for removal, with or without cause, upon the recommendation of a member of the Board and the majority vote of the Board” (article IV. Section G.).
(Just like Jeffco – our Board Majority wants to pick and choose which parents are allowed to participate.)
The ByLaws of the DAC in Douglas County state that one of the DAC’s duties is:
“To recommend to the Board priorities for spending School District moneys. Whenever the DAC recommends spending priorities, it shall make reasonable effort to consult in a substantive manner with the school accountability committees of the School District. The Board shall consider the DAC’s recommendations in adopting the School District budget for each fiscal year.” (article III. Section B.)
Unfortunately, the DAC has never complied with this particular section of the Bylaws. Although they have collected feedback from the school accountability committees for several years, they have never formed a recommendation, nor made one to the Board of Education. The only time that the feedback was presented to the Board of Ed, it was not summarized into a recommendation and was instead what the DAC had asked of SACs – a list of spending priorities. The Board of Ed accused SAC’s of creating a “Christmas Wish List” and never took into account any of the needs outlined in the document when forming the district’s budget.
DAC meetings are primarily one direction communication opportunities. Although audience members are allowed to ask questions, rarely is the feedback from the audience collected or summarized into any type of recommendation to the district. After numerous SAC leaders asked for a parent survey to be reinstated, the DAC limited Public Comment to 3 minutes per audience member and sometimes skips this portion of the meeting if time is running over. Ironically, the DAC wants to require mandatory attendance of each school, instead of looking for ways to engage parents in discussions that would increase attendance.
Two Board members attend DAC meetings – Judi Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorne. They rarely speak during these meetings or show any appreciation for the questions asked by audience members. As an example, last February, during a DAC forum where schools leaders from every school are required to attend, questions came up regarding the financial situation of the district if a bond was not passed this fall. Parents wanted to know what the impact would be to their schools if a proposed $200 million bond, that the Board was currently asking for community feedback on, did not pass. Both Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Silverthorne were in the audience during this discussion and remained completely quiet. Given the feedback during this meeting, it would have made sense for the district to follow up on this important question, yet no communication has occurred and the question has never been answered.
The DAC in DougCo only exists because state statute requires it to exist. The term “Accountability” has no meaning in Douglas County.
Though we don’t trust that your voice will be heard, make sure you take the time to apply to be on our “new DAC.”
A community with more than 86,000 students has been given less than a week to apply!