For Review!

We’ve received two emails from Jeffco Parents with great updates on the Saturday Board Retreat amongst other items:
The First Email: 
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
First week of school – check! First Board Retreat of the new school year – check! 
  • Board Retreat Hints at Things to Come
  • Board Vote Controversy Continues
  • Local Politics
  • Board Meeting Tomorrow
  • Ending on a Positive Note: Outdoor Lab After Dark


Board Retreat Hints at Things to Come
The School Board held a retreat on Saturday. Initially, it appeared Mr. Witt was more subdued, but at one point when Ms. Fellman politely asked fellow Board Members to try to avoid adding last-minute items to Board Meeting agendas so that everyone could be well prepared, Mr. Witt forcefully told Ms. Fellman she was focused on the wrong thing.
The Board discussed its work plan for the upcoming year. Note that Choice and Charters come up several times. In fact, there are two Charter School applications in play right now, but last I checked, SPAC – which is required to review all Charter applications – had not been informed. We do see that the Board Attorney’s Scope of Work will be discussed at the September 4 Board Meeting.
Currently, Board Policy states the Board’s SOLE connection to the operational organization of the school district is the Superintendent. Mr. Witt wanted to change the policy to say the Superintendent is the PRIMARY connection. Mr. McMinimee pushed back, noting that he is the one held accountable for the work of Jeffco Schools Staff, so he needs to be included in conversations with Jeffco Schools Staff and he will work with the Board Secretary, Ms. Neal, to ensure all Board members are updated.
Jeffco Schools COO Bell addressed concerns about our district’s aging facilities, plus new school needs in areas of high population growth around our county. Bell noted Jeffco Schools has $840 million in necessary building maintenance, upgrades and renovations, and asked the Board to consider issuing Certificates of Participation to finance these projects. Meanwhile, Boulder Valley School District will ask voters in November to approve a $576.5 million bond program.
Jeffco Schools CFO Lorie Gillis presented on the Budget Development Process, requesting that next year’s budget be adopted in May, rather than June, to allow more time for planning and implementation. There was also discussion of Student-Based Budgeting (like they use in Cherry Creek Schools) and Principals having more control over their school budgets.
There was lots of discussion about community engagement and public comment at Board Meetings. At one point, Mr. Witt announced that community surveys would not influence the decisions of the Board. And, Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk and Ms. Williams all seemed to want to limit input from the community.
Board Vote Controversy Continues 
Remember back in March when Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk and Ms. Williams voted to cease an appeal over property rights at 2090 Wright Street? The board disregarded advice from the district’s law firm, plus an offer to handle the case pro bono, and a letter from the Capital Asset Advisory Committee noting unanimous support for the appeal. Now comes word from County Assessor Jim Everson (R) that the District Court Order “does not contain a clear finding that the legal fee owner of the parcel is other than Jefferson County School District R-1.” In fact, the County Assessor’s office “will continue to list Jefferson County School District R-1 as the owner” of this $500,000-$1 million parcel of land.
Board Meeting Tomorrow
The Board meets TOMORROW, Thursday, August 28, 2014, beginning with a 5:30pm Executive Session to discuss teacher compensation. Expect news this week about the Fact Finding phase of this process. The regular meeting begins at 6:30pm. You can also watch all Board Meetings online via streaming video. Upcoming meetings include September 4 & 18, and October 2 & 16. If you take issue with the Board at meetings, write the Board a letter instead of being vocal during the meeting. A thoughtful letter becomes part of the public record and helps build a case. Shouts become white noise and diminish the message. I found this letter from a Jeffco teacher to the Board interesting, and was pleased to see Mr. McMinimee got right back to her to set up a meeting.
Ending on a Positive Note: Outdoor Lab After Dark
Remember just a few short years ago when we thought we might lose Outdoor Lab? And we all pulled together to save this beloved program? The Outdoor Lab Foundation has worked miracles to ensure Outdoor Lab continues to inspire future youth to become our scientists, teachers, engineers, business leaders and thinkers of tomorrow – and next month will donate nearly $350,000 to support Jeffco’s Outdoor Lab Schools. Keep the Foundation strong by attending Outdoor Lab After Dark – live music, dancing, auctions, dinner and drinks. All proceeds directly benefit the Outdoor Lab Foundation. General admission ticket includes all you can eat food catered by Moe’s Original BBQ and an open bar hosted by Breckenridge Brewery. Doors open at 4pm – Lucky Penny Ranch at 5801 Bluebell Lane, Evergreen, CO 80439. 
The Second Email:
Saturday’s Special Board Meeting
Sorry I haven’t had a chance to send out an email about Saturday’s special board meeting.  Unfortunately, I was only able to attend about 2 hours of the meeting, which was taken up almost entirely by 2.01 “Norming with the Superintendent” during which a facilitator, Jane Barnes, facilitated conversation between board members and the Superintendent regarding board policy.  I did take note that during introductions at the beginning of the meeting, Ms. Williams couldn’t remember if she represents District 1 or 2 – really?!  One item of note that I found encouraging was McMinimee’s response during discussion of BSL-01 (a board policy) when Mr. Witt took issue w/the word “sole” in the following policy statement, “The Board’s sole connection to the operational organization of the school district is the superintendent.”  Mr. Witt felt that should read “primary” instead, which would open up free reign for board members to converse w/district staff whenever they want.  Superintendent McMinimee was quick to speak up on this – to the fact that he alone is held accountable to the board – that he must be privy to all conversations between board members and staff – and that his preference is for all questions/requests/etc to come to him from board members – and that he would coordinate w/members of his staff to address the need – being careful to work w/the board & Supt’s Chief of Staff, Helen Neal, to ensure all board members receive the information and are on the same page.  I was impressed and encouraged by McMinimee’s stance here.
Next up was the Facilities Planning Preview.  You can view the PPT Presentation here.  Did you know that 2/3 of Jeffco facilities are 30 years old or older?!  That’s roughly 8 million square feet!  There are currently $468.5M in deficiencies in our facilities – very concerning – especially considering Lorie Gillis’ warning during budget discussions last year – we just don’t have the money to address these needs.  I thought it was interesting at the end of the presentation how the different articulation areas were broken out w/regard to whether they were low or high “choice in” schools.  Unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting at this point. 
However, I did pick up on the live video stream of the meeting when I got home – just long enough to hear that public comment rules have changedIf 20 or fewer sign up, they’ll get 3 minutes each.  21-30 people get 2 minutes each.  If more than 30 people sign up, they only get a minute.  This is in an effort to limit the 1st portion of public comment to an hour – so board members aren’t getting to board business at 11pm after 2-3 hours of public comment.  I wasn’t sure whether this was a policy change or whether that was the final decision – apparently it’s the latter – Jeffco’s website has been changed to reflect this new policy.  This concerns me on a number of different levels, but most importantly – as board member Jill Fellman pointed out during this portion of the meeting that I was able to watch – that board members should hear from the community BEFORE voting on something.  What good does it do to listen to the rest of the public’s concerns and priorities during public comment 2 AFTER a vote has been cast on a topic?!  Why bother?  So only those w/access to a computer – and quick access at that – get to speak during Public Comment 1 – before voting occurs?  We saw that happen at the end of last year where if you didn’t sign up during the first 6 minutes public comment sign-up was open, you didn’t get to speak.  That’s just wrong.  While I understand the need to get board business done before midnight, limiting public comment to just 60 people is not the answer.  This policy needs to be revisited.  Note also the sign-up policy has been tweaked as follows (from the website), “Public Comment sign up is available online through the Public Comment agenda item at 10 a.m. the Monday prior to the meeting and until 3:30 p.m. the day of the meeting. Sign up is also available in the Board of Education office Monday-Wednesday until 5 p.m. and Thursday until 3:30 p.m. for those without access to the internet.”  So if you want to make sure you get to speak to the board before they vote on something important, be sure to register online as close to 10am the Monday prior to the meeting as possible!  Unfortunately, it seems that we’ll now have to prepare a 3min, 2min and 1min version of our public comments, which is both frustrating and time-consuming.
Regular Board Meeting, Thursday 8/28
Tonight night will be the first regular meeting of the school year at the Ed Center in Golden (5th fl., Board Room, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO).  If you can’t attend the meeting, I encourage you to watch it live.  Sign-up for the meeting began on Monday, but if you want to speak, you can sign up here – just be forewarned you may be bumped to part 2 of public comment at the end of the meeting.
First up at 5:30 is a discussion around fact-finding and the JCEA tentative agreement.  It remains to be seen whether Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman will agree to go into Executive Session to discuss this. 
One of the 1st things I noticed was that are were 358 pieces of correspondence from our community to the board contained in Section 4.01!  Wow!  People are communicating w/the board about their concerns and priorities for our students, staff & schools!  That is great to see! 
McMinimee on Public Radio
Check out this interview w/Superintendent McMinimee on CPR.  Lots to read here, but for me, I guess I’m hopeful that the issue of providing free full-day Kindergarten to our most needy kids is not dead in the water, which is the way it felt to me at the end of the school year.  Sounds like the topic is still open for discussion.  Hopefully we’ll see our new Supt support FDK and work to make free FDK accessible for all of Jeffco’s most needy children and advocate at the state level for Kindergarten to be mandated by our state.  What frustrates me is that there was plenty of time last year to restructure how free FDK is allocated in Jeffco schools – but instead of doing that – instead of looking at Denver Public Schools’ income-based sliding scale approach, the board majority chose to just dismiss funding for FDK entirely – and even challenge the validity of FDK overall, which was shocking to me.  My hopes are high that this board can find some common ground on this and do what’s best for kids.
Pay-for-performance … I’ve talked about this before – I have a lot of concerns around this model and don’t believe it’s the right approach.  I think such a model will require even more testing of our kiddos – in every subject – in order to quantify a teacher’s performance – it will pit teachers against one another – teachers who otherwise may have asked for more challenging kiddos or wanted to work in more challenging school environments may opt for high-performing schools since their pay and careers are on the line if their students don’t score well – thus pulling the very teachers from tough schools that need them most – such a framework puts the entire responsibility for educating children on the teachers, who have no control over the external (home, physical, mental, emotional) factors that influence a child’s ability to learn…I really could go on and on about this, but I can tell you that it sure looks like this is the direction the board majority and the Supt intend to go – and this will be tumultuous to say the least. 
We love that these parents are so involved and paying attention!  We appreciate them informing others as to what is going on!  Are YOU doing the same?  We’d love to hear from you!  It matters to our children!