Sharing from an email received:
Jeffco friends – I really wish you all had been there tonight. You really needed to be – especially if you’ve never been to a board meeting. Just come to one and you will understand where all the turmoil, confusion, frustration, and mistrust is coming from. The meeting tonight literally had me in tears – from anger and deep, deep frustration and sadness. I don’t mean to be dramatic – I’m just telling you how it was for me and many, many others present tonight. The board room was packed from 515p on as was overflow from what I heard.
I like to download before I go to bed – so here goes – and please read all the way through – a LOT happened tonight:
- Bill Newman of Ray & Associates – the firm heading up the district’s superintendent search – presented on the themes from the stakeholder forums that were held last month. You can see their report athttp://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/9HUE22827CF6/$file/BACKGROUND%20Superintendent%20Search%20Information%20corrected.pdf. Page 4 is interesting in that you can see what the different groups’ priorities are, including the BOE. Mr. Newman pointed out 2 discrepancies where BOE priority gave priority to something other stakeholders did not:
- Quality/characteristic #16: “Non-traditional or “hybrid” with background in military, business and/or education” – was ranked as a #3 priority for the BOE (with 3 votes) vs a ranking of 33 for teachers, 32 for administrators, 32 for support staff, 30 for parents, 30 for students, 32 for non-parent community member and 32 for other. That’s out of a possibility of 33. Wow. That’s a pretty clear message! (In fact a mandate from all stakeholders, except the majority board, who choose to ignore the community’s voices)
- Quality/characteristic #24: “Has demonstrated strong leadership skills in previous positions.” This received a ranking of 9 from the BOE and rankings of 20, 20, 15, 15, 12, 20 & 15 for other stakeholder groups as identified above.
- Ms. Dahlkemper noted the disconnect on #16 between what the majority of the board wants vs what the majority of other stakeholders want. Note that in the interest of not wanting to discourage candidates from applying, the flyer that will be distributed by Ray & Associates will state that Jeffco is looking for a traditional, non-traditional or hybrid candidate –even though the majority clearly stated that having a non-traditional candidate is at the bottom of their list of priorities. Ms. Dahlkemper wanted more emphasis on a proven track record of experience with educator effectiveness.
- Based again on stakeholder input, Mr. Newman suggested that the board consider adding to the candidate profile and flyer that we want a leader who “had leadership skills to respond to challenges of ethnic & cultural diversity.” This had a ranking of 17 for the BOE, but a ranking of 7, 8, 5, 10, 12, 6, and 5 for the other stakeholders as indicated above. Mr. Witt was “not interested” (his words) in adding this quality to the candidate profile and shot down any attempts to further discuss this matter.
- Mr. Newman noted that Jeffco set a new record w/their firm – Ray & Associates received over 3,000 responses from the Jeffco community; their previous record was 1,958 responses. Way to go!
- Public comment was over 2 hours long. I found this “event” particularly interesting in that in the past – such as was the case w/Deer Creek parents who wanted the STEM program extended to 6th graders (which Newkirk and Witt voted against, btw), Mr. Witt required them to all speak together as they were speaking on the same topic. Tonight however – in clear violation of board policy http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/Public# , not only did Mr. Witt not require those speaking on the same topic (charter equalization) to speak together as a unified voice, but he allowed (also against board policy) this public comment period to go on for 2 hours as opposed to cutting it off at 45 minutes and requiring others to wait until the end of the meeting http://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/board/participate.html. Also, board policy states that if more than 25 people sign up to speak, individuals are to be given 2 minutes to speak (instead of 3) and groups given 5 minutes (instead of 10) to speak. There were way more than 25 speakers (33 speakers, I heard) http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/9HUD227F337C/$file/PC%20pt1%204.3.14.pdf and they were given their full 3 & 10 minutes to speak. Why is that, you think? The overwhelming majority of speakers tonight spoke about charter school funding equalization – over and over and over – primarily from Compass Montessori and Mountain Phoenix charter schools (although there were others). I guess Mr. Witt really wanted to hear what they had to say – guess not so much for those Deer Creek parents. Hmmm.
- So – on to the budget. This was a disaster that still has me enraged. The goal tonight was to review those items (in yellow http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/9HQPUD5F5C6D/$file/WORKSHEET%20BOE%20Prioritization.pdf) that required additional discussion. No decisions made tonight are final – there is still time for discussion – I guess that gives me some comfort? I don’t know. Anyway, here’s where this board majority stands as of tonight:
- Teachers/staff – you need to be paying careful attention to this. Look at lines 19, 20, & 21 in the worksheet. Witt wants the placeholder for compensation to only read as $11,725,100. He wants the $3,727,200 PERA contribution and $500,000 Affordable Healthcare Act fees rolled up as if included and not separate/distinct from employee compensation. So instead of being a total compensation package of $15,952,300, to include compensation, PERA & AHCA – it’s all rolled up in a pretty package w/a price tag of $11,725,100. That’s a $4.2+M cut to compensation, equal to a 36% reduction in compensation increase. Yes, that’s right – $4.2+ MILLION DOLLAR CUT TO EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION. Again, keep in mind that this is a placeholder, but that’s what Mr. Witt wants to do for now. And this was a 3/2 WNW decision – Witt Newkirk Williams (WNW) voted for this change to the worksheet – so how likely do you think it’ll be that they’ll continue to support this as budget negotiations proceed? Hopefully we’ve got some more Jeffco employees paying attention now.
- Board approved the $4.5M to increase wireless infrastructure (accessibility & capacity) in the district.
- This is what had me in tears. There was a placeholder for $600,000 to be allocated to provide 13 sections of full-day free kindergarten for schools where there are 35% or more free and reduced lunch kids (e.g., low income students). Julie Williams thinks – from her “experience” – that full-day kindergarten just adds specials (art, music & PE) – that it’s not additional academic time. REALLY?!? Wow. Mr. Witt isn’t satisfied w/national data showing that kids who receive full-day kindergarten excel and are better prepared for 1st grade than those who attend 1/2-day. Isn’t satisfied w/national data that shows low-income students benefit greatly from a full-day K program. Nope. He wants to see Jeffco data on this. The board’s goals are focused on increasing proficiency on test scores, but Witt fails to acknowledge Chief Academic Officer Heather Beck’s confirmation that national research indicates that at risk kids benefit greatly from attendance in K in achievement, graduation rates and requiring less social services during their lifetimes. Call to Jeffco Kindergarten teachers: this is wrong for kids – on so many levels. I’m disgusted and outraged by this board’s unjust decision. I would love to see a team of Jeffco kindergarten teachers put together a presentation for the board for the next board meeting – giving them the data they have asked for. Please email me if you’re interested – I’m happy to help however I can – and if you are hesitant to present the information, I’m happy to present it. I just need help putting it together. If we don’t do this, Jeffco doesn’t stand even a remote chance of pulling this back into the budget – not a chance for these kids who desperately need someone to advocate for them.
- Board wants to add a $855k amount to line item 39 for the Gifted & Talented program.
- Yep, you guessed it – next on the agenda – charter school equalization. Nope – let’s not give $600,000 for full-day free K for the kids who need it the most. Instead, let’s add a placeholder for $3.7 MILLION for charter school equalization. I agree that all 85,000 students in our district deserve equal opportunity for a quality education – but like I said, an equal playing field is an equal playing field. I would love to get a piece of their grant money pie – and I would definitely love to sit down w/staff at Mt. Carbon and determine how much money we need to stay “afloat” and prepare a proposal for a loan from the district. You can bet I will be demanding a level playing field – if the funding has to be equal, so does everything else on the field! And those loans that went out – like the $400k to Collegiate Academy – gets paid back before a penny of this mill levy override money hits their doorstep.
- The board added a line item w/no dollar value to address their ends goal to address remediation rates – they need more information before identifying a dollar value. Will discuss this at the next board meeting.
- Lorie Gillis – Jeffco CFO – recommended 1-2 hours to discuss charter school funding to ensure all are on the same page w/regard to how it works and who gets what and why. Mr. Witt suggested adding a 30-min discussion to the next meeting to discuss this. Guess he already knows it all and doesn’t need the time the CFO feels is necessary to properly address this issue. However, I’m thankful that he at least conceded to allow the 30 minutes. Better than nothing, I suppose (yes, I’m grasping for straws here – trying to have a semblance of hope).
- With these changes, we’re looking at only putting in $200k into reserves next year instead of the recommended $2M. We are currently sitting at $60M in reserves, which is “adequate to maintain our bond rating.”
- Cornerstone Academy charter school update. Apparently since the lady in charge of this charter has a full-time job, she can’t be reached very easily to keep this moving. The original target date to open was August 2014 – that’s not even remotely achievable – at best will be 2015. Mr. Carlton, the charter school liaison tasked w/working w/Cornerstone, asked for 4-6 weeks to get back to the board with an update. The school still does not have a location identified.
- Last big topic of the night – Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman asked that the board allocate 30 minutes at the next board meeting to have a conversation about the contract with Brad Miller – the BOE’s attorney – to discuss his fee, the contract, and what exactly it is that his firm has been doing for the district. CORA requestshttp://www.supportjeffcokids.org/attorney-invoices-compared/ show BM activity on virtually every day of the month in January (ok, yes, the BM pun is intentional – I needed a laugh) – of course the “activity” is blacked out so we have NO CLUE what they’ve been doing – and neither do Ms. Dahlkemper or Ms. Fellman. A conversation sounds pretty reasonable considering this was supposed to be a month-to-month contract, but it hasn’t been discussed ONCE in SIX MONTHS – and obviously Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman haven’t been privy to any of the work BM has been doing. Nope – WNW voted NOT to have a conversation. Another Witt steamroll. Nice.
Yah, you’re right – I’m disgusted – I’m enraged – I’m disappointed – I’m sad – BUT – I’m motivated to action. I hope you are too. This is real – and this IS affecting your children and their education – right now. I know you’re busy – we all are – this is a matter of priority – and your children need YOU to use YOUR voice to advocate for them.
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