Candidates Erica Shields and Matt Van Gieson, and a few AFP/Koch funded groups have been talking about the district/board using $50 Million as a cost for the 6th grade middle school transition. We have been pouring over documents, old files, and talking to staff trying to figure out where in the world they’re coming up with this number.
Well, as it turns out, no one seems to know. That number is nowhere near accurate.
It is especially unfortunate when people running for the school board share misinformation – and without verifying it with the district professionals.
To date, the ONLY funds appropriated for the middle school construction additions (for Drake M.S. and Dunstan M.S.) are $14.5 Million using reserves for construction of additions to Dunstan Middle School and Drake Middle School via transfers from General Fund Reserves to the Capital Reserve Fund to begin the project in 2016/2017.
At the May 4, 2017 school board meeting, the board voted on two resolutions to approve funding for the two construction projects necessary for the district to move forward with the 6th grade to middle school plans. They were:
$10 Million funding for the Drake Middle School addition construction, and $4.5 Million funding for the Dunstan Middle School addition.
Actual dollars are less because underspend for FY 2017 was more than estimated. Actual reserve allocation is $7.2M.
Facilities Staff has set aside the amount of $2.0M from existing Capital Transfer to accommodate unknown costs as they implemented the move for school years 2018-19 and 2019-20. This is from existing cash flow in the Capital Transfer. NO new funding.
IF consideration is given to additional construction for Ken Caryl, Creighton and Summit Ridge, it is estimated this could be in the $13-14M range based on the work done to date.
No funding for these purposes has been authorized. These projects would be designed and bid on for the 2019-20 school year opening. This is the planning estimate and has not been authorized for funding.
Staff has not initiated a plan for potential needs at Oberon or Bell middle schools.
Completing the Drake and Dunstan additions, along with the 6th to 8th moves planned, will allow for the removal of 130 temps from elementary sites. This represents approx. 150,000 square ft. subject maintenance expense, which will be saved annually while providing better classroom environments for elementary school students by having them in a better physical setting.
Estimated cost savings to be $650,000-700,000 annually. Hundreds of children removed from learning environments in temps (trailers.)
Any way you look at these numbers, it’s a long way from $50 million.
A few more examples of misinformation were given at the forum held by the League of Women Voters on Tuesday, October 17th.
Erica Shields stated that graduation rates have been going down for the past three years. This is not true, graduation rates have held steady or gone up for the past many years. Additionally, when 5th year programs for students who need extra help and support are considered, Jeffco’s graduation rate is much higher than even the figures in the links provided and is a leader in all of Colorado.
Additionally, Matt Van Gieson stated that district administration had increased 13% according to his calculations. (Insert math joke here.)
Again, not true. Administration is 4% of total budget and that’s GENERAL ADMINISTRATION. Even during the times of extreme budget cuts, the administration was only 3%.
Additionally, Superintendent Dr. Glass laid this out as well in an extremely comprehensive article about funding for those who need more detail. How the budget works is the most common question and there are many resources available for review:
“I’m also sometimes asked about the district’s spending on central administrative costs, versus what goes to the classroom. In every school organization, priority is given to sending dollars to directly serve students. However, there are real administrative costs associated with running an organization with 14,000 employees and 86,000 students. Again, a comparison to what other districts are doing is useful. In Colorado, here’s what some of the other large districts in the metro area spend per student for district administrative costs annually, according to the Colorado Department of Education.”
Erica and Matt also stated that the superintendent has no goals and the board isn’t holding him accountable. Roll your eyes, shake your head, scream – this is a blatant lie and superintendent review has even been on the board calendar before he was here for 100 days. They’ve said the same thing about previous superintendents.
Both Matt and Erica touted more community engagement being needed but acted as if there was none. We agree that community engagement is crucial and love that the district and board has worked hard to create more forums and community meetings, like all of these meetings that were held:
Addtionally, telephone townhalls have been held and the facility issues were discussed at these locations just a year ago:
- Saturday, April 23rd, 9am to 11am at Dakota Ridge High School
- Wednesday, April 27th, 6pm to 8pm at North Arvada Middle School
- Wednesday, May 4th, 8am to 10am at Conifer High School
- Wednesday, May 4th, 5pm to 7pm at Green Mountain High School
- Tuesday, May 31st, 6pm to 8pm at Ralston Valley High School
- Wednesday, June 1st, 6pm to 8pm at Pomona High School
- Saturday, June 4th, 9am to 11am at Stevens Elementary
- Saturday, June 4th, 11am to 1pm at Arvada West High School
- Monday, June 6th, 6pm to 8pm at Golden High School
- Wednesday, June 8th, 8am to 10am at Bear Creek High School
- Wednesday, June 8th, 6pm to 8pm at Wheat Ridge High School
- Thursday, June 9th, 6pm to 8pm at Stein Elementary at O’Connell
The real problem though is that these folks didn’t go to any of the meetings. They didn’t participate. They haven’t been to any board meetings and they have never served on any district committees.
It’s extremely unethical and a little pompous to waltz in wanting an elected position and claim that nothing has been done right when you never learned about what is being done and never helped participate in the process.
Erica Shields claimed that mental health access is not available for middle schools. Thankfully, Susan Harmon addressed this. From an elementary school where one social worker or counselor serves THE ENTIRE SCHOOL, Middle Schools have one counselor per grade, one social emotional specialist, and a social worker. That’s several ADDITIONAL levels of support for middle school students.
Erica and Matt have continually mentioned the need to fully analyze the success of all existing programs before adding any early childhood education access or other programs. Well, you won’t find a program in Jeffco that doesn’t have success for students. Some more so than others. What makes a program worthy? If it is helping even one or two students in the program, do you cut it? Is it a percentage? What’s your basis for qualifying success? How many students does it take to make a program worthy? These are the kinds of decisions that board members and district staff work together to explore and ensure that ALL students are served and all individual needs are addressed. It’s not a simple dollars and cents decision.
We’d like clarity on what programs they are intending to cut with this analysis since the claim has come up at every forum.
Susan Harmon did an amazing job of bringing up multiple programs that are already happening in the district that Matt and Erica had no clue even existed.
Additionally, Susan Harmon was right on when she mentioned that being a board member was not about micromanaging the entire district staff. The Carver Governance Model would be a great read for people who want to run for a school board.
One last thing that has been bothering us and many others, Matt has intentionally omitted that his school is Golden View Classical Academy, which has it’s own independent board of education. Every other candidate has noted their schools. He mentions other schools but never his own. We know there’s been some controversy but if that is your choice, you ought to be comfortable with that decision and not continue attempting to hide that fact. With having only just over a year of experience with schools, why run for Jeffco School Board without having experience with the schools outside of your own? Why not run for your own school board?
Lastly, Matt refused to answer the question about vouchers by simply stating they are illegal. Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell came out strongly against and even challenged the “illegal” answer by mentioning the current court case with Dougco. Erica chose to not even answer the question, ignored it, and used her time instead to go back and add more on to a previous question. The status of vouchers in Colorado could change and refusing to answer this should be a huge, red flag for everyone.
Not only is it unethical that candidates for the school board would purposely spread misleading information, it’s a clear demonstration of why these candidates don’t deserve our trust.
Deliver your completed ballots as soon as you can. 86,000 children are depending on you.