When Is it time to Support Jeffco Kids?

We left the board meeting early tonight. As in past years, it was a late one. Though now, thoughtful discussion is occurring and dealing with issues that were left unattended and ignored completely for two years. But what I couldn’t do was not watch even though I didn’t want to watch. I turned on livestreaming and watched until the meeting ended at around 12;30. It’s now 2:30 and my heart is breaking for the children of Jeffco.

 

We won by a sliver in 2012 when we ran the mill and bond and all we were attempting to win was the bare minimum. We wanted to stop the bleeding and hold out for school funding being a state issue that needed to be addressed and fixed and that is what voters recovering from an economic downturn said they would support.

 

In 2012, at this time, we had been educating the community (remember more than 70% of the community doesn’t touch the schools and has no idea of the needs) for more than a year.  People were informed and we had an army of moms, dads, grandparents, neighbors, business community members and educators all working together to inform everyone that we would lose teachers, music programs, instructional coaches, digital teacher librarians, and support staff, etc.. We won that election by a small percentage and that was an enlightened community.

 

Where are we now?

We have deferred maintenance that hasn’t occurred due to a pitiful budget caused by state funding and real needs beyond the warm, safe and dry of 2012 haven’t been addressed for years, partially due to the failed mill and bond of 2008. We have an average age of school buildings of 45 years and even carpet that hasn’t been replaced in some of those buildings due to lack of funding and that extremely old carpet that our children sit on doesn’t even begin to reveal the extreme needs that you can’t see entering a building.

 

We have PTAs that have funded updated playground equipment and other facility needs over 4 to 5 years of fundraisers with buildings in such terrible condition that facilities recommends  shutting down the building rather than renovations.

 

In 2012, the community said yes and we still had to make $6 million in cuts even while the mill brought us $39 million in new dollars. We wanted to fix the statewide issue and not overburden our community. We have never restored the $63 million in cuts that were made previously. Fixing that state issue hasn’t been successful; pay attention to your upcoming elections for state legislators!

 

I met an amazing science teacher today, she doesn’t teach in Jeffco because she can’t afford to. I lost the teacher I respected most in the entire world because she’s done funding everything out of her own pocket without proper supports for the students she serves while she needs to take care of her own family. She retired rather than continue teaching.

 

Meanwhile, because of silly politics, we’re more than two years behind in educating the community about the needs of our district. SBB has been a detriment for some communities and a bonus for others.  We are no longer one Jeffco.  We are branded at many schools and looking for students to fill seats and have created competition for funding. Most of us just want a principal who is a good leader who supports educators and students, not a marketing staff, but contrary to what the community wants (and actually this has NEVER been a community discussion), it is the situation we are faced with. The goal was never to take and attract students from Adams or Westminster. The goal should be to serve Jeffco students and continue that tradition of excellence.

We have an excellent board who cordially worked through the needs of every single school in the district and attempted to consider every student in the district until nearly 12:30am, a seven hour meeting. They advocated for every single community while facing the burden of aging facilities that don’t meet the needs of our students.

 

36 people attended the meeting tonight. 18 of those individuals were staff, 5 were board members, 4 were media. Where are you, Jeffco? What do want for our kids? Just two years ago, more than 13,000 of you weighed in on the budget because you weren’t being heard! You now have people listening to you and this board is doing more to unite the community than ever before! 

 

We have no idea what the board will decide on a mill and bond.  Will it be this year? Will it be next? There is no public outcry as in years past and actually seems to be more confusion in the community than anything. A result of the past two years of no community engagement and a brand new staff who is not prepared to educate an entire community the size of Jeffco and destroyed community collaboration.

 

There are still more than 86,000 kids waiting on you. They get one chance at each grade for a bright future.  So here are a few facts that we hope you’ll consider:

 

  • Having a good teacher can make all the difference in a classroom. In Jeffco, we must retain and attract the best teachers.  Surrounding districts are paying nineteen percent more than Jeffco.  We don’t have the funding to recognize our experienced staff who sacrificed by taking a 3% pay cut during past budget cuts and are being paid below average salaries.
  • Maintaining a safe environment where students can learn without worrying about being harmed. (The children in our schools should not have to worry about being harmed while at school. The district is committed to protecting their safety and security, and a review of the facilities has identified high priority safety and security needs at our schools that could be funded by a ballot measure.)
  • We must provide students with the instruction and skills necessary for success in college and the workplace.
  • This includes promoting the teaching of skills and technology necessary to prepare students to compete for 21st century jobs.
  • Providing handson learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, sometimes called STEM.
  • Continuing the district’s commitment to high academic standards and accountability.
  • The average school building in Jefferson County is 45 years old. Many of the heating and cooling systems, boilers, and plumbing are dated and inefficient. 
  • In the last five years, JeffCo Public Schools has received 481 million dollars LESS from the state of Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted. And there are more budget cuts on the way. We need to work together to support our kids and teachers, and provide them with safe, well maintained classrooms and school buildings. We can do it but it does mean we will have tough decisions ahead of us.
  • Looking forward, we must think about expanding our ability for schools being able to provide students with handson, real world experience – whether that is health care training in a vocational program, creating a middle school science experiment that was rocketed into space, or learning computer coding in elementary school. Students need these kinds of skills to go on to college and the jobs of the future.
  • Every single school in the district has some repair need, with many of them facing critical ones like leaky roofs, faulty wiring, outdated fire alarms, and other basic needs. Funding approved by voters in 2012 fixed the most urgent needs on time and within budget, but state cuts has caused a growing repair backlog.
  • We need to make sure that our public schools continue to be some of the best in the metro area. The value of our homes is increased by the good reputation of our schools.

It’s a tough decision for all of us and it’s a tough decision for our board. There’s another meeting Thursday night and there will be public comment.  What do you want, Jeffco?

 

How hard are you willing to work and when?  Will you commit to spreading the word for the next 4 months nonstop or will you commit to a lot of work over the next year?  Will you commit to donating as much money from your budget as possible out of the next few months or out of the next year to help spread the word? In Jeffco, this happens with a true grassroots effort as we’re up against outside politics and a tremendous amount of money.

Tell us – what do you think is best? How long can our kids and staff hang on? How committed are YOU going to be to do the right thing? Just putting the issue on the ballot will cost the district more than $500,000, so this is a loss we cannot allow.

 

Tell us what you think and share this information with everyone you know and ask that they follow our page and give us feedback, sign up to volunteer, make donations, and decide what is best to serve Jeffco and when.

 

Support Jeffco Kids

Every Child, Every Day