What is happening with community input in Jeffco?
Just before Winter Break, we learned of proposed changes to the Articulation Areas of Jefferson and Alameda. No discussions with the parents in these communities had been occurring though district staff noted that discussions amongst themselves had been occurring since June or July of 2014. Why were parents not a part of this discussion of moving their 7th and 8th grade children into a high school environment and why were no other options proposed? Additionally, adequately informing parents of community meetings set to happen just after break were not initially delivered to parents in languages that they could understand.
Upon returning from Winter Break, we also learned of a reduction of quality mental health professionals (social workers) at GT Center Schools and an increased workload for staff serving these schools. THIS was also never communicated to parents in these communities. These services are apparently going to be reduced (despite an increase in funding from the state) in the middle of the year and, again, with no communication from the district and no conversations with parents.
Now we have the issues arising at Fletcher Miller. See our article on these issues – http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/fletcher-miller-issues/
What is going on and why are changes being proposed in the middle of the school year? Why are parents NOT being included in these conversations while our own children are impacted by these decisions and available services reduced.
More than 13,100 people participated in the Community Budget Survey last year – http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/02132014_Community_Survey_Results1.pdf
No increase in special education funding was even presented as a need during the budget discussions this year or last. Here’s the link for the 2015 Survey – http://jeffcoschools.citizenbudget.com/ However, if you participated a few days ago, you may or may not have received an “OOPSIE, WE MADE A MISTAKE!” email (Note: taxpayer dollars were spent on the survey rather than have staff design it with community input as has been the case in the past.) Some people received this in response to their survey participation and some people are reporting that they still have seen no such thing! Here’s the email:
Subject: Jeffco Schools Budget Survey – Additional Action Requested
We are writing to notify you that two questions were inadvertently left off of the initial survey that you completed and would like to encourage you to respond to these two remaining questions by clicking on the link below. Please note that the live version of the survey now includes these questions.
We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you again for participating in our survey.
So, what do people who didn’t get the email do now?
Then there’s the new Student Based Budgeting. Let’s not forget that the staff person in charge of this large project gave notice and left the district a few weeks ago. Parents participating in school accountability committees around the district are reporting that, in many cases, funding to neighborhood schools is being cut and reductions in staff are being made. The budget survey last year made reducing class size a priority:
From the conversations occurring at accountability committees, less than 50% of Per Pupil Funding is being directed to serve those neighborhood schools. Here’s a pie chart to show how the funding that doesn’t go to individual schools is being allocated:
What are parents to do? Parents find out about new issues within weeks of changes being implemented – with no discussion or involvement.
And apparently, based on this email thread forwarded to us by a parent (in red), the district is not writing their own communications entirely but rather plagarizing from School Board Director Lesley Dahlkemper:
“One quick footnote: I would ask in the future that the district not lift copy from my emails for inclusion in the district’s response to my inquiries. This may have been an oversight – we’re all moving at a fast pace. However, I felt it was important to flag. (The same sentence that I wrote in response to a Fletcher Miller teacher on Friday morning (1/30) was included in the district’s response above to the board on Friday afternoon in board docs. See blue font.) Please note:Thanks so much for reaching out to me – I share your concerns about removing nurses. The superintendent looked into the issue soon after I emailed him with concerns from parents and staff – those concerns also included changing the school to a program. The district is looking into this issue as well. Dan and I also had a chance to talk in more depth this morning and I understand that this issue has been put on hold.I’m copying Dan and Helen (chief of staff) on this email. District leaders will hold conversations next week with staff and parents to talk more. I will stay involved as the Dist. 4 representative on the board. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me along the way. The Fletcher Miller school is critical to Jeffco Schools and provides a safe, nurturing and caring learning environment for our most medically vulnerable students. Thank you for all you do!
How does a parent get their voice heard around here these days? How can we advocate for what’s appropriate for our children?
You can write a letter to the Board, and we encourage that, but note that responses take multiple months – as many as 8 months. Apparently the only way is to attend School Board Meetings and sign up for public comment (time reduced since the Board Majority was elected so ensure you can relay your thoughts in one or two minutes.)
The next meeting is this Thursday, February 5th with study session beginning at 5:30pm. You can sign up to speak here if your topic is agenda related: http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/Public