A school accountability chair shared her response from her letter to the board as well as her reaction.
Following is her reaction to the response:
You can read the email I sent below – on behalf of our Accountability Committee – and Newkirk’s response. “I believe that through the Board’s discussions on budget priorities, superintendent search and the goals developed for the Ends policies 1-3, you will find the direction of the Board of Education for the coming year.” Wow – that’s not real encouraging. Let’s do what he suggests and look at each of these items…
- Budget Priorities: clear from the last BOE meeting, their budget priorities are NOT free full-day K for our schools w/35% low-income families & NOT fair compensation for Jeffco staff. Glaring priority? Charter equalization.
- Supt Search: this board majority has indicated that contrary to what the rest of Jeffco stakeholders indicated was their preference (traditional or hybrid candidate and a candidate who embraces the diversity in our district), they will advertise for a non-traditional candidate as well (such as a CEO or military) and Witt would only concede to using the words “all students” instead of specifically addressing and highlighting the diversity in our district (I, personally, feel our diversity is a positive to highlight – am feeling as though maybe Mr. Witt doesn’t?!).
- Ends Goals: one of which calls for increasing TCAP reading proficiency for 3rd graders to increase from 80% to 85% by August next year. While I believe the ends goals set by the board are something to strive for, I feel that expecting the kinds of results they are expecting in a year will be especially challenging considering the roll-out of PARCC next year – and the presupposition from many that we ought to expect scores to drop that first year as kids adjust to taking the test on computers and the increased rigor.
This response is unacceptable and embarrassing. Still – I encourage everyone to keep the letters coming. They are responding, albeit shoddily at best, but more importantly, they (or at least maybe Newkirk?) are reading them and seeing the unrest and dissatisfaction w/this board majority. Keep ’em coming! And please share any responses you get – thanks!
Following is the Jeffco Schools Board of Education response to her letter from February 2014, received April 16th, 2014:
Dear Ms. Gurdikian,
Members of the Board of Education received a copy of your February email correspondence and thank you for writing to share your perspective and concerns for the future of Jeffco Public Schools. I sincerely apologize for the delay in my response to you.
I trust you will continue to stay engaged as the Board of Education develops the 2014-2015 budget and hires a new superintendent. Our meeting agendas are posted online at http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/Public.
And in response to your specific questions, I believe that through the Board’s discussions on budget priorities, superintendent search and the goals developed for the Ends policies 1-3, you will find the direction of the Board of Education for the coming year. Regarding choice programs, the Board will reply on our Choice Steering Committee to provide a full report after its work is completed in May 2014.
Board members are provided with district business cards for distribution at district events and where otherwise appropriate. I cannot speak for Mr. Witt; I can only speculate that he had no district business cards on his person at the time of the Dakota Ridge event.
Thank you, again, for writing to the Board of Education.
John J. Newkirk
Secretary, Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education
Following is her letter dated February 12, 2014
Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk & Mrs. Williams –
This email serves as a consolidated voice from the members of Mt. Carbon Elementary School’s Accountability Committee. We have so many questions/concerns and so many things we want to say to you, but we have boiled it down to one question – with the hopes of receiving a detailed and honest answer – preferably from each of you as we expect you might have different viewpoints to share:
Given the swiftness w/which you’ve made decisions since the November election, and given that all 3 of you ran on a platform of change, choice, academic excellence & transparency, it seems reasonable to expect that you have a very clear vision in mind for Jeffco Schools – a direction in which you are moving. What is that vision that you are in such a hurry to fulfill?
We respectfully request – demand – transparency in this regard. Why are people so riled up and upset? Because your swift & secretive actions have scared them – they don’t know what they’re facing – they don’t know your vision – they see what has happened in other districts where the board has flipped and proceeded to steamroll the district w/their agenda – they’ve seen devastation – you say you don’t want to turn Jeffco into DougCo, which is great news, but your actions give little credibility to that statement!
So – what do you want to do w/Jeffco Schools? Here are some questions we would like answered in relation to this overall main question:
1. What do you see as broken or needing improvement in Jeffco Schools? What are your priorities in this regard?
2. How do you intend to go about making said improvements? Please be specific.
3. You want to address student achievement and remediation rates – how do you intend to go about this?
4. You talk about “charter equalization” – what does this entail?
5. You ran on a platform of offering more choices to our students; however, Mr. Witt & Mr. Newkirk voted against offering the STEM program at Deer Creek Middle School to 6th graders. What kind of choices do you want to offer? How will those choices be funded?
We believe Jeffco does a great job of offering choices to our students – via charter schools, choice/option schools, AP & IB programs, a variety of extra-curricular sports & activities. We want to continue to offer choices to our students, but not at the expense of others. We want this board to be responsible when approving applications for new schools and programs – being careful not to saturate the system with too much choice and option. We believe that too many choices and options will be to the detriment of all of our schools, whether neighborhood, charter, or option as there is only so much funding to go around. This board must be deliberate, intentional and fully-informed when making decisions. For example, last month the majority (3-2) of this board granted a $400,000 loan from the school district to Collegiate Academy – a charter school that has struggled to be financially solvent and has seen both performance (TCAP scores have been below the district average for the past 3 years) and enrollment issues (the school saw a 22% drop in enrollment for the current school year).
Thank you in advance for your prompt, but thoughtful & honest response to our questions. Please respond to all of us and not just me.
One last question – just curious to know why Mr. Witt was passing out his personal business cards at that Dakota Ridge Area Accountability meeting (see attached)? I’m not sure that this is appropriate.
Tina Gurdikian (Chair)
Jeana Simpson (Vice Chair)
Jedd Erfurdt (Secretary)
Tracy Atlas (Parent-at-Large)