SPAC Leadership Speaks Out!

SPAC (the district accountability committee comprised of a large group of committed volunteers throughout the county that the Board Majority eliminated) leadership gave public comment at the last Board Meeting.  The actions of the Board Majority are a total disgrace to the school district and the efforts of these volunteers who have committed endless hours to help ensure that all voices were heard and all children represented. To be clear, the volunteers of SPAC have more volunteer hours working in Jeffco Public Schools than any of the Board Majority being recalled. The following is that public comment:

 

The following Public Comment was provided to the Jeffco Board of Education October 1st, 2015 regarding District Accountability Committee Membership, Item 8.01

 

By: Bill Bottoms (former SPAC chair), Jim Earley (Stanley Lake Articulation area Representative), Shawna Fritzler (former SPAC chair and Arvada articulation area rep), Jonna Levine (former SPAC chair and Board Appointee), Orin Levy (SPAC Chair-Elect and Dakota Ridge Articulation Area rep), Nancy McCanless (Classified Staff Representative), and Julie Oxenford O’Brian (SPAC Chair and Golden Articulation Area rep)

 

First, we’d like to publicly thank all of the dedicated volunteers who have served on the Strategic Planning Advisory Council, or SPAC, which was also the District Accountability Committee for Jeffco public schools for the past five years. Hundreds of parents, community members, and district staff members have contributed their time and thinking to the group over the years. Your heartfelt commitment to Jefferson County Public Schools is deeply appreciated.

 

The group in front of you includes three former SPAC chairs and the current SPAC chair and chair-elect. Most of us participated in the subcommittee that recommended splitting the responsibilities of the SPAC into two groups for the current school year. That split would include the District Accountability Committee, which will report to and support the BOE, and a yet to be formed strategic plan advisory group, which will report to and support the superintendent and district staff.  We met four times over the summer. We researched, discussed and recommended draft DAC bylaws modeled on other successful, independent DACs that meet all state statutes. Our board recommendation and the bylaws: 1) Clarified the former SPAC roles that would become the responsibility of the District Accountability Committee; 2) Proposed a transition of the membership of the SPAC into the DAC; and 3) Provided additional structure for the DAC.

 

We presented these recommendations and draft bylaws to the BOE at the August 27th meeting; responded to requested revisions, and presented revised draft bylaws to the BOE at the September 24th meeting. Rather than considering  DAC bylaws that would have  allowed a transition of SPAC members to DAC, and assure that the work mandated by the state is carried out in a timely fashion, Mr. Newkirk introduced a resolution to eliminate  the current structure and membership of the DAC and start over. This was after two meetings for the 2015-16 school year had already occurred. Then, the Board Majority directed district staff to launch an application process to be completed within  4 working days to replace all of the current members even though the new membership structure had not yet been approved.

 

We are disappointed in the actions the board initiated last week and we believe the resolution before the board this evening is fundamentally flawed.

  • First, the Board Majority decision to ignore the work of the group that met over the summer and replace all current SPAC members sends a strong message to committed volunteers that the district does not value their contribution, their time, or their experience.
  • Second, a four-day application process, that required little information from applicants, sends a message that the Board Majority does not take the application process seriously and likely has already identified the new members they will appoint.
  • Finally, the membership structure proposed in Newkirk’s resolution not only leaves out critical constituencies, but also ensures new members will not serve long enough (two year term) to develop the expertise needed to provide meaningful input on the issues the DAC is statutorily mandated to address. This includes the district budget, the development and progress of the district improvement plan, measures of teacher impact on student learning growth for teacher evaluation, the principal evaluation process, charter school applications, and the district parent engagement policy.

 

In addition, Mr. Newkirk’s proposed new membership structure:

  • Does not include a representative from charter schools, as required by statute;
  • Gives the district (rather than JCEA) authority to appoint teacher representatives;
  • Removes Classified Staff representation entirely;
  • Removes PTA representation entirely; and
  • Removes all other community representation except one business representative.

 

Disregarding the institutional knowledge that former SPAC members brought to this work is not only a mistake, it is damaging to a community of volunteers that is vital to Jeffco public schools.  It is also a disservice to a board that is truly seeking community input in an environment of transparency.  More importantly, it is a profound loss for the 86,000 students in this district.

 

Elected district leaders should cherish and encourage committed volunteers, and take steps to strengthen the relationship between the community and the school district.  This course of action does neither.

 

Postscript: The Board Majority (in a 3 to 2 vote) passed Mr. Newkirk’s resolution with some limited amendments, including one to add 3 charter school parents and one options parents to the DAC.  They rejected an amendment proposed by Ms. Dahlkemper to add back to the DAC representatives from PTA, Classified Staff, local government and the faith based community. The Board Majority also described their intention to appoint 10 at-large parent representatives and 1 business community representative through a majority vote. This represents a change from prior practice which specified that each board member would appoint two members, and effectively eliminates the opportunity for non-majority board members (Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman) to select members of this committee.