More Reasons to Attend the May 1 Meeting

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Late last night we learned from a follower of our blog that Support Jeffco Kids, a pro-Jeffco Schools organization, was asked to present their views on the current Board to the Devinny Elementary PTA. Apparently around 60-75 people showed up, including parents from other nearby elementary schools… and a couple of unexpected guests, both with video cameras.

One video taper our reader did not know, but the other one she did – Laura Boggs, the former JeffCo Board Member.

If you are not familiar with Ms. Boggs, she is a school board member who was such a loose cannon that the previous Board voted twice to censure her for her antics, once for telling the superintendent she would “tear this district apart” and jeopardize a district grant and once for agreeing on the air with a talk radio host that Cindy Stevenson “should be shot”.

The only things she was consistent about was expressing how terrible the District and American education was, twisting the truth and budget numbers to suit her agenda, and acting as though rules applied to everyone else but not to her.  For the full details, you can click here and here.  Many people see WNW as following in Boggs’ footsteps and there have been reports that she has been seen meeting with Witt on more than one occasion.

Last night, Boggs’ was a bit more subdued than she is normally, only interrupting the speaker twice, but perhaps that was because the first time she interrupted another member of the audience interrupted her, pointing out the Q&A was supposed to be at the end of the presentation.  This apparently kept her quiet through most of the rest of the meeting.

Why was she there, is the real question.  She has no children attending Devinny.  She is not a teacher there.  So why did she show up…with a video camera?

She was there for two reasons.  1)  To intimidate and 2) To take the video of Support Jeffco Kids’ presentation so that she and supporters of this board can take the video, twist and distort its contents and lie about what the board’s opposition and SJK is saying.

WNW does its best to shut down, intimidate, and limit opposing views.  For evidence of that, just look at how they handled the different groups speaking for and against the $3.7 million they are giving the charter schools (see the Transparency JeffCo Video example).  In our opinion, this was more of the same.

Why do they do this?  Because they know in the end, the only way they can win is by suppressing those who oppose them.  When the public is presented with both sides of the argument equally, they lose.

So, show up!  Show them that they cannot and will not silence your voice, block your ears, or do their dirty work unseen.

May 1st, Bear Creek High School, 5:30 p.m.  Be there!

——-

P.S.  Boggs is now running against Jane Goff for the State Board of Education seat from Congressional District 7 (Ed Perlmutter’s District).  Boggs is now trying to bring to the entire state the same terrifying nonsense she brought to just JeffCo.

Letter from Douglas County Teacher Raises Alarm Bells for Jeffco

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This is a letter from a teacher in Douglas County, let’s call her Debbie, to teachers here in Jefferson County.  Debbie has given her permission to post this.

As you read, see if anything sounds familiar to you.  

After four, going on five years of living and dealing with the current school board in Douglas County School District there is a lot to say about how they have impacted the school district in a negative way. In essence they have changed and made decisions that impact parents, students, teachers, and administrators in a variety of ways. Their decisions, some legal and some not legal have changed the very culture of our schools and the lives of those who attend and work in our schools. It would be impossible to list all of the changes in a short letter, so I will do my best to address the larger issues starting with the district level administration, then the school level administration and teachers, then lastly parents and students.

A little history is necessary in order to fully understand the gravity of the situation occurring in Douglas County Schools. A little over 6 years ago Douglas County was a thriving school district, that served its community members in a positive and inviting culture, that encouraged learning and growth. When the recession finally hit the school district in 2008, the schools and the district as a whole had no choice but to make some cuts.

All employees in the district went on a pay freeze and their insurance (level and quality of care) were adjusted to help the financial burden that the school district had encountered. The district and the then School Board went to work to put together a Bond and Budget issue to help alleviate the financial stress that was occurring. The Superintendent, Jim Christenson, then stepped down and a new school board was voted in.

The individuals that won the school board election ran together and were not only backed by the Douglas County GOP, but received financial backing in hopes that they would take over the school board and they did. Once they were elected the unraveling began. It started with the failure of the Bond and Budget, which they barely supported. Then they went to work on hiring a new Superintendent for the district, which led to the hiring of Dr. Elizabeth Celinas Fagan. Once she was hired the entire culture of the district changed. Not to be dramatic, but a dark cloud moved over Douglas County and never left….I have heard countless people say “well it can’t be that bad,” and I can tell you it is worse and here is the proof.

Once Dr. Fagan took the helm she brought in a CFO by the name of Bonnie Betz, together they almost completely destroyed Tuscon Unified School District financially, all you have to do is look and you will find evidence of the damage they left behind in Arizona. Here these two in conjunction with the GOP backed school district have implemented a series of changes that is continuously impacting the quality of Douglas County Schools.

The first large change the new super and board made was an effort to implement a voucher program “School Choice Scholarship” Program. In an effort to make it sound like a legit program they formed a fake charter school, I call it fake because no one would actually attend the school. Parents and students would enter a lottery and if selected, their student would enroll in the charter school, where the district would then turn around and give that family 3/4 of their students per pupil finding to take to any school in Douglas County to attend, specifically private schools. The parents would be able to use public tax dollars to pay for private schooling for their students.

I know that some people hear this and believe “that is a great deal!” but it is not. First and foremost it is against the Colorado State Constitution but also it is unethical! Not to mention that the money is per pupil funding, so because those students are not actually attending a Douglas County School, Douglas County should not get per pupil funding for those students. Tax payer money is supposed to be used for public schools. Schools where they are accountable to the tax payers for how that money is spent, how those students are performing and what those students are learning.

The ACLU filed an injunction and the students were sent back to their public schools, the money returned. While the ACLU and Plaintiffs won the first battle in court, it went to the next level where the district won, because of the injunction those students are still in public school today, due to the appeals process and it was just announced this week that the Colorado State of Appeals court has agreed to the hear the case. I guess more than anything I question the ethics of a school board suggesting that other schools outside of their district will have more success educating their students than they will. Isn’t it their job to educate all of their students? And shouldn’t they be using their money to make sure that Douglas County Schools have programs that benefit them?

The second issue the current school board and Fagan created was the treatment of teachers and building level admin. This started with the much publicized open negotiations with the Union and the end result of the School Board claiming that the Union would not work with them. This is not a whole truth by any means. The school board and their negotiations team consistently “moved the goal post.” they moved it so much that every time the union would move on an issue the district or the school board would change it again. During negotiations the complete disregard and care for others became completely apparent. Teachers came in droves to the one open negotiations session and watched as their colleagues were berated and insulted by the Districts members of the negotiations team. There were insults and flat out twisting of words throughout the entire session, teachers from across the district left heart broken and undervalued. At the end of the day the teachers lost their Collaborative Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and were forced to sign contracts with the district regardless, if they wanted to keep their jobs. This loss was the beginning of the mass exodus. Teachers began leaving as quickly as they could and for good reason. They no longer had a voice in their careers. Administrator’s voice followed shortly after and I will get to all that more in a little bit.

The next huge hit that teachers took was the introduction of yet another evaluation tool, while I will own that some of that is due to SB 191, most if not all of the issue in Douglas County is around the subjectivity of the new elevation system. There are a total of 6 standards that read like a 3 year law student’s books. The words are ambiguous and the content unclear, no one is quite sure what they are actually looking for in their evaluation tool. The documentation to successfully navigate through this has never been provided, no exemplars, no map to teachers about how to be successful, and the method by which teachers submit their documentation for the evaluation has changed 3 times in 2 years. However the impact of not successfully navigating through their evaluation tool is catastrophic, especially for teachers who are new to the district. Receiving a rating below effective can be grounds for dismissal and non-renewal. While I don’t believe that bad teachers should remain employed I do believe that teachers who are not meeting requirements should know and understand what they are not meeting. I also believe that if a teacher is not meeting expectations the district should have a plans and program to better educate and train the teachers, rather than just throwing them away.

Teachers who have been in the district more than 3 years (right now, but this will change too with SB191) have some support and there is a plan in place (because it is required by law), but to what extent will the district actually support these teachers they feel need more help to be a good or effective teacher? Some teachers with non-probationary status will be “downsized” this year and when the district started this process, this March, the district asked those teachers to sign a separation agreement. This agreement stated that that employee intended to sever its relationship with Douglas County.

Unfortunately, I am sure that many teachers were not aware at the time they were presented this document that they had legal rights that were not shared with them. These teachers have a legal right to be placed in another opening, to continue their employment with Douglas County for one more year regardless of whether or not they are assigned a position and to work as a substitute teacher for a year if they are not assigned a position. They would be paid their salary. Signing this document could potentially prevent them from those possibilities, sadly the district does not seem to care about these employees or their legal rights. All the while the district made the decision to pay its district level admin out for their unused sick and personal leave, some individuals collected upwards of $15,000.00.

In addition to the new evaluation system, the school board made the decision to eliminate the teacher’s sick bank. This piece had been protected for years by the CBA and now that there is no CBA the school board made the decision, with no input from teachers, to get rid of the program and do so without compensation to teachers for the days that they had donated during their employment with Douglas County. The district implemented a short-term disability program for teachers instead. Their reasoning is that the district had not funded the sick bank and it could not sustain itself. I wonder what happened to all the money that should have gone to those sick days? The current short-term disability program pays for teachers who go on leave at 50% and teachers now have the option to pay an additional amount out of their paychecks to receive approximately 75% of their pay. Hundreds of teachers had counted on those sick days, in the bank and the ones they had personally saved up, for maternity leave or if something catastrophic occurred. There is currently a law suit about this exact issue, but with the current board in place it will take years to be resolved.

Pay for Performance was the districts next venture. This program has quite frankly been the most devastating to teachers in Douglas County. The school district essentially forced teachers to join the Pay for Performance program, even after stating that teachers who were on the salary schedule would be grandfathered in. This program divides pay by content and grade level, there is not longer any benefit to continuing education for teachers or years of experience. In a nut shell the pay bands divide teachers into sections by what they teacher and what grade level they teach it to. As Brian Caesare, Director of Human Resources for Douglas County Schools said “the teachers who actually had to work in college are towards the top and it goes down from there.” While some from a business background may wonder what the issue is with this type of a program, those with educational experience and a history of working in a school will know that this is catastrophic to the profession as a whole. Teachers who have been teaching for 10 years are now being paid higher than their band allows and will never receive a raise, or at least one that is substantial enough to encourage them to continue to work hard.

Teachers feel defeated before they even start, “my worth as teacher has been dictated to me and my salary will never grow at the age of 35 I have maxed out.” a direct quote from a teacher in Douglas County. Pay for Performance is also tied directly to the evaluation system in that teacher’s raises are based solely on their evaluation classification and any teachers who receive a rating that would cause them to “go over” their pay band salary cap are given a lump sum to satisfy their salary and increase.

Here in lies another issue, teachers are constantly earning a pension through PERA and when a teacher eventually retires the amount they receive from their pension is based on their 3 highest salary years. The lump sum these teachers receive is not an ongoing sum, so teachers are not able to apply that money to a growing annual income, thus ultimately affecting their retirement. The district has also stated many times that not all teachers can be highly effective, while they have never gone so far as to state a percentage of teachers that “can be highly effective” they have changed teachers rating status. Last year at Trailblazer Elementary the teachers underwent a re-evaluation with a panel set up by the district where each teacher had to go back and prove their “highly effective” status. Many teachers saw their status lowered, because a blind panel that never saw them in the classroom determined that they were not “highly effective,” and yet again there was a mass exodus of teachers and administrators.

Which brings us to the financials of Douglas County schools. This piece has been a huge contention amongst teachers and parents more than any other, because it affects the students more than any other issue. The current school board has toted transparency as their motto, yet they continue to spend and “find” money. The district has focused its budget on supporting and building charter schools. Several have been built, staffed and populated since they took over, while neighborhood schools have struggled to maintain their buildings and internet bandwidth.

The district spent money to pay for and distribute a piece of propaganda that promoted the current school board and the candidates for the open seats on the school board last fall. The district was actually found guilty of violating the Fair Campaigns Act, and yet Fagan remains employed by the district.

In addition, the district has continued to allow their unassigned funds budget to grow to alarmingly high levels. The district also totes a local control approach to funding schools, unfortunately it is just an underfunded local control approach. This underfunded local control has had a huge impact on schools. Classroom size at most schools has gone up, and any reprieve in the class numbers comes directly from Principals huge efforts and cuts in other areas to ensure that class sizes are as low as possible.

One of these efforts has reared its ugly head in the high schools and is called a 6 of 8 class schedule. Most of us would not know what a 5 of 7 or a 6 of 8 class schedule means to a high school, but if you ask in Douglas County most parents and students will tell you and the teachers will scream what it means.

In a 6 of 8 schedule students are able to have, actually encouraged to have “off periods.” Essentially each teacher teaches an extra class with the perception that this will lower class sizes, but in actuality students also have less instructional time and less time in the classroom. Students can and do have up to 90 minutes off at a time during a school day and even longer if it is attached to a lunch period. This schedule not only leaves a ton of time for students to be out doing things, but also adds a ton of work for teachers.

It allows for a school to have fewer teachers, but also increases class load for teachers and means more work with the already precious few moments of planning. For parents the concern should be that their student has multiple hours of the day where they are not in class and they are not supervised. At many schools I have heard stories of students who are even encouraged to leave school grounds because there is no where for them to be and study in the school.

The financial situation continues to deteriorate when looking at the priorities of the school district as a whole. This last year the district spent an upwards of $12,000.00 to bring a speaker, Marc Prensky, a speaker who talked to teachers about how being able to read was no longer important because we have technology that can read to us, as speaker who told an entire room of teachers that they were past-u-cators and and they needed to become future-cators.

The district has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars reformatting their website TWICE, hired on a new Communications Department with salaries in the $100,000.00 range, and they just recently announced that they felt they needed to hire on a community relations firm. The district has thrown thousands of dollars into commercials bragging about how great they are, all the while classroom sizes are enormous, teachers are overworked and underpaid, currently the maximum teacher ratio is 180/1 during a school day and the counselors are well over 300/1. But the district continues to throw money every direction they can but the neighborhood school classroom and teacher.

Which leads us to culture. The culture of Douglas County Schools feels a bit like being in a refugee camp. The teachers of Douglas County have had practically no say in any of the changes that are happening in their school district. The district will tell you that they have opened the door to teachers and would love their input. What they won’t tell you is that when teachers are invited to be a part of the puzzle they are told what it will look like and how it will be. Teachers have signed up in good faith to be a part of the solution and their good work is constantly altered and ignored by high-ups who think they know better. The District will tell you they value teachers, but when teachers have shared their thoughts or unhappiness they have been told to “get on board or get out.” Some teachers who have spoken their minds and shared freely of their unhappiness have been told to leave. Others have learned to keep their head down and look for new work, more have simply waited it out until retirement.

Parents have spoken on behalf of their students and their students’ teachers and been told “point blank” that they don’t know what they are talking about. Parents have spoken relentlessly at board meetings asking for the board to meet in the middle, to understand their needs. Their response is SILENCE! The school board has scolded parents for speaking, for caring about their student’s school experience, for caring about their students’ teachers. School board members have lashed out at community members, at times the school board meetings seem a short distance from becoming something similar to a Jerry Springer Show, the school board members being the guests.

If that is not enough the school board and the district have also stopped supporting or caring about their teachers in a long term sense. They have removed things like longevity pay and severance when they retire. More importantly in the last few years the number of teachers who have had accusations made about them have increased and it is the manner in which the district has chosen to handle these situations that is truly concerning. Teachers who have accusations made against them, no matter how tedious are instantly put on leave, and then after an investigation the district decides whether to bring them back or not. While this seems normal, this is the part that is not. The teacher is rarely given an opportunity to know what even happened or what they were accused of, not even in a general sense. Then if the teacher is found innocent the teacher is simply expected to return to the classroom. No information given, no restitution. In fact, most teachers are encouraged to not come back. I know of at least one who was told he would have to resign anyway, after being found innocent of all charges, and he retired in good standing. Others have become deflated and so hurt that it is difficult to know how to continue, especially when they feel they will never be supported by a district they have dedicated their lives too.

All of this, accompanied by the fact that teachers are incredibly over-worked and over paper-worked, and under-equipped in the classroom, yet the stakes rise more and more every day. Our students demand more and more of our time, mental health needs are at record highs, a need for social instruction continues to sore, and the emphasis on testing and more testing will eventually lead any teacher in Douglas County out the door. At the end of the day it is the cruel and thoughtless behavior of the Douglas County School Board that has led us to this point and the teachers have no voice, no ability to speak for what they need or how they would like to be treated that has damaged the relationship beyond repair. Administrators have done their best to protect those that they can, while maintaining their own employment and supporting our students. There is only so much they can do. Douglas County Schools will continue to loose their best teachers in the years to come if change does not occur and Jefferson County Schools will follow right along if the parents do not act soon and act loudly.

For our School Board, this is not about what is best for all of our children but the game of politics. Getting rid of unions is a political motive not what is in the best interest of the students. I have yet to see a strike or the demand for a raise when the district was in a situation where it could not give teachers a raise. Did the teachers or the unions make any demands? I believe the teachers as well as your superintendent did not take a raise. (Ed Note: This is true plus teachers took a 3% pay decrease, voluntarily, for 2 years. Cindy Stevenson took the same 3% cut and refused any earned bonuses, a decrease in her salary of about 17% total.) That could not be said of the Douglas county Superintendent.

My question is where does the big business of the Daniels Fund get the right to tell us what is best for our kids. They have no business putting their politics here. We are a diverse county and WE decide what is best for our children. You do not take advantage of parents who work two jobs and have very little precious time to put in candidates who are not looking out for the majority but the minority. You lost a home grown superintendent who absolutely loved this district. She taught there, was a principal, area superintendent and finally proved herself to be the best for the county. That is hard to find anywhere. Now you will get a superintendent who will be nothing but a puppet to the current board as they are puppets to the Daniel’s fund. Why else would they be there?

The only way the district will stay on the path of excellent education is if you recall this board and reinstate Cindy or at least find someone who cares for the whole entire district.

An Open Letter to the Board…

Below is a copy of  letter Ms. Prill has sent to all five JeffCo Board Members.

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Board Members,

The majority board member’s actions (or lack thereof) to date are shameful and as such lend themselves to a pitiful representation of what our amazing school district is and could be under a truly democratic, open minded and considerate Board.  I continue to give you the benefit of the doubt, thinking perhaps you will finally display respect and courtesy towards your fellow Board members and your constituents. But I am disappointed again and again. You bully those with differing views, you use legal advice and follow meeting rules only when it benefits your personal agenda, you fail at each and every opportunity to share with your public the reasoning behind your [unpopular] actions. The transparency you claim to desire is no where to be found.

I respectfully request answers to the following questions, with specific responses please; your vague answers to date are a waste of both of our time.

1. Why give funding to financially questionable charter schools when they have funding options available to them that neighborhood schools do not?
1a. Why does said funding not have same requirements for use as that given to neighborhood schools? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as they say.

2. What exactly have you been paying your attorney to do and why are the minority members not privy to that information or party to the redaction process?

3. By cutting the teacher compensation package how are you proposing to maintain and/or recruit quality teachers whose efforts are vital to meeting your goals in academic achievement?
3a. What is your action plan to meet said achievement goals?

4. Why all the secrecy? Even if you do truly have our children, their future, and the future of our school district’s success at heart why not even ATTEMPT to appease your opponents with actual transparency? Your actions are screaming much more loudly than any words you are spouting in YOUR version of “transparency” and only serve to fuel the movement against you.

I implore you to remember who you were elected to serve: your children, MY children, ALL JeffCo children, NOT big business.

Sincerely,
Katrina Prill

———————-

FYI:  If you want to send an email to the JeffCo Board of Education, their email address is: board@jeffco.k12.co.us

Attorney Intimidation?

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(Ed Note) I obtained permission from the Jeffco Parent who wrote this to post it to Board Watch.

Can you believe we have just about a month left in this school year? Think how much things have changed in Jeffco since this time last year…

Board Meeting THIS Thursday @ Bear Creek HS

•  Is the Board Attorney Trying to Force Board Members to Do as He Says?
•  Who is REDACTING the Board Attorney’s Invoices?
•  Parents Point Out Problems
•  Board Won’t Respond to Administrators
•  Upcoming meetings

Board Meeting THIS Thursday at Bear Creek High School (9800 W Dartmouth Pl, Lakewood, in the auditorium)  5:30 p.m. Study Session, 6:30 p.m. General Meeting with Public Comment

Study Session begins at 5:30pm; Regular Meeting begins at 6:30pm. You can read a detailed breakdown of the agenda items and associated concerns here. This is the last Regular Board meeting – a meeting where the Board can vote on decisions affecting our kids – before the school year ends. Please try to attend.

Is the Board Attorney Trying to Force Board Members to Do As He Says?

In this video from last week’s Board Study Session, Mr. Newkirk moves to go into Exec Session, then Ms. Fellman shares that the Board attorney has informed them that they face personal liability if they do not heed that attorney’s advice. But the Board majority ignored attorney advice when they rescinded rights to a $1 million property. Watch the first 3 minutes at least.

Who is REDACTING the Board Attorney’s Invoices?

In this video, also from last week’s Board Study Session, Ms. Fellman asks who is redacting the attorney bills – that privilege goes to the client, which is the WHOLE Board. Ms. Dahlkemper asks about the work that’s being done by this attorney – Research for the Board? Reports for the Board? She’s not seen this work, and she is the client. And, Ms. Fellman tries to keep the focus on all kids and reuniting the district. Mr. Witt is dismissive at best… Watch at 4:15-4:45 and 7:11 to the end, if nothing else. You can read more here and here. And here is a full summary of that Board Study Session.

Parents Point Out Problems

Increasingly, parents are questioning the Board’s actions. In this letter, a parent notes, “Real leaders would have been ready for negotiations with questions about PERA and similar costs already discussed so that actual negotiations could take place. Real leaders would not have declined to provide their negotiators with any direction about compensation, despite requests from JCEA. Real leaders would understand that they should stop using the phrase “laser-like focus” in relation to student achievement when their actions make it clear that their laser-like focus is on who pays PERA increases rather than on what budget decisions will help our 85,000 students.”

And in this exchange with the Board, a parent tries again and again to get answers, and is left to conclude, “I fear that you (and therefore Mr. Newkirk and Ms. Williams) have a very distinct subset of children in mind for whose benefit you are acting – and they do not include the children who most need our efforts and attention. That has been made clear in many of the decisions you, Mr. Newkirk and Ms. Williams have made since you took your oaths of office last fall, many of which violate at least one board or district policy.”

Board Won’t Respond to Administrators

And finally, when Jeffco Administrators (principals, etc.) sought direction from the Board, Mr. Newkirk simply replied, “I appreciate the effort you’ve made to consolidate these questions and issues into a single, focused document. I have personally printed your letter and have tacked it to my desk for ongoing reference and guidance as to how we may best meet our goals.”

(Ed Note) If you have not attended one of these meetings, please come.  Don’t leave it to others to take action.  If we are going to spread the word about what is happening to our schools and the affect it’s having on our teachers and therefore our children, YOU must be willing to step up and take action, too.  

May 1st BOE Meeting Agenda (updated)

(Updated 4/30 – added in a link to the Legislative Report in item 7.01)

Yes.  Another meeting.  But come on out anyway! 

Attending a JeffCo Board Meeting is like being at a live taping of a ‘Reality’ TV show.  It’s great fun watching WNW scheme and obfuscate while trying to avoid the issues Dahlkemper and Fellman keep raising…until you remember that this is not some contrived situation created by the networks for entertainment.  This is real Reality, and the stakes are not a bit of notoriety and money, but our children’s education and future.  

So come out for the show…it beats “Hell’s Kitchen” by a mile…and is far more important.

BOE Meeting 2014-05-01
Date and Time:  Thursday, May 1, 2014, at 5:30 p.m.
Where:Bear Creek Highschool (9800 W. Dartmouth Pl., Lakewood, CO in the auditorium)

Agenda

1. Study/Dialogue Session (5:30 p.m.)

1.02 Budget Development Update
Type:
Information
Goals: EL-5, Financial Planning/Budgeting

PURPOSE: For staff to answer any questions with regard to the 2014-2015 budget development process and to provide an update on any legislative actions that may have occurred. New information on legislative action may or may not be available depending on the outcome and timing of the legislative process.

BACKGROUND: There was discussion of the district’s budget at the Board of Education meetings on December 12, January 16, February 27, and March 13. The Board provided staff with direction regarding budget priorities for the development of the 2014/2015 budget at the March 13 and April 3 Board of Education meetings.

The 2014/2015 Proposed Budget is scheduled for the 1st Public Hearing on June 5 and 2nd Public Hearing and Budget Adoption on June 19.

The Board of Education must adopt the 2014/2015 Budget prior to June 30, 2014.

(Currently no downloadable material been provided.)

Our comments:  This one will probably have some more fireworks.  Last Thursday night (April 24th) the Board had a presentation on the still open aspects of the budget.  Below is a summary of the disagreements:

Compensation Allocation ($11,725,100) – Witt stated this was increase not a decrease.  Dahlkemper pointed out it was originally $4 million higher before WNW cut it.

Charter Allocation ($3.7 million, aprox $585 per student based on current enrollment) – This will not show up as an expense, but rather as a reduction in revenue, since the money is passed straight through to the charter schools.

Elementary Math Instruction ($4 million one time, $1.8 million on-going) – Big surprise here.  Witt said he wants a ‘deep dive’ into it because he is not sure “we need it”.  The deep-dive should occur during agenda points 6.01 & 6.02.  There is pressure to increase the reserve fund.  It was originally going to get at least $2 million, until WNW diverted that money to help fund the $3.7 million increase to the Charter schools. Of course, how WNW then intends for the District to meet the enhanced math goals WNW set for it without investing in the new math program is puzzling to say the least.

Planned Reductions – This is the reserve fund.  Currently the forecast is to keep the fund at a flat 10% of existing revenue.  This is NOT conservative and is on the low end of what Moody’s says the District needs to maintain its AA bond rating. The numbers do not count inflation, employee raises, or unexpected cuts in state funding.

End of Study Session (6:30 p.m.)

2. Preliminary:

(Call to order, Welcome, Pledge, Roll Call, Agenda Approval)

3. Honors, Recognition and School Reports:

3.01 Milken Family Foundation: Award to Jose Martinez III, teacher at Bear Creek
3.02 2013-2014 Swimming State Champions:  Evergreen High School champions
3.03 2013-2014 Wrestling State Champions: Aravad West Wrestlers

4. Public Agenda Part One

4.01 Correspondence – May 1, 2014 (click here for the list)
4.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related)

Our comments:  There is a good chance that they will roll the Public Comment on non-Agenda related items into this session.  This is pretty common.

5. Consent Agenda

Our comments:  A lot of charter school contracts are either up for renewal, have contract addenda that have to be agreed to in order to comply with new state laws,  or are looking for expansion of their charter to include additional grades.

6. Ends Discussion

6.01 Progress on Board Goals: Math and Writing Instruction (Ends 1, 2)
Type: Discussion, Information
PERTINENT FACTS:

1. On April 3, the Board of Education postponed the presentation from staff on the progress in meeting Board goals for math instruction to the May 1, 2014 agenda.
2. In December 2013, the Board of Education added goals to its Ends policies. Ends 1 and Ends 2 include goals for math:

  • The percentage of proficient/advanced fourth grade students in math on TCAP will increase from 77% to 80% by August 2015. (Ends 1)
  • Every student will achieve one year’s growth, or more as needed to ‘catch up,’ in each year of school and be ready for the next level. The percentage of ALP students who have growth measures over 50 will increase in math from 60 to 62. (Ends 2)

3. In December 2013, the Board of Education added goals to its Ends policies. Ends 1 and Ends 2 include goals for writing:

  • The percentage of proficient/advanced students in writing on TCAP will increase by August 2014 to:
    • Elementary – 64%
    • Middle level – 66%
    • High school – 59%  (Ends 1)
  • The percentage of ALP students who have growth measures over 50 will increase:
    • In writing from 54 to 56  (Ends 2)

4. Dr. Heather Beck, chief academic officer; Priscilla Straughn, executive director of Educational Research and Design; Dr. Sue Chandler, executive director of Educational Research and Design; Dr. Carol Eaton, executive director of Educational Research and Design; Matt Flores, director, Educational Research and Design; Achievement Directors Brady Stroup, Karen Quanbeck and Mike Freeman, and Maple Grove Principal Ian Stone will present information on math instruction related to the district’s plan to meet the goals in math.

5. Dr. Heather Beck, chief academic officer; Priscilla Straughn, executive director of Educational Research and Design; Dr. Sue Chandler, executive director of Educational Research and Design; Dr. Carol Eaton, executive director of Educational Research and Design; Rhonda Hatch Rivera, school improvement specialist; Catherine Baldwin Johnson, director of ESL/Dual Language; and Dr. Blanche Kapushion, director of Gifted and Talented, will present information on writing instruction related to the district’s plan to meet the goals in writing.

(Click for the Math Presentation and for the Writing Presentation)

Our comments:  The educational process is one that is constantly evolving.  As we learn more about ourselves, how we learn, how different children learn differently, and what levels of understanding and skill are required for future skills, so our methods and materials for teaching math and writing should change as well. 

The Board has set higher goals for the District, which is a very good thing.  Our teachers and support staff should be stretching to always find a newer, better way of reaching our children.  But the Board must also remember that while it sets the goals, it also must provide the resources to achieve those goals!  In Agenda item 7.01, the Board proposes sending resolutions to the state legislature that, in part, rail against unfunded mandates from the Federal and State governments.  They should heed their own advice and not insist on improvements without giving the teachers the materials and resources need to achieve them.

6.02 Contract Award: Math Expressions (EL-7)

Type: Action
Recommended Action: To authorize the director of Purchasing to enter into an agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the purchase of Math Expressions materials and professional development for the approximate total amount of $2,000,000.
Goals: EL-7, Asset Protection
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. In accordance with Board executive limitation policy 7, Asset Protection, “the superintendent may not contractually obligate the Board to expenditures greater than $250,000.
  2. On Thursday, March 13, 2014, the Board of Education gave direction to include funds in the draft 2014-2015 budget for new math resources and professional development aligning with our Colorado Academic Standards.
  3. Our current math resource, Investigations, does not provide the depth and pacing needed for our new standards.
  4. Math Expressions ©2013 aligns with our Colorado Academic Standards and has a balance of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency and application.
  5. Math Expressions has gone through the textbook approval process for Jefferson County and is an approved resource.

(Click for the contract and summary)

Our comments:  What happens here is totally dependent on how the Board receives the presentations just before it.  If Witt moves against it, we suspect it will be in large part because he wants to cover the $4 million of increased spending the Board is proposing ($3.7 million to charter schools and $840 thousand to Gifted & Talented, less the deleted $600 thousand for free full-day kindergarten).  Doing so will ease the tightness of the budget while still allowing WNW to pursue their goal of charter school equalization.  For them, it could be a simple choice:  fund a better math curriculum for 87% of K-3 graders while increasing full day kindergarten for the kids who need it the most, or give the money to the 8% that make up charter school kids and the 5% that make up Gifted & Talented.

We will see from WNW’s viewpoint which one needs it more….

6.03 Jeffco Social Media Policies and Procedures (EL-11)

Type: Information
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The Board of Education requested a review the district’s existing policy on staff use of the Internet, andsocial media guidelines.
  2. Lynn Setzer, chief communications officer, and Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer, will present an overview of this work to the Board.

Our comments:  This is the briefing that Julie Williams wanted when she over-reacted to some tweets taken out of context, going back and forth between two friends who are volunteers for the schools and District.  Though the tweets were not at Williams or the school district and though they contained no has tags, Williams wanted the two removed from their volunteer positions, and some action that would ban anyone connected to the District from saying anything bad about her or the District.  Is this going to be a proposal for an infringement on free speech?  This review is what Newkirk and Witt managed to talk her down to.  See our March 6th post if you want more background.

7. Discussion Agenda

7.01 Legislative Update (EL-11)
Type: Action, Discussion
Recommended Action: to determine positions on pending legislation for the 2014 legislative session and determine a position on the resolution regarding state education funding and the PARCC testing.
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The Board of Education adopts positions to monitor, support, or oppose legislation to guide the Jeffco lobbyist in his work at the legislature.
  2. As the Legislative Session will conclude on May 7, Mr. Ed Bowditch, district lobbyist, will provide and overview of the session’s activities and any pending issues.
  3. At the April 24 special meeting, Board member Julie Williams requested the Board of Education take action to support HB14-1294, Student Data Collection Privacy Protections Administered by the Department of Education, and SB14-204, Student and Teacher Data Privacy and Security Act.  Additionally, she requested that a resolution on state education funding and PARCC testing be discussed and taken up for action.

(Click for the resolutions and for the Legislative Report)

Our observations:  The first resolution complains that the state has reduced education for schools while adding new requirements.  The second resolution says that the PARCC testing set up is a violation of state law and that the District supports legislation that would delay it, while blocking state and federal influence on education.

8. Public Agenda

8.01 Public Comment (Not On Agenda)

Click here to sign up to speak on a non-agenda item.

This item may be rolled into Agenda item 4.01.

9. Develop Next Agenda

9.01 Board Work Calendar
9.02 Special and Regular Meetings of May 5, 9, 10, 15 and June 5, 2014

Our comments:  You always want to stay for this!  Here is where WNW will try to quietly slide in any new thing they do not want to call attention to.  Additionally, Dahlkemper and Fellman have used this section to try to get things on the Agenda that WNW would rather not have to face.  If you like fireworks, this is generally when there are lot of them.

Late Saturday Post: April 24th BOE Meeting Review

(This is one of the longest posts we have done, but it is because a lot happened at what was supposed to be a simple ‘working’ special meeting.  We trimmed down a lot, but at several points decided we had to go with the verbatim dialog so you can ‘hear’ the actual tone of t

Agenda Item: 1.02 Budget Development Update

Topic: Teacher Compensation.

Question: Why was the Compensation Allocation placeholder reduced by more than $4 million? Where does the Board intend to put that savings?

Topic: Charter Allocation

Question: In redirecting $3.7 million dollars to the Charter schools, the Board is giving 6,325 charter school students an extra $585 that their schools can spend per student. At the same time, that $3.7 million dollars is going to take away $47 from the remaining 78,675 students in the District. What programs is the District planning to cut that will account for that negative $47 per student?

Topic: Elementary Math Instruction

Question: In December, the Board increased it’s goal math and writing literacy for elementary school children. In April, the Board defunded free, full-day kindergarten for poor students. On the agenda tonight, it looks as if the Board is getting ready to cancel a new math curriculm for elementary schools. At the same time, the Board is getting ready to send a resolution to the Colorado State Legislature, complaining that the Federal and State governments have placed “unfunded obligations” on the District. Is that not what the Board is now doing to the elementary school principals and teachers of this District? Is that not the height of hypocrisy?

Topic: Planned Reductions

Question: The new Board members came in, in part promising a true conservatives approach to the District’s finances. Since then the Board has spent thousands of dollars on an attorney just for the Board, not the District, given over $650,000 with no strings to charter schools that are in financial trouble do to their own actions, decided to give all charter schools an extra $3.7 million dollars also with no strings, and now has chosen not to begin replenishing the Reserve Fund that helped keep the District afloat the last few years. How can the Board honestly characterize this as conservative or fiscally responsible?

Questions not on the Agenda

Topic: Transparency

Question: In March, a CORA request Brad Miller’s invoices was submitted. The copy of the invoice that was released had everything redacted or blacked out except for the dates and the costs. Last week, during discussion over this, we never heard an answer to these questions: Who did the actual redaction? Who decided what should be redacted? When did the Board, acting as the Board, authorize these redactions? When will these questions be answered?

Topic: Diversity

Question: Why is the Board opposed to using the word “Diversity” in it’s advertising for a new Superintendent? Is the Board opposed to Diversity? Not believe in it? Thinks it does not exist?

Topic: Public Comment

Question: Under District Policy, B: School Board Governance and Operations, number BEDH, Public Participation at Meetings, paragraph for it says, and I quote:

At regular meetings, citizens can address the Board on any topic related to the operation of the schools. Only those topics which are on that particular agenda may be addressed at special meetings.

This is an official Board Governance policy. Yet, this Board has not allowed comment in any Special Meeting, contrary to the second sentence of that paragraph. There are many agenda items that the Board considers during Special Meetings, that are not brought up during Regular meetings. In the interest of transparency and the Board actually hearing from the public, when will the Board begin to comply with BEDH and provide for Public Comment on agenda items during Special Meetings?o

he discussions/arguments.  This also meant it took much longer as we had to transcribe the appropriate sections of the audio recordings of the meeting.  We think it was worth the effort and hope you do as well. – jcsbw)

Opening the Meeting

At 5:30 p.m. Ken Witt called the meeting to order, with Julie Williams initially being absent (she arrived at 5:54 p.m.).  There were about 125-150 people attending.

Witt started off by warning people not to cause any disturbance, including applause (only one Sheriff’s Deputy was there tonight). Waving your hand in the air is apparently okay.

He then said he was going to start with a “myth-busting” session, where he said that there was no truth to any rumors about de-funding of arts, sports, or anything else.  He said that for the first time in five years the District was actually looking at increased revenue due to more money coming from the State and that increased revenue does not mean cut.

(This actually not true.  Per student revenue actually bottomed out in the 2011/12 school year at $6,309.  In 2012/13 it increased slightly to $6,317, and this school year jumped to $6,482.  It is projected to rise to $6,699 for 2014/15.  This is still lower than the $6,704 in 2008/09 and $7,070 in 2009/10.  Also these numbers do not reflect inflation which, while low, still has had a significant effect.  The $6,704 per student in 2008/09 would be now be $7,383.85 per student today.  The inflation calculation was done at this site, using 2009 as the starting year, 2014 as the ending year, and $$6,704 as the base.)

He then went on to say that the District 

did not walk away from negotiations.  That the Board does want to negotiate and is waiting for JCEA to come back to the table.

Key Agenda Items

2. Study/Dialogue Session

2.01 Jeffco Accountability Committee School-Level Roles/Responsibilities (EL-11):

A dozen people came up to present on this item.  Parents from a number of schools including Bradford Elementary, Lumberg Elementary (in Edgewater) and Stanley Lake High School made presentations as well as SPAC.  Some of the things they said included that they view their role as supportive of the teachers and staff “who are the experts”, and that having dual language meetings (at Lumberg) helped enormously for english-only parents and spanish-only parents come to understand each other better and pull the school together.  Bi-lingual support for their committee has really helped them have all the diverse ethnic groups take active roles.

What came out was that ACs differ widely from school to school in name, structure and focus.

(It seems the AC orientation is heavily dependent on the inclination of the parents involved and specific issues facing the schools.  Most of the groups are focused on trying to help their schools, as such, they see themselves as being supportive of the principals and teachers, not impartial evaluator/judges of the principals. – jcsbw)

During the question period, it got a bit interesting.

Dahlkemper and Fellman mainly asked questions concerning how the committees had been working.  What had they learned?  What worked?  How did they communicate to parents and others in the District?

Witt & Newkirk (Williams did not ask any questions) focused on structure and are the ACs actively evaluating the principals. Where Dahlkemper & Fellman were concerned about how the ACs helped the schools, Witt & Newkirk wanted to know how much judging (evaluating) of the principals and staff the ACs did.  Witt seemed concerned that there was no formal policy authority for the ACs.

Witt then quoted state law, that said that ACs were to consult in a substantive way concerning school budget setting.  He wanted to know how this had been done in the last three years.  The AC/SPAC members seemed puzzled by this, and gave non-specific answers.

The session concluded with Witt saying while there was a lot of variability in ACs, there was also a “lack of rigor” at the SPAC level.  He then instructed Mr. Elliot to put together a proposal to create rigor in authority and procedure for the ACs & SPAC.

Fellman then interjected, telling Mr. Elliot that a diverse community means there will always be variability in ACs and any “any rigor needs to take that into account.”

Dahlkemper added that while there is always room for improvement, that the Board need to recognize that a lot of good work being done, and that SPAC to contribute to this requested plan.

Mr. Elliot then asked for clarification of the request.  Witt told him he wanted a review of how the ACs and SPAC were going to do the evaluations required by law (Witt repeated ‘required by law’ three times).

(Several things quickly became apparent during this discussion.  First, that Dahlkemper & Fellman were concerned over how ACs and SPAC were working with their schools and the District to improve those schools.  Witt & Newkirk were almost accusatory, and very focused on ‘rigor’, how many principals had been fully evaluated, and what the formal processes were.  This is in striking contrast to the lack of interest in ‘rigor’, ‘evaluation’, and formal processes WNW exhibits when anything related to charter schools comes up.  Please note:  This is not a criticism of charter schools, but rather the apparent blind spot WNW has when it comes to charter schools.  Such a blind spot is not only not fair, it looks as if it is becoming very dangerous to all district-managed schools – jcsbw)

2.02 Budget Development Update
 – (Click here for copy of their presentation.)

Below are the items that had serious questioning from members of the Board:

Compensation Allocation ($11,725,100) – Witt started off the questions with a pre-emptive statement,  that the Compensation Placeholder represented an increase not reduction in employee compensation.  Dahlkemper quickly pointed out that the original placeholder was $4 million higher before WNW cut it.

Charter Allocation ($3.7 million, aprox $585 per student based on current enrollment) – Ms. Gillis made the point that this will not show up as an expense item, but rather as a reduction in revenue since it is passed directly on to the charter schools.

Elementary Math Instruction ($4 million one time, $1.8 million on-going) – This is to cover the cost of a new elementary math program.  Most of the one time cost is for re-usable supplies, the on-going is for continued professional development on using the new program.  Witt stated that there had not yet been a “deep dive” on this math program and he wondered why it was needed?  He wanted to know if schools can choose not to use the new system (they can only choose not to use it next year, but will have to the year after).  Witt says he will postpone deep dive until the May 1st meeting, and then they will decide if this is needed or not.

(This came as a big surprise.  In the earlier Budget reviews there had been no question about the program, or the need for it.  When Witt says he wants a ‘deep dive’ into something,  it generally seems to mean he is looking at cutting it.  Of course, how WNW intends for the District to meet the enhanced math goals WNW set for it without investing in the new math program is puzzling….)

Virtual Academy ($700k on-going but should be offset by increased revenue from out of District students who sign up)  – Newkirk said he saw advertising for the Academy on JeffCo school buses and wondered how is enrollment going?  Ms. Gillis said it was on-target with projections.

Planned Reductions – Ms. Gillis explained that these have been added into 2017-18 planning to keep reserves flat at 10%.  This is NOT conservative!  The state is warning that there is budget uncertainty ahead, and unless new revenues are found, more of the State’s budget will have to go to Medicaid and other health costs.  The current JeffCo budget estimates for future years (2014/15 to 2018/19) do not include inflation, salary increase, or possible revenue decreases.  This was done because including these things in the estimates increase the reductions needed to keep the reserves at 10%.

Newkirk asked if this is merely uncertainty about the additional state funding bills that are currently pending.  Gillis responded that the potential $10-14 million that could come out of the state it is not extra revenue to spend.  Most of it has been anticipated already.  Any additional revenue would be used to fund existing budget priorities.  This is because the current proposed budget is not revenue neutral but will draw down on existing fund balances.  So any state allocations above and beyond what had already been anticipated is not extra money for the District.

Dahlkemper then said she had grave concerns about not increasing reserves.  She pointed out that SPAC had recommended $2 million be placed in the Reserve Fund.  No there is no additional funds scheduled for the Reserve.  This is very dangerous, especially with any upcoming state budget crunch.

Gillis and the staff responded that keeping reserves steady is critical to the District keeping AA bond rating.  (A reduction in the District’s Bond Rating would result in higher interest payments due on existing bonds, plus other costs.).  Currently the District is maintaining a 10% reserve .  Moody’s recommends an 8-15% reserve for AA ratings.  The District is in that range, but at low end.  Any significant impact to revenue could drop JeffCo below Moody’s 8%. floor.

Dahlkemper reiterated that she feels the original $2 million for the reserves is critical to maintaining AA bond rating.   Fellman agreed with her, stating that as state revenue funding uncertainty increases even more attention will be paid to the Districts reserves.

Newkirk then asked when was the last time the District’s rating was below AA,  and how long did it take to recover?

The District was upgraded to AA after 2004 bond.  Prior to that had only an A.  At one point it did have a AAA rating, but was part of one-time (temporary) credit.  Strong financial management has kept the District at AA even through the Great Recession, which is very important.  2004 was very different credit environment than there is today (implication – getting a AA back after losing it would be much harder than in 2004).

Newkirk then asked if there was any danger of losing right now?

Gillis responded, no. but she would be much more comfortable with more in reserve, especially with future state revenues being so uncertain.

The Board will have about two weeks to incorporate any changes to the budget before it is finalized.

Dahlkemper then made a motion to restore $2 million to the Reserve Fund.  Fellman seconded the motion, observing that the original number SPAC was proposing was $8 million that was then reduced to $2 million.

Gillis then jumped in saying the $2 million would have to come from somewhere (in the budget), there is simply not $2 million in cash lying around uncommitted.

Newkirk then stated that this motion was premature and they should wait on state funding finalization.

Witt then opined that  10% is adequate and that increasing the reserve fund “is not wise use of taxpayer money” (???).  He does not include any increase, but it could be at the end as the final numbers come in.

Williams then agreed with Witt, saying that if there was more money coming from the state, then maybe they could increase the reserves.

Fellman pointed out, “Aren’t we showing a strucural imbalance of $2 million right now?”

Gillis responded, “Yes”, and again pointed out the 10% does not include future inflation or salary increases or any other changes.

Witt then said that the reserve level should be revisited yearly.

Vote on motion to restore $2 million to the Reserve Fund:  Defeated.  DF- Yes.  WNW – No.

(In some ways, the issue of the District reserves is even more important that the new Superintendent.  The ability of the District to fund anything is dependent to a large degree on how much it has to pay in Bond interest.  The loss of the AA rating would increase the District’s borrowing costs, which would pull even more money away from the actual operational budget, including charter school equalization WNW is so devoted to.  Further, any reserve fund is meant to be spent down in bad years and built back up in good years.  But WNW seem to think differently.  Their approach is akin to someone with a leaky roof who says they cannot fix it while it’s raining, but when it’s sunny, then it’s not leaking!  

We have just come through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  JeffCo kept it’s AA credit rating when many other Districts were downgraded and some municipalities went bankrupt.  It was able to use careful spending reductions (including district staff taking a pay cut) cushioned by an equally careful draw down on the Reserve Fund and new money from the 3A/3B Mill Levy Override to keep the core educational programs intact.  Now revenue from the state is climbing again, but the state economists are warning of a state budget crisis in the near future.  We should be saving more now.  Not when revenues are falling!  God help their families if WNW run their finances the way they want to run JeffCo’s….)

Charter school funding model:

Witt stated that construction cost for a charter school could average as high as $600 per student cost, but the state only provides $95 per student for construction funding.

Fellman noted that there is a state increase for charter school construction funding pending in the legislature.

Dahlkemper then asked how many districts in Colorado have equalized charter funding?

Gillis responded that there is no single list.  The staff has sent out inquiries to the other districts, but have not gotten answers from everyone yet.  Also that different districts allocate in different ways, so a clear answer is hard to reach.  Denver has done it and now includes explicit equalization as part of every new mill levy.  The reason for the inconsistency across the state is that state law does not require to districts to equalize mill levies, so everyone does something different.

Dahlkemper observed that all schools are jeffco schools and not just charter schools are needing money.  There are other areas of public education that need additional funds as well.

Witt retorted that  charter schools are public schools.  And since the number one priority is student, each student deserves the same amount of money to base spent on him or her.

Gillis explained that in Jeffco, 10% are SPED (Special Education) students and 8% charter students.

Williams asked if the school for the blind was included as SPED (she meant the Rocky Mountain School for the Deaf).  No, it is included as charter.

Witt wanted to know how the 5% administrative compared to Denver Public Schools.

Gillis said that the numbers are similar due to statutory 5% number.  Gillis had also pointed out in the presentation that under state law, the District has to reconcile at the end of each year the actual administrative costs incurred by the District against the 5% charge.    Currently, the average cost of Administrative services to the Charter schools is $405 per student, but the District is only charging $316 per student. (This is a $89 discount or subsidy given to the charter schools by the District.)

Witt wanted to know if District managed schools also had to pay for additional services? It was explained to him that those services are part of a pooled cost.  The money is taken for the pooled costs up front before any budget is set for the individual schools.

Williams then wanted to know what it would take for a better accounting system.  One that could keep track of all expenses at a school level.  Gillis responded that it would ‘take a while and money’.  Gillis then state the present system could to it, but it would be an add-on to the existing system, cost a lot more and taking a lot of work to implement.  She openly wondered if the investment of time and money in a more detailed accounting would be worth the cost.

(It was evident from their questions that WNW went in to this section convinced that the District was short-changing the charter schools.  What they found was the opposite.  In fact, the District is not even charging the schools as much as they could under state law.  This was obviously not the result they were looking for.  We will now see if WNW adjust their world model to fit the actual facts of the world, or if they will persist to act as if their vision of the world is more real than the world itself.)

2.03 Superintendent Search Update (EL-11)
PURPOSE:

(Click here for copy of the time line.)

The Ray and Associates representative participated via telephone. He state the size of applicant pool is good, but refused to specify a number, saying to do so could prevent additional applicants between now and Monday.  Ray & Assoc. will begin screening on Friday and will provide the Board with finalized numbers next week.  He did say they have a mixture of Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and Non-Traditional candidates.

In response to Dahlkemper’s question about how the interviewing with the Board will take place, the Ray & Assoc. representative emphasized that the candidates would expect to see only the Board members and that their (the candidates) identities would have to be kept confidential (to avoid possible repercussions at their current jobs).  Ray & Assoc. will provide the Board with a set of sample questions ahead of the interviews and will help the Board customize them for JeffCo.

Williams stated that she wants to have Brad Miller plus the District council in the interviews as well.  The Ray representative said that would be no problem.

Newkirk wanted to know if Ray & Assoc. were just taking applications or were actively seeking candidates (“pro-active recruiting”)? The response was that they were actively recruiting, and that advertisements seemed to produced about 40% of applicants and active recruiting 60%.

(The news that the interviews will need to be held in Executive Session is a bit disappointing but not surprising.  It is a fairly standard practice.  We do hope that a list of finalist will be published so the public can actually see who has been considered prior to the actual hiring.  One more note – when discussing the meeting days for the next school year, Witt said he thought the District would have the new Superintendent by the end of June.)

2.04 Technology and Data Privacy Advisory Committee Update
 – (Click here for list of applicants.)

Some fireworks occurred here.  This is a new Board Committee that was proposed and approved in January.  It is to consist of ten members and advise the Board and District on technology issues, including data privacy.

19 people applied (see the list) and submitted resumes.  Fellman observed that it was highly unlikely that all five Board members had had the chance to meet with all 19 applicants.  She proposed that each Board member nominate two applicants for the Committee, filling its vacancies that way.  This way, she reasoned, each Board member could place on the Committee someone known personally to them to have the needed background and interest to help the Committee in its functions. Dahlkemper agreed with Fellman.

Needless to say, WNW did not.

Newkirk said that there were plenty of qualified people on the applicant list, implying it should be easy to get to ten out of it.  Williams chimed in that she wanted to vote on each candidate.  Witt concurred.  Fellman then said if it was going to be about nomination and voting then she wanted more than 15 minutes as she only knew and had talked to four or five of applicants.   Instead, Fellman stated that they should call the people in for interviews so every Board member would be able to meet every applicant.  Witt basically ignored her, and  and proceeded to ask for nominations.  (…and so the train got started on this railroading exercise. – jcsbw)

The Board proceeded to nominate and vote on 10 people, approving nine.  The tenth position will be held open for now.  The new committee members are:

1) Sunny Flynn (WNW – yes)

2) Jennifer Butts (WNW – yes) –

Butts was nominated by Witt because, he said, he had seen several of her “presentations” and had been impressed with her.  Fellman & Dahlkemper asked where and what presentations?  Witt did not answer.  Williams spoke up saying Jennifer had given at least one “public comment”.  That apparently was equal to a “presentation” in the eyes of Witt. )

3) Michel  Hovet (Unanimous)

4) Jill Green (Unanimous)

At this point, Dahlkemper nominated Marcia Bohannon, the current Deputy CIO (Chief Information Officer) of the Colorado Department of Education, citing her long experience (20+ years), knowledge, and expertise.  Witt, obviously agitated, stated “Miss Bohanon works for CDE and this Board needs to get better with governance,” then went on say that it would be improper for a member of the CDE which “is an oversight organization to this board, it shouldn’t also be an advisory organization beneath this board and I think it is bad governance to put Miss Bohannon on this committee.”

(On the surface, this sounds reasonable, but if you really dig into, it is actually very spurious. Miss Bohannon, as CDE’s deputy CIO is actually not in an oversight role.  Her job is to help make internal technology decisions for the Colorado Department of Education.  By Witt’s logic a file clerk in a court should never vote in an election because the laws passed by people the clerk voted for might one day be reviewed by the clerk’s court.  In short, the expectation and fear are absurd. – jcsbw)

Bohannon was rejected by WNW, 2-3.

5) Virge “T.O.” Owens (WNWF – yes)

6) Derec Shuler (Unanimous)

7) John Sullivan (Unanimous)

8) Jorge “Yuri” Csapo (Unanimous)

9) Phil Romig III (Unanimous)

A this point, there were no other nominations.  Witt then said he wanted to stop at nine members.  Fellman suggested they could invite the others in for interviews then select the tenth person.  Witt said that individual Board members could ‘reach out’ to the remaining candidates to learn more.

Fellman complained during the process that she did not know some of the candidates being nominated by WNW.  Witt shot back (a bit nastily) that Fellman had had a month to review the resumes, and that should have been sufficient.  Dahlkemper retorted that the time was not the issue, that it was about fair representation.

(This was less a process where policies and programs were at stake and more one that showed off how WNW, Witt specifically, deal with being in power.  There were a total of two candidates that were voted in just by WNW, one that got four votes, and six that were unanimous.  One candidate was voted down by WNW.  Then, contrary to Witt’s blithe assumption at the beginning that they should very easily be able to fill the committee, everyone ran out of people they knew, so the committee is left one short.  If they had done it the way Fellman suggested, there would have been ten.  The truth is that having Marcia Bohannon on the committee would not have made a substantial difference to the committee’s make-up.  This was another situation where Witt could have allowed Dahlkemper and Fellman to win a minor victory while he looked reasonable.  He could not bring himself to do that, and Newkirk and Williams backed him up.

WNW feels and acts as if it has to win every single decision, even minor and unimportant ones.  To do that, they will actively ram down their choices down the throat of the opposition, no matter how it appears.  They will use any flimsy excuse they can come up with to justify their position.  Witt’s efforts to stop the Deer Creek STEM expansion serve as just one of many examples.

In the long run, this is actually very harmful to their cause.  Every time they do this, it simply hardens the opposition more, and begins to alienate people in the middle who might otherwise give them the benefit of the doubt.  WNW would be well advised to strongly temper that tendency.  It has already earned them enough enemies. – jcsbw)

2.05 Draft Board Meeting Schedule for 2014-2015
(This was about as cut and dried as one could hope.  Witt kept up the snitty, inaccurate remarks, for example, when Dahlkemper said she was unavailable for a meeting in the first half of August, Witt said “I did some checking and the Board has met year round for many, many years until a couple of years ago.”  To which Dahlkemper responded, “No, we took July and half the time in August [off].”

It did provide one bit a humor, though.  Julie Williams said she wanted a long weekend meeting/retreat again, because “…sometimes a short meeting in the evening does not give you that bonding experience…” At that point one audience member was overheard saying quietly, “With this group, it would be more of a bondage experience.” Several muffled snorts of laughter were then heard from those nearby. – jcsbw)

2.06 Policy Review: GP-1, GP-2
 (GP-1, Governance Commitment) and (GP-2, Governing Style and Philosophies.)

Here was where a large amount of fireworks erupted.  This section is pretty long because a lot was said and revealed.  If you do not have the time, to read it all, the summary is that no changes were made to the either of the policies, but Witt strongly hinted he wanted to remove the section that requires the Board not vote on an issue in the same meeting it is raised.  Also, it came out that no one claimed responsibility for the total redaction of Miller’s February invoice, that it was done without formal Board approval or discussion.  Witt said he hoped that Miller did it himself, which Fellman and Dahlkemper pointed out would be highly inappropriate since the confidentiality belonged not to Miller, but to the Board.

We would encourage you to take the time to read the actual dialog or listen to the audio recording in order to capture the flavor of the debate.

GP-1:  Fellman observed that “all children” runs through almost everything in Jeffco.  She wants to see if a rewording could emphasize that the Board is committed to “all children” in a meaningful way.  She had no specific change to propose, but feels that with such a divided community, this could be a chance for the Board to come together and emphasize that all children are included would help.  Witt said that the policies already say “all students”.  As the discussion became more testy, Witt said that he felt the Board had gone to great lengths to make sure that “every student of every public school is equally treated.”

Fellman had another comment on GP-1 concerning the transparency.  She referenced the portion of the Policy that says the Board is committed to “effective and transparent oversight” and the Board’s actual commitment to this.  She referred to the copy of Brad Miller’s February Invoice (posted in various places on the itnernet and Facebook – click here to see a copy) noting it had been heavily redacted (portions blacked out so you cannot tell what was there). She wanted to know who did the redacting.  She also pointed out that redacting is done due to attorney-client privilege, but that according to an attorney she talked to, the privilege belongs to the client, not the attorney.  She repeated that she wanted to know who decided on what should be redacted.

Witt said she could see the detail of the billing anytime she wanted, but it was not for public viewing. Fellman said she thought is should be available for public viewing and that the redaction was not transparent.

Dahlkemper jumped in at this point, saying she had issues with the compliance (or lack of) with GP-02 with item #10 (under the “Accordingly” section – it states:  “10. The Board will not take a position on discussion agenda items the first time such items are placed on the agenda for Board consideration.”), and this was part of the problem with the attorney issue (Brad Miller’s hiring, contract, responsibilities, and role).  When the Board voted on his hiring on a month-to-month basis, the Board had no copy of the proposed contract, did not know what the hourly rate would be, and both Dahlkemper and Fellman have been trying to put a discussion of the contract on the agenda (but WNW keeps voting it down).

Witt then said, “Is that last bullet item something we want to keep in this policy?” Fellman interrupted at this point, saying, “Yes.  Absolutely.”  Witt continued over the top of her, “That nothing is voted on by this Board until it has been discussed once, then delayed for a month and then voted on?”

Dhalkemper then pointed out that items do not need to, nor have they taken a month because the Board has study sessions generally one to two weeks prior to the full meeting, that this was a good policy and make sense and should be continued.

Newkirk then spoke up, saying it was a slippery slope to post non-redacted legal documents.  Fellman retorted that legal opinions she has received is that the redactions are to be done by the client, and that no one asked her about these redactions.  She went on to say there had been no conversation that involved her over what was to be redacted.  That it is not transparency when she does not know why (emphasis added) something was redacted.

Witt, trying to change to thrust of Fellman’s argument, said she (Fellman) had copies of the invoice and so knew what was redacted.

Dahlkemper then jumped in, saying “Who redacted? Was it someone on our Board who gave instructions to the staff to redact the invoice?”

Witt then said, “I would hope our attorney redacted it before posting.”

Fellman quickly said, “But that’s not appropriate!”, with Dahlkemper saying, “The attorney is not a District employee!”, and Fellman continuing, “The privilege belongs to the client not the attorney.”

Witt then said, “So, okay is there anyone on this Board presently that thinks we should post publicly attorney bills unredacted?” To which Fellman said, “Yes!”

Witt then, trying to cut this off, said, “Is there a motion to that effect?” but was interrupted by Newkirk who shot back at Fellman, “Including Caplan & Earnest?”  (the District’s law firm)

“They are already posted,” Fellman retorted.

Newkirk continued, “Including matters that have to do with, ah, shootings and…”, then Fellman interrupted him saying that they could have a discussion about what to redact and what not, that all she wanted was to be included in the conversation.

Dahlkemper then pointed out that the scope of work Miller provided (see contract here) included items such as “prepare reports for the board or conduct more research.”  She continued, “I don’t know what that research was for.  I don’t know what those reports entailed.”  Dahlkemper went on to say that she agreed that the Board had to protect it’s students and personnel as well as comply with state law.  That the key problem was the “..we were not transparent from the get go.”

Witt (no surprise) said, “I certainly disagree.  I think we have been fully transparent.”  At this point the audience began voicing it’s disagreement, with people muttering out loud.  “We have voted on this in public. We have made the attorney agreement, uhm, public. There is nothing that has not been transparent.”  (Note:  Brad Miller’s Attorney agreement was only made public after a CORA – Colorado Open Records Act, request was filed. You can find a copy here. – jcsbw)  Witt went on, saying over quiet derisive laughter from the audience, “And we will continue to work responsibly as a governing body and govern this District appropriately.”

Dahlkemper, then asked, “Mr. Witt, did we have a contract in front of us…we reviewed as a Board when we took a vote on Mr. Miller serving as the Board attorney?”

Witt admitted, “No, we did not.”  He then went on, “We had a contract within a couple of days…(he paused)…which is fairly normal process.”

Dahlkemper responded, “I don’t think so”, with Fellman adding, “No, it is not.”  Fellman continued, saying that taking a vote to accept a contract that has not yet been presented is not something she has experienced or heard of with other governmental bodies anywhere in the country.

Witt, trying to confuse things again, said, “I have checked the records of this Board and I don’t believe we have voted on other lawyer contracts, so….”

Dahlkemper pointed out that the Board had not had an ongoing attorney for the Board before Miller.

Witt, getting angry, said, “It was the September 20 13 (sic) meeting, it was asked publicly and on the record if this Board’s attorney was Mr. Taggert, and the answer was ‘yes’.  There was no vote on his contract.”

Fellman jumped in at this point, saying, “The answer was “No”.

(We checked the written minutes from the September 19, 2013 Board meeting  – there was no September 20 meeting – the only reference to Alan Taggart is under agenda item 6.03 Compensation Redesign.  Here it refers to Mr. Taggert as the District’s Chief Legal Counsel. – jcsbw) 

Dahlkemper stated that Mr. Taggart had been hired by the District to function as the District’s attorney, not the Board’s attorney.  That all that was being asked that there be transparency on this issue.

Witt, now very angry, interrupted, “…And we have full transparency and we are not going to keep revisiting the same contract issue!”

Dahlkemper replied that she hoped that before the Board hires its next Superintendent that they would have a chance to review the actual contract before any votes.

Witt, without responding to Dahlkemper’s comment, tried to move on quickly, but had to stop to confirm that there were no pending motions to modify GP-01 or GP-02. He asked Fellman if she was going to bring a motion to the Board later on.  Fellman, said, “I just mentioned that I was interested in having us try to unit our community instead of keeping the divide.  Apparently we cannot do that and I think that’s very unfortunate.”

Witt left well enough alone and moved on.

(Three key things to note here.  The first is that Witt strongly indicated that he wants to change the rule that requires an issue to be discussed at one session, but not voted on until the next.  This is a major structural change he is suggesting.  It would mean that WNW could bring up any major issue by surprise and then vote on it, closing the issue before the public has a chance to even know what is going on.  In the Colorado Legislature, a bill must be ‘read’ out loud to the chamber three times before it is passed!  WNW do not want this because it gives us, the public, too much time to digest what they are doing and mobilize against it.  If they do go through with this modification, it will turn the steam driven railroading they are doing now into a ‘bullet train’.

This tied into the second item, that of how Miller’s contract was rammed through the Board.

The third key item was what was revealed on the redaction of Miller’s invoice.  Apparently no one was responsible or Miller was responsible, which would be a huge conflict of interest as well as potentially being a violation of legal canons.  This could be a serious stumbling of Miller.  We all need to keep the pressure on.  Who authorized the redaction?

The ultimate irony is that WNW+Miller is creating all of the controversy themselves!  They have a clear majority.  All they need to do is allow for one open discussion session, let Dahlkemper and Fellman motion to discontinue the contract, vote the motion down, and they would be done!  But they seem emotionally unable to do that.  Their ability to tolerate dissent is vanishingly small, and getting smaller.  Which is just getting them into more and more trouble.

As with many other governmental scandals, it is not the actual act that gets the perpetrators into the biggest trouble…it is the effort to cover it up or avoid having to listen to dissent. – jcsbw)

3. Consent Agenda

All items were approved unanimously with no controversy or debate.

4. Executive Session

4.01 Negotiations with Employee Associations


Newkirk made a motion to into Executive Session with Williams’ seconding it.

It was at this point that the second major fireworks session erupted.

Fellman read a statement saying that after the District filed the appeal in the 2090 Wright case, Caplan & Earnest strongly advised the Board to continue the appeal.  Three members (guess who – jcsbw) went against that advice.  During that discussion, Miller did not warn the Board members that failure to take legal advice from the District’s legal counsel could open Board members to personnel legal  liability.

Fellman continued, saying earlier that day (April 24) Miller had sent her and others a email, warning that if individual Board members do not take his legal advice on the contract negotiations that those Board members could face personal legal liability (i.e., they could be sued as individuals).

Fellman said she was not a lawyer and was not going to argue with Mr. Miller.  However, she is concerned that when WNW wants to do something against the District’s legal counsel (Caplan & Earnest, in the 2090 Wright case), Miller was perfectly okay with that and gave no them no warning.  But when she and Dahlkemper go against WNW and do not vote to go into Executive Session when she, Fellman, feels it would be inappropriate, Miller sends her this email, telling her she could be personally liable.

Fellman summed up, “So, it appears to be fine to ignore legal advice if that accomplishes a policy goal of the Board (e.g., WNW – added by jcsbw), but we (i.e., Dahlkemper and Fellman – jcsbw) create individual Board liability if we don’t take legal advice.  Mr. Miller may or may not be correct, but I have serious concerns given the inconsistency (sic) nature of his advice.  I believe I need to seek personal legal counsel and I am willing to that, so before I can vote to move into Executive Session I will be seeking my own individual representation.”

Witt cooly said, “OKay.  Other comments?”  When none were offered, he called for the vote.  WNW voted to go into Executive Session, Dahlkemper and Fellman voted no.  Moving into Executive Session requires a two-thirds majority, which with five Board members means four votes “yes”, so the motion failed.

Witt then said that because they were not in Executive Session, there would be only limited discussion.  He then noted that there was a $11.7 million placeholder for employee compensation.

Amy Weber, the District’s negotiator, said that she had received the letter from the JCEA that the Board had requested.  In that letter, JCEA said they wanted a commitment to a three-year contract extension to return to the table.  Witt highlighted that before JCEA declared an impasse, they had asked for a one year extension and now they wanted three.

Witt asked if there was a motion to give JCEA the three year extension.  There was none.

Newkirk then opined that they had received legal advice on what can be discussed in non-executive session, and that if anything was to be discussed beyond that, they should ask for legal counsel. That confidential documents that had been projected onto the screen had been video-taped and made public.  That they should not make that mistake again.

Witt then said that since there was no motion to meet the JCEA request, then they (the District and JCEA) were in fact at impasse.

Witt: “And at this point I am not willing to go into any other negotiation discussion.”

Dahlkemper then said that everyone brings different experiences to the table.  That she supported giving the employees a 2.5% increase, but WNW did not agree and did not authorize Weber to make that offer.  Dahlkemper said she wanted to go on the record as being in favor of open negotiations and that the employees helped the District out during a very tough time, and that they deserve the increase.

Weber asked for clarification on whether to move forward with mediation as specified in the contract.  Witt, again said, he had already talked to her about this in Executive Session and he had not changed his mind, so to proceed.

He then adjourned the meeting.

(As usual, the most fireworks were at the end.  Fellman’s little speech really gives us a look into the mentality and morality of WNW.  When they cannot get their way, they are now resorting to strong-arm tactics disguised as ‘legal advice’.  Pretty selective legal advice at that.  After this, it is hard to see how Miller is a neutral party and sees the entire Board as his real client.

Another interesting thing is Witt’s growing tendency to act as if the President of the Board is an executive position and the other Board members are subordinate to him.  You can see this in the number of pronouncements where he uses “I” and “me” and “my” instead of the “the Board”.  He acts as if he is a CEO rather than simply the spokesperson for equals.  This is not a wise course for him to follow, even with his own supporters.  His dismissive tone is not only being directed at Dahlkemper and Fellman, but is now also falling on the Julie Williams from time to time.  Irritating your opponents might be fun, but irritating your supporters who you depend on is just plain dumb.

WNW does seem to continue with a playbook known mainly to themselves.  But there is one thing we feel we can confidently predict:  that WNW+Miller’s penchant for creating easily avoided controversies is only going to get them into more and more trouble.)

Need a Reason? Why going to the BOE meeting matters…

Tomorrow night (Thursday, April 24th), there is another Special Board meeting.

At this point, we know a lot of you are feeling tired.  Warm days are here to stay (it seems right now), and there are more enjoyable things to do on a Thursday night besides going to watch WNW continue their three ‘D’s on the District (‘Disrupt, Demoralize, and Damage’).

Why bother?”, you probably ask yourself.  “WNW will just go and do what they want to do, irrespective of what we say or feel.”

That is true…or is it?  Remember back in January when Witt thought he had killed the Deer Creek STEM expansion?  He had it locked up.  Until more than 200 of you showed up at the meeting and then more than 25 of you spoke and confronted the Board over the unfairness and short-sightedness of the decision.  Julie Williams changed her mind that night.  Because of those 25 people, 6th graders will get a chance to explore their passions for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math this fall.

From time to time, even WNW can be influenced.

You showing up makes a difference, every time.  If turn-out is light, then WNW thinks they are winning, that they have tired us out, and we just do not care any more.  If turn-out is heavy, then they know that what they are doing is under public scrutiny and they cannot hide in the dark.

And there are a lot of things tomorrow night that need light shown on them:  a review of Accountability Committees, 2014-15 Budget update, Superintendent Search update, deciding who is going to be on the Tech/Privacy committee, set up the first meetings for the next school year, approve moving money from one fund to another, and then (if WNW can persuade either Dahlkemper or Fellman to vote with them) go into Executive session over negotiations with the teachers.

Any one of those issues by itself would make it worthwhile to be in the Board Room at the Education Center tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m.  All them together make it essential that you be there!