9News Turns Issues with BOE into Labor Dispute

witt meme

This letter to 9News and the full public comment from a Jeffco Schools parent (also a lawyer) was published on May 5 on Support Jeffco Kids.  It highlights 9News and Nelson Garcia’s attempt to turn real issues parents, the community, teachers and staff have with WNW into nothing more than a labor dispute.

We feel it’s important to share so that all of you know not to trust what you see on 9News.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Please read the letter to Nelson Garcia and Ms. McCord’s public comment below and then take a few minutes to write to Nelson Garcia and 9News  (Nelson.Garcia@9news.com,  tim.ryan@9news.com with complaints and adele.arakawa@9news.com) and demand they tell the REAL story.

LETTER TO 9NEWS

Via email to Nelson.Garcia@9news.com Dear Mr. Garcia: I am sending you a copy of the public comment that I delivered, together with a group of other concerned parents, at the Jeffco Board of Education meeting that took place on Thursday evening at Bear Creek High School. I have watched the report that you put together, and I have to ask: were you actually at the meeting? Your report (and sadly the reports of many media outlets) is completely lacking in content or veracity.

I was there on Thursday night – til the bitter end (which was actually Friday morning). This is not a conflict of a liberal union against a conservative, but responsible, school board. It is about doing what is best for all 85,000 Jeffco students, as opposed to what is the best way to filter our taxpayer dollars to private corporations for their profit. It is about a board majority that does WHATEVER THEY WANT without regard to the community they serve or the rules by which they are bound. It is disgraceful. It is politics at its worst.

I am not generally in favor of unions, but I have read the collective bargaining agreement between JCEA & the district. It doesn’t look like a typical CBA (and as an attorney and recipient of the University of Virginia’s Earle K. Shawe outstanding labor and employment law student award, I have read other CBAs) – it has many, many protections that are in place to ensure that our teachers can teach our children – things like limits on class size, professional development, etc. These are things that the teachers association has determined are critical to ensuring that our children are in an environment where they can learn!

Teachers are not trying to get rich off the system. They are not trying to take advantage of the public. These teachers took pay cuts to try to keep steep budget cuts out of the classrooms for the last few years. These dedicated women and men teach because they genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of our children. They make shockingly low salaries for the amount of education and commitment that are required to fulfill their responsibilities.

Of the approximately 1,000 people at the Jeffco School Board meeting Thursday night, I am sure there were hundreds of teachers. But there were hundreds of other members of the community: students (ranging from Kindergarten to high school), parents, retired teachers and school staff, principals, and other community members. Teachers aren’t the only ones who want full-day Kindergarten for our most at-risk youngsters – parents and community members, high school students and younger students all spoke about the importance and value of providing full-day Kindergarten.

Shame on the media for trying to turn this into a labor dispute. This is about ensuring a strong future of public education for our children! Please read my comment below carefully – in it you will find a myriad of reasons why the community (not just teachers and union supporters) are up in arms over the behavior of the three newly elected members of Jeffco’s Board of Education.

I sincerely hope that you will get involved in sharing with the public the true nature of what is going on in Jefferson County with the Board of Education – it has happened in Douglas County, and it is now happening in Jefferson County. I strongly urge you to watch the Reformers documentary, as you clearly believe this is all about teachers unions. You will see that the real losers in DougCo have been the students.

Whether or not you have children; whether or not they are in public schools (in or outside of Jeffco), this should be important to all citizens. This “movement” will continue to spread throughout Colorado and the rest of the country, until segregation (of classes, races, ethnicities, religions) is rampant and our public schools have been decimated. The hundreds of billions of dollars that currently go into public education systems throughout the country will instead be going to corporations, and eventually lining the pockets of America’s already rich.

Please get educated on the very real threat facing our public education system. Then, please let your viewers know what is REALLY going on. Sincerely, Wendy McCord, J.D., M.O.M. Resident of Jefferson County

Public Comment to Jeffco Board of Education, May 1, 2014

My name is Wendy McCord, and I have two children in Jeffco public schools.

We want to talk tonight about the two resolutions that appear on the agenda under item 7.01 “Legislative Update.” The common theme of these resolutions is to increase local control over public education. We’ve heard a lot of reasons tonight why that may not be a good idea in Jeffco.

Local control is beneficial to the community only with a Board of Education that is truly focused on making decisions that are in the best interest of ALL district students. Rather, Mr. Witt, Ms. Williams and Mr. Newkirk seem to have a very distinct subset of children in mind for whose benefit they are acting, and they do NOT include the children who most need our efforts and attention. Local control is only meaningful when there is broad-based community participation, coming from elected representatives who are well-informed and who act in accordance with the values of their constituents; and when it is exercised by a Board that is governed by the policies, procedures and legislation that have been developed by citizens over the years to limit Board powers and protect the interests of children.

This Board of Education seemingly acknowledges its constituents in one of the resolutions, where they specifically say that they are “accountable to our community.” But a closer look at their actions over the last six months shows that the majority of the Board conducts themselves with a complete lack of respect for the citizens they are supposed to serve.

These actions include:

  • Failure by the Board to live up to its promises to appropriately compensate teachers – the most valuable human resource to public education and the single-most important factor to the success of our schools

  • Soliciting then disregarding more than 13,000 community budget survey responses and the hundreds of people who participated in budget forums

  • Soliciting then disregarding more than 3,000 community superintendent survey responses and the hundreds of people who participated in stakeholder meetings

  • Finally, the Board completely fails to respond in any meaningful way to public inquiries    

  • Responses to community correspondence are frequently weeks, and sometimes months, past the two week reply time the Board promises on the website and in its reply emails.     

  • When he does reply, Mr. Newkirk’s responses lack any substance and provide no answers to constituents’ questions     

  • Having someone reply to board correspondence who has stated that he lacks the authority to speak for the board, and clearly lacks the information to respond to inquiries, is a complete waste of everyone’s time    

   • E.g. the Jeffco Administrator’s Association sent the Board clear and specific questions; Mr. Newkirk’s reply did not give the JCAA any answers; rather, he said he was “tacking it up” over his desk for “reference and guidance”     

  • This is completely unacceptable.

In addition to having no interest in the will of the people, these Board members remain uneducated regarding their role and issues facing our school district, and they seem particularly uninterested in learning more on these subjects, especially when the information they are presented with differs from their personal and political beliefs. Examples include:  

 • Repeated and complete dismissal of comments and suggestions by the veteran Board members, Ms. Fellman and Ms. Dahlkemper, about the manner in which the Board has historically and should conduct itself

  • E.g. putting topics on the agenda twice before taking action, utilizing fair procedures to appoint committee members, both rejected out of hand by Mr. Witt  

 • Seeming rejection that full-day kindergarten helps the most at-risk children by giving them a strong foundation on which to build.

  • Funding of different types of public schools – Ms. Gillis said that it would take several hours to provide the board with a meaningful presentation on the intricacies of school funding and she was willing to do it – but Mr. Witt decided to have her cover the entire topic in less than 30 minutes.

[From the small bit of knowledge I have on the subject, there was much more information that the Board and the public needs in order to really understand the many variables in comparing the apples of charter school funding to the oranges of district-managed school funding that the Board keeps wanting to make “equal.” They are two entirely different systems that simply cannot be compared as simplistically as Mr. Witt, Ms. Williams and Mr. Newkirk insist on doing. For example, of the appx $6,500 per pupil revenue mentioned by Ms. Gillis that goes to the district-managed schools, more than 95% of those funds are retained by the District and put in pooled funds that cover expenses for ALL district-managed schools, including transportation, instructional support, salaries, etc. So, in reality, a district-managed schools gets less than $300 per pupil, and out of those funds must come the salaries for the clinic aide and the paraprofessionals that help meet the varied needs of the school’s student population. When you take out those expenses, district-managed schools are often left with less than $100 per pupil.]

Finally, in one of Mr. Newkirk’s letters to me, he stated that all Board members, and I quote, “remain diligent to follow [Board] policies and Colorado law in every respect.” But it is clear that the majority of this Board has absolutely no regard for the policies and state laws that govern it.

In just six months in office, the three new members of the Board have repeatedly violated AT LEAST: 11 12 Board and District Policies and 2 state laws

District Policy:

  • BBBA (non-partisanship of board members)

  • BDG (hiring and use of attorneys)

  • BE (special meetings; notice)

  • BEDH (public comment at meetings)

  • KDB (public meetings; public servant)

  • BSL-01 (Board and its members can’t give instructions to staff)

Board Policy:

  • GP-02 (action on agenda items only after two appearances)

  • GP-04 (Board as link between district and community)

  • GP-05 (President’s role)

  • GP-07 (Board member code of conduct)

  • GP-08 (Board members’ covenants)

  • GP-17 (community engagement)

  • Colorado Revised Statute  

 • 22-32-108 (special meetings)

  • 24-6-401 (open meetings)]

We’ve heard about a number of policy violations already here tonight.

One example of blatant policy violations was the fact that Mr. Witt permitted more than 30 people to speak on charter school funding equalization at the April regular Board meeting – each one getting their three minutes – in clear violation of Policy BEDH. That policy requires the Board President to put large numbers of people speaking on a single subject into one group. Yet just three months earlier, Mr. Witt strictly enforced the same policy and told citizens that he couldn’t have 25 people speaking on a STEM program expansion, so they had to come together as a group, and they were allotted 10 minutes total. It isn’t a coincidence that Mr. Witt voted in favor of the charter school funding issue and against the STEM program expansion.

And another violation was intended tonight: the approval date of these two resolutions was clearly drafted as being tonight, May 1, even though these items are appearing on the agenda for the first time.

 • Clear violation of Policy GP-02, that says that the Board will not take any action on items the first time they are placed on the agenda for consideration

 • Ms. Dahlkemper pointed this out at the March meeting; and Mr. Witt dismissed her comment out of hand

 • In fact, the Board reviewed Policy GP-02 last Thursday.

 • When I sent a letter to the Board pointing out these issues, Mr. Newkirk’s excuse was that GP-02 doesn’t “necessarily pertain to non-policy matters.” But the policy doesn’t limit its application, and he didn’t bring up this issue during last week’s policy discussion.

 • And this isn’t the first violation of GP-02. We have to go back to December, just weeks after the new members took their oaths of office, when they hired Brad Miller in clear violation of this policy. “The job of the board is to represent and lead Jeffco by determining and demanding appropriate and excellent organizational performance” – GP-04. A Board of Education that is capable of such leadership should have more local control over public education. However, the new members of our Jeffco Board have made it clear that they are not concerned with fulfilling the promises they made to the public either during their campaigns or the continued covenants that bind them as members of the Board.

This failure starts at the top with the newly-elected President, Mr. Witt. According to Board policy, the number one responsibility of the President is to “lead the Board so that the Board’s performance is CONSISTENT WITH ITS OWN RULES AND POLICIES.” [Policy GP-05] Mr. Witt has shown us time and again that he is incapable of such leadership. In fact, he is frequently the initiator of policy violations, such as with the hiring of Brad Miller. His willingness to follow Board policies and state laws goes only as far as will advance his personal and political views. Beyond that, he has shown that he is willing to bully members of the Board (and public) who do not share his opinions.

As citizens of Jefferson County, we will not sit idly by and watch you dismantle our school system piece by piece. We are committed to providing all 85,000 students in Jeffco with the best public education possible. We expect real transparency from all five Board members. We demand that all Board members act with integrity and treat each other and the constituents they serve with respect. This begins with real accountability to the community – actual answers to our questions rather than meaningless drivel. It includes being open to the possibility that you don’t already know everything. And it requires that you follow policies and state law in every respect.

Americans for Prosperity Solicits Donations to Support WNW’s Agenda in Jeffco

th (1)

The Koch Brothers, ala Americans for Prosperity, have the following on their site, soliciting money specifically to support WNW’s charter schools agenda in Jefferson County.

They claim results in the classroom in Dougco speak volumes about how great charter schools are when, in fact, overall student achievement has decreased in Dougco since their “reform” board takeover and subsequent increase in the number of charter schools in their district.

Do you want the Koch brothers dictating education policy for your children?  Does this leave any questions in regard to WNW’s agenda and/or who is directing them?

From AFP:

Jefferson County voters said “yes” to change last fall when they elected a reform-minded group to the school board. But lack of funding jeopardizes the chance to implement these changes. Reform is what voters demanded and policymakers should follow through with bold action. That’s where you come in!

Let the Jefferson County school board know that we need members who will fight for us and want to promote funding fairness for charter schools.

No amount of controversy or reactionary rhetoric can prevented parents from seeing that these experiments have been good for the schools and the students in other areas of Colorado, like Douglas County.

Results in the classroom spoke louder to Coloradoans than those yelling anti-reform rhetoric. But you can’t get results on the ground unless you set some goals and start moving forward. That is why we urge you to contact the Jefferson County school board and demand that they promote fair funding for charter schools!

Letter from Douglas County Teacher Raises Alarm Bells for Jeffco

dougco

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.

Attorney Intimidation?

peek-a-boo1

(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.  

Brad Miller’s Feb Invoice from SJK: What Are WNW Hiding?

Untitled-3

The February invoice for Attorney Brad Miller is up in a post by Support Jeffco Kids.   http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/

Once again, everything but the date and cost of service is redacted.

Including the subject of discussion on each of these dates would not be a violation of attorney client privilege so why the secrecy?  What are WNW hiding?  What are they afraid of the public seeing?

Are we to believe every single piece of legal advice sought by WNW needs to be hidden from public view?

These are your tax dollars, folks.  It is up to you to demand transparency and accountability!

4-3 Board Regular Meeting Summary: Children of Poverty Don’t Matter

cropped-KenWittHeader1

**EdNote** Witt has already registered to run in the 2017 school board election, meaning he can start collecting campaign donations for ’17 now.

The business portion of the meeting began at 9:45 pm. with the approval of the consent agenda. Fellman asked to move the math presentation to another meeting due to time and to shorten the executive session on bargaining scheduled at the end of the meeting for the same reason.

Witt said he would like to cancel the executive session altogether.

Dahlkemper states there is the need for a brief session, proposes 15 minutes.

Motion and vote to hold 15 minute executive session passed 5-0

The board then observed a moment of silence in honor of school bus driver Jack Garland, who was hit by a car and killed.

The board then approved several grants that support student achievement.

Board Direction on Budget

The items discussed can be found here.

First item, $15.9 million dollar placeholder for employee compensation.

Despite a pay freeze and the voluntary 3% pay cut employees took for 2 years and all his talk of wanting to compensate teachers in order to have a district that can compete salary-wise, Witt says compensation should be $11 million, lumping state mandated PERA contributions and the additional cost of the Affordable Care Act.

There was then an argument about how to account for PERA and health care costs. WNW want to vote on it.

Dahlkemper asks why the board is voting on this when they are still in contract negotiations.

Witt asks if they can agree to a consensus on this.  Dahlkemper and Fellman say no.

Witt asks for role call.  Vote 3-2 WNW

Next discussion was on Mobile Device Readiness with a line item of $4.5 million.

Witt seemed less than thrilled with the idea and wanted to know what the total technology budget is.  Answer is $19.9 million.  He said this represents a 25% increase and asked if this $4.5 million could come out of that.

CFO Lorie Gillis replied it could not and that the district has worked to scrimp and save money for this project, knowing that WiFi is always changing and updating. This is a four year plan, which will mean $4.5 million per year to expand bandwidth at more than 150 locations for 85,000 students. **EdNote** This seems wise given the ever increasing use of mobile devices as education tools and resources.

Williams asked how far the bandwidth would go, would it reach the parking lot, the office?  “If I wanted to sit in my car and work on my computer, will it reach?”

The answer was it depends on the location and that they are working to make wireless accessible for all students.

The board agreed to leave the $4.5 million placeholder for now.

Next item was $600,000 to expand Free Full Day Kindergarten at 13 locations for At Risk children (children living at or below the poverty level.)

The district presented that there is a need for more access to early learning and increasing Early Childhood Education reflects the board’s own end goals to increase proficiency in literacy and math.  “The sooner we intervene with these children the better their chances for success.”

Witt:  “Do these schools not have Kindergarten?

Marcia Anker: “They have half day Kindergarten, this is for full day Kindergarten.”

Witt: “Are you saying there’s room at these schools?”

Anker said there is and that right now families have to pay for full day K. This would be to provide this option for low income children.

Witt: “But they do have Kindergarten now?”

Anker: “This would help children on free and reduced lunch receive access to full day Kindergarten.”

Williams: “My understanding is it’s half academic and half specials” and says the only thing that happens the other half of the day is the kids get extra art and P.E.

The district says it is a full day of academics with a small portion of time for “specials” just like we see in grades 1-6.

Witt: “This is an expansion of full day Kindergarten. After this, should we expect more expansions in the future?”

Anker:  “I would welcome that.”

Witt: “What evidence do we have that free full day Kindergarten increases academic performance?”

Dahlkemper says a nationwide analysis of Kindergartner’s who attend full day, beginning at the same academic levels as children who don’t attend full day K outperform other students.  “This is for our children of poverty.”

Newkirk says that based on what he heard from charter school parents in public comment, equity seems to be an issue.  Who pays for what is all over the place and he will need to see evidence that full day K is effective.

Witt  asks if we are moving to free full day Kindergarten for all students then says “I can’t support this, it is fiscally irresponsible.”

Fellman asks what if they were to look at national data.

Witt:  “Is it data from Jeffco?” Then says he wants to see data that proves it’s effective in Jefferson County.

Fellman: “So, not national data.”

Newkirk says that some families pay more for full day K, some pay less.

Anker:  Says it is $300 per student or nothing, period and suggested they go forward with the expansion and collect and provide the data Witt wants for future expansions.

Witt wants no part of that. Until he has data to prove full day K is of benefit to children of poverty, he’s not willing to spend the money.

Dahlkemper: “So we are taking this out of the budget? $6oo,00?”

Witt says when they have the data they can discuss going forward.

And so the $600,000 to expand free full day K for children of poverty was removed from the budget by a vote of 3-2, WNW.

**EdNote** I would try to fully articulate my level of disgust and the loathing I felt for WNW at that moment but am unable to.  34% of Jeffco students live in poverty and that number is rising (it’s doubled since the recession.)

Next item, $400,00 for professional development and to add 6.5 FTE’s (full time teachers) to the existing 9.5 for Gifted and Talented programs.

Witt says he wants $800,000 for GT per the minority report recommendation of one person from the district’s accountability committee (SPAC).  Doesn’t seem to care if there’s any data to support adding FTE’s, just asks if the district thinks this will support the board’s achievement goals.

**EdNote** Technically, you can say the minority report is from three people (versus the 35ish who serve on SPAC).  These three are all new appointees to the accountability of WNW.  I’m told by SPAC members that their consensus on the budget also included a consensus that the minority report would be for one person, Tom Coyne.  The other two WNW appointees agreed to this at the meeting but later added their names to Mr. Coyne’s report.  Mr. Coyne, if you didn’t attend the meeting where he presented his report, showed “facts” that had the audience laughing. He proved himself to be an angry individual in general and basically called CFO Lorie Gillis a liar regarding budget dollars.  I’m sure the fact that Mr. Coyne has a GT child played no role in his GT budget recommendation.

Dahlkemper did ask why they were using the minority report as a placeholder for this but didn’t receive an answer.

Williams said it is important to meet our students needs.  **EdNote** Unless they are an ethnic minority or live in poverty, of course.

Needless to say, a placeholder of $855,000 for GT was approved.

Next they discussed line items for writing instruction and remediation.

Witt wants a plan to reduce remediation rates in college from its current 29.8% to 27.8% by spring of next year.

Dahlkemper asked if expanding Kindergarten might help with those remediation rates.

There didn’t seem to be a dollar amount assigned, the district said their plan was to intervene with kids in early high school and talked about requiring 4 years of math in order to graduate.

Then came what we’ve heard so much about, the equalization of Mill Levy Override dollars for charter schools.

Witt “We have a $7.4 million gap in MLO charter per pupil funding.

Gillis:  Recommends a 1-2 hour study session with the board about how charters and charter funding really works, saying it would be very beneficial.

Fellman said she appreciates the passion of the night’s speakers but is not okay with breaking promises they made to voters.  “We should figure out how to do this without breaking those promises.”

Dahlkemper said there are realities to talk about and would like to have that session with Gillis.  She talked about the $78 million in cuts the district made over several years following the Great Recession and that 3A barely maintained what we have now.  She feels a good next step is a meeting with Gillis and pointed out that a parent in public comment had asked “what are we going to cut?” in order to do this equalization.

Witt said no one is talking about making cuts that this is extra money.  **EdNote** Maybe from flying monkeys?  **EdNote**  He said, “I want a $3.7 million dollar placeholder for charter equalization for next year and another $3.7 added for the year after for continuing charter equalization.”

Newkirk: “The more I hear about charter funding, the more disturbed I am. We’ve heard a lot about the disparity in funding and the struggles of charters. I move we place a $3.7 million placeholder . . . I don’t see this as either/or, I see this as win-win.”

Williams read directly from a previously prepared script, it was obvious because she fudged her words every time she lost her place but essentially said she wants to see transparency (which we already have) of how all schools spend their money compared to charter schools and said she spoke with a parent who was “appalled” that charters have to beg for money.

Fellman said she liked the idea of learning more from Ms. Gillis and added that though it is not required of the district, they did negotiate a per pupil amount with charters in relation to 3A, to provide some of the MLO funding to charter schools. “I think we believe 85,000 deserve the best and we owe it to them to sit down and learn more about this as a board.”

Dahlkemper said, “We cut $78 million and always kept kids front and center. If we’re going to get serious about improving math and literacy proficiency we need to get serious about funding that.”

**EdNote** At this point a gentleman stood up and though he didn’t really shout, everyone could hear him.  “I can’t take this anymore, I can’t watch this anymore”  speaking as he left the board room, “$3.7 million for charters and we can’t do $600,000 for Kindergarten…”

Newkirk (ignoring the outburst) asked Dahlkemper, “if the $600,000 for Kindergarten were restored, would you support the $3.7 million?”

Dahlkemper: “This is not a tit for tat bargaining about kids. We still haven’t restored the cuts to programs and teachers that were made.  This isn’t about $600,000 here and this there.”

Williams: “Are charter students 2nd class students? Putting a placeholder doesn’t lock us in it, it makes sure it’s not missed.”

Witt: “Until we meet the board’s ends and have equity in funding we can’t look at restoring programs.” And he reiterated he wants a $3.7 million line item.

Fellman stated she wants to study the issue before adding a placeholder.

Dahlkemper “and to look at the achievement of our charters if we’re going to meet our ends.”

Witt: “Is that a no or a yes?”

Dahlkemper: “We need a much larger conversation.”

The board voted 3-2 WNW to add the $3.7 million placeholder to equalize MLO funding for charters – and never once discussed how they will pay for this or what our neighborhood or option schools may lose.

**EdNote** I saw a tweet then. “Campaign promises? We don’t need to keep no stinkin’ campaign promises?”  Because who cares if it jeopardizes the district’s reputation or makes it more difficult to pass future mill levies to fund our schools?  Or perhaps, given WNW are anti-tax, this was strategic and purposeful on their part and that is exactly what the plan is.

The board moved on to discussing what would be put in reserves.

**EdNote** At this point, most of the charter supporters left the meeting.

Dahlkemper said we are not out of the woods with this economy.  Our previous build up in reserves saved us from having to make extremely painful cuts when the Great Recession hit. We should be proactive and prepare for that again given there are predictions for a small economic downturn in the coming years.

Gillis says that the $400,000 placeholder for reserves is not enough for the district to maintain our AAA rating.  **EdNote** If our bond rating decreases, taxpayers will pay higher interest rates on district loans.  

Witt says the $60 million in reserves now is adequate for our bond rating.

The board then heard a presentation from the Choice Steering Committee.  **EdNote** It was originally supposed to be a committee focused on choice enrollment but was co-opted to focus on how much choice the district has and, perhaps, expanding choice (meaning adding charter schools.)  Though Witt said we will not be Dougco, the very first committee created by their “reform” board was . . . wait for it . . . ta dah!  A “Choice Committee!”

The choice committee, chaired by Shannon Fitzgerald, recommended improved accessibility of information for families, to measure the demand for certain options/waiting lists at schools, and creating a detailed review process for new schools.

A minority report from the committee was given by Dan Green. His report “guessed” that children are opting out of the district and wants to look at shutting down certain programs.  He also said 3/4 of the district does not use choice (don’t know if he was guessing here, too) but that they would if they had better choices.

Witt just gushed over the Choice Committee and called their report “a delight.”

Newkirk and Williams also had very strong words of praise.

You can read the Choice Committee report here.

Then came the report on Cornerstone Academy’s charter application.  They were approved, with conditions, by WNW at a previous meeting despite the previous board’s denial of their charter for fiscal and other reasons.

Lloyd Carlton, charter school liaison has been trying to connect with Cornerstone’s applicant but was unable to get in touch with them until two days ago, he needed to go through legal back channels to finally hear from them.  Apparently, they need more time tie up loose ends and STILL don’t have a location.  Their initial plan to open in the fall of 2014 has now been pushed back to 2015.

Newkirk said he is glad they are collaborating with them rather than litigating (in an appeal regarding Cornerstone’s denial in November.)

**EdNote**  Cornerstone’s application was less than stellar to begin with and this board has, literally, gifted approval of their charter on a silver platter.  So why is it the applicants are not being proactive and responding to Mr. Carlton?  It seems to me that can’t be all that serious about this charter, after all, and if ever a board had reason to deny a charter at this point, this board does, for obvious reasons.

The board will give Cornerstone the time they need and review whether or not they have met the conditions previously set at a later time.

The board went on to discuss their calendar, which is usually uneventful, but not Thursday night.

Fellman brought up adding to the next agenda a discussion of Attorney Brad Miller’s contract, asking for 30 minutes.

Witt doesn’t see a reason to do this.

Fellman advocated for her motion, saying this was supposed to be a month-to-month contract and there has never been a public review of Mr. Miller’s work for the board.

Witt: “If we change it to a 1 year contract will you feel better?”

Fellman appeared appalled by the suggestion and said “no.”

Dahlkemper we are six months into this contract with no discussion.

Witt: “I am not going to keep rehashing this attorney at every meeting.

The motion to have a 30 minute discussion about Miller’s contract failed, again, 3-2, WNW.

**EdNote**  At this point, and remember, it was nearly midnight, there were “boo’s” from most of the audience, exhausted, and tired of watching WNW’s unprofessional, often rude, and very prejudiced behavior and many disgusted with the refusal to acknowledge the diversity of the district on the superintendent flyer, the refusal to expand full day K for children in poverty, and the equalization of MLO funding for charters.  I am not excusing the audience’s outburst, just saying it was understandable at that late hour and given the constant refusal of WNW to be transparent about this attorney – that we, as taxpayers, are paying thousands of dollars for. (And remember, the itemized bill for the first couple of months from Miller’s firm had the dates and cost of each consultation – which was daily – and everything else was redacted.)

Dahlkemper said the public has requested this discussion many times and they should honor the public’s request.

Witt “We have voted, respect that.”

Williams “I would ask for respect from the room.”

This elicited louder boo’s and shouts from the audience.  I heard “then you show some respect” and “respect goes both ways,”  “accountability!” “transparency!”

Then there was an argument about whether SPAC (Strategic Planning and Advisory Council) is the district’s accountability committee. (It is).  Witt kept insisting it is not (when it is.)

**EdNote** A tweet then said “My crystal ball says Witt wants to do away with SPAC.”

The board then moved to their executive session and the meeting ended.

**EdNote**  It would be difficult for anyone to have walked away from this meeting without seeing WNW’s agenda quite clearly. 

Charter schools rule the day.  Fund them, expand them.

Follow the Tea Party belief that early childhood education does nothing for children, do nothing for children in poverty, then use schools with primarily children of poverty and color as examples of how Jeffco is failing and eventually turn those “failing” schools into charters.

I welcome you to go to ColordoSchoolGrades.com and have a look at the percentage of free and reduced lunch students and children of color in charter schools versus neighborhood schools.  While you’re there, take a look at how CSG grades score our schools with high poverty versus our schools with low poverty rates.  

While WNW, Laura Boggs, and others use CSG to prove their points about these schools, what these grades really tell us is what we already know:  Children in middle to upper class neighborhoods, mostly white, perform well.  

Children of poverty, who are often homeless and/or hungry, who are more likely to have learning disabilities, who are often transient and constantly moving from school to school, who may not speak our language, have greater challenges and need more resources to support their achievement and ensure their success.

The teachers at schools with high poverty rates are some of the most dedicated we have.  They are doing incredible things to help these children and many of these children do make great strides.  There are incredible success stories coming out of schools like Jefferson High School and Arvada High School.

Ask yourself what it would be like trying to focus, to concentrate, to learn or take TCAP’s on an empty stomach?  Or worrying about your younger siblings because you are their primary caretaker because mom works three jobs and can barely put food on the table, or worrying about whether dad found work that day, or where your family is going to sleep that night? (We have a rising homeless rate in Jeffco.)

Tonight, WNW said 8% of our children in charters, and a low percentage of, mostly white, GT students (I’ll try to get the actual number) are more important to them than the 34% of our children coming from low income homes or living in shelters or in their cars.

They sent that message to all of us, loud and clear. The question is, what are you going to do about it?

4-3 Board General Meeting Summary: Public Comment

As the meeting started and the board discussed the agenda, Jill Fellman asked to add to the agenda a discussion of Attorney Brad Miller’s contract, saying that as it has been six months and this is a month-to-month contract, and they have never had an official review of his contract or scope of work, etc. this would be a good time to do this.

Newkirk asked if they would also be reviewing all attorney’s, including Kaplan and Earnst.

Fellman said she wasn’t aware they had more than one attorney just for the board.

As she met with resistance, Fellman, said she would bring it up at the end of the meeting when the board worked on its future calendar.

The board moved on to honors, recognizing around 33 district volunteers, schools that won the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award, and schools for academic achievement.  The district has a list of winners here.

**EdNote** The board room was standing room only, the overflow room at the Education Center was overflowing and people were standing in the lobby outside the boardroom hoping to get a seat.  Probably more than 400 people.  Perhaps, for the time being, while attendance is so high it would be wise for the board to hold all their meetings at a centrally located high school’s auditorium, like Lakewood High School. **EdNote**

The board heard a brief presentation from Jefferson County Student Council, made up of student presidents from high schools across Jefferson County.  They talked about holding the Senior (Citizen) Prom and about their preparations for Day Without Hate, now a national movement started in Jeffco.

Then began what should have been 45 minutes of public comment but Witt let it go on for more than 2 hours.

**EdNote** In January, when a large group of parents came to speak before the board about the STEM program at Deer Creek Middle School, Witt lumped them all together in one group and would only let them speak if they had something new to add to what had already been said.

Last night, however, Witt allowed one person and group after another, most of them from the same school, to speak on Mill Levy Override charter equalization.  They, quite literally, said the same things over and over and over and over for more than 2 hours and Witt never once tried to lump them together or asked if a speaker had something new to add.  **EdNote**

**EdNote**  I tried to get names of speakers but wasn’t always able to and, to be honest, I started tuning out the pro charter people after a while due to the monotony of hearing the same things over and over…   I also apologize for name misspellings. **EdNote**

PARENT: Pro charter equalization, no prepared statement, winged it, was hard to follow.

PARENT, Tammy Story:  Against charter equalization.  Said charters are different, have less accountability, more flexibility, they are a small part of our student population and that the budget survey and forums did not support giving more money to charters. Ms. Story went over her allotted 3 minutes and tried to hurry and finish her statement.

**EdNote** With previous boards, speakers often went over 3 minutes and board presidents would generally, politely, ask speakers to finish up what they have to say quickly – unless someone was off on a crazy rant. Previous boards have always respected a taxpayer’s and parent’s right to speak, even when they went over time.

Up until last night, we have seen Witt often let people go over their allotted time, once by more than 5 minutes, but apparently, because Ms. Story was speaking against something Witt is in favor of, he felt it acceptable to silence her voice.  **EdNote**

Instead of asking her politely to quickly finish her statement, Witt rudely told Ms. Story to stop. When she didn’t and tried to continue speaking, he spoke over her again and again then asked security to remove her from the meeting.

Ms. Story continued to finish her statement as security escorted her from the podium. She made some very poignant comments and said some things similar to what we have said on this blog.

PARENT GROUP:  Derek Schuler and others, pro charter equalization, stated there is a great deal of misinformation out there about charters and there should be equality for all students.  A representative of the Colorado League of Charter Schools tried to lay out facts about charters, claimed they get less funding all the way around (not just MLO dollars), said a charter’s flexibility makes them unique and important, and that contrary to rumors, most charter teachers are certified. “Equity is not about what’s popular, it’s about what’s right.”

PARENTS, Carleen Clark, Karlynn Cory:  Pro charter equalization, repeated what Derek Schuler said.

PARENT, Tina Gurdikian: Spoke against charter equalization and said “we must be careful about fund equity. Charters get grants, their teachers don’t have to be licensed, they can get waivers from curriculum, etc., they can deny students enrollment… charters get loans when they ask for them.”  She added that equalization would be a violation of the voter’s will.

PARENT, Sunny Flynn: Loves her neighborhood school but supports equalization.  Added she believes too much technology is bad for kids and “hurts young minds.”

PARENT, Andrea Stevens: Asked the board to honor the voter’s will not just where 3A is concerned but where the failure of Amendment 66 (which would have provided additional funding for charters) is concerned.

**EdNote** At this point I looked at the Twitter feed for #jeffcoschoolbd and saw this tweet:  Charters r not the same, if they were they wdnt have diff names.  **EdNotes**

PARENT GROUP: One wants a Pre-K STEM school.  All support equalization.  They talked about how parents work to maintain the building, fundraise, etc.

**EdNote**  We heard a lot of impassioned pleas from parents and teachers of charters about having to do school maintenance, about teachers having to spend their own money on the classroom, and about the thousands upon thousands of dollars they must fundraise to meet kid’s needs.  

As a parent who has been active in my children’s neighborhood schools for many years, it honestly struck me as whining. My neighborhood schools, too, have parent volunteers help with what painting or maintenance they can.  Our teachers also spend money out of their own pockets to supply their classrooms, and I don’t know a single neighborhood school that doesn’t work to fundraise the thousands needed to supplement what the state has cut over the last several years.

It bothered me a great deal to see these people painting themselves and their children as somehow being victims and having to deal with things the rest of us don’t.  

One charter parent bemoaned how terrible the technology in their school is and I thought, ‘Join the club!  My son’s neighborhood school is desperately in need of updated technology but we don’t have the ability to ask the school board to give us more money!”  **EdNote**

PARENT, Amanda Stevens:   Spoke about the board’s dismissal of the budget survey results even after an internal audit showed them to be valid (more than 13,000 filled out the survey and there were over 4,000 comments.)  She implored the board to engender trust and talked about the need to utilize accountability committees.

TEACHER LIBRARIAN GROUP, Christy Yacano speaking:  Asked why the board took input from parents and the community for the budget but only the board’s priorities made it to the preliminary budget. “And you wonder why this board has lost trust?”  She also stated the group is disturbed by the board’s dismissal of teacher librarians in employee negotiations and talked about the many things teacher librarian’s contribute to our schools in today’s education climate.

PARENT GROUP:  Pro charter equalization

PARENTS, Brian Mead, Patrick Howard: Pro charter equalization, charters must raise tens of thousands of dollars.

**EdNote** At that point I saw a tweet from a parent who listed the thousands of dollars of fundraising she has done at her neighborhood school.  **EdNote**

TEACHER, Don Cameron, Lakewood High School:  **EdNote**  I asked Mr. Cameron for his full comments, they are provided here for you.  **EdNote**

I am a science teacher at Lakewood High School.  As such I am very data driven.  Tonight I want to ask you how you took thousands of pieces of input from parents, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders, on skills that a new superintendent should have, and narrowed it down to the 12 skills that the school board voted on themselves.  I have made a graphic showing the recommended characteristics as summarized by Ray and Associates. Of the top 12 recommended attributes, from the combined rankings of all those people, only 5 ended up in the recommendations at the end.  This is shown by the 5 green lines in the combined ranking column.  The other 7 recommendations fall below the combined rankings of 15, or almost the bottom half of the survey.  And one recommendation, that the candidate be a “hybrid candidate” is from the bottom of the combined ranking.  In other words, despite literally over a thousand survey results, 7 of the recommended items to the board do NOT fall in the top 12, but instead fall in the bottom half.  dc chart1

If you wonder why this board has lost the trust of the public, here is an example.  You said you were going to have an open process and get input from all stakeholders.  Yet, the final recommendations are not backed up by data.  To add insult to injury, ALL the recommended items, including those at the bottom of the combined survey fall in the board members’ top 12.  This can be seen by the board ranking column, where tied rankings were grouped together.  As is typical of this divided board, however, most of these had split votes, with three or four votes carrying the day as can be seen in the all green column.  It’s very clear, that despite your avowed interest in an open and fair process, the data were manipulated to a predetermined outcome, with recommendations directly from the board driving the process, and the votes of three members carrying the day.  Can you explain how this happened? In summary, on this topic, to truly show that you are open to stakeholder input, you should accept the top recommendations from the combined survey results.

Another place in which it is clear you are not listening to public input is with regard to budget priorities and charters.  The numerical data of the budget survey were clear, charters were at the bottom of the priority list.  Since the last meeting, I read literally hundreds of the survey comments about the budget too.  I completed a random sampling of the over 2000 comments provided for the survey.  22% of the comments were explicitly against additional funding to charters.  14% of the comments were specifically in support of teachers in Jeffco.  63% of the comments were about other funding priorities besides charters to include arts, sports etcetera.  Just 1% of the comments were in support of the board’s priorities.  When you discuss budget priorities tonight I cannot emphasize enough that moving 3A funds to charter schools would be in direct violation of the will of the majority of the voters, who passed the measure.

So, what actions are you going to take to get the public behind you?  Tonight you have a chance to show you’re listening.  

PARENT, Vicki Milton:  Pro charter equalization

TEACHER, Angela Mays:  Pro charter equalization, read letters from children telling the board what they would do with an additional $1,000 per student.

PARENT GROUP: Pro charter equalization

**EdNote** At this point, a parent sitting nearby whispered that at her neighborhood school, the art teacher has kids wash and air dry their hands because she has a very limited supply of paper towels and can’t afford to supply enough for kids to use all the time.

PARENT: Pro charter equalization

JCEA GROUP, Stephi Rossi speaking:  **EdNote** Because Ken Witt stated in November that they would not be Douglas County andhad no interest in destroying the teacher’s union, and because the school board is now doing EXACTLY what the Douglas Count board did to their teachers, I asked Ms. Rossi for her full comments and I have provided them for you below. **EdNote**

The JCEA Bargaining team has several concerns about the future of interest based bargaining in Jeffco.

JCEA and Jeffco Public Schools have used an interest based bargaining process for several years. The process begins with identification of issues, and then proceeds with identifying each party’s interests related to the issues at hand. Frequently, a number of interests are shared by both parties. The combined teams then brainstorm options that would meet as many interests as possible. If an option meets all or most interests, it is agreed to. It is designed to be a win-win solution. Both teams specifically chose this bargaining process because it promotes collaboration and allows the teams to focus on real issues that impact the classroom and our students.

In the history of JCEA-Jeffco bargaining, we have never failed to reach an agreement on an option when it satisfied both parties’ interests. The issue JCEA brought forward was to extend the negotiated agreement past August of 2015.  One of our primary interests was to help the Board in its publicly stated desire to counteract rumors that it was heading down a Douglas County path and would try to end the negotiated agreement. For the past 45 years, our negotiated agreement has supported and promoted quality teaching in our district. Teachers will be better able to focus their energies on students when the rumors are put to rest, and are not worried about the status of their contract.

Both parties generated a list of options on the extension of the contract issue, but the Board’s team rejected them all without an attempt to find a consensus position. The Board’s team stated that the Board did not want to extend the contract because they want to negotiate the full contract next year. We agreed that we would open the entire contract next year. The Board’s team stated they want “robust discussions” in next year’s bargaining session. We agreed that we need and want “robust discussions” next year. The Board’s team stated we want a District that is an attractive place to work. We agreed and believe that a contract extension would make Jeffco even more attractive, and furthermore, shut down the rumor mill. The Board’s team also wanted employees who are confident in the district and its future. JCEA’s team and membership couldn’t agree more. A negotiated agreement with a secure future will certainly help create confident employees.

Options were generated that met all of the interests. Unless there were board interests that were not stated at the bargaining table, it is difficult to understand how the board came to the conclusion that none of the options were viable. We ask that you fully honor the interest based bargaining process that you voluntarily entered into with JCEA this year.

**EdNote**  In Douglas County, this is pretty much how things played out when their “reform” candidates were elected. They said up front they had no interest in destroying the union then essentially refused to bargain with the teachers at all and let the teacher’s contract lapse.  In only the last couple of years, Douglas County has had a turnover rate of 1/3 of their teachers – 1,000 of 3200.  Teacher morale in Dougco is extremely low, teachers there are very unhappy and afraid to speak up for fear of losing their job. In addition, several teachers there have taken jobs as PERA Professionals in other districts where they couldn’t find teaching jobs, at a significant paycut, just to get out of Douglas County.  

Because our new board majority is walking the very same path, we can likely expect the same result.  Is a climate of fear and distrust healthy for our children and their education?  Did you know Douglas County’s achievement scores have dropped since their “reform” board took over?

In Dougco they also claimed union dues are taxpayer dollars going directly to support a political organization rather than what they really are, a teacher choosing of their own free will to give a portion of their paycheck to their teacher’s association. Laura Boggs was known to say teachers are not taxpayers because they are paid with taxpayer dollars.  You can probably expect to hear similar rhetoric from this board at some future point. **EdNote**

PARENT GROUP: Spoke on the importance of performing arts in our schools, the qualities and skills they inspire in kids, and the need to keep them in our schools. They also said the board should honor the voters will the mill levy, 3A.

PARENT: Pro charter equalization, from Excel Academy.

**EdNote**  At one point in time, perhaps even now, Excel Academy actively solicited the families of the highest CSAP/TCAP scoring students at surrounding neighborhood schools.  They would send letters telling the families what a great learning environment Excel would be for their children.  To my knowledge, no family of Special Needs or At Risk children were never solicited.  **EdNote**

The Excel parent also complained about not being able to offer more foreign language classes at their school.

**EdNote**  Most of our middle and high schools have cut the number of foreign languages they teach and very few of our elementary schools teach a foreign language at all. At my children’s middle school, they taught Spanish and French but had to cut French due to lack of funding.  At the high school, a friend of my son’s was taking Mandarin but that class was cut.  Our high school only teachers Spanish and French, not even German.  They can’t afford to and the foreign language requirements for graduation were cut a while back due to the state funding cuts. **EdNote**

(Over 2 hours into public comment at this point)

TEACHER, Mountain Phoenix: Pro Charter equalization. Complained about how teachers have to sacrifice to supply their classrooms.

**EdNote** There were several speaksers from Mtn Phoenix. If you’ll recall, they just received a $250,000 loan to complete construction on a new building because they were over budget.  **EdNote**

PARENT GROUP: Pro charter equalization

PARENT: Pro charter equalization

PARENT:  Pro charter equalization.

TEACHER, Jim Fernald, Lakewood High School: Has spoken before on why CSAP and TCAP data are worthless. Told a story about how he was excited about the tests when they first came out then when he saw them for the first time realized the test was actually designed to set kids up to fail.  Said people who have never really seen or proctored the test have no idea what’s really happening with testing.

**EdNote** That concludes public comment from last night.  Remember, individuals had 3 minutes to speak but groups had ten minutes.  The board is supposed to hear 45 minutes and anything over that is pushed to the end of the meeting.  Instead, we sat through more than 2 solid hours.  The business portion of the meeting did not start until nearly 10:00 pm.  **EdNote**