Witt’s Post Editorial – Our Response

typewriter

Last Saturday, May 3rd, Ken Witt managed to get a guest editorial published in the Denver Post.  In it, he began WNW+Miller’s PR spin, using carefully worded phrases that hid what WNW has actually been doing while painting an image of failing District that WNW is trying to ‘rescue’.

We decided we would do a point-by-point response to Witt’s editorial.  Since it was published in the Denver Post and is copyright protected, we cannot post the original in it’s entirety here.  So what we have done instead is summarize each paragraph of his editorial and then make our specific comments / observations right below it.  As we worked our way through the editorial (17 paragraphs!), we found ourselves keeping a tally on the the various types of problems his editorial has.  We have included that in our observations as well.

Paragraph #1
Witt: 
He says has gotten many letters questioning WNW’s vision and priorities.  He also stated that he was speaking for himself, and not for the Board.

Our comment:  We sure that all three of them, Witt, Newkirk and Williams, or ‘WNW’,  have gotten a lot of letters and emails.  Since their actions have infuriated the JeffCo public enormously, we also have no doubt that the vast majority of these letters have been negative about WNW and their efforts to radically alter the JeffCo School District.  

One additional point – while Witt did say he was speaking only for himself, he made no reference to the fact that the Board is strongly divided.  Not stating this can leave uniformed people thinking that the entire Board basically agrees with him.  Let’s chalk that up as Mislead #1.

Paragraph #2
Witt:
 Let’s find some things we can agree on.

Our comment:  This is a standard rhetorical device which can be used for good or ill.

Paragraph #3
Witt:
 All students at Jeffco should be able to go to a school that prepares them for life, be that college, a tech school, or straight into the job market.

Our comment:  Agreed.  In fact this is what JeffCo was doing pretty well before WNW took over the Board.  The District has also had a strong tradition of constantly innovating and working on doing things better and better.

Paragraph #4
Witt:
 Every student is different and a cookie-cutter system school system will not work for many children.

Our comment: This is absolutely true.  It is also why JeffCo is not a ‘cookie-cutter’ district.  JeffCo has 132 Neighborhood schools (93 elementary, 22 middle, and 17 high school), 10 Option schools, 16 Charter schools, and 19 Special Schools and Programs (you can find all of these on the JeffCo School website). School programs include International Baccalaureate (“IB”), Advanced Placement (“AP”), STEM, Vocational/Technical, GT, ELL, Special Ed, and others.  It has online courses, Concurrent Enrollment courses, and ‘schools within schools’.

Prior to WNW getting elected, JeffCo was on the path of continuing to expand the different offerings.  JeffCo has not been sitting still.  Perhaps what WNW experienced decades ago seemed like ‘cookie-cutter’ to them, but it is not what JeffCo is and has been doing for several years.  Let’s call this one Mislead #2.

Paragraph #5
Witt:
 Teachers are essential to good schools.

Our comment:  We would go further.  Highly trained, experienced, and supported teachers are the basis of any good school.  Just having teachers, especially if they are inexperienced, have minimal training, or are not backed up with tools, resources, and help, will not help a school system be successful.  Indeed, the opposite will occur – the District will go downhill…fast!  Just look at DougCo as an example.  That is why JeffCo is very fortunate to have the very kind of highly trained, experienced, and motivated educators it has.  No mislead here, but rather an overly simplistic statement we will call Oversimplification #1.

Paragraph #6
Witt:
 If you agree with me on paragraphs 3-5, then you probably agree with us that change is needed!

Our comment:  Our short response is. “NO!”  At least not the radical teardown approach Witt,  Newkirk, and Williams (and Miller) seem bent on taking with JeffCo.

The sentence Witt used is a classic example of the deliberate use of a fallacious or false argument to try and persuade the unwary.  His conclusion is that anyone who wants to have a good, accessible public education system, that supports a variety (and diversity!) of learning styles and conditions, and is staffed by teachers, must therefore agree with WNW that his kind of change is needed. This is a non-sequitur argument and therefore, fallacious.  His argument presumes that JeffCo does not meet any of the initial requirements, which we disagree with strongly!  In fact, if you look over our comments on the three paragraphs above, you will see that our contention is that JeffCo has met all three of those requirements and, up until WNW took over, has been steadily working towards improving upon them.  This is Logical Fallacy #1 and Mislead #3.

Paragraph #7
Witt:
 So what needs to be changed?

Our comment:   We will give you our answer, and it matches the answer given by education experts and JeffCo residents:  1) More teacher training and increased compensation so they can afford to live in JeffCo and one day send their children to college, 2) Broader access by at-risk children to full-day kindergarten, especially if their families are unable to afford to pay for it and, 3) increased support for JeffCo’s special programs and schools to help cope with growing diversity of JeffCo’s student population.

Paragraph #8
Witt:
 Increased goals for 3rd grade reading and 4th grade math.

Our comment:  Laudable goals…so long as you put the money towards the programs that will help achieve it!  Otherwise, it becomes one of the ‘unfunded requirements’ that WNW scream about when it is done at the State or Federal level.

Paragraph #9
Witt:
 Better test scores in 3rd and 4th grade will help the high school scores, which are too low.

Our comment:  True, but the evidence shows that just improving lower grade test scores does not necessarily translate into better high school scores on a one-for-one basis.  There is a significant drop-off after 4th grade, especially during junior high years that needs to be addressed.  Besides, if the only focus is on improving 3rd & 4th grade test scores now, what happens to next year’s 5th to 12th grade students and the years after that?  Improvements must be made not only to the elementary level, but also to middle and high school levels as well.  This is where increased teacher training and experience, backed up by a focused, well thought-out and proven support effort from the District, will make the difference.  This is Oversimplification #2

Paragraph #10
Witt:
 We owe it to JeffCo students to do better.

Our comment:  We will always owe our children our best, most thoughtful, and thoroughly tested and vetted efforts.  We will also always owe them our resistance to quick fixes that don’t, fads that fade, and noble phrases that hide personal agendas.  We call this Platitude #1.

Paragraph #11
Witt:
To achieve this, JeffCo needs good teachers that will stay.  Instituting a Pay-for-Performance model needs to be adopted, and eliminate broad band pay scales that treats teachers equally.

Our comment:  Simple solutions to complex problems always sound so good, but generally they are like cotton-candy; they look big and bright, and the first bite is delicious, but then it quickly gets sticky, contains mainly air, has no vitamins, leaving you ill-nourished, poorer in the pocketbook, and often nauseous.

That is why JeffCo did a major study over the last school year, carefully looking at teacher compensation structures.  The results of the study were presented to the Board at the February 6th General Meeting (see the presentation here).  

The team concluded that there was no correlation between ‘Pay for Performance’ and better student results.  What did make a difference was teacher experience plus having degrees in the field that they are teaching (i.e., a history teacher has a B.A. in History, a math teacher has a B.S. in math, as well as teaching certification.)  One way to to organically gain more experienced teachers is to help new teachers with increased District and School support (i.e., coaches, mentors, additional professional development) plus an increase in initial pay so they can afford to stay and master their craft.  The goal is to help them get through the first three to five years when they are still mastering their classroom skills.

This actually makes sense in so many ways.  No one becomes a teacher in order to make a lot of money.  You become a teacher because it is what you are called to do.  At the same time, you need to earn enough so you can put your own kids through college, and can spend summers improving your mastery of your subject and improving your teaching skills, instead of trying to make ends meet by selling shaved ice or painting houses.

Of course, implementing this means actually having to pay attention during the presentation and actively thinking about what it is telling you, instead of preparing sound-byte rebuttals that justify a dismissal of the presented facts.  This one is Oversimplification #3 and Mislead #4.

Paragraph #12
Witt:
 In order to give teachers more time teaching, there should be less testing and assessments.  We are getting teachers the tools they need and we promise to actually pay attention to data in order to determine what is most effective.

Our comment:  Let’s see if we understand this.  Give teachers more time by reducing tests and assessments.  Then use the data that the tests would have produced, but now do not (because the tests have been eliminated) to determine what really works.

Huh?  This does not make sense.  If you want to have a data-driven model and verified results you need tests and assessments, otherwise all you have is uninformed opinion.  Illogical Reasoning #1.

Paragraph #13
Witt:
 Sometimes something sounds right, but the evidence says differently, such as the efficacy of expanded free full-day kindergarten.  JeffCo has never done a study on this in JeffCo, and the proposal is not fair because parents who could afford to pay for full-day kindergarten would get it free as well as those who cannot afford it.

Our comment:  Okay, first of all almost every national study shows that if you want to raise elementary school scores, full-day kindergarten is the most cost-effective measure a school district can use.  This was pointed out to WNW in the April 3rd meeting.  Witt and Newkirk demanded to know if any of the studies had been done in JeffCo, and when told “no”, they  then said they doubted that those studies could be applied to JeffCo.

This is nonsense so ludicrous as to boggle the imagination.  By this logic, a nationwide traffic safety study that shows that using seat belts and airbags in cars saves lives should be ignored in Jefferson County because the study was not specifically done in Jefferson County.  WNW’s attitude assumes that JeffCo is somehow magically different from the rest of the country when it comes to how and when children learn best.

Even so, JeffCo Kindergarten teachers and PTA members responded to the challenge!  At the May 1st meeting, in a ten minute comment period (the maximum Witt would allow them), five of them presented the Board with a detailed analysis (FFDK Report) of JeffCo’s full-day vs half-day kindergarten impact on at-risk kids.  The results were dramatic.  Both statistically and anecdotally, the available data shows that adding in free full-day kindergarten raises the level of proficiency of at-risk children so dramatically that the difference between them and non-risk children almost disappears.  Additionally, more JeffCo statistics showed that these gains continue through at least 3rd grade.

Witt’s response was that an unasked-for presentation during a ten minute comment did not suffice.  But he also did not ask for a more in-depth presentation, or direct Dr. Beck to conduct a follow-up, or take up the presenters on their plea to at least consider offering a sliding fee-based kindergarten.

WNW has repeatedly stated that to them (WNW), fairness is the same amount of money being spent on all kids, regardless of their circumstances.  In this case, WNW would rather not give poor children additional help if it meant some not-so-poor children would be helped too.  This is like now being against seat belts and airbags because it would help protect bad drivers as well as good ones!

In short, WNW is against free full-day kindergarten because…?  We are not sure!  Their explanations are so full of contradictions, misstatements, and factual error that their real reasons are hidden.  Mislead #5 and Ignoring Facts #1.

Paragraph #14
Witt:
 The District started open negotiations with JCEA and JCAA, but JCEA walked out, so now there must be closed negotiations with a mediator.

Our comment:  Witt is trying to imply here that JCEA really did not want open negotiations and so declared an impasse in order to get out of them.  What he ignores is the fact that in those open negotiations JCEA repeatedly asked the District negotiating team for responses on JCEA’s proposal for a contract extension, but WNW refused to give the District negotiating team any guidance on this.  In short, JCEA was asking, “How about agreeing to a contract extension?” and the District negotiating team, because WNW would not give them guidance (and they have the votes to do it, regardless of what Dahlkemper or Fellman might want), would have to say ‘we have received no instructions on that.’  So finally, JCEA declared an impasse because WNW would not let the District respond to JCEA’s proposal!  This one is definitely mislead #6.

Paragraph #15
Witt:
 WNW has $11.7 million set aside for total comp increases, including PERA retirement and increased health costs, but “I” (Witt), want to give starting teachers more money and begin Pay for Performance.

Our comment:  A lot of misleads here.  First, the original place holder was $4 million higher.  WNW reduced it to the current $11.7.  Second, WNW wants to deduct from any actual pay increase the employer portion of PERA.  Third, Witt does not explain that PERA is the Social Security replacement for all state employees, including teachers.  PERA payments by the District (and employees) are like the employer and employee FICA deductions.  By wanting to have the employer PERA deductions count as part of the employee pay raise, it is a very sneaky way of trying to offer a lower pay raise!  Imagine if you employer offered you a 2.5% raise, but then counted the company’s portion of FICA as part of the 2.5%!  The same thing for the health care cost increases.  Those are employer costs that WNW is trying to pass on to the employees as part of their ‘raise’.  Paying starting teachers more is great, and the District study we referenced in paragraph #11 gives specific targets, but again, Witt chooses to ignore actual evidence on the Pay for Performance issue.  So that is Misleads #7, #8, and #9 and Ignoring Facts #2.

Paragraph #16
Witt:
 He says that WNW was elected to “approach education…differently”, and that they value feedback from the community.  That the community has told them we want “clear academic achievement goals, accountability for results, broad choices in public education, genuine transparency, and a commitment to local control….”

Our comment: Those all sound good, but he leaves out a lot!  For example, the public Budget Forums held at six different high schools on three different nights the 526 people attending gave their top three priorities as: Keep class sizes small, Increase employee compensation, and Maintain electives.  In the on-line 02132014_Community_Survey_Results1 done by JeffCo in February and filled out by over 13,000 people, the same top three priorities were given, and free full-day kindergarten was the fifth highest priority.  In a question of where to place educational emphasis (question #4), Early Literacy Instruction was given the highest priority with 71% agreeing or strongly agreeing.  On the other hand, 78% did not want to expand charter schools, and 61% opposed expanding option schools.

These results are very different from the list Witt gives.  What are his statistics to back up his claims?  Because the JeffCo community surveys and outreaches come to very different conclusions.  Mislead #10 and Ignoring Facts #3.

Paragraph #17
Witt:
 Jeffco is big and diverse.  Building a great school district takes respect, openness, patience, and commitment to students and families.

Our comment:  We agree, but would also add ‘and a firm commitment to the truth, with a willingness to set aside preconceived ideas when the facts indicate otherwise.’

But even on the items Witt mentions, WNW has sadly fallen short.  The disrespect they have shown Dahlkemper and Fellman, Cindy Stevenson, teachers, the public, and our students has got to be seen to be believed.  Hidden conversations that play fast and loose with Colorado’s Open Records Act, the speed with which WNW moves to push money towards their favorite causes while starving other parts of the District, all brings into the question just which students and families WNW is committed to.  It certainly does not appear to be to all the JeffCo students and families.

BTW- if you were keeping score, the final tally on Witt’s editorial is:

10 Misleading Statements,
3 cases of Ignoring Facts.
1 case of Illogical Reasoning,
3 Oversimplifications,
1 Platitude,
1 Logical Fallacy

Keep Fighting, Jeffco!

<Update:  We have now posted a version of this response in the comment section of the Denver Post editorial.  We are looking into submitting an editorial ourselves, but that may not be possible.  If you are interested in submitting an editorial for us under your name, please contact us.>

BOE Meeting 5/5 Agenda – Superintendent Finalist List

School_BussesOn Monday night the list of Superintendent candidates is to be narrowed down to a small group of ‘finalists’.  These people will then be directly interviewed by the Board.

BOE Meeting 2014-05-05
Date and Time:  Monday, May 5, 2014, at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Education Center Seminar Room,1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items

2. Executive Session (5:30 p.m.)
2.01 Legal Advice and Consideration of Confidential Documents Submitted by Superintendent Applicants
Type:
Action, Discussion
Recommended Action: to move into executive session to confer with legal counsel for the purpose of receiving legal advice regarding compliance with the Colorado Open Meetings Law and the Colorado Open Records Act during the superintendent selection process.

The Board of Education will meet in executive session to confer with legal counsel for the purpose of receiving legal advice regarding compliance with the Colorado Open Meetings Law and the Colorado Open Records Act during the superintendent selection process, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(4)(b); and, C.R.S. § 24-6-402(4)(g), for consideration of documents submitted by applicants for the position of superintendent which are protected by the mandatory nondisclosure provisions of the Colorado Open Records Act, C.R.S. § 24-72-204(3)(a)(XI)(A).

After the vote to move into executive session, this portion of the meeting is closed to the public.  The Board will reconvene in open session at approximately 10:30 p.m. in the Seminar Room.

(Currently no downloadable material been provided.)

PRESENTING STAFF:

Dr. Bill Newman, Ray & Associates
Dr. Gary Ray, Ray & Associates
Ryan Ray, Ray & Associates
Amy Weber, executive director, Human Resources
Jim Branum, district legal counsel
Brad Miller, Board attorney

PURPOSE:  Review the Jeffco Superintendent candidate list and documents submitted by or on behalf of candidates; determine candidates to bring in for interviews with the Board of Education; receive legal advice about compliance with the Colorado Open Meetings Act and the Colorado Open Records Act during the superintendent selection process.

BACKGROUND:  Ray & Associates was hired by the Board of Education to provide professional Superintendent Search services to Jeffco Schools. Ray & Associates representatives will review the candidate list and documents submitted by or on behalf of candidates with the Board of Education.  The Board of Education will determine candidates to bring in for interviews with the Board.

Our comments:  This is a key point in the process of selecting the new Superintendent.  Up until Friday no one, other than Ray & Associates, even knew who had applied.  Then on Friday, the Denver Post broke the story that GOP State House Rep. Mark Waller, had applied.  See our post just a little bit ago to learn more about him.

Our concerns go to how the list of finalists will be put together.  Here is where WNW can really ‘stack the deck’.  If each candidate requires a majority vote before they can be place on the list, then WNW will be able to make sure that only their candidates are genuinely considered.

The problem for us is that this is a decision that would normally be made in Executive Session, and Board members are not supposed to reveal what happens in such sessions.  So it will come down to face-reading Dahlkemper and Fellman as they come out of the meeting.

Another concern is that WNW+Miller might try to use this Executive Session to get done the dirty work that they were unable to do at the April 24th meeting when Dahlkemper and Fellman refused to vote for Executive Session.

Normally, meetings that are nothing but Executive Sessions are pretty boring.  The Board votes to go into Executive Session, then they go off to a private room to have their meeting.  At the end of it, they come back just long enough to adjourn.

But WNW+Miller you never know!  So, we hope some of you will be there just to make sure!  Doing so is one of the ways you can…

Keep Fighting, Jeffco!

JeffCo Superintendent: Mark Waller applying for the job….

apply-todayOn Friday, the Denver Post’s blog “The Spot” posted that Colorado Springs State Representative Mark Waller has applied for the JeffCo Superintendent position.

Waller currently represents Colorado State House District 15 which is the northeastern part of Colorado Springs.  He defeated Doug Bruce, the extreme libertarian in the Republican 2008 primary and has since run unopposed.  He could have run for another two-year term in the House, but decided instead to take a stab at the Republican nomination for Attorney General.  That lasted until April 12th, when he came in a distant second at the Republican Assembly meeting to Cindy Coffman, current Attorney General John Suther’s deputy.  By that time it was too late to file for re-election to his House seat, and two other Republicans had already entered the race for this highly Republican district. (In the 2012 General Election, he ran against a Libertarian candidate and an American Constitution Party candidate.  No Democrat ran against him.)  He formally pulled out of the Republican Primary for Attorney General on April 29th.

Since the deadline for applications was April 25th (although Ray & Associates said they would accept applications until April 27th), Waller must have applied for the JeffCo Superintendent position before he announced he was giving up on the Attorney General’s race.  Since the GOP Assembly meeting was not until April 12th, it is apparent that this job has not been in the forefront of his mind for very long.  Indeed, Waller seems to have thought little about education in any significant manner during his six years in the state legislature.  His entry in Ballotpedia (a non-partisan on-line encyclopedia focused on American politics – click here for more information) shows his was the prime sponsor for only four bills, all of them in the 2009 session.  Only one of them have anything to do with education, HB09-1270 “Enrollment Options Private Home Schools”.  This bill would have made privately-schooled or home-schooled students eligible for concurrent enrollment in state-supported colleges and universities.  According to the state legislatures staff report, this would have required five full-time CDE employees and cost the State almost $20 million by requiring those state colleges to create programs for non-public schools.   It was postponed indefinitely only two weeks after he submitted it.

Waller is quoted as saying., “I don’t have a strong educational background…“, then continuing, “…but I have a very robust background in developing consensus and bringing parties together.”  He apparently has submitted a generic letter of recommendation from Bruce Benson, the President of CU…who also does not have an educational background.

Benson’s letter reportedly praises Waller for his work on legislation involving education.  Apparently Benson counts one failed bill in 2009 as significant. Benson’s letter of recommendation is only a generic one, not one written specifically for the JeffCo Superintendent job.  Benson, when asked about this by Lynn Bartels, the Post reporter is quoted as saying, “This letter could be for dog catcher, or for your job at the paper — which could be one and the same — or for something higher up.”  Not exactly a resounding endorsement.

This one, in some ways, has us shaking our heads even more than the Tom Tancredo report a week or so ago.

In this case, at least the applicant has confirmed that he has applied.  But even WNW’s slanted requirements, Waller comes up dramatically short.

He has no actual experience in education.  In fact, we are not even sure he has a passionate interest in the JeffCo job, other than he is looking for work!

Coming from one of the safest Republican districts in the state, Waller has never really had to to try to work with people with very different view points.  His one effort at education policy (which would have gotten private schools state money) got shot down in almost record time.  He only decided he want to apply for the position after his poor showing at the GOP Assembly meeting less than two weeks earlier.  And of the one letter of recommendation he has, even the author of the letter (Benson) says could also have been for the position of “dog catcher“!

If anyone other than WNW were involved, then another ‘dog‘ phrase would pop to mind, this one from Texas, “That dog won’t hunt.

But, this will be in front of WNW.  And they are highly suspected of wanting to follow DougCo’s fake charter school to redirect public tax dollars to private schools efforts (see our post here.).  Given that, Waller’s own efforts to squeeze out tax-payer dollars to help private schools could very well appeal to them.  While he did hold the position of Minority Leader in 2013, he apparently did not impress anyone enough to get more than a ‘dog catcher‘s  endorsement.  We wish we could say that Waller hasn’t got a snowballs chance, but…he did try to get public money for private schools.  Other than that he is something of a cipher who is needing a job.

It could be that WNW, instead of looking for a strong-willed leader who might disagree with them from time to time, would prefer a puppet whose strings they could pull on to their hearts content.

Scary times are ahead.  Stay strong, and…

Keep Fighting, Jeffco!

More Reasons to Attend the May 1 Meeting

Silence2

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.

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.)

BOE Meeting 2014-04-24: Agenda Preview (Updated 4-22)

BOE Meeting 2014-04-24
Date and Time:  Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 5:30 p.m.
Where: Education Center

Key Agenda Items

2. Study/Dialogue Session

2.01 Jeffco Accountability Committee School-Level Roles/Responsibilities (EL-11)
Type: Discussion, Information
PURPOSE:  The Board will receive an overview of the District’s current guidelines for school-level accountability committees as well as the district level through the Strategic Planning and Advisory Council.
BACKGROUND:  The Board of Education requested a presentation on the district’s accountability process to determine its effectiveness in meeting district goals and the requirements of state statute.

(Click here for copy of their presentation.)

Our comments:  School Accountability Committees (“AC”) can have a huge influence on individual schools.  Likewise the Strategic Planning Advisory Council (“SPAC”) can have a huge influence on the District.  The membership focus is to try include people from not only the District and PTAs, but also from the community and parents.  In fact, both ACs and SPAC are required to have parents be the single largest group represented.  District employees cannot hold the Chair of an Accountability Committee (including SPAC).

Currently ACs mainly consist of the school Principal, a teacher, a minimum of three parents, one person from the PTA, and one community member.

SPAC’s membership list is a lot longer.  Currently the membership of SPAC includes the five sitting Members of the Board, plus “Two members per Board of Education member appointed by Board of Education members”.  This comes to 10 people appointed by Board members plus the five Board Members themselves.  So there also needs to be at least 11 parents on the Committee otherwise not representing another group.

WNW never does anything without a reason.  Note their insistence on reviewing the Superintendent’s responsibilities when they were working on forcing Cindy Stevenson out.  The moment Stevenson left, their interest in those policies dropped.

So what do they plan for the ACs and SPAC?

Our thoughts focus on the membership of the committees.  If they can sieze control of the committees they will at one stroke eliminate an organized rallying point for their opponents, while at the same time converting them into obedient puppets regurgitating WNW’s party line, giving them political cover for future actions.

So watch out for proposals to change committee membership in such a way as to stack the committees with their partisans, instead of truly representative members of the groups and community.

2.02 Budget Development Update
PURPOSE:
For the Board of Education to receive an update and provide staff with budget priority direction for the 2014-2015 budget development process.
BACKGROUND: There was discussion of the district’s budget at the Board of Education meetings on December 12, January 16 and February 27.

The Board received and considered feedback and results from a community budget survey, six community budget forums conducted the week of March 3, and a report from the Strategic Planning Advisory Council on budget recommendations including a minority report.

At the March 13, 2014, Board of Education meeting, the Board provided staff with initial direction regarding budget priorities for the development of the 2014/2015 budget. Board budget priorities for 2014/2015 were specifically identified from the goals inEnds 1,Ends 2,Ends 3.

The Board requested and received additional information on Mobile Device Readiness on March 21.

At the April 3 Board of Education meeting, the Board provided direction with regard to specific priorities for compensation, free full day kindergarten, charter school funding, virtual academy expansion, special education and a plan for choice work.

Staff will provide an update on parameters and projections for the proposed 2014/2015 budget based on current projected revenues and Board directed budget priorities. In additional, staff will present a funding model for charter schools compared to district-managed schools.

Board guidance is needed for final direction to prepare the 2014/2015 Proposed Budget prior to the 1st Public Hearing on June 5 and the 2nd Public Hearing and Budget Adoption on June 19.

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

(Click here for copy of their presentation.)

Our comments:  WNW have shown themselves to be heavily biased in favor of Charter Schools.  One of their drumbeats is “Charter school equalization”, the idea that Charter schools receive less than their fair share of funding.  This presentation does an excellent job of looking at that dogma head on.

If you review the presentation, you will find that there is material to support both sides of the issue.  Public and Charter schools receive the same amount of per student funding from the state.  Charter schools receive additional dollars ($95 per student last year) from the state for construction.  The District does not.  The District receives funding from Mill Levy Overrides that are generally targeted for specific purposes, including specific construction and maintenance activities that State funds pay for with Charter schools.  Charter schools still receive money from the Mill Levy overrides, but a smaller portion of those funds on a per student basis.

Another piece of dogma out there is that Charter schools have to pay for District support where regular schools do not.  The truth is that regular schools ‘pay’ for that support by having some of their per student funding not passed on.  Since Charter schools receive all their per student funds (minus 5% for administrative services the District is required by law to provide), if Charter schools want to use some of the District’s additional resources, they must pay for them.  Currently, the District is not charging the Charter schools for the full cost of providing those services (average cost is $405 per student, Charter schools are paying only $316 per student), so the District at this point is actually providing Charter schools a 23% subsidy on administrative costs.

If WNW is honestly serious about ‘Charter school equalization’, then this effective subsidy should also end.  However, we doubt that WNW will advocate for that.

What should be watched for is WNW trying to find more support for their almost-religious belief that Charter schools are being massively short-changed.  Their argument is that every child should receive the same amount of money.  The question a community must ask itself is whether that is really fair?

Before you say “Yes!”, stop and think.

Is it fair to charge every parent of every sixth grader the same amount of money to send their child to Outdoor Lab?  What about parents who are working two not-quite-full-time jobs for minimum wage?  Should they pay as much as the child of two parents, one of whom is able to stay home the whole time and their family income is still far above the median for the U.S.?   Is it fair to insist that every parent pay the same amount of money for their child to attend full-day Kindergarten, when some of them are so poor those same children receive free or reduced lunches to make sure they eat?

WNWs idea of fairness has as its underlying assumption that all children start from the same place.  That is a nice world.  Unfortunately it is not the one we live in.  That means ‘fair’ is not as simple as they would like it.

2.03 Superintendent Search Update (EL-11)
PURPOSE:
To update the Board of Education on progress to date in the Superintendent Search and confirm next steps.
BACKGROUND: Ray & Associates was hired by the Board of Education to provide professional Superintendent Search services to Jeffco Schools. Their associates have been recruiting on behalf of Jeffco during the month of April.

(Click here for copy of the timeline.)

Our comments:  The hiring of a new superintendent is the single most important function for the Board at this point.  This update will tell us how on track the process is.  If you look at the timeline, you quickly realize it is incredibly fast!  12 days after this meeting (May 5th), Ray & Associates are supposed to present a list of semi-final candidates to the Board.  Finalist interviews are scheduled ten days after that (May 15th).

We have already seen that WNW is ready to ignore what the JeffCo community has definitively stated what it wants:  an experienced education professional who understands school districts and has a proven track-record of success with public schools! They (WNW) seem caught up in some kind of anti-intellectual/professional bias that says a gifted amateur is better than a trained, experienced professional.  We believe you should choose your Superintendent the way you choose your doctor.  Would any of you want to trust your family’s health to someone who only came to medicine in the last few years?  Then why your school district?

The best bet for those of us who believe in science, intellectual discipline, training, and professionalism when it comes to our District is to show up in force every time the Board has anything concerning the Superintendent search come up.  WNW may ignore us.  We need to make sure that Ray & Associates does not, and through them, all candidates know what the people of Jefferson County want.

2.04 Technology and Data Privacy Advisory Committee Update
Type:
Action, Discussion
Recommended Action: to determine the membership for the Technology and Data Privacy Advisory Committee.
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the Board of Education meeting on January 30, the Board discussed the formation of a technology committee.
  2. On February 6, the Board provided direction for the creation of a Technology and Data Privacy Advisory Committee. Information about the committee is available on the Technology and Data Privacy Advisory Committee web page.
  3. The district released a press release on March 5 announcing the committee and seeking nominations for 10 community members with a deadline of March 28, 2014.
  4. Letters of interest and resumes have been provided to the Board during the week of March 31 so that a decision on membership could be made on April 24.
  5. The Board of Education has requested an update on the status of the committee which will be presented by Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer.

(Currently no downloadable material except for the above link has been provided.)

(Click here for list of applicants.)

Our comments:  We have no additional information beyond what is above.  At this point, while nominations were to have closed on March 28th, we have no list of those who applied.  The list of applicants was posted today.  See the link above.

2.05 Draft Board Meeting Schedule for 2014-2015
Type:
Discussion
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The Board of Education annually reviews a draft Board of Education meeting schedule for the next school year prior to formal approval.
  2. The Board of Education will adopt a schedule of regular and special meetings for the next school year at the regular meeting of May 1, 2014.

(Draft meeting schedule can be found here, and the draft calendar can be found here.)

Our comments:  Should be a cut and dried thing, but with WNW?

One possible approach could be in the calling for additional meetings during the summer.  Currently the last scheduled Board meeting is for June 5th June 11th.  The next one is now proposed for August 21st.  Given that final interviews for the Superintendents position will be held on May 15th with the selection to take place presumable shortly thereafter, it seems to us that a couple of additional meetings will need to be called as the new superintendent takes over his or her job.  The curious aspect will be whether WNW recognizes this now and schedules accordingly, or will call surprise meetings at the last moment.  Common sense says it should be the former, but common sense seems to be in short supply on the WNW side of the Board….

2.06 Policy Review: GP-1, GP-2
Type:
Discussion
PURPOSE:  For the Board of Education to review two Board governance process policies, GP-1, Governance Commitment and GP-2, Governing Style and Philosophies.
BACKGROUND: The annual work plan for the Board of Education includes the review of two governance process (GP) or executive limitation (EL) policies monthly.  On April 3, the Board agreed to review Board governance process policy, GP-1, Governance Commitment and GP-2, Governing Style and Philosophies.

(Currently no downloadable material except for the above links have been provided.)

Our comments:  What should be another cut and dried presentation has the potential for some real fireworks, specifically with the last line in GP-02: “The Board will not take a position on discussion agenda items the first time such items are placed on the agenda for Board consideration.”

As has been noted in several comments on our Facebook link, WNW has ignored this requirement at least once in the hiring of Brad Miller.  To make matters worse, they have not even permitted a discussion of Miller’s contract despite repeated calls for it.  We suspect that someone may make a comment on that.

This brings up the issue of what can be done when WNW violate the Board’s own policies?

Frankly, we are not sure.  There seems to be no internal recourse, and any external legal one would be costly as well as time-consuming.  The way WNW are treating the policies seems to give them no more legal force than the Boy Scouts Oath…and WNW are no Boy Scouts.

We would welcome discussion on this topic.

3. Consent Agenda

Our comments:  A Consent Agenda is a procedure for the Board to formally deal with a multitude of items of which it must take official legal notice yet are non-controversial.  An item can be moved off the Consent Agenda by the request of just one Board member.  The most interesting thing, generally speaking, about a Consent Agenda in a situation such as ours (where the Board is bitterly divided) is what gets taken off the Agenda.  We will watch for any changes, but a Board member can make the change anytime prior to the meeting.  Likewise, the change can occur during the meeting.

3.01 Resolution: Supplemental Appropriation FY 2013/2014
Type:
Action
Recommended Action: to adopt the resolution for the supplemental appropriation of funds and budget adjustments for fiscal year 2013/2014 as provided in the resolution and background material.
PERTINENT FACTS

  1. In accordance with executive limitation policy, EL-5, Financial Planning/Budgeting, “Financial planning for any fiscal year shall not deviate materially from the Board’s Ends policies, risk fiscal jeopardy or fail to be derived from a multi-year plan.”
  2. The 2013/2014 Jeffco Public Schools budget was adopted by the Board of Education on May 30, 2013.
  3. Subsequent to the adoption of the 2013/2014 budget, additional revenues and/or expenditures have occurred within the funds which could not have been reasonably foreseen at the time of the budget adoption pursuant to C.R.S. 22-44-110(5).
  4. The Board of Education has been informed of required proposed supplemental appropriations through the year via staff presentations, monthly, and/or quarterly reports.
  5. To ensure adequate appropriations at the end of the fiscal year, supplemental appropriations are proposed for the General Fund, Campus Activity Fund, Grants Fund, Transportation Fund, Child Care Fund, Property Management Fund, Central Services Fund, Technology Fund, Insurance Reserve Fund, and Charter School Fund.

(Click on the Documents titles for links to those documents:  Executive Summary,  Formal Memo for the changes, and the formal Resolution prepared for the Board’s approval.)

Our comments:  Supplemental Appropriation resolutions are a normal part of any government organization and many private companies as well.  The fact is that actual expenditures and revenues are generally going to be different from what was forecast in a budget. If everything is done right, this is cut and dried stuff.  But this is also where a lot of shenanigans can be hidden.  This year will probably be cut and dried, but next year?

We have glanced through these documents, but financial analysis is not our specialty.  Please take the time to go peruse them and let us know if you see anything that deserves a red flag.

3.02 Resolution: Authorizing Use of FY 2013/2014 Fund Balances
Type: Action
Recommended Action: to adopt the resolution authorizing the use of a portion of beginning fund balance as authorized by Colorado statutes.
Goals:  EL-5, Financial Planning/Budgeting

PERTINENT FACTS

  1. In accordance with Board executive limitation policy,EL-5, Financial Planning and Budgeting, “Financial planning for any fiscal year shall not deviate materially from the Board’s Ends policies, risk fiscal jeopardy or fail to be derived from a multi-year plan.”
  2. Pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) 22-44-105, school districts must pass a resolution specifically authorizing the use of a portion of the beginning fund balance in the district’s budget.
  3. The resolution, at a minimum, must specify the amount of the beginning fund balance to be spent, state the purpose for which the expenditure is needed, and state the district’s plan to ensure that the use of the beginning fund balance will not lead to an ongoing deficit.
  4. The bill requires adoption of a resolution specifically authorizing the use of a portion of the beginning fund balance in the school district’s budget.
  5. The 2013/2014 year end estimates includes funds in which planned expenditures exceed planned revenues resulting in a reduction in fund balance that was not known or exceeds the amount planned for at the time that the 2013/2014 budget was adopted.

(Executive Summary can be found here, and the draft calendar can be found here.)

Our comments:  Parsing through the accountingese can be difficult, but if we got it right, what everything above means is this:  Each specific fund in the District’s accounts start each year at a certain level prior to that year’s revenues and spending.  It is a bit like having a starting checking account balance.  State law requires that if spending that draws on a specific account exceeds the revenues for that account and will therefore drawn down or reduce that ‘starting balance’, a formal Board Approval is required.

It is sort of like having a year where your costs exceeded what you budgeted for.  Your checking account balance at the end of the year will be lower than at the start.  Colorado requires schools districts to formally approve such spending.  As with 3.01, If everything is done right, it is cut and dried.  But this is also where you would look for evidence of things not matching up with press releases.  Another one to keep an eye on next year.

If we have misinterpreted this, please let us know.

4. Executive Session

4.01 Negotiations with Employee Associations
Type:
Action, Discussion
Recommended Action: to move into executive session to discuss negotiations with district employee associations, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

The Board of Education will meet in executive session to discuss negotiations with district employee associations, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

After the vote to move into executive session, this portion of the meeting is closed to the public.  The Board will reconvene in open session at approximately 9:00 p.m. in the Seminar Room.

(Currently no downloadable material has been provided.)

Our comments:  Here is the potential for the biggest fireworks!  At a special (and surprise) BOE meeting on April 10th, WNW failed to get the fourth vote they needed to go into Executive Session.  As a result, the public was treated to seeing and hearing Witt blatantly trying to abuse his position as President of the Board, and the unwillingness of WNW to listen to what the Board’s own negotiator was saying.

So now we are wondering if WNW will get an Executive Session this time?  If not, then, ‘hang on, folks, the evening is going to get very interesting!’

5. Adjournment