No Official Voting at Study Session but Plenty of (Wink-Wink, Nod-Nod) Opinion Votes

2015_09_13_backroom_dealsThe Jeffco school board is not supposed to vote at study sessions unless they have previously notified the community that there is a critical issue which will require a vote. What we saw at the Tuesday night’s board meeting certainly looked like voting to us.

The first “non-vote” vote came when Superintendent McMinimee asked the board to provide direction on whether the district should move 6th graders into middle school everywhere except Alameda, Jefferson, and D’Evelyn. Board President Ron Mitchell reminded the board they wouldn’t vote but they would each individually answer the question. Each board member proceeded to share why they supported K-5 elementary schools with the move of 6th graders to middle schools. The Superintendent took that as permission to proceed with the facility plan, moving 6th graders to middle schools. There was no conversation about how any of this will improve student achievement. Nor was there any recognition of how difficult it might be for those families who stay in a K-6 school to opt into a 7th grade at the middle school of their choice. Again, how these were not official votes is beyond us.

Alameda Area

The next non-vote came in whether to close Patterson and Kendrick Lakes and build a supersized school on the Kendrick Lakes’ property, or whether to do deferred maintenance at Patterson and build a replacement school on the Kendrick Lakes’ site. Each board member again weighed-in, preferring not to close both schools and build a super-sized school. Instead, they determined (again not with votes), that there should be a new 576 student school built on the Kendrick Lakes’ site and that Patterson would get deferred maintenance.

Arvada Area

In the Arvada area, new to the plan is moving all 6th graders in Arvada to middle school. That’s right, those parents west of Wadsworth who didn’t know they should be paying attention to this process because there were no changes suggested for their schools, should have been attentive. Since there was no input from those parents, the board did their non-voting vote and directed to move all 6th graders to middle school. There is one exception; Mr. Rupert suggested that Foster elementary keep 6th grade in support of the dual language program. The board also nodded to building an auxiliary gym and turf field at Arvada high school. Arvada K-8 will be getting 6 classrooms and Foster will get 4 new classrooms.

Arvada West

The non-voting vote for the Arvada West area was not to close Allendale and Campbell. Instead, the board did their non-voting vote to do major renovations at Campbell elementary and deferred maintenance at Allendale. They also directed a new school be built as a K-5 at Table Rock or Lyden Rock site as phase one of the bond. Drake will be getting 16 additional classrooms. No…there was no vote on going for a bond either (wink-wink, nod-nod).

Bear Creek

In the Bear Creek area the board directed staff to add the cost of replacing Green Gables elementary instead of doing deferred maintenance.

Chatfield

There was no conversation about boundary changes (sorry Stoney Creek families, no decisions for you yet.) The board directed artificial turf be put in at Chatfield High School.

Columbine

Columbine will also get an auxiliary gym and turf field. Ken Caryl will get 12 new classrooms to add 6th graders (no, there was no conversation about what the costs would be, but the non-vote approval happened anyway.)

Conifer

The high school, middle school and Elk Creek elementary will all get turf fields. Marshdale will be torn down and rebuilt.

Dakota Ridge

The high school will get a turf field and 12 classrooms will be built at Summit Ridge middle school. Four classrooms will be added to Powderhorn. Again, there were no boundary change discussions.

Evergreen

A new item was added to the facility plan in the Evergreen area. You might remember recall leader Wendy McCord was at the Conifer facility meeting and was very upset that the elementary school her children attend was not getting any upgrades. This new plan now has a four classroom addition at Parmalee. Can anyone say “thank you payback”? And as in the original plan, Wilmot phase two was approved as was Evergreen Middle School updates despite a single digit FCI.

Golden

Bell Middle school will get four new classrooms to support the move of 6th graders. Pleasant View will stay open!

Green Mountain

Dunstan will get 8 new classrooms. Green Mountain High school will get needed updates.

Jefferson

Lumberg, and Molholm will all get 8 additional classrooms, with Edgewater getting a new preschool wing and an architect is developing a plan for the high school.

Lakewood

The board decided not to close Glennon Heights and will consider a boundary change to have more kids home schooled to Glennon Heights. 8 new classrooms will be added to Creighton Middle School, and Eiber will get 6 new classrooms.

Pomona

The high school will get a new gym, weight room and turf field. Parr and Little will stay open and a new larger school will built on the Parr site.

Ralston Valley

The high school will get 10 new classrooms, bringing its capacity to over 2000 students. Oberon gets 8 new classrooms, and the brand new Candelas school will also get 8 additional classrooms.

Standley Lake

The high school gets a new gym and turf field.

Wheat Ridge

The high school and middle school get an upgrade. Kullerstrand and Prospect Valley stay open, and a new 576 building will be built on the Prospect Valley site. Stober and Vivian also stay open with major renovations to be done at Stober, and deferred maintenance happening at Vivian. The board will also get a price for building a 576 student school on the Stober site. Maple Grove will get four new classrooms.

Option Schools

Manning will get four new classrooms to be able to take 6th graders. The Long View decision was deferred to the fall and board president Ron Mitchell suggested maybe Long View and Brady could be consolidated.

Other thoughts

There was lots of conversation throughout the evening about helping schools that have high choice out populations get those students back. There was no recognition that in an environment of declining enrollment, if those students moved back to their neighborhood school, there would be other schools that are significantly under enrolled.

In each conversation where a title one school was on the chopping block to be closed, the board said over and over that they had not heard from the community. We wonder what more the board should have done to get the word out in the most at risk communities?

In addition, there was no conversation about how many buildings could have gotten investments if the board had allocated the $420 million across all schools. With $520 million dollars in facilities deficiencies, the money could have been allocated to upgrade nearly all of the buildings in the district instead of adding capacity with a declining enrollment.

Again, the board’s non-votes gave staff direction. On Thursday evening June 16th, the board will be voting and WILL BE TAKING PUBLIC COMMENT. So if you’d like to give the board your opinion sign up to speak.

New Board’s Dirty Politics: Secret Meetings and Secret Votes

tsJeffco board president Ron Mitchell suggested the school board use secret ballots to select the members of the board advisory committees. His suggestion for how the board should make these critical appointments is in line with the new board’s decision to eliminate public comment from study sessions at which votes will take place, the secret meetings that board members are having regarding facilities, and their decision to acquire debt without asking taxpayers.

Mr. Mitchell was attempting to avoid having public conversations about which of the 26 applicants to select for the board advisory committee. The board advisory committee is designed to provide parent and community input into both improving student achievement and budget allocations. The board needed to appoint a handful of new members to the committee and board members were discussing the process they would use. Each applicant had to fill out an application and answer a series of questions including “Why are you applying?” and “What skills and background do you have?” The answers to those questions were available to the board and to the community and yet Mr. Mitchell wanted a secret vote instead.

Mr. Rupert wisely checked with the attorney for the school district, who told the board they should vote in public. Mr. Mitchell then said he would like to hold a lottery to make the selection of who would fill the slots on the accountability committee, and that he would not do that at the board table. How in the world does Mr. Mitchell think this new clean slate board is honoring their commitment to the community to be transparent?

The board eventually followed the advice of legal counsel and had a discussion about which of the 26 applicants they wanted to fill the handful of slots available on the accountability committee. The choices quickly devolved into a popularity contest. Great candidates like former Senator Evie Hudak, who helped craft the state accountability law and has trained parents and community members around the state, were passed over for those folks who led the recall effort. Placed on the committee were Margaret Lessenger, who was a prolific publisher of recall dribble, and Al Rodriguez, who initially announced he was going to run for the school board in 2013 and then dropped out just as he resigned from the diversity committee.

The board followed their trend of rewarding friends who led the recall effort by appointing Shawna Fritzler to the teacher performance evaluation committee, otherwise known as the 1338 committee. Ms. Fritzler runs the 501c4 advocacy non-profit called Support Jeffco Kids, which helped lead the recall effort and hosted the secret meetings at which it was determined who would run for the recall seats. In fact, her organization was accused of campaign violations after the recall election, and the group was forced to defend its actions in court. Ms. Fritzler’s organization has also been outspoken in their opposition to equal and fair funding for all Jeffco students. Her answer to the public application question on what skills she brings to the performance evaluation committee was “I negotiated CBAs with a number of trades and I work with teachers all the time.” There was nothing in her application which indicated she had any experience with performance evaluations, yet she was selected over several applicants with much more relevant experience. It seems her appointment was payback for her helping both recall former board members and get these “clean slate” board members elected.

The end of the meeting also brought to light that school board members have been having secret meetings in the community to get feedback on the facility plan. Who were they meeting with? How many board members have attended these meetings? What feedback and promises are they making at these meetings? We won’t know because these meetings have not been posted. The board even went out of their way at the end of the meeting to make sure they could have a secret meeting on the morning of Thursday June 17th in Arvada. Who are they meeting with? What are they discussing? Again, there is nothing posted on the online board docs so we don’t know. So if you happen to be in Arvada the morning of June 17th and see Jeffco school board members attending a meeting, please let us know and let’s tell the new board we are tired of their lack of transparency!