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Do you think what the Jeffco School Board is doing is shameful?

Do you think what the Jeffco School Board is doing is shameful?

We are graduates of Jefferson County Public Schools.

We are parents of Jefferson County Public Schools students.

We are business owners and members of the community.

We’ve been room moms. We’ve volunteered at Field Day and music performances. We’ve sat in the stands to cheer our students for their academic and athletic accomplishments.

We’ve participated on accountability committees and are veterans of PTA and bond/mill levy campaigns.

We believe in the district’s ability to offer a quality education to our children. And yet what we’ve seen going on in Jefferson County Schools over the past several months is deeply troubling.

School boards have traditionally been nonpartisan, but that no longer is the case in Jeffco. The result is a school board that appears more committed to carrying out a political agenda rather than one focused on what’s best for our students. In fact, recent actions by the board’s new majority have done nothing more than throw the district into chaos.

Acting in direct conflict with district policy, the new board majority hired an attorney with no clear scope of work and a contract of up to $90,000 a year to be paid for with tax dollars. The new majority also recently loaned money to a financially failing charter school even though the school has not repaid its initial debt to the district. More stunningly, this new majority halted a $5 million grant focused on kindergarten assessment despite the fact this assessment will be mandated by the state beginning next school year. In a time when school districts have experienced shrinking budgets and faced tough choices, this seems capricious and not in the best interest of our children.

In 2012, Jeffco voters approved a mill levy override on the promise that money would be used to maintain the district’s history of excellence. Now the new majority has proposed moving $7.4 million in mill levy funds to support Jeffco’s 15 charter schools instead of restoring programs and positions cut prior to the override. The state does not require districts to share any of their mill levy funds with charter schools. Yet Jeffco does at the rate of $100 per pupil — an amount jointly agreed upon by the charters and the district. To give 15 charters more than $500,000 each to use as they wish is extreme.

This new board majority appears to be full of contradictions. Instead of following through on Board President Ken Witt’s declaration that the board would operate in an open and collaborative manner, there have been numerous instances of sidebar meetings among select board members and attempts to retreat into executive session rather than engage in healthy conversation about important decisions affecting the district’s more than 84,000 students.

The veil of secrecy and independent meetings under which the new board majority operates is shameful. Trust is inherent in a system that works and regrettably the new board’s actions have broken that bond.

What is this new majority is trying to achieve? Jeffco students continue to outperform the state in all grade levels and content areas on CSAP/TCAP tests. U.S. News & World Report ranks six Jeffco high schools in the top 40 on their 2013 Best High Schools list. According to the Colorado Department of Education, the graduation rate for Jeffco students hovers above 81 percent — 5 percent higher than the statewide average. Jeffco Public Schools ties for the second best graduation rate of the nation’s 50 largest school districts, according to Education Week’s Diplomas Count report. We should always strive to improve, but do we need a wholesale overhaul of a district that is already recognized for its achievements?

We all want Jefferson County Public Schools to continue to rank among the top districts in the state and nation. But that will only happen if the district’s board is willing to truly engage with the community in an open and transparent manner that holds our students’ best interests at heart.

By Sydney Ayers and Lisa Cutter
Guest Commentary
Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. If the JeffCo School Board follows the lead of the Douglas County School Board, JeffCo will be a MUCH better school system.

  2. In community forum after community forum and survey after survey, Jeffco residents have said that they respect their teachers and want to compensate them for their hard work. They have said that they want to maintain electives and all day kindergarten. They have said that they want to invest in their neighborhood schools. And no matter how you ask the question, Jeffco residents have also strongly stated that they do not want to increase funding for charter schools. In fact, spending more of our scarce taxpayer dollars on charters has come in dead last. So what has this school board done thus far. None of the above, with the exception of loaning almost a million dollars to several failing charter schools. They have also hired a lawyer whose sole expertise is converting our public schools into charter schools. These guys seem to do the opposite of what the majority wants. I care about my local neighborhood schools and see them inextricably linked to my home value.
    I do not want to privatize Jeffco Schools. It’s a great school district. People don’t really pay careful attention to school boards; they figure they simply run schools. It is unfortunate that only 31% of Jeffco voted in the past school board election, allowing these guys to get elected by winning only 17-18% of the eligible vote.

  3. It is obvious that they are not just clones of douglas county, but they are going to push their political agenda of killing public schools while pushing vouchers.

  4. If the a great majority of community members and teachers do not feel the Board is representing them, then who are the Board members representing?

  5. McMinimee was approved a base salary of 220,000 dollars and offered up to $40,000 in performance pay…and will be reimbursed up to $20,000 for personal contributions toward retirement benefits. Thats a hefty salary for someone who didn’t achieve a doctorate level education like his predecessor…who by the way made only 205,000 a year…also a large sum being paid in my opinion when funding is down 22million since the recession

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