Goals, union relations discussed at school board retreat

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By Daniel Laverty

New policies, goals and the search for a new superintendent were discussed during the Jeffco Board of Education’s twice-yearly retreat last Saturday.

Also discussed, in the wake of a conservative majority being elected to the board in November, were the district’s relationships with its unions.

Representatives from the Jefferson County Education Association, the Jeffco Classified School Employees Association and Jefferson County Administrators Association were invited to speak to the board during the morning portion of the retreat. 

“Our greatest fear is that we will lose the great collaborative tradition we’ve always had,” said Ami Prichard, president of the JCEA, the district teachers union. “We have a great system here in Jeffco, and when you take one piece out of the system, it affects the whole system.”

The groups expressed interest in maintaining relationships with the school board.

“(JCAA doesn’t) have collective bargaining, but our hope is for greater compensation,” said Mike Long, executive director of the JCAA. “If you look at surrounding districts, we’re 6 to 10 percent lower (in salaries) than other districts. Money is a motivator.”

Nancy McCanless, a JCSEA member, said that because of budget cuts, custodial and other district staff have had to do more with less.

“A bus driver might be the first adult a student sees every day,” McCanless said. “Our food service staff are sometimes the first people to recognize that there isn’t an evening meal at home or food on the weekends.”

Prichard said she’d like to see positions and wages restored.

“We’ve cut back on our counselors and librarians,” Prichard said. “We’d love to have our (substitute teachers) get paid what they used to get paid. We’re not able to do as much with less, and the cuts have impacted students.”


New procedures

Board President Ken Witt proposed that no changes be made to board agendas starting 48 hours before a meeting. Agendas previously were set the Sunday before a regular Thursday meeting.

“When you look at our past agenda (from last Thursday’s meeting), many items required some focus,” Dahlkemper said. “I absolutely agree with the idea of no surprises.”

Board members also unanimously agreed to share information if a board member has done independent research on an issue. Moderator Susan Barnes, a former board member, led a discussion on Colorado Sunshine Laws, reminding board members that even e-mails discussing public policy constitute a meeting.

“It’s important (to adhere to Sunshine Laws), not just because it’s the law, but it affects the public’s perception of the board,” said Allen Taggart, Jeffco schools’ attorney.

The board also decided that members should not text or tweet during business meetings and should be more mindful of reactions to speakers during the public comment periods.


Setting goals

The board discussed its desire to have all students master Colorado standards; graduate ready for the workforce and for higher education; learn in a safe environment; and receive preparation for becoming responsible citizens.

Out of many goals, the board said it would like to see 85 percent of the district’s third-graders reading at a proficient-or-better level by June 2015. 

Currently, 80 percent of Jeffco’s third-graders read at a proficient level, based on this year’s Transitional Colorado Assessment Program results.


Increasing choices for parents

During their recent election campaigns, Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams ran on a promise of increasing school options for parents.

“Let’s see where demands are geographically, and if there’s a demand, we should start looking at expanding those programs,” Witt said.

A committee will be formed to compile data and determine which programs and schools are in demand. Witt asked that a presentation be ready before March 31.

Wheat Ridge High School hosted the retreat, which was moderated by Jane Barnes, a former school board member. More than 20 teachers, parents and district employees attended the all-day event.


Superintendent search

The board is tasked with finding a new superintendent after Cindy Stevenson announced her retirement last month effective in June. The board scheduled an hour-long study session to discuss the process for hiring a superintendent at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 at the district’s headquarters, 1829 Denver West Drive in Golden.

For more information, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.


Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.com or at
303-350-1042. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports. Check www.ColumbineCourier.com for updates.