Stevenson discusses inBloom, school funding

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Superintendent meets with parents, staff at Conifer High

By Daniel Laverty

Jeffco Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson stopped for a cup of coffee and talked about the issues facing Colorado’s largest school district this year.

More than 50 parents, teachers and district staff filled Conifer High’s library Aug. 28 to get an update on Jeffco Schools. School board candidates Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Gordon “Spud” Van de Water were also in attendance.

Stevenson and audience members brought up many topics, including funding and the controversial inBloom system for storing student data.

“We are in an era of innovation that I’ve never seen before during my time in education,” Stevenson said. “Current students have been in school during the entire 21st century, and we need to get them 21st-century ready. More and more will be expected of them.”

After a short address from Stevenson, audience members submitted written questions for the superintendent.

Many questions focused on the district’s plan to pilot and possibly implement the inBloom technology.

“Our teachers have more data than you can imagine,” Stevenson said. “It takes a lot of time to turn that data into usable information. The raw data we have now may tell us that a student has trouble using punctuation, but not why they can’t use punctuation.”

In 2014, the district will pilot inBloom, which will centralize and store student data in a “cloud-based” system. Instead of using actual data, the district will store “dummy data” during the pilot phase, and then the Jeffco Board of Education will decide whether to implement inBloom’s services in 2015.

Stevenson addressed parents’ concerns about inBloom, including safety, privacy and the lack of an opt-out option for parents.

“We will use inBloom to store academic-based data,” Stevenson said. “We don’t want to store family income or religious information. Will the district look at an opt-out option for parents? Yes.”

Some parents have said they won’t feel comfortable with inBloom until the district reveals what data would be stored. Stevenson said the district is hoping to finalize and release that list in October.

One audience member wanted to know the biggest financial problem facing Jeffco.

“We are still $50 million lower in funding than in 2009,” Stevenson said. “Our employees took a large pay cut to ease the burden, but someday we’re going to have to make that up to them.”

Another audience member asked what Matt Walsh, Michael Musick and Kristopher Schuh have been up to. Walsh (Evergreen High), Musick (Conifer High) and Schuh (Evergreen Middle) left their jobs as principals last year to take achievement director positions with the district.

“It’s all to make our schools better,” Stevenson said. “They are working with seven to 10 schools each to observe and give feedback. Their work is improving our schools.”

Kristen Wheatley, parent of two Conifer High students, said she tries to attend at least one Coffee with the Superintendent meeting each year.

“I didn’t know much about inBloom before today,” Wheatley said. “It seems like a really good tool for teachers to use. I’m interested in what the options are for parents, but it sounds incredibly useful for teachers.”

For Stevenson, one thought resonates at this time of year.

“Each year, I attend schools on the first day,” Stevenson said. “Jeffco has 6,000 kindergartners. When I walk in to a kindergarten class I think, ‘We have to get busy. Thirteen years isn’t that long to get these kids career and college ready.’ ”

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.

Future Coffee with the Superintendent dates:

• 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at Bear Creek High School, 9800 W. Dartmouth Place in Lakewood

• 9 to 10:30 a.m. Sept. 19 at Chatfield High School, 7227 S. Simms St. in Littleton

• 7:30 to 9 a.m. Sept. 25 at Golden High School, 701 24th St. in Golden