A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Month: May 2017

Another blow to Transparency in Dr. Glass’ Superintendent’s Contract?

In what is yet another blow to transparency within the school district Dr. Glass’ contract contains a sentence not included in previous contracts with regard to his yearly evaluation:

The Superintendent’s evaluation shall be kept confidential to the extent permitted by Colorado law.

Yet, Colorado Revised Statutes Title 22 Education § 22-9-109 clearly states:

(a) The evaluation report of the chief executive officer of any school district, as it relates to the performance of the chief executive officer in fulfilling the adopted school district objectives, fiscal management of the district, district planning responsibilities, and supervision and evaluation of district personnel, must be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times;

Since state law is very clear on this subject, why was this sentence even included in the contract?

Again, what are the Board and Dr. Glass attempting to hide?

Another poorly thought out recommendation by the School District’s staff

Recently the Superintendent’s Cabinet recommended allocating an additional $600,000, or $50,000 for 12 High Schools, in additional alternative Pathways funding. This will supplement the $65,000 each of 17 High Schools already receives for a total of $115,000 per school.

On the surface, this sounds fair.

It’s not.

Once again, this is an uncreative and poorly thought out recommendation by the Superintendent’s Cabinet. Here’s why:

  • There is no accountability for the already allocated $65,000. Some schools have instituted robust alternative pathways programs and use the money for its intended purpose, but others not so much. If there are schools that aren’t putting the current $65k to good use for alternative pathways why are they being rewarded with additional money?
  • High Schools are not the same and have different needs. Does Conifer (with less than 800 students, a 75% total matriculation rate and 14% Free and Reduced Lunch rate) have the same alternative pathways needs as Alameda (with 1300 students, 41% matriculation rate and 84% Free and Reduced Lunch) or even Lakewood (with 2100 students) or Columbine (with 1600 students)? The needs of these schools are different and in this case the proposed allocation of additional Alternative Pathways funds is Equal, but it is NOT Equitable!
  • The effective reduction in Alternative Pathways funding at the IB and GT Center schools in relation to the other 12 district High Schools does not really make sense. These 5 schools have Alternative Pathways programs that are working. In the case of Wheat Ridge, in addition to the GT Center, they are already spending over $90,000 on several extremely effective Alternative Pathways programs. With an overall matriculation rate of under 62% and a Free and Reduced Lunch population of over 46%, they can certainly use some additional funding. Yet, even with a proven track record, this BFO effectively reduces their Alternative Pathways funding by $50k in relation to schools such as Conifer and Evergreen which have high matriculation rates and low FRL populations. The same can be said with regard to the IB schools. They have excellent IB programs. Does this mean that just because they have a successful program, they couldn’t effectively use additional funding for other students?

I agree that additional Alternative Pathways funding can really make a difference and that it is a good use of funds. However, why not enact a process that ensures the money is really being used for its intended purpose. Make schools report back how that money is being spent and evaluate whether it is being spent for Alternative Pathways that make a difference as intended. Compare the value of those programs among the schools and reward schools that have effective, life-changing programs with more money. In effect, make schools earn the money. Don’t just give it away with no accountability whatsoever.

How about considering these ideas:

  • Create competition. Have schools submit Alternative Pathways program proposals. From this competition allocate additional funding for the best of these.
  • Allocate $20,000 to all 17 schools and keep the IB and GT Center funding in place.
  • Keep the IB and GT Center funding and allocate $50k in additional Alternative Pathways funding to just the 12 schools which have total matriculation rates below 72%, FRL rates above 14% and 4 year matriculation rates below 55%(see spreadsheet).

The Budgeting for Outcomes document states that the goal of this allocation is:

“To increase and bring equity to the SBB Alternative Pathway factor for all district managed neighborhood schools.”

Unfortunately, the uncreative allocation of this funding merely brings equality, NOT equity as is stated in the BFO Explanation. The goal of the District staff should be to Improve Jeffco Schools by effectively and efficiently using taxpayer money, not just give it away in an unaccountable and potentially inefficient manner.

Let’s allocate funds to where they will do the most good and make schools accountable for their use. Reward schools that are innovative and entrepreneurial and are really working for their students. Don’t reward schools that aren’t using these funds for their stated purpose.

Approving this BFO as written is inequitable and sends the wrong message.

Transparency, Trust and Voters – the losers in the selection process of Dr. Glass as Jeffco’s Superintendent

This past weekend the Denver Post published an article pointing to the hypocrisy in the selection of Dr. Jason Glass as Superintendent.

I agree.

The current Board of Education ran on a platform of Transparency and Trust. Yet, the selection process of Dr. Glass was, in my opinion, less transparent than that of Mr. McMinimee.

Yes, supporters of the current Board want you to believe that because they repeatedly cite the number of contacts, candidates and interviewees that the process was transparent.

Yet, only a sole ‘finalist’ was named.

Where is the transparency in that?

Isn’t the purpose of the Colorado law requiring that finalists for positions be named 14 days in advance to allow proper vetting of the candidates? Isn’t the purpose of the law to give the people impacted by the selection a chance to evaluate and compare all of the finalists? Isn’t an implied purpose of the law to give citizens a chance to evaluate their representatives on the selection?

The answer to these questions is a definitive ‘Yes’ and as citizens we were deprived of our legal right to evaluate and compare finalists. We were deprived of our legal right to evaluate the Board’s selection against other finalists.

Naming a single ‘finalist’ may barely follow the letter of the law, but it certainly doesn’t follow the intent of the law.

Naming a single ‘finalist’ implies there is something to hide. What is this Board attempting to hide? Was there a better candidate? Was there a candidate who actually has a track record of improving academic performance? Was there a candidate who was Superintendent at a larger school district and might have more experience in public school districts than Jason Glass? We don’t know now and never will. Transparency is the loser here, exactly the same as it was in 2014.

Following the letter of the law, but not the intent of the law, is not transparent, no matter how many people say it is. This is what destroys trust in our elected officials. Why should we ever trust this Board again?

The other losers in this process are the voters who voted for this Board believing that they would bring increased Transparency and Trust to their positions. They didn’t and we shouldn’t fool ourselves that they are any different or any better in that respect than the old Board. In fact, this Board is actually worse since that was one of principles they ran on.

Finally, I know there are still people who believe that because candidate numbers were released that this was a more transparent process. However, here are the publicly available numbers provided by Ray & Associates in 2014:

257 individuals contacted by Ray & Associates, 63 completed applications, 11 candidates prescreened + 2 alternates, 6 candidates invited to interview, 5 participated with a candidate pool representing gender, racial and geographic diversity (California, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington).

Sound familiar?

In addition, in 2014 Mr. McMinimee’s resume was posted on Board Docs. Not so with Dr. Glass’ resume.

Can anyone look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that the 2017 search was more transparent than the 2014 search?

Only if they are blinded by the light reflected by the opaqueness of this Board.

Is Support Jeffco Kids the pot that calls the kettle black?

Recently Support Jeffco Kids wrote a blog post tiltled ‘Can Jeffco Schools Be Purchased Again?’ with an opening sentence of ‘What if we told you that Jeffco Schools could easily be purchased and slip back to the same situation we were in before Witt, Newkirk, and Williams were overwhelmingly recalled? ‘

But isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?

Didn’t national and local teachers unions provide more than $265,000 to Jeffco United, a nonprofit group that served as a catalyst for the 2015 Board recall and subsequently broke the law in the handling of that money?

Who gave to Jeffco United? 
• National Education Association, $150,000
• Colorado Education Association, $113,500
• Jefferson County Education Association, $20,000
• All other individuals, $3,115

The truth is that ‘dark money’, as Support Jeffco Kids puts it, supports both sides, not just one side as the article leads one to believe.

However, I do find it interesting that a principal supporter of the ‘new’ Board, runs a blog post titled ‘Can Jeffco Schools Be Purchased Again?’ when it appears to me that a whole lot of purchasing occurred in 2015.

The High Cost of Dr. Jason Glass

After reading the fine print of Dr. Glass’ contract, the Board of Education paid a high, and barely transparent, price to have him as our Superintendent.

At first glance the salaries of Dan and Jason appear relatively close – $220k + $40k bonus for Dan and a $265k salary for Jason. These are the numbers you are most likely to hear.

However, Dan only earned bonuses of $9k, $20k and $27k averaging to $238,667 per year for his three years as Superintendent, not close to $260k.

In addition, Jason was also given a 7% tax free annuity worth $18,550 in his first year, 9 additional days of vacation per year worth $11,942, a $9,000 yearly car allowance and a personal PERA reimbursement increase over Dan of $2,106.

That is a roughly estimated $67,932 increase in salary and benefits cost over Dan in the first year and doesn’t even include smartphone, tablet, laptop, associated monthly charges, yearly cost of living increases and uncapped moving and temporary housing expenses for up to six months (who agrees to a contract with uncapped expenses?).

That’s a really big increase for a Superintendent with a track record of under-achieving academic performance in Eagle County, a district 12 times smaller than Jeffco, and especially since the contract does not include any improvement incentives.

We can only hope he does better here.

Disappointed in the hiring of Dr. Glass as Jeffco Superintendent

We’ve all now heard that Dr. Jason Glass rose to the top to become the new Jeffco schools Superintendent. Yet with all of the praise from numerous people and organizations not one mention was made of Dr. Glass’ record of improving education performance. That’s right, not a single mention by anyone, including quoted comments from every single member of the Board of Education.

There’s a reason for that – he doesn’t have a record of improving academic performance.

Shouldn’t that be the single most important quality that we, as a community, and the Board of Education, were looking for?

In Eagle County, where Dr. Glass is coming from, academic growth rates for Language Arts are 2 points below those of Jeffco and 3 points behind in Math, and both of those are below the state averages.

Colorado ACT scores actually dropped in Eagle County by .7 point from 2014, when Dr. Glass arrived, through 2016 while ACT scores rose by .1 point during that same time period in both Jeffco and the state. An .8 point difference between Jeffco and Eagle County is a fairly significant difference on that test and doesn’t bode well for our students.

With a track record of under-achieving academic performance, it wasn’t a surprise to me that Dr. Glass’ contract does NOT include a provision for a performance bonus as was the case with the previous Superintendent. If Dr. Glass’ past performance is any indicator, he wouldn’t have earned it. Instead, the Board of Education made him the highest paid Superintendent in the state ($313,750 per year including most of the identified extras) with no financial incentive to improve academic performance. I find that a hard pill to swallow.

Finally, with all of the talk about the transparency of the hiring process and the citing of various candidate numbers provided by the search firm, I think it is important to recognize that these same numbers were provided during the last Superintendent search in 2014. The current search was no more and maybe a little less transparent than before, since in 2014 we at least got to see the resume of Mr. Mcminimee which has not been provided for Dr. Glass. In addition, having a sole ‘finalist’ to skirt Colorado law was not transparent or right in 2014 the same as it is not right or transparent in 2017.

For the record, here are the publicly available numbers provided by Ray & Associates for the 2014 search – 257 individuals contacted by Ray & Associates, 63 completed applications, 11 candidates prescreened + 2 alternates, 6 candidates invited to interview, 5 participated with a candidate pool representing gender, racial and geographic diversity (California, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington).

The bottom line is that I am extraordinarily disappointed in Dr. Glass’ track record on improving academic performance and the fact that his contract does not include a performance based bonus.

It might be time for us all to take a step back and recognize that we might not be getting what we need most with this Superintendent – someone who has a real record of improving education performance. We also have to recognize that just because someone says the process was transparent doesn’t really make it transparent.

A different perspective on Jeffco Schools’ new Superintendent

In the real world, performance counts. Performance is how individuals, teams and organizations are evaluated. Past performance IS a good indicator of future performance (doesn’t include the stock market).

So, as a retired Army officer in addition to having two decades of executive management experience in K-12 education related organizations, I decided to take a look at the past performance of Jeffco Public Schools’ new superintendent, Jason Glass, in his position as Superintendent of Eagle County Schools to see what we should expect.

I am not impressed.

Based on the publicly available data at the Colorado Department of Education (http://www2.cde.state.co.us/schoolview/dish/dashboard.asp), we shouldn’t have too high of expectations relating to improvements in the education performance of our kids. This raises the questions in my mind then of “Why was Jason Glass hired?” and “Is Jason Glass the best person for the job of Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent?” But more on that later.

First the data. Colorado, like many states, uses student growth, rather than student achievement, to make judgments about school quality.

Here’s 2016 Eagle County and Jeffco English Language Arts Growth data compared to the state average growth. Red cells indicate growth rates below the state average and green cells indicate growth rates above the state average:

As you can see, Eagle County ranks below the state average, and Jeffco, in almost every category in English Language Arts. While neither Eagle nor Jefferson County students do well in ELA growth against state averages, at least Jefferson County has a few bright spots.

But let’s compare Eagle County directly to Jeffco. Here’s where it starts becoming clearly evident that there is a problem.

  It is clearly evident that student growth rates in Eagle County generally lag behind student growth rates in Jeffco. How can we expect Jason Glass to improve our student growth if he has already shown he can’t do that in a district 12 times smaller than ours?

Let’s take a look at Math growth rates and see if we get similar results. First, in comparison to state growth rate averages.

  In Math, while we see a significant improvement for both Eagle County and Jeffco growth in comparison to state averages, that growth seems to be greater in Jeffco – and again, Eagle County lags significantly behind.

In a direct comparison between Eagle County and Jeffco we get the following:

    Once again, we can clearly see that student growth in Eagle County lags significantly below the growth in Jeffco.

Since past performance IS indicative of future performance, would we entrust the education performance improvement of Jeffco’s kids to someone who clearly is worse than what we had? And, if Jason Glass couldn’t improve education performance in a school district of 7,000 kids, how can we expect him to do that in a school district 12 times larger, with 86,000 kids?

I understand that Jason Glass is a prolific writer and is well respected. However, growth performance data suggests that we may be getting a ‘talker’ instead of a ‘doer’.

In the interest of improving education performance in our school district and for the sake of our kids, I’m surprised we couldn’t have found someone with a more results oriented background.

Be careful, Mr. Superintendent!

When hired as the new Jeffco Public Schools Superintendent, you may very well be walking into a no-win situation. Don’t be seduced by the salary and a self-confidence that leads you to think that you can solve all of the problems.

Granted, as with most districts, we have issues related to educational performance. However, this may be the easiest of your problems to solve.

We also have financial issues, but again most school districts have these problems.

But the biggest issue you will have, and probably the hardest to solve, is a division within our community and our utter lack of trust in the last 2 sets of Boards of Education. A contentious set of issues and a subsequent recall election resulted in a completely new Board in 2015. The Superintendent hired by the previous Board was subsequently put into a very difficult position and essentially didn’t make it to the end of his contract.

The current Board ran on a platform of trust and transparency. It exhibits neither, most recently exhibited by their skirting of Colorado law in naming you as the single finalist – an action similar to the previous Board which was soundly criticized by the community at the time.

You have a Board that exhibits no leadership. How will they react to your plans and the strong leadership attributes you will bring to the table? Will they let you lead or will they, as they have recently shown, suppress your leadership and attempts at innovation and performance improvement? Will you just be a financial caretaker? I doubt that’s what you want to accomplish.

You have a Board and District staff that were unable to gather sufficient financial trust so that our community was the only one in the metro area to not pass Bond and Mill levy proposals last November. How will you quickly re-establish community trust so that there is a greater chance of success the next time a proposal is sent to the voters? Based on what I perceive as fiscal mismanagement, the current Board has set the bar pretty high for me to trust the district with more of my money, and I know many citizens agree with me.

You have a Board and a staff who seem to have forgotten that their true constituents are the taxpayers and students. How will you bridge the divide between the community and a Board and District staff that seem willing to kill successful programs in a dogged determination to fund salary increases that are unsupported by true evidence and were rejected by taxpayers?

You have a District staff that thinks of dollars before students. There is swamp that needs draining. A new mindset needs to be put into place that supports students and nurtures excellence.

You have a Board that ignores a taxpayer pointing out inaccurate minutes, and a Board president who border-line bullies other Board members to approve those minutes without a review, bringing into question the accuracy of all previous Board minutes. How do you work with the community, and Board, to restore the trust lost in that episode?

You have a Board and staff that uses narrow and clearly biased budget survey questions as a screen to make financial budget decisions that run counter to taxpayers’ clear desires. How do you regain the community’s trust in the budget process after that?

You have a Board that has chosen to pursue a K-5, 6-8 model despite evidence showing that this is detrimental to academic performance and kids’ social needs, and despite the public’s rejection of the concept. Once again they are prioritizing dollars over students.

You have 3 seats on the Board coming up for election in November. With built-up and continued mistrust, anger at Board decisions and lingering divisions surrounding the 2015 recall – what will be the makeup of the Board after November and how will that affect you personally? We saw how that worked out for the previous Superintendent – now gone.

Be careful Mr. Superintendent!