A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Month: June 2017

Dr. Glass’ “hittin’ the road” tour is not well thought out

While I think that Dr. Glass’ “listening tour”  is a great idea, there’s one big problem – He makes it extraordinarily difficult for people with jobs to participate. Certainly teachers, the unemployed, ‘stay-at-homes’ and retired people can participate, but what about people with jobs? Is it the expectation that we all go to Evergreen? Or, don’t we count?

Nice idea, but not well thought out.

Hittin the Road

Be careful, Jeffco Voters and Taxpayers!

Susan Harmon and Brad Rupert don’t think that $20 million in one-time and ongoing teacher raises for 2016-1017 and $19.5M in increases for 2017-2018 are enough!

Recent articles in the Canyon Courier regarding Susan Harmon’s run for re-election (June 14, 2017) and Brad Rupert’s run for re-election (June 21, 2017) give us the following quotes:

Brad Rupert – “…I think we’ve made progress – although perhaps not as much as I’d like – in being competitive with regard to our teachers and their compensation packages…”

Susan Harmon – “Additionally, the school district still isn’t competitive in the market for teachers, so I want to work on that.”

These seem like code words to me of another budget ‘crisis’ and an attempt to raise taxes, the Board’s continued neglect of facilities maintenance issues that only continue to get worse, or closing more neighborhood schools.

I realize that teacher compensation is a touchy subject, but when I graphically compare 2016-2017 teacher salaries to cherry-picked neighboring districts I don’t see the discrepancies that people talk about.

BA Salary Comparison 2016-2017

MA Salary Comparison 2016-2017


Yes, there are cherry-picked points where Jeffco salaries may be less than the other large districts, but across the spectrum, Jeffco salaries seem to me to be pretty competitive. We also have to keep in mind that these graphs only compare salaries in select adjacent districts (well, Cherry Creek is not exactly adjacent).


I’m happy to support compensation increases, and even a tax hike, if it can be proven to me that there truly is a compensation gap. However, my graphs don’t show that across the board and combined with the fact that the District doesn’t collect any exit survey information to prove their theory that teachers are leaving for more lucrative teaching positions I’m just not drinking the Kool-Aid. As they say in Missouri – ‘Show me!’

It will be interesting to see how these graphs change for 2017-2018 so I’ll update them when that data becomes available.

In the meantime, keep an eye on Brad and Susan and the rest of their compatriots!

The Continued Spreading of Alternative Facts Regarding Teacher Turnover

I’ve recently read several comments to Dr. Glass in response to his 3 Questions for Jeffco along with a blog posting on Support Jeffco Kids (SJK) that talk about teacher turnover and cite Colorado Department of Education (CDE) statistics to justify calls for increasing teacher compensation. Specifically, the Support Jeffco Kids post states:

“Teachers and principals are leaving Jeffco for other districts that offer better paying jobs. Teacher turnover in Jeffco increased from 10 percent to 15 percent between 2013-14 and 2014-15, according to Chalkbeat Colorado. Though it has slowed since the recall of WNW, our turnover rate is more than half of the other large Front Range/metro area districts.”

The fact is that the CDE statistics can NOT be used to support the premise that ‘Teachers and principals are leaving Jeffco for other districts that offer better paying jobs.” The ONLY thing the CDE statistics can be used to say is that some percentage of teachers have left Jeffco. Neither CDE nor Jeffco know WHY the teachers have left. I previously filed a CORA request with the Jeffco school district to determine if exit interviews were conducted of teachers leaving the school district and the response to that request was that surveys are not routinely conducted.

Therefore, without knowing the answer to this vital question, no one, including Support Jeffco Kids and any of a number of other people can make the claim that:

“Teachers and principals are leaving Jeffco for other districts that offer better paying jobs.”

The primary reason for this is that CDE’s teacher turnover rate includes teachers leaving for a wide variety of reasons such as:

  • Retirement
  • Moving with family due to a significant other’s job relocation
  • Moving out of the area to be closer to family
  • Birth of a child
  • Taking a position with another school district to be geographically closer to the teacher’s own residence
  • Taking another, non-teaching, position within the same school district
  • Leaving teaching completely either because teaching is not a perfect fit, going back to school or other opportunities
  • Leaving the school district due to discipline or performance issues (actually good for the district)
  • Leaving Jeffco for a higher paying school district (should we even count marginal or low performing teachers in this category? I think not.)

While leaving Jeffco for a higher paying school district is one component of the CDE’s Teacher Turnover rates, using it to support any premise related to teachers and principals leaving Jeffco for better paying jobs is completely unfounded.

In addition, even the Chalkbeat article quoted by Support Jeffco Kids does not support the SJK conclusion:

“Teacher attrition is often caused by conditions outside of districts’ control, said Robert Reichardt, a consultant with Augenblick, Palaich and Associates who has studied teacher workforce issues in Colorado. He said those factors include the average age of teachers (the youngest and oldest teachers are more likely to leave their jobs) and the state of the economy (harder economic times, such as the years following the Great Recession of 2008, mean less turnover because jobs are harder to find).”

I think it would be an interesting conversation to have if we knew the actual turnover rate of quality Jeffco teachers leaving for a higher paying teaching job elsewhere, but until either Jeffco or CDE collects that information, using the CDE statistics to support that conclusion is just an inaccurate Alternative Fact.

The second Alternative Fact in the Support Jeffco Kids posting is the statement regarding comparison of Turnover Rates:

“Though it has slowed since the recall of WNW, our turnover rate is more than half of the other large Front Range/metro area districts.”

While this statement is unclear, I will assume that it is intended to mean that the turnover rate is one and a half times the rate of other large Front Range/metro area districts.

Again, we don’t know which districts SJK is using for comparison, but in looking at the rates of the 4 large districts used for compensation comparison purposes in Jeffco, this statement is once again unsupported:

Yes, the Turnover Rate in Jeffco is higher than Boulder Valley and Cherry Creek, but not the two other large Districts.  Certainly not more than one and a half times the rate of the “other large Front Range/metro area districts” that Support Jeffco Kids wants you to believe. Once again, more Alternative Facts based on conjecture and not actual data.

If the data supported what Support Jeffco Kids and other people want you to believe that would be one thing, but their Alternative Facts are just not true.

Finally, using SJK’s logic, if WNW were completely responsible for the increased Turnover Rate in Jeffco wouldn’t the election of the ‘clean slate’ Board have immediately returned the rate to what it was in 2013-2014 – 10%? It didn’t return to that, sitting at 14.4% in 2016-2017. Therefore, either Turnover Rates are more complicated than SJK wants you to believe or teachers are not happy even with the ‘clean slate’. My take is that SJK gives too much credit to WNW for a complex statistic.

The bottom line is that Teacher Turnover rates should not be used to imply anything without additional, more detailed, information that explains the composition of the rates. Any conclusions drawn from the CDE data are pure conjecture and completely biased – Alternative Facts.

Transparency in Jeffco? Only if repeating the word counts.

Recently, at the June 1st Board meeting, the District staff egregiously concealed changes to an Alternative Pathways Budgeting For Outcomes (BFO) recommendation in order to obfuscate the impact to Wheat Ridge High School and the District’s HS GT program.

It is true that changes to the dates were needed to correct poor staff work as these dates were initially written as “2019-2018” and generated confusion even among Board members.

However, the changes went far, far beyond just correcting the dates as Terry Elliott wanted the Board to believe. Terry Elliott described that these changes were made to make the BFO clearer. But, what these changes actually did was hide the fact Wheat Ridge HS would, in effect, either lose $50,000 in relation to other district high schools for Alternative Pathways programs or lose $50,000 in funding to the District’s HS GT program. I have included the original text and the now ‘clearer’ text of the BFO below so you can see for yourself.

More disturbing is the fact that the changes to this BFO were NOT placed in the June 1st Board Docs, as were all other changed Budget documents, but the changed BFO was hidden in the May Board Docs. This prevented anyone knowing about these changes prior to the Board meeting and prevented anyone from signing up to comment on the changes at the meeting. The only way these changes were even known is that the CFO, Kathleen Askelson, happened to mention that the changed BFO was placed in the May Board Docs section.

Finally, in any truly transparent organization, changes to documents would be re-signed with the date of the changes to accurately and transparently reflect those changes. This again didn’t happen with this BFO as the document was changed but not re-signed.

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

In this case, if it looks like the District staff is trying to hide something and they blatantly attempt to hide it, then the District staff truly is hiding something – the real impact to Wheat Ridge HS.

I have sent a letter to the Board requesting that they admonish the District Staff for this blatant act of concealment in addition to issuing a public apology for the staff’s complete and utter disregard for the Board’s stated goal of complete transparency.

We’ll see what response that gets.


Original BFO Explanation

Currently 4 high schools receive $50,000 for funding IB programs as an alternative pathway in their school and another high school (Wheat Ridge HS) receives $150,000 for GT center program pathway. Other schools are offering alternative pathways or are looking to expand their offerings, yet lack sufficient funding to support such initiatives. By increasing the SBB Alternative Education Pathway Factor a we can increase significantly resources for all schools and create greater equity for students throughout the district. IB high schools would receive the increased Alternative Pathway factor in lieu of the IB factor and WRHS would see a transfer of $50,000 of their GT center funding to their alternative pathway funding for the 2019-18 school year.

Changed BFO Explanation

Currently 4 high schools receive $50,000 for funding IB programs as an alternative pathway in their school and another high school (Wheat Ridge HS) receives $150,000 for GT center program pathway. Other schools are offering alternative pathways or are looking to expand their offerings, yet lack sufficient funding to support such initiatives. By increasing the SBB Alternative Education Pathway Factor a we can increase significantly resources for all schools and create greater equity for students throughout the district. Designated boundary/neighborhood high schools not currently receiving an IB ($50,000) or GT ($150,000) factor will be allocated an additional $50,000 for the 2017-2018 school year. Beginning in 2018 2019 there will no longer be an IB factor and all designated boundary/neighborhood high schools will receive $115,000 in Alternative Pathway dollars.

Does the School Board even care about improving education in Jeffco? It doesn’t seem so.

Recently there was a Question and Answer article in the Canyon Courier with school Board president Ron Mitchell.

I found Ron’s answers to the questions to be disappointing and disturbing. Not once did he mention improving academic performance or growth. They are certainly not in his list of accomplishments or even in his list of items that need work. Transparency is a nice goal, but shouldn’t education performance be first and foremost? And as for his desire to “examine early childhood education”, that realistically is not going to happen unless a boatload of money miraculously falls from the sky. This Board just doesn’t seem to care about improving education in the county. Even as their words say this is true, their actions speak even louder. The absence of any performance-based compensation incentive in Dr. Glass’s contract is a pretty strong indicator that improving education is not their first priority.

In addition, in a February 21st response to a letter I had previously sent to the Board, Amanda Stevens wrote:

“ As a Board of Education we have set priorities based upon three main objectives:

  • competitive compensation to keep and attract quality staff,
  • maintaining school funding levels through student based budgeting (SBB) while trying to preserve critical programs and services for students; and,
  • ensuring school facilities are warm, safe, and dry.”

There it is. Three Board objectives and not one of them is to improve academic performance or growth. These are quite similar to Ron’s comments with no mention of what should really matter – Students and Education.

Something is very, very wrong with the Jeffco school Board. It’s time for them to rethink their priorities and objectives and truly focus on students and improving education in Jefferson County.

3 Questions for Jeffco

Dr. Glass recently solicited feedback for 3 Questions from the Jeffco community. Below is my input to him:


Dr. Glass,
Here are some different thoughts from what you have already seen:

Teachers. I’m not going to wade into the minefield of teacher compensation, but I will discuss the bell curve of teacher quality. Yes, there is a range of teacher quality in Jeffco, they’re not all extremely good as some would have you believe. I know this quality range. My kids have had a few really great teachers, but they have had an EQUAL number of absolutely horrendous teachers. I suggest that you propose to the JCEA (union) a yearly bonus to identified GREAT teachers (1% or 2% of total teachers) in exchange for a streamlined process to rid the district of the horrendous teachers (they’re out there and they truly negatively impact education). There should be no bonuses without a corresponding streamlined firing process. I’m suggesting that this be an All or Nothing. Let’s see if the union is willing to partner to improve education. Yearly bonus should be something substantial ($4,000 – $5,000). Parents can help you identify both the great and the terrible teachers.


District Staff. The District Staff should be dedicated to education and the improvement of academic performance in Jeffco. They should demonstrate integrity and ethics. They shouldn’t invoke the Urban Dictionary definition of Educrat –  “It describes a special kind of person in the education: pinheads who are so process-oriented that they are more excited in the process of learning than the myriad wonders that can be learned.”

Staff members shouldn’t be more concerned about dollars than students.

Unfortunately, we have more than our share of Educrats. While I didn’t vote for him, one of Trump’s mantras – ‘Drain the Swamp’ could be appropriately applied to what is needed at Denver West.

We have Cabinet members with titles with words such as “Innovation”, “Success” and “Effectiveness” in them who certainly don’t exhibit any desire or ability to live up to those titles.

We have Cabinet members who intentionally deceive and lie (and I don’t use that word lightly) to the Board, teachers and parents.

Restore some community trust in Denver West by getting rid of the people there who have forgotten who their real constituents are – the students.

Note: I can back up my accusations of intentional deception and lying with documentation and evidence and would appreciate a meeting so I can give that to you.

Is the Board capable of thinking out of the Box? Or, Why is the Board not capable of any real discussion?

Over the course of the past 6 months, in response to District staff financial recommendations, I have sent what I think were well researched and well thought out alternatives to several of those recommendations to the Board. There has never been a discussion on any of my alternatives. I am only left to wonder ‘Why?’

The first was in response to the Cabinet’s budget reduction recommendation to cut funding to the District’s HS GT program at Wheat Ridge. In this case I recommended that the Board look at the following alternatives and proceeded to outline why those were worthy of a discussion:

Here are 4 options I suggest you consider to save the HS GT program:

  1. Cut one additional Achievement Director than has already been recommended. This program with 14 current Directors can easily support a reduction to 11 or even 10.
  2. Use some of the $17.5M in Materials and Supplies Contingency that is hidden in the budget. In 2016-2017 this is actually a $7.5M increase from 2015-2016.
  3. Reduce the amount of savings you’re looking for. Only one year after negotiating a new contract with the teacher’s union, it is extremely hard for most people to comprehend the need for another $25M in compensation increases. Spending a little less would still be an improvement for teachers.
  4. Determine if some of the $24M in 2015-2016 budget surplus is sustainable and use some of the sustainable surplus to fund high school GT.

The second was in response to the Cabinet’s equal allocation of additional Alternative Pathways funding instead of equitable funding made on May 4th. In this case I recommended that the Board look at the following alternatives:

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%.

Yet, not one of these reasonable alternatives was even discussed. Surely, if the Board members were really doing their jobs at least one member would have found one of these alternatives interesting enough to warrant a discussion.

But there never was a discussion. It’s baffling to me.

In addition, I’ve heard other community members present reasonable alternatives at Board meetings, but again never any semblance of a discussion on community proposed alternatives.

When you are in a fiscally constrained environment shouldn’t you listen to and evaluate every single idea?

Having worked in resource constrained startups, that is certainly the characteristic that I saw that led to survival.

Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of that type of thinking or behavior to me with the current Board.

Actually, all I’ve seen is an arrogant, we know best, and uncreative herd mentality.

Educrats rule Jeffco. Board drinks the Kool-Aid and fails to ask a single meaningful question.

At the June 1st Board meeting multiple District Educrats (Urban Dictionary defines Educrat –  “It describes a special kind of person in the education: pinheads who are so process-oriented that they are more excited in the process of learning than the myriad wonders that can be learned.”) presented their efforts at ‘Continuous Improvement’ to the Board. They based their Continuous Improvement efforts on the ‘Methodology of Improvement Science’ and the ‘Six Core Principles of Improvement’:

  1. Make the work problem-specific and user-centered
  2. Variation in performance is the core problem to address.
  3. See the system that produces the current outcomes.
  4. We cannot improve at scale what we cannot measure.
  5. Anchor practice improvement in disciplined inquiry.
  6. Accelerate improvements through networked communities.

If you’re ready for a nap you can view this from 1:51 – 2:41 of the June 1st livestream https://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310/videos/157394871

In my opinion, this 50 minute presentation and question session was the embodiment of Eduspeak. My eyes glazed over and I asked myself ‘Are these people more concerned about the process or education?’ I may be too simple of a person, but when people spend more time talking about the process than what they’ve accomplished it worries me. The first thought that came to my mind is that these people were merely attempting to justify their jobs.

On the other hand, I also recognize that the programs that were discussed could actually have real value to education in the district.

However, we’ll never know that real value as the presenters never addressed, nor did the Board ask the key questions which are necessary to assess that value. Those questions include:

  1. What were the total required resources for this program? What are the real and projected costs?
  2. Is this program repeatable at scale?
  3. Is this program sustainable as people move on and change positions?

Without knowing the answers to these questions the District and the Board can’t assess the real value. They cannot compare the cost and value of different programs and the District will just continue to spend valuable resources on programs that may or may not be worth those resources.

It’s time for the District Staff and Board to ask the right questions so that they can spend our valuable tax dollars in an efficient and effective manner that positively impacts education in the District.

Colorado Inside Out does not give ringing endorsement of Dr. Glass

Colorado Inside Out commentators do not exactly give a resounding endorsement of Dr. Glass or his contract – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUuSadStYlg.

They do not even discuss the absence of performance based compensation, the 7% annuity worth $18,550, $9,000 in yearly car compensation and 9 additional days of vacation (worth $25,000) which makes his compensation even more costly.

His performance definitely needs watching.