A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Month: March 2019

Jason Glass’s Lack of Leadership

Everyone knew it was coming. There’s no excuse for not knowing the answers to Board members’ questions. Yet, Glass and District staff miserably failed to plan for the recommendation to change school start times. 

Changing high school start times has been a topic in Jeffco for a long time now. My daughter sent a letter to the Board about this topic in the spring prior to Glass getting hired, so the discussion is not new. Many people talk about it and there are valid studies that show that it immediately improves the academic performance and health of teenagers. Multiple Colorado Districts have already shifted, and even more are considering it.

Jeffco, under Glass, even started talking about it in February 2018. A Committee was formed in July 2018 to develop recommendations by January 2019, with one of their stated objectives being: “The group as a whole will also consider how schedule changes could affect transportation, sports and other after school activities, student employment, and district budget”.

Yet, it seems that when the committee made their recommendations in February, Glass, and the committee, didn’t have answers to some Board members’ legitimate concerns, particularly as to what the actual costs, logistics and implementation would be. Also, Glass stated that “numerous” principals had concerns about the disruptive effects of the proposed time changes.

Are you kidding me?

This isn’t some “out-of-the-blue” unexpected recommendation. EVERYONE should have been preparing for this recommendation as the evidence is so strong for it. EVERYONE on the District staff, including Glass, should have been preparing for an implementation. Glass should have known, from his staff, EXACTLY what this would cost and should have already been budgeting for it in the 2019-20 budget. Yet, it seems, in a clear absence of leadership, Glass didn’t anticipate these legitimate questions and consequently didn’t direct his staff to perform the necessary planning that would have ensured a successful implementation in 2019-20. This is particularly disconcerting since other Districts have been able to make these changes in a similar amount of time. Real leaders, especially those who claim to have a “Vision”, anticipate and plan for changes. Glass didn’t! And the concerns of Principals? Don’t these Principals understand the benefits of these changes? Wasn’t Glass and his band of merry Community Superintendents talking to Principals about what could potentially happen to start times and start addressing those concerns in the plans they should have been making? Obviously not. Shouldn’t Glass, as the District leader, have just told the Principals that the evidence out weighs their concerns and that they have an obligation, a duty really, to do whatever was necessary to implement the changes? Again, obviously not!

And to add insult to injury, while Glass could find unbudgeted money in the 2018-19 budget to hire a second a SECOND Communications Director, a Bond Construction Communications Specialist and $400,000 for renovation of the 3rd floor of the Admin building he COULDN’T find enough money ($70,000 most likely spread out over 2 budget years) for a consultant to begin this year to help the inept District staff work through some of the issues raised by the Board!

All of this adds up to a clear and utter lack of leadership on the part of Glass on something that has a well documented direct and immediate impact on education performance, health and safety, which is now, most likely, years down the road.

What a joke! Glass’s actions, when it really counts, clearly demonstrate what type of leader he really is – weak and ineffective!

Why won’t Jason Glass show 5B Charter calculations?

As the discussion surrounding the allocation of 5B monies to Charters has continued over the past few weeks, it has been easy to see why there has been confusion. First, EVERY piece of literature put out by the District stated that Charters would receive 10%, or $56M from the bond proceeds. Not one piece that I saw contained an asterik clarifying that the share was dependent upon Full Time Enrollment (FTE) such as “* FTE dependent”. Personally, it makes sense to proportionally distribute the funding based on FTE, but it certainly appears that there are people who strongly believe that they were told that Charters would get a flat 10%, and I can see their point. I wasn’t in those meetings, but the anecdotal evidence is that there was certainly a high degree of confusion in this regards, and not just from EVERY piece of written literature and media.

Because of what I consider to be this justified confusion, I would have thought I would have seen a somewhat different tone in the Facebook responses surrounding this topic. I would have expected to have seen some potentially empathetic or conciliatory responses such as: “Now that you bring this up, we see how there might have been some confusion.” or “Maybe we should have included something to clarify this in our literature.” or “We’re sorry we created this confusion, we’ll learn from this and strive to do better the next time.” or even “At the (add a date here) meeting of the Charter school consortium, we very clearly discussed that Charters would be receiving a prorated share of the Bond proceeds.” Unfortunately, I didn’t see those responses in the Facebook discussion on this topic. At https://www.facebook.com/groups/1236337263132884/permalink/1758767880889817/ you can go back and see if you agree or disagree with my opinion on this.

By the time the Board meeting was held this past Thursday questions regarding Bond proceed allocation appeared to shift to understanding how the FTE numbers were arrived at and the calculation of the prorated share. Those questions seem legitimate to me since using CDE numbers at https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdereval/pupilcurrent it appears that Charter students make up 10.7% of the District’s student counts. These numbers appear to match up with the student count numbers contained on page 20 of the District’s Office Statement to Bond investors that can be seen in this letter to the Board https://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/B9T4N972FC2D/$file/c19119O.pdf, which I would think would be the official, audited numbers. Those numbers show 9,052 Charter school students out of a total of 84,631 total students in the District, or 10.7% by my calculations. I will state that the District may do some additional calculations on these numbers to convert to FTE since some students only attend ½ time, but I think that is what, in the interest of full transparency, people want to see – how exactly the Charter proration was calculated. And, I think it should be simple enough to provide this detail.

Yet, at Thursday’s Board meeting, when the District had an opportunity to put all of these questions to rest, they didn’t.

At the 5:17 point of the Board meeting Livestream Kathleen went into a discussion of the history of past Bond proceed sharing with Charters and then went on to discuss that there are a variety of ways to count students, that the audited student numbers are what the District uses and that Golden View’s numbers are subtracted. Yet, she failed in the most important part of any explanation – showing the actual numbers and formula that the District uses and the source of those numbers. That means that questions remain.

We can only wonder why there is such an unwillingness to show the numbers and calculations.

Is Jason Glass and the District trying to hide something? It seems that it would just be so simple to show the numbers, explain them and let everyone go away satisfied. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened and the questions remain and people are left to wonder why.

To me, it seems that this entire issue has been extremely poorly handled by Glass and the District staff.

Therefore, in the interest of full transparency, let’s see the full accounting of the formula for and source of the student count numbers used to calculate the Charters’ share of Bond proceeds!

What was the rush with Glass’s 5 year extension?

Why was Mitchell so adamant that the contract be approved at the March meeting?

Even though District Counsel Craig Hess noted that voting on Glass’s contract extension violated the spirit of District policy (at 2:39 of Board Livestream) and 2 Board members noted that doing so could be perceived as lack of transparency, Mitchell was determined to vote on the extension at the meeting.

Mitchell even went so far as to claim that the 2 people who spoke at public comment on the fact that the contract wasn’t even available for review until sometime after early morning Thursday were proof that the public had the opportunity to comment on the extension. (Hey Ron – their comments were aimed at the fact that needed information wasn’t available!)

Multiple Board Members stated that their vote would be the same that month as it would be the following month if they waited.

Yet, Ron Mitchell pushed through a vote, and every Board member dutifully followed along and voted for it.

Just one more blow to transparency in Jeffco!

But why such the rush, there was still well over a year remaining? And, why wasn’t the contract posted to the Board agenda site until the day of the vote? There supposedly weren’t any material changes in it from the original contract, so why couldn’t it have been posted earlier? Certainly, Glass had a copy prior to that time so that he could have it reviewed by his lawyer.

What was Mitchell afraid of? Was he afraid of the public comment he might get because there aren’t any performance based provisions in the contract? Did Jason Glass get another offer and threatened to leave the District if he didn’t get a contract extension that month? Was Mitchell worried about potential comments that might come out regarding some of the deception perpetrated by Glass regarding getting people to vote for 5B?

I guess we’ll never know.

However, we can infer from the actions of Mitchell that he was worried about something. And, he was willing to throw transparency and the spirit of the Board’s own policies to the wind to get the contract extension passed that night.

Shame, shame, shame on Mitchell and the Board!

Board’s continued 5B Deferred Maintenance Deception

I’ve previously written about Jason Glass’s & Ali Lasell’s public deception regarding their claims of the District’s $1.3B in “Deferred Maintenance” and sent a letter to the Board regarding the same.

Not only do the District’s numbers not add up, but the use of the very specific term “Deferred Maintenance” is just wrong and inaccurate. “Deferred Maintenance” has a very specific meaning in the financial, accounting and business world. The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board defines “Deferred Maintenance” as maintenance and repairs that were not performed when they should have been or were scheduled to be and which are put off or delayed for a future period.

What Jason Glass and Ali talk about when they talk about “Deferred Maintenance” is not “Deferred Maintenance” at all!

First, Jason Glass, as the CEO of a $1B organization should know better and SHOULD know what that term means. Second, the use of the key word “Deferred” means maintenance that was scheduled previously, but has not yet been performed, as in delayed. We’re talking about the past tense of a word here for the people in the school District who may not have been paying attention when they went to grade school. In this case, the District attempts to claim that $371M in projected maintenance, over the next 6 years, is currently “Deferred”.

The District’s response to my original letter on this topic was comical, to say the least.

The District continues to claim there was $1.3B in “Deferred Maintenance”, but even their numbers just don’t add up.

Here’s an extract from their response:

The $1.3 billion was arrived at in the following manner.  The capital program is planned over two phases of five to six years per phase.  As of February 2018, the value of deficiencies as defined in the annual Summary of Findings is $588 million.  The proposed 2018 bond, valued at $567 million, will address about $250 million in deferred maintenance priorities 1-3; an additional $125 million towards educational adequacy, the balance in replacement facilities, growth accommodation through additions and new buildings, safety and security, and technology.

The investment in current deficiencies will be $375 million or 64% of the need.  Life cycle renewal is valued at $371.3 million in non-inflation adjusted dollars.  This amount continues to grow each year as systems and components reach the end of their life cycle requiring major investment or replacement.  In 2023, when the 2018 bond should be near completion, these items will have moved into the deferred maintenance categories.  The balance of deferred maintenance items not addressed by the proposed 2018 bond, in non-inflation adjusted dollars, will be $213 million in addition to the $371.3 million of life cycle work that have become deferred maintenance leaving $584.3 million in unaddressed deferred maintenance.

Summarizing, the 2018 proposal is valued at $567 million, a 2024 bond proposal valued in 2018 dollars would be $584 million or nearly $1.2 billion in 2018 dollars.  Applying even a modest inflation of 3% over six years, the cost exceeds the $1.3 billion value.

Here are the summarized key points in that response:

  • As of February 2018, the value of facilities deficiencies is $588M (certainly not $1.3B).
  • The Bond will address about $375M, or 64%, of that need.
  • The balance of deferred maintenance items, not addressed by the Bond, will be $213M ($588M – $375M).
  • The balance of the bond ($567M – $375M or $192M) will go toward “replacement facilities, growth accommodation through additions and new buildings, safety and security, and technology” and Charters.
  • Projected Life Cycle renewal is valued at $371.3M, which in 2023 will have moved into deferred maintenance categories

For the time being, let’s ignore the FACT that you can’t call maintenance “Deferred” now, if you’re talking about something that won’t even be needed for 4, 5 or even 6 years in the future. Therefore, let’s just add up the numbers they gave me:

$375M in bond funds used for maintenance and educational adequacy needs

$213M in current maintenance needs not addressed by the bond

$371M in upcoming life cycle needs over the next 6 years

It’s time to bring out the calculator, because the total from those three numbers is $959M, NOT $1.3B.

The District’s “Subject Matter Expert” attempted to say that a liberal use of inflation COULD bring that total up to $1.3B in 6 years, but the facts are the following:

  1. You can’t compound that total cost figure over the course of 6 years because even the District isn’t claiming that the total amount is currently deferred.
  2. The “Subject Matter Expert” also incorrectly, and deceptively, claimed that in order to get to $1.3B, the entire $567M bond was deferred maintenance, which we know isn’t true: “Summarizing, the 2018 proposal is valued at $567 million, a 2024 bond proposal valued in 2018 dollars would be $584 million or nearly $1.2 billion in 2018 dollars.  Applying even a modest inflation of 3% over six years, the cost exceeds the $1.3 billion value.”
  3. Even still, if you are going to claim that Deferred Maintenance is going to accrue over the next 6 years, shouldn’t you also reduce that by the amount the District plans in Capital Transfers during that period? To present a balanced picture, you should! Hasn’t the District been spending approximately $17M per year in facilities maintenance? And what about claims in the Bond package that amount would actually increase to $138M over the course of the next 6 years — wouldn’t that reduce the $959M by $138M to $821M? It certainly would, and the fact that this offset was left out of the District’s analysis only serves to further highlight either the incompetence or degree to which you, and the District staff, will go in order to misrepresent finances and mislead taxpayers.

To state it plainly, the District does NOT have $1.3B in “Deferred Maintenance” needs, since $371M in the costs portrayed are merely currently PROJECTED needs and haven’t been deferred. And, $192M of the claimed “Deferred Maintenance” is not “Maintenance” at all, including $56M that is designated for Charter Schools.

Therefore, Jason Glass’s, Ali’s, and other District employees’ use of the term “Deferred Maintenance”, in an attempt to portray a greater need than there may actually be within the District is inaccurate, misleading and just plain wrong and highlights the depths they will go in order to intentionally deceive taxpayers.