During the December 13th Board Meeting, Ron Mitchell made the statement that “Facts clarify optics.” Regarding the 3rd Floor renovation at Denver West, the facts not only clarify, but they support the optics. Your decision to make renovation of District offices your first action after the passage of 5B sends a strong signal to voters that the District’s top priority is not the students, but central admin’s comfort.
Here are some facts:
- There is a need for renovation on the 3rd Floor at Denver West
- However, significant renovation needs at dozens of schools in Jeffco rival or exceed the needs of the 3rd floor
- The last renovation of the 3rd floor occurred in 1994
- Many schools in Jeffco have renovation needs that pre-date 1994. Since the 3rd Floor carpet kept getting brought up at the meeting, just one counter example would be the downstairs carpet at Wheat Ridge H.S. that has been there since the 1970’s.
- Some of the costs of the 3rd Floor renovation come from savings by the departments affected
- Some of the costs of the 3rd Floor renovation will come from capital transfer
- None of the funding for this project comes from 5B proceeds
- Even after 5B projects are completed in 6 years, many schools will still have substantial facilities needs
- Use of capital transfer funding for the 3rd Floor precludes its use on other District projects or initiatives that will not get completed with 5B monies
- The renovation of the 3rd Floor will start immediately, prior to any 5B projects
- The approval for this project was initially on the Consent Agenda, essentially awaiting approval without further discussion
You can’t proclaim transparency where there is no public acknowledgement regarding how much of this project will be funded with 3rd Floor department savings and how much from capital transfer. Those numbers were not offered by District representatives, nor was that question asked by any Board member at the Board meeting, or answered in the JeffcoGenerations Facebook Group when that question was asked there.
So, despite your pronouncement during the Board meeting that this project has been adequately discussed, the facts remain the same and in this case the Facts support the Optics, which are:
- District Admin renovation takes away money that could be spent on needs at schools
- District Admin gets taken care of first
- An attempt was made, by putting it on the Consent Agenda, to get the 3rd Floor renovation approved without having a public discussion
- There is a lack of transparency. Taxpayers don’t know the breakdown of sources of funding for this project, particularly how much money was diverted from schools. Glass saying that a “majority” of the funding comes from savings is not sufficient for full transparency and seems more like a blatant attempt to hide the facts
- There is something wrong with the fact that a little less than 2 years ago, the Board was discussing proposals to cut Literacy Interventionist and SEL staff to generate budget savings to increase teacher pay. One short budget year later, District Admin is generating enough savings to spend at least $400k on office space renovation. Obviously, there was “fat” in the budgets of those departments then, and there is “fat” in those departments now.
You can’t escape these Facts, which are also the Optics!
Your decision to fund the 3rd Floor renovation as soon as you got 5B approved and before taking care of the greater needs of schools was short-sighted, because you’ve proven your detractors correct. Admin gets taken care of first and then the schools and students. It’s now guaranteed that this decision will make getting approval for the next Bond harder.
I don’t disagree that there are needs on the 3rd Floor. But with $86M in contingency built into the 6-year facility plan, wouldn’t it have been smarter to prioritize the 3rd Floor renovation as the first project that gets done if there are 5B contingency funds remaining? I don’t think anyone would take issue with that.
With just a little imagination and patience, you could have gotten the renovation project completed and avoided the Optics mess you have now and will justifiably continue to have in the future.