A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

Category: Jeffco Public Schools (Page 1 of 6)

You Can’t Trust Jeffco Schools Capital Asset Advisory Committee (CAAC)

Jeffco Schools Capital Asset Advisory Cmte can’t be trusted to make good financial decisions and gets played as fools by Tim Reed and Steve Bell. They are utter failures at being good stewards of Jeffco’s taxpayers’ money.

They are responsible for overseeing now $110M in cost estimate overages of the Capital Improvement Program and recently agreed to spend an additional $17M for a new gold-plated swimming pool for the community of Arvada.

The $17M and decision process for a new Arvada community pool is egregious. Here’s why:

1. Jeffco swim teams will use the pool approximately 10% of the time, Arvada residents the rest. Yet Jeffco will pay for 50% of the $33M-$35M construction costs. That doesn’t seem equitable. Not one CAAC member questioned that arrangement or suggested that Jeffco’s share be reduced to something reasonable like $7M.

2. Reed told the CAAC that construction costs for a Jeffco owned 50 meter pool would be $15M-$20M. Not one CAAC member asked if Arvada was taking advantage of Jeffco by building a gold plated facility that would cost $15M more than Reed’s estimate.

3. No one asked what was even included in that additional $15M.

4. Other area rec center pools in Wheat Ridge and Evergreen are 25yd pools. No one asked why the Arvada facility had to be a 50 meter pool. No one asked what a 25 yard facility would cost.

5. No one asked what the cost would be to add 25 yard pools at High Schools. Smaller pools, locker rooms already in place and possibly shared walls would result in lower costs.

6. Not one CAAC member asked what the implications and precedent would be set for the other 4 Rec Districts in Jeffco when their pools “age out”. Would Jeffco help those Rec Districts fund their new pools in the future? Or, would Arvada residents be “winners”? In 2018 Evergreen voters rejected a bond package that included pool upgrades to their 50 year old failing facility.

7. No one asked about the equity. No one asked why Reed and Bell thought it was fair for Lakewood or Evergreen residents to pay for an Arvada community pool.

7. Not one CAAC member asked what Jeffco schools facility needs would not get accomplished because $17M went into Arvada’s new pool. Taxpayers were told that Jeffco had $1.3B in facilities needs when they were asked to approve the $567M bond. Are those not real needs now? Shouldn’t there be a prioritized list of projects awaiting funding that this project is compared against? Replacement schools for example? Isn’t prioritization a key function of the CAAC? Yet, trade-offs weren’t even discussed.

8. Not one CAAC member asked about the certainty of Arvada voters passing a bond to fund the facility. A recent bond to fund upgrades in Evergreen Rec district, including pool upgrades failed.

9. Not one CAAC member questioned Reed when he said that the pool would be funded from Capital Transfer, like Cap Xfer is some unlimited source of funds. Jeffco Schools promised voters that Capital Xfer would be committed to the CIP for 6 years. There is no additonal money. In fact, Jeffco is already shortchanging the CIP by $12M

10. Not one CAAC member asked how funding Arvada’s pool would affect voter sentiment District wide when Jeffco needs another capital bond passed in a few years. The current bond was carefully crafted so that everyone got something and still just barely passed. If Jeffco schools pays for Arvada’s gold plated facility, you can be guaranteed it will not sit well with Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and Evergreen voters in the future.

In a 6-0 (one absent) vote, the CAAC recommended to endorse the project.

The committee’s failure to ask reasonable questions relating to spending $17M on a pool facility for a specific community is indicative of the overall lax oversight and general negligence in the CAAC’s role as stewards of Jeffco taxpayers’ money.

Jeffco’s CAAC can’t be trusted to make good financial decisions.

Jeffco taxpayers deserve better!

Jeffco Officials Were Deceptive and Not Completely Honest Regarding Jeffco’s Capital Improvement Program

Recently, Colorado Community Media, including Jeffco Transcript and Arvada Free Press printed an article by writer Bob Wooley about Jeffco’s Capital Improvement Program.

For the most part, Wooley did a good job of attempting to explain a financially complex program. However, there were some comments and statements made by Jefferson Public Schools’ officials that were misleading or downright false.

I’ve outlined several of those areas below:

1. The article states:

After the Bond passed, the project’s estimated costs were increased by nearly $32 million for a revised total of just under $737 million for the program.

TRUE – $32M in hidden costs were added to the program

After the bond passed, $32M in costs were added to the flipbook for the same list of projects. The use of $32M in contingency to cover these costs was essentially hidden.

2. The article states:

District officials say the increase was a result of changes in scope, market conditions, incorrect estimates or various other factors like asbestos removal, which were determined once the District was able to perform more in-depth evaluations of each individual project.

PARTIALLY TRUE – 81 schools’ cost estimates increased by EXACTLY 5%

While I agree that factors such as scope changes, market conditions and incorrect estimates can result in changed estimates, that doesn’t fully explain the extent of the cost estimate changes between the first and second flipbooks. The project costs for 81 schools, or nearly 60% of the total, increased by EXACTLY 5%. This is not indicative of changes in scope or incorrect estimates. That’s indicative of using Excel to pad costs.

3. The article states:

We told voters we would accumulate six years of approximately $20 million at the back-end to fill up the program,” Reed says.

FALSE – Voters were told $23M

Voters were told that exactly $23M annually in Capital Transfer would be accumulated. In reality only $20.9M annually is currently being transferred. That means there is a $12.6M shortfall in stated revenue, again made up with Contingency.

4. The article states:

and over $3.5 million was spent on hazmat expenses (which technically, do not count as overages).

FALSE – Hazmat costs ARE overages

  1. Why aren’t $3.5M in hazmat expenses considered overages? Any decent construction project manager with 50 year old buildings knows there is asbestos in those buildings that will have to be mitigated. Mitigation costs should have been factored into the original estimates.
  2. Where is the money coming from to pay for the hazmat expenses? It’s coming from the District’s program contingency. Therefore, technically, and for all intents and purposes, hazmat expenses are program costs that reduce available contingency This is merely an attempt by Reed to put lipstick on a pig to make $3.5M in overages not seem like the $3.5M in overages hazmat costs really are.

5. The article states:

In a document Reed says is now posted to the Capital Asset Advisory Committee (CAAC) website, all budget variances are listed with specific overage amounts and the reason for the cost variance.

FALSE – This document lists variances against revised cost estimates, not original estimates

This document hides $32M in cost increases. That’s deception.

6. The article states:

Therefore, the precise amount of contingency that’s been spent on actual projects thus far is $65,815,424.

FALSE – The amount of contingency allocated is currently over $110M

$65M from what Reed wants people to believe is the contingency spent, plus $3.5M in hazmat, plus $32M in increased estimates plus $9M from recent fields project = $110M in contingency allocated.

7. The article states:

I’m not a construction guy,” Bell said. “But we have a construction guy and I was speaking to him this morning and he said “you know, a year ago the cost of steel was $53 a ton — today it’s $79.” A year ago did anybody know it was going to go from $53 to $79? No.”

MISLEADING – Cost of steel is only one small component of cost increases

Both Tim and Steve have told the Board on several occasions that they have been getting good pricing due to the pandemic. And, this report shows that non-residential construction costs have been relatively flat in Denver for the last 2 years, increasing by only 2.1% total over that time. In addition, there are numerous projects that had no steel involved that are significantly over budget. This is a misleading and deceptive statement.

8. The article states:

According to Tim Reed, Jeffco’s Executive Director Facilities & Construction, the amount of contingency that had been spent as of Feb. 22, was just over $81 million, of which nearly $12 million went to charter schools…”

MISLEADING to FALSE – $12M to Charters came from Bond Premium

The agreement with District Charters was that Jeffco would share approximately 10% of all bond proceeds with Charter schools. The $12M Tim Reed is referring to is based on Charters’ share of accrued interest and bond premium. This has nothing to do with District contingency.

The bottom line is that the Capital Improvement Program has already spent or allocated $24M over its original $86M contingency budget ($110M total) only 2.5 years into the program. In addition, Jeffco has hidden a $12M revenue shortfall from Capital Transfer. The amount of deception and lack of accountability for large cost increases is truly unbelievable.

Jeffco’s Capital Improvement Program is Over Budget

Below are the observations I made to the Capital Asset Advisory Committee on November 4, 2020, Tim Reed’s Response, my rejoinder and a current update..

Letter to CAAC – 24 November 2020

$57M over budget. On its own, a program that is $57M over budget less than 2 years into a 6 year plan should automatically trigger a Performance Audit. Just to recap, voters were told the Capital Improvement Program would cost $705M. At the CAAC’s last meeting in November, it had a $762,179,035 price tag.

Tim Reed’s Response – 10 December 2020

Response: The $705M that is cited does not take into consideration premium or accrued interest that in accordance with the bond language and IRS Arbitrage regulations are to be applied to capital projects. At the time of publication the district had no knowledge of what premium or interest earnings there would be. When the amount of those funds were identified the project costs were increased to compensate for future inflation. The budget has been adjusted to reflect the revenue ($762,179,035) available as of October 31, 2020. The remaining bonds are about to be issued and could have a premium associated with them as well as interest on those bond proceeds that will accrue over the next three years resulting in an increase in Program revenue.

Rejoinder to Reed – 4 January 2021

The Capital Improvement Program is $57M over budget, no matter how Tim tries to spin it. Taxpayers gave Jeffco $649M to complete $563M worth of projects. That was the approved budget. Neither taxpayers, nor the Board, gave Tim Reed anything additional to complete the $563M worth of projects. Yes, the Bond market gave Jeffco schools an additional $50M, but there was NEVER any implicit or explicit approval, anywhere, to use that additional money on the same projects that taxpayers already approved a budget for. Let me be blunt. I’m angry that when $86M in contingency was already allocated to a program and with District stated maintenance needs of $1.3B, that $50M in “bonus” money gets shadily added to contingency and essentially squandered when it could have been been used for other needs. Let me ask you as CAAC members a question. Did you or the Board explicitly approve the use of Bond premium for added contingency to the Capital Improvement Program or did Tim Reed merely add it to the “pot”? Was there a discussion on what else could be prioritized and done with that money? Do you not understand the implications of Tim’s actions when it comes time to ask taxpayers for another Bond? Tim can’t tell me in the answer to my Question 9 that Jeffco couldn’t use the $50M in Bond Premium for 2 replacement schools because taxpayers didn’t approve it and then turn around and tell me here that taxpayers approved $50M in added contingency for the CIP. That logic doesn’t hold. The program is $57M over budget, plain and simple and Tim Reed squandered the $50M bond premium.

Current Status – 6 March 2021

Anyway you look at it Jeffco’s Capital Improvement Program is over budget. Taxpayers were told that District projects (excluding Charters) were going to cost $563M with an additional $86M in program contingency. That’s a total of $649M. As of the February 21 CAAC meeting, the total estimated cost of all District projects is $662M (Total less Contingency and $65M for Charters). That’s $13M over the total original budget. Add in the additional $8M+ in contingency the Board just approved for fields and the total budget is now $21M over assuming ZERO remaining contingency. That overage is only going to get worse.

This is not what taxpayers were promised. Taxpayers were promised an on-budget program. $86M in contingency usage to date plus an additional $21M is way over reasonable expectations and over budget in anyone’s definition of over budget.

Where are the Annual Independent Audits of the 5B Bond Program Jeffco Taxpayers Were Promised?

To assure voters that the $705M 2018 bond program would be well managed, Jeffco wrote into the ballot language that the program would be subject to an “annual independent audit”. The implication being that the program would be scrutinized on a yearly basis by a firm without financial ties to the District. Yet, two and a half years into what is now an $832M program only a very basic financial audit has been conducted, by the same firm that has deep and long standing ties to the District.

The ballot language implied that voters would get more than that. Now, with multiple questionable practices and current cost estimates $110M over what were presented to voters, Jeffco’s staff, Board and CAAC have all balked at providing the transparency and accountability that we all thought we would get when we entrusted Jeffco with our money. It is just incomprehensible to me that there is so much resistance to providing the transparency that was promised. It seems that if there was nothing to hide a Performance Audit would give the program a clean bill of health and end, once and for all, all questions. By continuing to refuse to conduct a Performance Audit it only perpetuates the assumption that there really is something to hide. That is not a good look!

In addition, the highly touted Citizens’ Capital Asset Advisory Committee is not doing its job either. CAAC meeting notes reveal that only until recently they have remained silent and allowed the program to go tens of millions of dollars over budget without asking any questions whatsoever. They have provided poor oversight of our money.

After initially observing a high usage rate of program contingency funds and subsequently numerous other instances of extremely questionable observations regarding the transparency, management and fiscal practices of the program I sent an email

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to members of the CAAC on November 24, 2020 highlighting 10 very specific instances which raised questions with the management and transparency of the program and urging them to call for a Performance Audit conducted by a truly independent firm. Tim Reed replied on December 10, 2020 and I sent a rebuttal to Tim’s response to members of the CAAC on January 4, 2021.

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On each of my letters I clearly include an offer to discuss my concerns and my telephone number. The fact that no one has taken me up on my offer speaks loudly in and of itself.

Finally, on January 4, 2021 I sent a copy of my original letter to the CAAC, Tim Reed’s response and my rebuttal to the Board of Education

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The Board of Ed Secretary’s reply was far from confidence building:

Dear Mr. Greenawalt,

Members of the Board of Education received your January 4, 2021 email correspondence regarding our Capital Improvement Program. Thank you for bringing your concerns forward. You are correct that the Board of Education will be receiving feedback from the Capital Asset Advisory Committee and your concerns are noted.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Schooley

Secretary, Jeffco Public Schools

with no further communication from the Board.

Over a series of posts I will outline some of the issues I have seen with regard to the transparency and fiscal management of the 5B bond program and take a look at some of the unbelievable and incredulous responses Tim Reed provided in a weak attempt to address my concerns. Here are some of the topics that I will cover:

  • Over budget ($57M as of November 2020)
  • Projected $32M Contingency Shortfall
  • Deceptively adding $31M to Flipbook costs
  • Failure to Share Bond Premium with Charter Schools
  • Out of Scope Projects
  • Deceptively Hiding the True Cost of Alameda HS Cost Overruns
  • Recent Large Underspend on FF&E Projects
  • Unexplained Recent Increase to Capital Transfer Revenue
  • Questionable Use of $50M in Bond Premium Contingency
  • Failure of CAAC Members to Maintain Independence
  • Failure of Jeffco to Provide $23M in Capital Transfer as Promised to Taxpayers

Jeffco needs to put these concerns and questions to rest.

Jeffco needs to conduct the independent Performance Audit that voters thought they were going to get.

10 Reasons Jeffco Schools Capital Improvement Program Needs a Performance Audit

1. $57M over budget. On its own, a program that is $57M over budget less than 2 years into a 6 year plan should automatically trigger a Performance Audit. Just to recap, voters were told the Capital Improvement Program would cost $705M. At the CAAC’s last meeting in November, it had a $762,179,035 price tag.

2. Projected $32M Contingency Shortfall. At the October 7th Board Study Session, Tim Reed told the Board that $68M in contingency had been used to date.

At the CAAC’s November meeting Tim presented the following numbers for funds Expended and Encumbered, totaling $341M.

Subtracting the $68M of contingency from this value means that $273M of the $595M in total program costs are currently Expended or Encumbered, leaving $322M in remaining projects. If that same rate of contingency usage continues, that would require remaining contingency of over $79M. Yet, there is only $47M in contingency remaining, a $32M shortfall.

Expended as of Oct 31, 2020 $224,271,805
Encumbered as of Oct 31, 2020 +$117,596,928
Total Expended & Encumbered =$341,868,733


Less Contingency Used to date -$ 68,000,000
Project Work Encumbered or Expended =$273,868,733


Contingency usage rate ($68M/$273M) 24.83%


Remaining Project Work ($595M – $273M) $321,113,267
Projected Contingency Required ($321,113,267 * .2483) $ 79,736,893
Less Contingency Remaining as of Oct 31, 2020 -$ 46,892,780
Projected Contingency Shortfall $ 32,844,113


Total Projected Contingency Usage ($68M + $80M) $147,736,893

Do the math. The numbers don’t lie. This is not a healthy Program.

3. Deceptively adding $31M to Flipbook costs. District project costs were presented to voters as $563M. You can arrive at that number by subtracting the Charters $56M and the Contingency $86M from the Flipbook presentation.

This can be verified by adding the costs of individual projects in the original Flipbook (Plus approx. $17M in costs for Trailblazer, North Transportation Hub, OELS and Preschools projects which were withheld from voters).

However, sometime after the Bond passed, the District changed the Flipbook. The cost of nearly every project increased. Here are some examples:

Alameda HS – an increase of $1,430,902 to $19,434,000

Green Mountain HS – an increase of $754,078 to $14,361,000

Jefferson Jr/Sr HS – an increase of $672,810 to $14,129,000

This had the net effect of raising BASE costs by a total of $31,967,419. Essentially hiding $31M of cost increases.

For example, when the construction budget for Alameda was presented to the Board, contingency usage of $10,047,814 was based on the updated Base cost of $19,433,745, instead of the original cost estimate of $18,033,098. This usage of the revised cost estimate deceptively hid the totality of the increase, and the additional use of Contingency, of $1,430,902.

Therefore, cost estimates for all projects have now increased by $100M; the $68M in Contingency that Tim Reed freely told the Board PLUS the $31M in hidden cost estimate increases.

4. Failure to Share Bond Premium with Charter Schools. As recently as of the end of October, the District still had not shared Bond Premium with Charter schools, in violation of the Board’s October 2018 Sharing Resolution. The District spreadsheet widely circulated to Charter Schools show that the District only calculated sharing revenue based on the Bond par of $567M.

Yet, at the November 11th Board Study Session, Steve Bell told the Board that Bond Premium is shared with Charters.

Therefore, at this point, Charters are owed approximately $4.6M, PLUS interest – which will subsequently reduce the Contingency available for District projects by a corresponding amount.

Brian Ballard, Chair of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee, has said that it is the CAAC that has responsibility for overseeing 5B Bond funds. If that is the case, why hasn’t the CAAC ensured that District Charters have been given their complete share of the funds?

5. Out of Scope Projects. There are multiple projects that can be identified that were not in the scope presented to voters. Several easily identifiable, high-cost projects include: Ralston Valley HS Roof, Lakewood HS Track, West Jefferson MS Track, etc. The following images were taken from the Original Flipbook presented to voters and clearly do not show these projects.

Was there any discussion relating to the addition of scope and reduction of contingency for these and other added scope projects? What was involved with this process? Were these prioritized over replacement schools? Was there a vote?

6. Deceptively Hiding the True Cost of Alameda HS Cost Overruns. Similar to Jefferson Jr/Sr HS, Alameda HS is slated for Track and Field Upgrades. When the Jefferson project was submitted to the Board for approval, the Track and Field upgrades were included in the project costs and subtracted from the remaining budget.

This was not the case when Alameda was presented to the Board. The cost for the Track and Field upgrades were left off of the presented costs, effectively deceiving the Board that total overages are at least $1.5M over what was shown. Was that intentional deception, or merely incompetence?

7. Recent Large Underspend on FF&E Projects. We all like to get good deals. However, the cost savings on several recent FF&E projects go beyond the definition of good deals, suspiciously into the realm of scope reductions. Look at some of the “savings” generated from some of these FF&E projects that were recently presented to the Board, $150k, $300k, $315k and $310k.

These “savings” are 47%, 22%, 60% and 66% less than the original cost estimates. That’s far more than a reasonable person would expect from a “good” deal. What happened here? Was scope cut at these schools?

8. Unexplained Recent Increase to Capital Transfer Revenue. At the October CAAC meeting, members were shown Capital Transfers into the Capital Improvement Program of $41.8M. Yet, in November, they were shown $51.3M. Where did that additional $9.5M come from?

(On a side note, how does Interest Revenue DECREASE by $110,000 from August to September? Can you trust any numbers that are presented?)

Approximately $3M appears to come from the movement of the contingency in prior capital improvement programs such as 18M and 19M. This contingency decrease can be seen in documents presented to the CAAC.

But, the source of the remaining $6.5M is unexplained as the value of the 18M, 19M, 20M programs remain the same. And this happened mere days after Steve Bell told the Board that the capital transfers would be $20M/year over 6 years for a $120M total.

9. Questionable Use of $50M in Bond Premium for Contingency. Recently, Tim Reed and Steve Bell told the Board that during initial 5B discussions the bond ask amount was decreased and 2 replacement schools were removed from the list of projects.

If this was the case, why then, when the District received $50M in bond premium, weren’t replacement schools immediately added to the list of projects? Instead, it appears that the $50M in bond premium has merely been added to the $86M already allocated to program contingency. What was the process in determining that the additional $50M in contingency should be used for contingency instead of being used for replacement schools, particularly when taxpayers voters were told that Jeffco had $1.3B in deferred maintenance needs?

10. Failure of CAAC Members to Maintain Independence. Tim Reed recently sent members of the CAAC a document relating to the Purpose and Membership of the committee. This document clearly states that members must be:

Independent and free from any relationship that would interfere with independent judgment

Gordon Callahan, a CAAC member, has a relationship with the District. His firm has been the recipient of nearly $1M in contracts over the past year and a half.

This is not the appearance of independent judgment.

For taxpayers to fully trust the Capital Asset Advisory Committee ALL members of the committee must be completely independent and free of District relationships. Unfortunately, that is not currently the case. His continued membership on the committee is ethically questionable and erodes taxpayer trust.

Jeffco Schools’ Great 5B Bond Deception – Part III

Allocation of Bond Premium to Charters

As we saw in Part II, Jeffco’s Board of Education unanimously adopted a Bond Proceed Sharing Resolution that clearly states “the Board of Education will allocate a percentage of the bond proceeds equal to the percentage of full-time district students enrolled in district-authorized charter schools”.

Yet, Jeffco did NOT allocate ANY of the bond premium to District Charters. That was a loss of at least 9.29% of the Bond Premium of $50M or $4,660,360. If the share percentage was calculated correctly with 2019 student count numbers as explained in Part II, that revenue share loss is $4,745,642.

Why didn’t Jeffco schools share the Bond Premium? We weren’t part of the conversations and no discussion took place at the Board table, but we can only surmise that Jeffco is attempting to make a distinction between Bond “proceeds” and Bond “premium”, essentially saying that the bond premium is not part of the bond proceeds in order to keep the $4.7M for District projects.

That is just plain wrong!

While this attempted distinction has worked to silence the meek District Charter schools who are afraid of losing their Charter authorizations, the District knows that the IRS does not make that same distinction.

26 U.S. Code § 148.Arbitrage

Defines Proceeds as:

Proceeds means any sale proceedsinvestment proceeds, and transferred proceeds of an issue.

And sale proceeds as:

Sale proceeds

Sale proceeds means any amounts actually or constructively received from the sale of the issue, including amounts used to pay underwriters’ discount or compensation and accrued interest other than pre-issuance accrued interest. Sale proceeds also include, but are not limited to, amounts derived from the sale of a right that is associated with a bond, and that is described in 1.148-4(4). See also 1.148-4(h)(5) treating amounts received upon the termination of certain hedges as sale proceeds.

Jeffco agrees with this definition as in a May Alameda presentation to the BoE, Tim Reed included the Bond Premium in his calculation used to determine arbitrage requirements.

IRS Target Spend by 12/2021= 85% of Bond Proceeds & Premium $329,610,938

It is obvious that Jeffco knows that the IRS considers Bond Premium to be part of Bond proceeds.

Therefore, Jeffco has violated its own Sharing Resolution and defrauded the District Charters of over $4.6M by not sharing all of the Bond Proceeds, in this case the Bond Premium, with them.

In essence, Jeffco got the Charters to support, and campaign for, 5B, but in the end isn’t holding up its end of the bargain.

Shame on Jeffco schools!

Jeffco’s Use of Discredited and Debunked Reading Curriculum

Jeffco’s Chief Academic Officer should be fired!

The positive impact of high-quality curriculum in K-12 education is undisputed.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Reading Curriculum.

Phonics has long been known to be a key ingredient in teaching reading since the National Reading Panel released its report in April 2000.

In September 2018 Emily Hanford published “Hard Words” her article on the Science of Reading, igniting a national conversation relating to how schools teach reading.

In August 2019 Emily Hanford followed up with “At a Loss for Words” – what’s wrong with how schools teach reading and the national conversation relating to the teaching for reading continued.

Recently, Colorado’s SB 19-199 strengthened the READ Act and the CDE identified quality reading instructional programs that were to be used in state schools.

The discussion surrounding the Science of Reading, curriculum and products that support the Science of Reading is not new.

The question then is why, with only 44% of 3rd graders meeting state reading expectations, aren’t Jeffco Schools using Science based, proven, high-quality reading curriculum?

Jeffco’s Chief Academic Officer, Matt Flores, who has been with Jeffco a long time , should know the answer.

His salary cost to the District is $147,000, plus benefits per year.

I would expect someone, who makes that kind of money to be relatively competent at their job and provide real value.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Flores has overseen the continuing decline in reading proficiency in the District.

Jeffco’s MAP Predictive Reading Winter scores

He has not overseen a migration to a proven, scientific based reading curriculum at the continuing permanent harm to 1,000s of students each year and has no plan to do so.

Even worse, when asked by an education reporter as to what curriculum is used at each of the District’s Elementary Schools – he didn’t know and it took him over 30 days to find out! I find that incredulous. Especially when he oversees 285 people and has a $30M budget!

Jeffco’s reading proficiency is atrocious. Colorado is essentially mandating the use of approved curriculum and it is a virtual known that high-quality curriculum is a key ingredient in education, yet Matt Flores, Jeffco’s CAO, doesn’t know what curriculum is being used in the District.

That is not the answer you want to hear from a CAO. In fact, in my opinion, that is grounds for immediate termination for incompetence and malpractice.

On top of this, Flores blatantly avoided answering the reporter’s question on when the District would transition to state approved curriculum.

I would think that anyone who is even half-way competent would have already planned this transition/migration and could have easily and instantaneously told the reporter the answer. Isn’t it reasonable to expect highly paid executives, responsible for the education of 84,000 kids, to keep up with the Science and conversations in their profession? Absolutely!

Instead, Jeffco’s students are left with at least another year of being taught with discredited and debunked curriculum harming 1,000s of kids and no one, particularly highly paid and ineffective Matt Flores, will be fired.

10 Things we learned from Wednesday’s BoE Study Session – None of them good

Here are the 10 things we learned from the October 7, 2020 Jeffco Board Study Session on the District’s Capital Improvement Program.

None of these things is good!

1. HS Parity – We were told during the Wednesday meeting that one of the goals of the bond program was to achieve High School building parity. Someone might want to tell the staff, parents and students at Pomona, Wheat Ridge, Arvada and Green Mountain that. Even after the program finishes, these schools will still have Facility Condition Indexes above 15% while schools such as Bear Creek, Golden, Arvada West and Lakewood will have FCIs below 4%. That’s not parity/equity in my mind. Once again, Jeffco talks equity, but never, ever delivers.

2. Capital Transfer – We learned that in 2 years Jeffco has transferred $41.8M from general funds to the Capital Program and that over the next 3 years another $83.6M will be transferred for a total of $125.4M.

But, Steve Bell made that sound worse by stating that only $120M in total would be transferred over 6 years.

Jeffco voters were promised $23M/year would be transferred for a total 6 year transfer of $138M.

This is now an expected shortfall of $12.6M. This shortfall will need to be made up by either allocating contingency or reducing project scope. I don’t even think that the Board is aware of this shortfall at this point. Bell and Reed will use Wednesday’s presentation to say that they informed the Board, but this is a pretty weak argument. In reality, it was the CFO’s job to ensure that 2019-20 and 2020-21 budgets presented to the Board of Education included transfers of this promised money, OR, to inform the Board of Education of this shortfall. The former CFO Kathleen Askelson failed to do either. She failed in her fiduciary responsibilities to both taxpayers and the Board. It’s no wonder she suddenly decided to leave Jeffco. Once this came to light she should have been fired.

3. 19M Projects – During the meeting Reed casually mentioned that $9.5M worth of projects were transferred from the District’s 19M facilities maintenance program to the Bond program because they were ready to go and it would assist in meeting the arbitrage requirements of the bond.

What he failed to say was that these projects were funded straight from the contingency of the Capital Improvement Program and that this was in reality an increase of scope. Complete and utter deception on the part of Reed and Bell.

4. Missing $41M – $41M is missing from Bell and Reed’s presentation. Where is that money? Jeffco voters were told that the program came with $86M in contingency built into it (see image above). $50M was added through bond premium and another $12M added through interest.

That’s a total of $148M above and beyond the $563M in project cost estimates presented to voters. Reed and Bell told the Board that they are carrying $107M in program contingency.

In that case, where did $41M go?

$ 86M in contingency presented in original Flipbook

+$ 50M in bond premium

+$ 12M in interest

=$148M total available above cost estimates

– $107M in stated contingency

=$ 41M missing

5. % of contingency usage – Bell told the Board that $68M in contingency has been spent (video above). That contingency was spent during the completion of $264M ($332 expended and encumbered from Board docs – $68M in contingency used) in project work. Since there is (now) $594M in total work that needs to be completed for the program that means 44% of the total program work has been done against 64% of the total contingency ($68M of $107M in total contingency). At the current rate, available contingency will be used before all projects are completed and scope will have to be reduced. Calculated a different way, continuing to use contingency at the current rate would mean that Jeffco needs $153M in total contingency, $46M more than what is currently allocated. This is not a good position to be in.

6. Construction increases – We learned that there are several Board member apologists who want to blame inflation and the length of the program (6 years) for cost overruns. I don’t agree with that. A timeline for project work was clearly laid out in the Flipbook. District staff knew when projects would be worked on and SHOULD have incorporated inflation based increases into their cost estimates. If they didn’t do that, then they are incompetent and should be fired, not given a free pass as Rupert and Mitchell want to do. Besides, Jeffco is only 2 years into the program. Inflation based cost increases shouldn’t be responsible for over $68M in cost increases at this point.

7. Contingency use between May and September – In May Reed told the Board that there was $57M in remaining contingency.

May Contingency

Since that time the Board has approved approx. $11M in contingency usage, mostly at Alameda. Now, Reed is now telling the Board that there is only $37M in contingency remaining. What did that additional $9M in contingency get used for in such a short period of time? Where did it go in only a few short months without Board knowledge?

8. Questions about use of $50M bond premium – The bond premium was a bonus. In my mind, it should be used to provide real value to the taxpayers. During the meeting Reed told the Board that to get the total bond package down to something reasonable for taxpayers for the 2018 vote they had to remove two replacement schools.

Now, when Jeffco received bond premium, why did $50M just get consumed to pay for added contingency? Why weren’t 2 replacement schools added into the program? This is pure mismanagement and an atrocious use of taxpayer money. People should be fired for using $50M this way!

9. Where was the Citizens Capital Asset Advisory Committee? Members of the CAAC were supposed to be at the meeting to answer questions regarding their oversight and monitoring of the program. They are definitely aware (here and here) of the depth and degree of the $100M in cost overruns to date. It is suspicious that at the last moment they decided not to show up.

10. Board President Harmon and Directors Rupert and Mitchell will go to great lengths to cover-up waste and mismanagement and protect the District from criticism or scrutiny. When Director Miller brought up questionable practices regarding the use of the $50M bond premium, instead of addressing that issue first, Harmon attacked Director Miller and then Rupert and Mitchell went into a full on defense of the District. It’s not their money, so why should they care?

This Wednesday’s study session was enlightening, to say the least. It raised, and never answered, numerous questions regarding the management of a $3/4 Billion Capital Improvement Program. The degree of deception on the parts of Reed and Bell is just unbelievable.

The Program is a disaster – way over budget and heading further in that direction. That is not how you get taxpayers to approve your next bond request.

It is clearly evident that, as promised to taxpayers, a full and complete performance audit on the program must be conducted immediately!

Jeffco Schools’ Great 5B Bond Deception – Part II

Computation of Charter Share

The Board of Education’s Bond Revenue Sharing Resolution clearly states that “the Board of Education will allocate a percentage of the bond proceeds equal to the percentage of full-time district students enrolled in district-authorized charter schools”.

A reasonable person would have read this resolution at face value and come to the conclusion that the percentage would have been calculated based on the count of full-time enrolled Charter students divided by the count of total full-time enrolled District students. In fact, a spreadsheet presented to Charter schools (attached) to show how the distributions were calculated clearly displayed the following text referring to FTE (Full time Equivalent) in 2 locations:

1. Official Oct 1 2018 FTE

2. Note: October 1, 2018 Official FTE count (audited)

Yet, the District did not use FTE numbers. In its calculations, the District actually used the state calculated Funded Student Count numbers for total District student count number, which is higher. This effectively increases the denominator for the percentage calculation and reduces the Charters’ shares. State Funded student count numbers are higher because, in an environment of decreasing student enrollment, the state reduces impact of revenue decreases by computing a 5 year average of student enrollment. For the school year 2018-2019 this increased the total District funded student count number by 1,397 and resulted in a loss of nearly $1M to Charter schools.

Not only did the District perpetrate this loss of agreed upon revenue to District Charters, but they

  1. Ignored letters to the Board addressing this
    1. Letter to the Board – http://improvejeffcoschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Gmail-RE_-Jeffco-Short-changed-5B-Charter-Share-by-Using-5-year-Enrollment-Average-in-Calculation.pdf
    2. Letter to the Board – http://improvejeffcoschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Gmail-RE_-Jeffco-Short-changed-5B-Charter-Share-by-Using-5-year-Enrollment-Average-in-Calculation.pdf
    3. Response to Board Letter – http://improvejeffcoschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Gmail-5B-Charter-Allocation.pdf
  2. Told the press that this was acceptable – https://arvadapress.com/stories/citizens-district-dispute-amount-5b-bond-money-charters-receive,282993
  3. Convinced the Chair of the District’s Financial Oversight Committee, Brian Ballard, to not investigate and that this was a non-issue.
    1. Letter to FOC Chair – http://improvejeffcoschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Gmail-RE_-EXTERNAL-Jeffcos-Distribution-of-2018-Bond-funds-to-District-Charter-Schools.pdf

Charter parents campaigned very hard for a Bond that barely passed. How short-sighted is it of Jeffco to not see this? I doubt Charter parents will be as willing to expend as much effort and energy the next time Jeffco wants to pass a bond when Charters will know that Jeffco will be out to take advantage of them.

Jeffco Schools’ Great 5B Bond Deception – Part I

Jason Glass and Jeffco Schools promised transparency when they put a $567M Bond to the vote of taxpayers in 2018.

To great fanfare, Glass rolled out what was called a Flipbook that explained sources of revenue for the District’s 6 year Capital Improvement Program and exactly how much would be spent at each school.

There was one big problem though. The Flipbook did NOT show where nearly $17M in bond proceeds would be used. I even wrote about it in October 2018 – http://improvejeffcoschools.org/index.php/2018/10/ A year and a half later, through CORA requests, I’ve been able to piece together the uses of that $17M, now blossomed to over $19M, in spending:

ProjectEst. Cost
North Transportation-Joyce Renovation$349,400
Trailblazer Stadium$4,415,250.00
581 Conference Place Reopen$518,877.00
Mount Evans OELS Efficiency$3,210,190
Windy Peaks OELS Efficiency$3,340,982
Anderson Preschool Efficiency$117,794
Irwin Preschool Efficiency$48,935
Free Horizon Montessori$174,682
Litz Preschool Efficiency$77,479
North Transportation-Site Acquisition$7,000,600
Total $19,254,189

In looking at this list, one can only guess at why these projects were not shown to taxpayers – most are not directly related to schools. Trailblazer stadium, North Transportation Site, 581 Conference Place – these are not projects that would have encouraged me to vote Yes on the Bond.

Even when asked a question on his much touted Jeffco Generations Facebook page, Glass failed to answer a question regarding the missing projects.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1236337263132884/permalink/1614849428614997

And, the most egregious thing was that shortly after the Bond was approved by taxpayers the Flipbook was quietly updated. Cost estimates increased from $563M to $594M, an increase of $31M in cost estimates.

Here are several examples of how project costs changed (you can see the complete list here):

SchoolOriginal FlipbookRevised FlipbookDifference
Alameda HS$18,003,098$19,434,000$1,430,902
Patterson International ES$463,102$2,232,000$1,768,898
West Jefferson Middle School$2,323,535$3,700,000$1,376,465
Powderhorn Elementary$5,756,358$6,100,000$343,642

Not only is there not a corresponding increase in revenue to fund these increases, but the impact of the changes turns out to be extremely important in the on-going deception of hiding the degree of cost overruns, which I will discuss in a future post.

The deception to taxpayers regarding 5B funding and projects started early and appears to be well thought out – not something that should be done if Jeffco wants to get another Bond approved in the future.

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