Collaborative Committee to discuss HS GT program funding – Feb 21, 2017

Robert Greenawalt  Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 5:06 PM
To: Jeffco Schools Board of Education <>,,,,,

The parents of the HS GT students do not consider a meeting between Kevin Carroll and Griff Wirth to be “collaboration.” A truly collaborative meeting should involve ALL stakeholders. including District finance, Kevin, Griff, a member of the WR SAC, a parent and one of the teachers. If you want collaboration, you need to have a meeting that is truly collaborative. Is there something wrong with this approach? Is there a reason that you don’t want GT Center representatives involved in this process? We believe this meeting needs to be held sooner rather than later.

It’s a shame that even after the Feb 9th Board meeting, you still do not understand the difference between the HS GT Program at Wheat Ridge and the ES and MS GT Centers. It’s a shame that you continue to drink the Kool-Aid provided by Kevin Carroll and Terry Elliott. Terry Elliott has never even visited the HS GT Center! His claim that the GT class is one of the 6 normal HS classes is FALSE. Doesn’t he, and don’t you, realize that GT is a 7th class for almost all of the HS GT students? The SBB model was not designed to support GT resources in this manner, especially in a school that is also 50% FRL and has a large percentage of far below grade level readers that also need extra resources. That is just an unrealistic expectation for funding. Do you realize that it has taken 8 years of hard work by everyone at Wheat Ridge to get the program to where it is today? Kevin may think you can just plop this program at some other school if Griff can’t support it with SBB money, but guess what – that won’t work! The success of the program is not only due to the 2 outstanding GT teachers, but is due to all of the other teachers in that school who have learned how to work with GT students, AND to all of the other tolerant and accepting kids at Wheat Ridge. The entire school, including the GT program, has built a culture of tolerance and inclusiveness. This is especially important because so many of the GT students ran away from bullying in other Jeffco schools.

My kids went to Jeffco GT Centers in ES and MS, as well as the GT Center at Wheat Ridge, and my kids and I DO understand the difference. The HS GT Center provides more critical one-on-one support and does far more for the students than the ES and MS centers. It does that because it is staffed differently and approaches GT differently.

$150,000 of an $700 million General Fund budget is only 2/100ths of a percent but it makes a real difference in so many young lives. This program is a model for the state and nation and something Jeffco has to be proud of. I would think Kevin and the Board would be doing everything they can to truly support it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel that way.

You have something that is working.

Don’t screw it up!

Have the Superintendent form a truly collaborative committee with ALL of the stakeholders so that the complete list of issues can be put on the table, understood and discussed!

Bob Greenawalt


On Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 3:18 PM, Jeffco Schools Board of Education <> wrote:

Dear Mr. Greenawalt,

Members of the Board of Education received your correspondence regarding gifted and talented programming at the high school level. Thank you for your continued interest in and support of these students. As you made note, the funding for the program at Wheat Ridge High School was approved at the February 9 Board of Education meeting for the 2017-18 school year. At that time, the Board directed Mr. Kevin Carroll, chief student success officer, to work collaboratively with Wheat Ridge administration regarding transitioning program funding to Student Based Budgeting (SBB) dollars beyond next year.

It is my understanding that Mr. Carroll has already established a meeting time with Principal Griff Wirth to begin this discussion yet this spring. Mr. Carroll made note during the board meeting that the other 15 gifted and talented center programs within the district are funded in this same manner, and have been since the inception of SBB. As is true at Wheat Ridge High School, these 15 programs serve students from all across the county not just their local school. The decisions regarding how SBB dollars are utilized is determined by the local principal leveraging a collaborative process which considers the input of many stakeholders: local accountability committee, parent organizations, teachers and other staff. I appreciate your involvement and encourage you to continue to actively participate through these avenues as related to the future investment of SBB dollars at Wheat Ridge High School.

Finally, I echo your sentiments that social emotional supports, as well as academic supports, are critical for the success of all students, including gifted and talented students. For this reason, we have placed the social emotional learning specialists on the deferred list of reallocations at this time. Separate and distinct from the reallocation list, the gifted and talented department has supported four gifted and talented counseling positions designed to address the social and emotional needs of gifted learners in center programs as well as neighborhood schools since January of 2015.

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.

With the failure of the 3A/3B school funding measures in November, and the continuous decline of K-12 funding from the state, Jeffco Public Schools is now challenged to meet these priorities leveraging current resources from other areas in the district budget. I encourage you to remain involved and engaged in this process including reviewing the district budget information page.

Again, board members appreciate your perspective, your concern and your interest as Jeffco navigates this very difficult time.


Amanda Stevens

Secretary, Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education


From: Robert Greenawalt
Sent: Monday, February 06, 2017 10:14 PM
Subject: Wharton MBA’s 4 Alternative Solutions to Budget Recommendation of cutting District HS GT Program

Everyone realizes the difficulty in balancing budgets, as we all go through that process in our own homes, and I appreciate your tough task regarding the school budget. There is always prioritization and a give and take to determine what to keep and what to sacrifice. I also understand that only hearing problems without also hearing alternatives or solutions doesn’t really help.

But sometimes a program is so vital – like the high school GT program, a national model for a successful program whose closing would give so many kids no viable alternative – that it requires deeper digging to find a way to keep it alive.

That’s why I’m proposing 4 alternatives to the Cabinet’s recommended budget elimination of the District’s vital HS GT Program.

To give you a little background, while I am a parent of 2 kids who have been in the District’s ES, MS and HS GT Programs, I am also a Wharton MBA. I’ve been a management consultant for PriceWaterhouse in New York, retired from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel and am currently the Chief Technology Officer for an international K-12 education non-profit. I have a background that helps me understand both budgeting and education and have evaluated and managed many budgets.

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 Superintendent and his Cabinet need to carefully review these viable alternatives.

Here are some details:

1. Cut one additional Achievement Director than has already been recommended

Several years ago we lived in Evergreen before moving to Lakewood so that our daughter could be part of the District HS GT program. Evergreen’s two excellent MS and HS principals were pulled out of the schools to become Achievement Directors, so I know where these Directors came from. At the time, I questioned the added value that these dozen or so highly paid ex-principals could provide in a time of constrained budgets, but I can see where these directors could have been a good resource for new principals, principals in struggling schools, or long-term principals in need of fresh ideas.

It may be time to review the program’s scope and effectiveness. I can certainly see the value in having mentors for new principals, but after several years it would seem that the amount of time needed to support veteran principals – and the number of highly paid Directors — could be reduced. At their salary and benefit level, it would only take the reduction of one additional Achievement Director to counteract the proposed cut of the student-facing teachers running the District’s HS GT program. In a budget “crisis”, you need to see what you can cut from the top before you start cutting programs that directly affect kids.

If I were in your position, I would ask the following question:

Can the high-cost Achievement Director program still be successful in mentoring and assisting the principals most in need with a further reduction of 1 Achievement Director?

I would think with 14 people on the Org Chart, the answer to that question would be yes.

2. Use some of the $17.5M in Materials and Supplies Contingency hidden in the budget. In 2016-2017 this is $7.5M more than in 2015-2016.

I understand the need and use of Contingency in budgets and use them in my own budgets. For that reason, there are numerous reasonable Contingency line items I’m ignoring, but when Contingency makes up 63% of the entire Materials & Supplies Budget for schools and increased 79% from 2015-2016, something is drastically wrong!

As a fiscal manager I would be asking questions such as:

1.     Why can’t we budget better and allocate these contingency funds to appropriate categories? The 2015-2016 budget year has finished so there should be a good idea on what categories these contingency funds were used for. At first glance this looks like either a slush fund or a way to hide what the money is really being spent on.

2.     Why do the contingency lines need to increase so drastically? A 79% increase from 2015-2016 is ridiculous.

3.     What’s the oversight of these line items? Who has spending approval for well over $17M in funding?

4.     How much did these lines contribute to last year’s budget surplus of $24M?

5.  Why does Contingency make up 63% of the entire Materials and Supplies budget? That is just not right.

Here are some numbers from the District’s approved 2016-2017 Budget. The high percentage of contingency has to make you wonder:

Materials and Supplies 2015-2016 2016-2017 Variance %increase 2016-2017 Total Materials and Supplies Budget %Contingency of Materials and Supplies
Elementary $6,701,763 $12,998,773 $6,297,010 94% $18,025,512 72%
Middle $955,804 $1,572,907 $617,103 65% $2,974,748 53%
Senior $1,637,578 $2,625,895 $988,317 60% $5,661,647 46%
Option $573,291 $455,227 ($118,064) -21% $1,161,027 39%
Total $9,868,436 $17,652,802 $7,784,366 79% $27,822,934 63%

Surely there is a way to reduce this non-transparent slush fund and use it to fund the programs you’re cutting.

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 hard to comprehend the need for another $25M in compensation increases.

I won’t deny that there are legitimate reasons why some compensation investment is needed (compensation for the hiring of veteran teachers and inflation-based increases), but does that really add up to $25M? I think there are some opportunities to reduce the proposed budget cuts by reducing the goal of $25M in compensation increases.

4. Determine if some of the $24M in 2015-2016 budget surplus is sustainable and use some of the sustainable surplus.

I’ve seen that $24M was a surplus from the 2015-2016 budget. While using that surplus for deferred maintenance is an undeniably good use for this money, I think we need to ask the question if any of that surplus is sustainable. If it is sustainable, it certainly could be used as a source for the savings you are looking for.

Again, the Superintendent and his Cabinet need to carefully review these viable alternatives.

We need to remember that students should be the first priority in the education budget, and find cuts that directly affect as few as possible. We also need to make sure children on the margins don’t suffer the brunt of the reductions.

Thank you again for your time and consideration,

Bob Greenawalt

From: Robert Greenawalt
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2017 1:23 PM
To: Stevens Amanda J
Subject: What message are you sending if you de-fund Jeffco’s 2017 Teacher of the Year Finalist’s program?


What message are you sending to teachers, students, parents and the community if you cut the position of one of the best teachers in the district, Lisa Lee? She is a finalist for Colorado Teacher of the Year (

It’s my understanding that the entire purpose of the budget reduction recommendations is to keep teachers, not get rid of the best ones. Yet Terry Elliott’s Phase 1B recommendation to eliminate 2 GT teachers does just that.

His canned, cavalier and cop-out response is that he was a former GT principal and that all other GT programs in the district are funded by the schools. But that is not true — the Jeffco High School GT Program at Wheat Ridge is a DISTRICT program, not a school center. And by eliminating these two teachers, he is effectively shuttering a program that benefits every GT high school student in Jeffco. Since Terry has turned down repeated invitations and has never visited the program, his response shows his complete ignorance as to how the the HS GT program is different from all of the ES/MS GT programs in the district. I’ve had kids go through Jeffco’s ES and MS GT programs, which were nothing more than learning at an advanced rate or level. They did not provide the social, emotional and life support that my two twice exceptional kids need and receive(d) from the HS GT program at Wheat Ridge. To Terry Elliott, the two GT teachers and the widely recognized program that they run are nothing more than a budget line item. That makes me truly question if the administration of the district really cares about students.

If you de-fund these two positions, you will put the principal of Wheat Ridge into a position he shouldn’t be put in. He is essentially housing a District program that he accepted, but didn’t ask for, that requires more resources to successfully run than the standard funding ‘formula’. You will be putting the burden of supporting a DISTRICT program onto a principal of one school, with his own competing demands and 1,000 other students to consider.

If you de-fund these positions, the message that I and everyone else will hear is that quality education and the needs of our kids just don’t matter in Jeffco!

Are you going to be able to explain that?

You need to seriously reconsider this recommendation. Lisa Lee and Elliott Holm run a unique, invaluable and highly successful, growing program that is the ONLY GT option for high school students in the District (just ask the kids!). The presence of the District’s HS GT program at Wheat Ridge saves lives, helps students finish school and enhances Jeffco’s reputation both locally and nationally.

I’m sure you can find more appropriate, less vital places to cut under $200k, without sending the message that quality in education doesn’t matter.

Bob Greenawalt

From: Robert Greenawalt
Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2017 2:40 PM
To: Stevens Amanda J
Subject: Proposed Budget Reduction effectively closing Jeffco’s ONLY High School GT Center


The impact of the proposed Phase 1 budget reduction of 2 GT Teachers was glossed over at your January 26th meeting. These are not just merely ‘elective’ teachers at Wheat Ridge! No, these two teachers run the District’s ONLY high school GT Center, with 62% of its students coming from outside the Wheat Ridge articulation area, and even the district, just because of what this program provides to the students and its reputation. By eliminating these 2 teacher positions, you will effectively shut down the entire program and leave these at risk kids without the support system they have come to depend on. That’s a far greater impact than just reducing 2 elective teachers at a high school, as was communicated.

I don’t know what you know about the GT Center, but I would like to recommend that prior to the next meeting, you visit the classroom and talk to some of the students. This is not just a place for smart kids. This is a Center for many, many twice-exceptional kids. These are kids who are really smart but yet are a bit quirky and who sometimes really struggle at school and with life. These are kids who were bullied and marginalized at their previous schools. These are kids who, without this Center, would no longer be attending any school or possibly even be alive. These are kids who would have no other place to go. This is a program that does a tremendous amount of social, life and emotional counseling to help these kids get by and succeed.

You have to see it and talk to the kids to really understand this program’s value. This program is what schools should do to help kids but too often don’t.

Please make an effort to visit the center and talk to some kids before next week’s meeting, and do everything within your power to change this ill-advised de-funding recommendation.


Bob Greenawalt