Improve Jeffco Schools

A different perspective on the current state of Jeffco schools

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Jason Glass Never Ceases to Spin, Deceive and Deflect from His Responsibility

I found Glass’s latest Advance Jeffco blog post (https://advancejeffco.blog/2019/11/08/breaking-down-the-2019-election/) regarding the election to be a carefully crafted spin on the election and his side-stepping of accountability for the state of education in Jeffco Schools and almost an implied threat to the new Board members..

On the most important topic of the district’s instructional philosophy Glass stated: “our board going forward will need to wrestle with the choice between following through on building an educational experience emphasizing real-life experiences or an approach focused on standardized test scores.“

This is just flat-out wrong and an attempt by Glass to distance himself from any accountability whatsoever.

Why can’t the District provide an educational experience emphasizing real-life experiences and ALSO ensure that kids have mastered the fundamental educational skills they will need to succeed in the world? This is NOT an Either-Or choice as Glass would like people to believe.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. Schools exist to educate students. Fundamentally, schools need to teach students to be able to read and do math (among many other things). As parents and taxpayers, how do we know if schools are doing their jobs? There has to be some form of measurement. To me, it is pretty simple, if kids are being taught what the state has determined they should be taught, then their test scores will reflect that. People can complain about tests and evaluations all they want, but isn’t that what real-life is about? Aren’t tests one of the real-life experiences that Glass is talking about? Aren’t sports competitions merely an evaluation? Aren’t corporations’ quarterly and yearly earning results really a measurement of how a corporation is doing? Don’t many people have some measurable objectives at their place of work? Is there a better way to understand the academic growth and achievement of our kids and a way to hold schools, and Superintendents, accountable than through the use of standardized tests? Can’t schools practice those tests and use those practice tests as a learning experience? I always found that I learned a lot when my test results were reviewed. And, even as Glass talks about this he himself put numerous Academic Indicators of Success, based on standardized tests, into the Jeffco Generations document he likes to talk about. Are those goals suddenly meaningless now that the indicators are trending in the wrong direction and he’s looking bad?

Glass is getting paid good money to ensure our kids get an excellent education. On a high, conceptual level it sounds great that real-life experiences should be part of the education process and that kids need more skills than just reading and math. HOWEVER, don’t kids first need those fundamentals as a foundation for Glass’s Deeper Learning? When only 50% of Jeffo’s students are reading at grade level and even fewer are at math grade level, I think that the emphasis, first and foremost, in Jeffco should be on those fundamental skills. In addition, have Glass and Jeffco defined what “real-life” experiences every student should have before graduating? Is there a measure or check-list of those? How will we as parents and taxpayers know if this effort is successful? There have to be definitions and measures of success, otherwise, it is just a bunch of meaningless words that are written on a fancy looking Powerpoint presentation.

Regarding the closure of neighborhood schools, I would like to know how many of these are K-5 schools that were put at risk of closing due to the moving of 6th graders to Middle School? Did the Board consider this when they made that decision? Making the K-5, 6-8 model decision should have come with the implied long-term support for the small(er) K-5 schools that the Board created.

The next part of Glass’s narrative was off-putting and disturbing to me, particularly his use of the terms “factions” and “divisive partisan politics”. Is it “divisive partisan politics” when people have different philosophies on improving education? Can’t, and shouldn’t there be, real discussions on philosophies of education and how to improve our schools? It might be one thing if the measurable results in the District were great, but the truth is, they aren’t. That means that there NEEDS to be open and full-ranging discussions, particularly since the path Glass is now taking the District is unproven and has so far yielded negative results. That’s not being ‘divisive’, that’s doing what’s best for our kids!

So, the real challenges before the Board members are how they do what is best for our kids and community. How do we as parents and taxpayers measure if Glass and the Board are successful (the number of positive social media posts don’t count)? How much longer do we continue to fool ourselves, or be fooled, into thinking that Jeffco schools are great when there are so many kids who are being failed? Shouldn’t proven and science based approaches be used in our schools instead of nice “sounding” philosophies that haven’t been proven anywhere else? In the tech field, people would call the path that Glass is leading us to be on the bleeding edge – usually not a good place to be.

Glass also expounded on Jeffco 1A with the same type of over-simplification he decried about people in categorizing the Board candidates. Glass wrote that 1A “would have allowed the county to keep (and not refund) $16.1 million in revenues collected over the formulaic cap set in TABOR.” However, that was only for the first year, as in the 2nd year that amount could have been $32M. That was only part of the deception of 1A, and it looks like Glass fell for that.

Glass continued his attempted deception of Jeffco readers with his comment regarding CC when he wrote: “As such, Jeffco Public Schools will begin making budget forecasts for next year and into the future without these incremental funds.”

Again, a misleading over-simplification. CC funds would have been variable. The amount, and even if there would be any available at all, would change yearly. You can’t really budget for that funding into the future if you don’t know if it will even be there.

It might be nice if every now and then Glass wrote about the real education issues in Jeffco instead of his continued pandering to the white, activist soccer moms whose kids can read. But, if he did that he would have to admit to his failure to make improvements and get more than 50% of Jeffco students reading above grade expectations. It’s obviously easier, and more financially rewarding, for him to talk politics than improve education.

It’s time to focus on students in Jeffco – Vote Miller & Applegate

Chalkbeat has recently reported on the fund raising gaps in the Jeffco School Board races

When I see contributions such as these I always wonder why they were made. Obviously the teachers’ unions see some benefit for the nearly $50,000 they’ve donated so far to Chavez-Lee and Schooley.

For the past 4 years, the Board has been controlled by 5 members who have accepted large amounts of Teacher Union money during their campaigns. The Board made it clear that teacher salaries are a priority and teachers subsequently have seen increases totaling 20%. To finance those increases we have seen department level cuts, a tax increase and a school closing.

However, over the past 2 years student achievement and growth are substantially down. 54% of 3rd graders don’t meet state literacy expectations. 65% of 6th graders don’t meet state math expectations. Overall District academic growth is below the state average. That’s atrocious! Kids are suffering – falling behind and never catching up.

So, while the current Board members have accepted union contributions and focused on raising teacher pay, they seem to have forgotten the real reason the school District exists – to educate students and prepare them for a productive life. Students don’t need more of the same.

It’s time to get some independent thinkers and voices on the school Board. The Board needs members who will make it their priority to focus on students and raising student achievement and growth, something that has been grossly lacking over the past 4 years. Miller and Applegate will bring that much needed diversity of thought and opinion into the Board room.

Students, not funding, should be the priority in Jeffco. Vote Susan Miller!

Recently Chalkbeat published the answers to nine questions they asked Jeffco Board candidates Susan Miller and Joan Chavez-Lee.

The bottom line is that Chavez-Lee is focused on state funding, while Miller is focused on students.

Chavez-Lee says that the biggest issue facing Jeffco schools is the ‘amount of money it receives from the state of Colorado’. Miller, on the other hand, says that Jeffco ‘needs to do a better job of preparing our children for the challenges they will face after graduation’ and highlights the large numbers of students who are not meeting state literacy, math and science standards.

The fact that 54% of Jeffco 3rd graders do not meet state literacy standards and are doomed to higher probabilities of not graduating from high school, being incarcerated and lower earnings is the biggest issue facing Jeffco’s students and Jeffco. Coupled with declining overall achievement and growth scores, we need to acknowledge that Jeffco has significant issues.

It’s imperative that we have someone like Susan Miller on the Board. While we can acknowledge that more funding would be better, we need someone who more importantly recognizes the magnitude and severity of the education problem we have. We need someone like Susan Miller who will put students, not state funding, first.

The Myriad Lame Excuses for Jeffco’s Disastrous 2019 Assessment Scores

The scores were bad, but the variety of excuses for the atrocious results seemed endless. Brad Rupert started the Board discussion by attempting to blame the scores on the 5A/5B vote. I just can’t comprehend how that vote would affect scores. Not only was the vote in early November, but how were the kids involved? If the kids weren’t involved, then what Brad really meant was that the teachers were so involved in the vote that they weren’t properly performing their jobs. Is that what he was saying? JCEA probably wouldn’t agree with that, but wasn’t it really an attempt at shifting blame – from the teachers responsible for the scores to … teachers?

Brad’s next attempt was to blame the scores on the shift to the K-5, 6-8 model. Yet, once again, under scrutiny, this attempt backfires. The Board promised the community that the move to the 6-8 model would be good for kids. Growth drops of 7 points in both ELA and Math and real drops of 3 / 4 points doesn’t seem like it was good for the kids. This excuse once again only highlights the poor operational aspects of the move. And, who should bear ultimate responsibility for these scores? Teachers? Isn’t that their job? But, certainly no one will ever mention them as having responsibility for the drop. And, how did this move affect the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grade CMAS scores? What about the PSAT and SAT drops? Lame, lame lame, Brad.

The next attempt at an excuse was Kris Schuh’s “we anticipated an implementation dip” excuse. Really? The District “anticipated” a dip? If a good organization “anticipates” something, don’t they plan for it? Since there was no mitigation, that must make Jeffco schools not a very good organization. In fact, it doesn’t seem like Jeffco did any planning for the “anticipated” dip at all. The “additional planning time” seemed like a knee-jerk, desperation attempt to stave off legitimate Board questions on what the District was doing. In addition, Flores didn’t have an answer for what the District would be doing to help PSAT and SAT scores. ‘Anticipated’? It seems far from it. Flores also stated that scores should be looked at through the lens of the DUIP. Yet, the DUIP showed that scores would increase for the 2018-19 school year. That doesn’t support the “anticipated dip” excuse from Schuh. Someone wasn’t telling the truth – either the person who wrote the DUIP and didn’t include the “anticipated dip” or Schuh in making up the lame “anticipated dip” excuse.

To top the list of excuses, the District attempted to blame a dead teenager, Sol Pais, for the fact that 2 schools didn’t get enough students to school to take the tests. That’s 2, just 2 out of how many? 100+ schools? And Jason Glass really expects people to believe that?

Having bad results is one thing. Good organizations have solid, concrete and measurable plans for improvement. Jason Glass and Jeffco demonstrated their complete and utter incompetence by not having those plans, but instead only producing lame excuses and half-baked and wish-washy plans, with no realistic chance for success to the Board.

Unfortunately, the Board let Glass and his merry band of incompetents off the hook too easily.

It’s time for a change of Board members and Glass. With 5 years now as a Superintendent in Colorado, Glass needs to be put under a critical lens as he has no track record of improving academic performance in either of the two Districts he’s been in.

Jeffco’s 6th Grade Move to Middle School Debacle

Jeffco’s Board promised that moving 6th graders to Middle School would be good for the students, despite some studies to the contrary.

It wasn’t!

In fact, measured by test scores it was a debacle and the magnitude of the drops is just mind boggling.

CMAS Math Growth was down a massive 7 points while the number of students meeting state standards was down a comparable 4% points.

It was the same for CMAS ELA. Growth was similarly down 7 points and the number of students meeting state standards was down 3%.

The only people that could call this move a success would be the Jeffco Board of Education who cited the “success” of this move in extending Jason Glass’ contract 5 years.

I think the exact opposite. When you see scores drop like this it demonstrates to me that Glass doesn’t have the leadership or skills necessary to move the District in the right direction and his contract should be terminated. He completely embarrassed the Board, but more importantly he completely let down the kids he’s responsible for educating.

I feel the same way regarding the Board of Education. If they consider this a “success”, their definition doesn’t match mine. I want to see thinking, and results, that are student focused. By extending Glass’ contract the Board clearly demonstrated that they aren’t student focused and they too need to be replaced.

Strong Leaders Surround Themselves with Even Stronger Subordinates

I was a bit surprised when Jason Glass took over as Superintendent of Jeffco schools and he didn’t replace ANY of the top leadership. In many instances a change in top leadership is accompanied by the new leader bringing in some of his “own” people. I always wondered why no changes were made, with the exception of bringing in the all important Chief Communication Officer he previously worked with in Eagle, a year after he took the Jeffco position.

  • Did Glass consider the people who were already there to be superstars? It’s hard to imagine that given the weak academic results of the District.
  • Did Glass not have a network of people he trusted and believed in from past jobs? That’s a possibility given he came from Eagle.
  • Does Glass have the arrogance to believe that he could make the incumbents better in their jobs? That’s certainly a possibility.
  • Was Glass so weak that he didn’t want to get rid of the incumbents? Again, that’s a possibility.
  • Does Glass not trust himself to be able to hire better people? Again, another possibility.

The bottom line is that for nearly 2 years all of the incumbents remained in place. Eventually, the Chief Human Resource Officer left, Kevin Carroll retired and the Chief of Schools – Elementary was hired away.

The jury is still out regarding Kevin Carroll’s replacement (good riddance, by the way). However, the replacement for Chief of Schools – Elementary is a head scratcher.

Strong leaders surround themselves with strong subordinates. Glass’s appointment of Renee Nicothodes, who spent many, many years at Adams 14, is not confidence inspiring. With the state essentially taking over Adams 14, Renee has NO track record of making improvements. Could Glass not get someone with a better track record, or is he afraid of bringing in someone who might be stronger than he is? Either way, it is an indictment of his leadership and a blow to the kids and improvement in Jeffco.

Why Did Jason Glass Get a Sudden 5-year Contract Extension?

Why did Jason Glass receive a sudden 5-year contract extension? We don’t know the answer to that. We only know that it was discussed in Executive Session, put on the public Board meeting agenda and quickly and unanimously agreed upon.

During the Board discussion multiple Board members had reservations about the suddenness of the vote, in favor of more transparency. In fact, the District’s counsel, Craig Hess, recommended against taking a vote without providing more time for public comment.

However, Ron Mitchell was adamant on jamming through the extension that night, using the fact that the minimal public comment was sufficient.

In the end, using the passage of 5A/5B and the 6th grade move to Middle School (Edit: maybe the 6th grade move wasn’t as good as the Board wanted it to seem) as examples of the “good” work Glass has done the vote was taken and ALL Board members voted for the extension – transparency by damned. And just like that, without waiting to see the performance results from Glass’ 2nd year Jeffco is locked into a still unproven Superintendent for the next 6 years. Not a good strategy, if you ask me.

And finally, once again, Glass’s contract contained no performance incentives. The kids in Jeffco can only hope the unproven “transforming the task” and “Deeper Learning” will actually have a positive impact on education. Without studies and proven results in any other school district I remain skeptical.

Jeffco Continues to Attempt to Hide Full-Time Enrollment Numbers for 5B Charter Allocation

Enough is Enough, Jeffco!

In response to a CORA request asking for FTE numbers, by school, for every school in the District, Jeffco responded by writing:

At this time, our Subject Matter Experts only have the unofficial student count by school for the Charter Schools and can provide that to you at no cost. If you would like the FTE data for every school in the District they estimate the time necessary to research and retrieve that information to be 3 hours.

This is just a BLATANT attempt to make it difficult for me to get the numbers!

And, it’s outright FALSE!

Let’s look at this from another perspective. If Jeffco truly doesn’t have these numbers:

  1. How could they calculate the Charters’ share of 5B funding?
  2. How does CDE have the detailed, by school numbers?

The answer to the first question is easy – Jeffco couldn’t make the calculation! This makes Jeffco’s response to my CORA request extremely difficult to believe.

For the second question, I know that CDE has the same detailed numbers because I sent a CORA request to CDE with the identical question. And, guess what? CDE responded. CDE gave me, without a fee, the breakout of FTE numbers by school in Jeffco. Yet, for some strange reason, Jeffco doesn’t have those numbers readily. How does CDE have the FTE numbers, readily available, and not Jeffco?

The answers to both of these questions make it impossible to believe Jeffco’s response to my CORA request.

That leaves the question of WHY Jeffco would respond in the manner they did.

Everyone can have their own opinion on the reasons, but I’m going to believe that Jeffco is trying hard to hide something (and I know what it is, thanks to CDE, but more on that later) and their response was outright deception and obstruction of attempts to determine the truth.

The Arrogance of Jason Glass and Ron Mitchell & the Squashing of Questions in Jeffco

Preceding the March Jeffco Board of Eduction meeting, there were questions in the Jeffco Generations Facebook group and in letters to the Board of Education regarding exactly how the District’s Charter Schools’ share of 5B funds was calculated.

Those questions seemed legitimate, since the CDE numbers appear to give Charters a 10.7% share of students – 9,052 Charter school students out of a total of 84,631 students in the District (w/o GVCA). Because of this, people wanted to see, in the interest of transparency, how exactly the prorated share was calculated and the source of the numbers. You would think that it would have been fairly simple.

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.

Yet at the Board meeting, when the District had an opportunity to put these questions to rest, they didn’t. Worse, Jason Glass and Ron Mitchell essentially shamed people for even asking the questions to begin with.

Jason Glass, at 5:25, stated that he thought the District had gone above and beyond being proportionate, fair and direct with regard to Charters, and stated that he found that the “allegation that we have done anything else is offensive.”

Ron Mitchell then agreed with Glass and stated that it is simply not true when people “accuse us of being unfair.”

Glass and the District staff had the opportunity to answer what were simple questions. They didn’t, and instead stated how they were offended by people asking them. Not only was their arrogance on full display, but all of this was a blow to transparency with regard to 5B funds and Charters. Using words such as “offensive,” “allegation” and “accuse” against people who were just seeking understanding certainly sent an extremely strong message to everyone in the community who might have questions in the future – “How dare you question us? Don’t ask questions!”

Glass came to this District stating that he would listen to everyone and try to bring sides together. His responses to the questions on 5B Charter funding, which should be simple to answer, have been anything but that.

Glass’s and Mitchell’s words at the Board meeting showed who they truly are – arrogant and dictatorial!

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!

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