Archive for the 'School Board' Category

June
23rd 2016
Investigating Dougco’s Independent Investigation

Posted under Douglas County & Education Politics & School Board

Let’s begin today’s post with a little bit of vocabulary. Merriam-Webster defines the word “independent” as:

a (1) :  not subject to control by others :  self-governing (2) :  not affiliated with a larger controlling unit <an independent bookstore>

b (1) :  not requiring or relying on something else :  not contingent <an independent conclusion> (2) :  not looking to others for one’s opinions or for guidance in conduct (3) :  not bound by or committed to a political party

c (1) :  not requiring or relying on others (as for care or livelihood) <independent of her parents> (2) :  being enough to free one from the necessity of working for a living <a person of independent means>

Some of our friends in Douglas County, however, have chosen to use a more novel definition of the term when discussing the recent results of an independent investigation into bullying allegations against Dougco school board members Meghann Silverthorn and Judith Reynolds: That anyone who finds against their accusations cannot be independent. We’re going to spend some time dissecting that claim today. Continue Reading »

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June
1st 2016
COPs and Robbers: A Tale of Two Jeffco Schools

Posted under Fiscal Responsibility & Jefferson County Public Schools & School Board & School Finance

It’s been a little while since we talked about Jeffco, but I couldn’t resist chiming in on a CBS 4 story proudly declaring that the district has broken ground on a “brand-new K-8 school” in Arvada’s Candelas development. The construction of a new school wouldn’t normally merit a blog post, but this particular school carries such political baggage and symbolic value that it’s impossible to ignore.

If you dig deep into the locked container in your head labeled “Jeffco Recall 2015,” you’ll probably remember a bit of a kerfuffle last year about the proposed use of certificates of participation to finance new school construction in Jefferson County. COPs, as they’re colloquially known, exist mostly as an end-run around TABOR in that they allow governments to incur long-term debt without voter approval. The Independence Institute’s Josh Sharf explains it like this:

The government, in this case a school district, transfers some asset, usually a building or set of buildings, to a special-purpose entity set up specifically to administer the COP.  That entity – not the school district itself – then floats the bond on the municipal bond market.  It then leases the buildings back to the school district for lease payments that match the bond payments.  It is those lease payments that secure the debt.  In addition, the lease comes up for annual review by the school board which, in theory, could refuse to renew.

If that sounds a little shady to you, you’re not alone. Continue Reading »

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May
27th 2016
Another Friday, Another Goodbye, and a Big Opportunity

Posted under Douglas County & School Board

I hate goodbyes, especially when I have to issue them back to back to people who I think have done good work. Late last week, we talked a little about Commissioner Rich Crandall’s abrupt decision to resign from his position after only a few months on the job. Now we’re saying goodbye to Douglas County’s stalwart superintendent, Dr. Liz Fagen.

Dr. Fagen has been with Douglas County for six years. That’s a pretty good run if you consider that the typical tenure of a superintendent is only about three years—and that’s in districts far less venomous and politically charged than Douglas County. While there is research out there finding that superintendents are not the biggest influences on district performance (see the study linked in the prior sentence), no one can argue with the fact that Dr. Fagen has overseen some dramatic and successful changes in Douglas County. Continue Reading »

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May
6th 2016
Waivers, Waivers Everywhere

Posted under Accountability & innovation schools & Public Charter Schools & School Board & Traditional Public Schools

A couple of weeks ago, I provided a rundown of the legislation still pending in the 2016 legislative session’s busy final days. One of the bills lingering out there is HB 16-1343, which seeks to eliminate automatic waivers for charter schools. As I’ve said before, there is little danger that the bill will survive. But that won’t stop the teachers union and its allies from using it as an opportunity to pontificate about those evil, nasty, no-good charter schools.

And pontificate they have. CEA has published all manner of charter-related ugliness on its Twitter account, and has supported 1343 on its website. More recently, the often icky Colorado Independent jumped on the bandwagon with an article accusing charters of “dodging Colorado laws”—likely after all the more credible news outlets declined to become mouthpieces for union propaganda.  But hey, I guess some folks have to take what they can get.

Anyway, the Independent article focuses on the union’s central messaging plank: That the waivers granted to charter schools create an unfair ability to shirk legal requirements that other schools have to follow. Why do charters deserve equal funding, they ask, if they don’t have to play by the same rules as traditional public schools? Traditional public schools do not have a way to waive out of these requirements, after all. Right? Wrong. Let’s talk. Continue Reading »

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April
12th 2016
Turning Over a New Leaf: Better Turnover Figures Make Me Smile

Posted under Colorado Department of Education & Douglas County & Education Politics & Jefferson County & School Board & Teachers

There are a lot of exciting days every year. Christmas, Easter, snow days, and my birthday all spring to mind immediately. But for education nerds, there’s no day more exciting than New Numbers Day. Today, my friends, is that day.

Okay, New Numbers Day was technically April 7, when the Colorado Department of Education released brand-new, more accurate teacher turnover numbers for school districts across the state. But we’re going to talk about it today, and one of the benefits of entirely made-up holidays is that you can have them whenever you want. So there.

Regular readers of my diatribes will remember that I am not a fan of the way CDE has reported teacher turnover in the past. Why? Because the Department included a whole bunch of stuff that created an inaccurate picture of actual turnover in school districts. More specifically, the state’s old calculations included teachers leaving after riding out their final year of employment under PERA’s 110/110 program, the ones scooped up as additional losses due to differences in reporting timeframes between the district and the state,  those on single-year contracts, and others who were promoted or moved to non-teaching positions in the district.

That last part is especially problematic. Continue Reading »

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March
18th 2016
Dougco Restarts Its Voucher Program, Minus Religious Schools

Posted under Blaine Amendments & Douglas County & School Board & School Choice

Just last week, we covered some Jeffco-tinted news about a student walkout/protest in Douglas County School District.  But those aren’t the only waves Dougco has made recently, or even the most important. No, the most exciting news to come out of the district is that the conservative board majority voted Tuesday to restart its local voucher program, the first of its kind in the nation.

This time, however, those pesky religious schools will have to sit out—along with any of the kids who wanted to attend them. The new program, now called the School Choice Grant Program, explicitly prohibits religious schools from participating. It also revisits the old program’s contentious charter school funding mechanism (and funding amounts), though that’s a conversation for another day. For now, let’s focus on the religious aspect.

Most of you already know about the original Choice Scholarship Program, so we won’t spend a lot of recounting all of the details. It’s been a while since we talked about the Dougco case’s legal slog in any detail, though, so I think it’s a good idea to pause and consider what’s going on here and what it means. Continue Reading »

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March
11th 2016
Shades of Jeffco: Dougco’s Student Walkout

Posted under Accountability & Douglas County & Education Politics & School Board & Union

Yesterday, we covered some very interesting new research on educator evaluation reforms. While we were busy reviewing that study, our friends down in Douglas County School District were busy making news. Let’s catch up on that news today.

First up was a student walkout/protest at Ponderosa High School. Roughly 200 students paraded around with signs blasting Superintendent Liz Fagen and decrying what they see as concerning levels of teacher turnover at Ponderosa and other schools. They blame unfair teacher evaluations and pay under the district’s pay-for-performance system for this turnover. I think I’m having flashbacks to Jeffco’s misguided protests in 2014… Continue Reading »

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January
21st 2016
Unions, Hackers, and Genitalia Tweets! Oh My!

Posted under Edublogging & Education Politics & School Board & Union

At six years old, I’m probably a little too young to take classes on detailed human anatomy. Fortunately, the Douglas County Federation of Teachers (DCFT) recently stepped up to the plate to help me learn this important material. Always thinking of the kids, those folks.

As a healthy reminder that the teachers union holds the moral high ground in education, DCFT’s official Twitter account sent out the following tweet during one of Dougco’s District Accountability Committee meetings. The tweet references an elementary school teacher who happened to be speaking at the meeting.

Ahem. Let’s just allow that to settle for a moment. Continue Reading »

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December
31st 2015
Little Eddie’s Look Back at 2015

Posted under Accountability & Edublogging & Education Politics & Just For Fun & Private Schools & Public Charter Schools & Research & School Accountability & School Board & School Choice & State Legislature & Testing & Union

I can’t believe I’m already saying this, but 2015 is almost over! It’s been such a busy, exciting year that it feels like it started just yesterday. I hope all my faithful readers are getting ready to launch into a 2016 full of prosperity, happiness, and better education for Colorado kids! For now, let’s pause and take a look back at the top five most exciting edu-happenings of 2015. Continue Reading »

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December
24th 2015
Big Surprise: Jeffco’s “Just Moms” Funded Primarily and Directly by NEA

Posted under Education Politics & School Board & Union

We’re now nearing two months since the undeniably terri-bad local school board elections of 2015. I’m sure all of you remember The Night the Lights Went Dark, when very nearly every conservative school board member or candidate fell victim to the might of the education establishment and the teachers union. Now, as the dust begins to settle and the masks start to fall off, it is becoming increasingly clear that the National Education Association itself flexed its muscle to squash Colorado’s local reform efforts before they could fully take root.

In Thompson School District, a massive progressive money-laundering outfit called America Votes dumped amounts of dough into making sure a conservative board majority that had the audacity to challenge its union contract would not be reelected. America Votes’ partners include both national teachers unions, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Planned Parenthood, and whole host of other leftist organizations. It’s the same group that underwrote the union-led recall effort against Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin to the tune of a million bucks.  It’s about as left as left gets, and it also happens to have received $355,000 in 2014-15 from the National Education Association.

One wonders if that money might explain America Votes’ involvement in little Thompson School District, but one will never find out thanks to the fact that one can’t track where the money dispensed by the America Votes ATM actually originated. Given this fact, one might complain about “dark money,” if one were so inclined. Or one might just use one’s common sense to arrive at a logical conclusion about where the Thompson money came from.

Sadly, we’ll never be able to prove where the Thompson money originated. But in Jefferson County, we now know exactly who funded Jeffco United, the supposedly “parent-led” front group that spearheaded the recent Jeffco school board recall effort. In an absolutely shocking twist that I’m sure no one saw coming, we’ve learned that the National Education Association was primarily responsible for filling the pro-recall organization’s roughly $250,000 war chest.
Continue Reading »

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