We’re Still in a Learning Curve

A veteran teacher once told me that I should pay attention to the school board. I, like so many teachers, was way too busy! Like all of us, I was busy working, planning, grading, going to faculty meetings, reading new curriculum, learning new strategies, learning the same strategies, going to PD, going to games and events, attempting to do some self-care, being a parent, a friend, a nurse, a social worker, oh yeah, and I was trying to teach. So there was no way I was able to go to the school board meetings… But now I understand that very wise educator knew a secret I didn’t know… That’s where all the important stuff happens that directly affects all the grading, planning, etc.
 
For instance, last week was the week of learning new things… while spending over 15 million dollars. Monday was the school board work session where the real work happens and then on Thursday was the school board meeting… Tom’s last, but we’ll get there.
 
Let’s start with the Beacon Innovation schools Zone. Beacon schools showed up asking for an Innovation Zone at the work meeting on Monday. They had apparently asked long before and this was just the finalization of board approval. So what is an Innovation Zone? When the same type of innovation school has more than one school they can all bind together and with their own school board they can make their own decisions and work under their own management… Of course under the watchful eye of our own School Board. Click Here and here to see the Portfolio Management Teams Recommendation and presentation.
 
So why the need for the extra administrative cost? There are already 2 Principals and Administrative teams at each school and for some reason, it was said during the presentation on Monday that running 2 schools is difficult?! It was also mentioned that two more Beacon schools will be opening up in the next few years. And who doesn’t love the idea of opening up even more schools when we’re already struggling to keep the doors of our current schools open. Click Here to see the Beacon School Presentation. Check out slide 5 for the proposed Beacon Network School Board. And check out their MOU here… my favorite part is number 3 Staffing… The staff works for the organization… not the district.
 
I’ve never heard of a business model where when a restaurant or business that is struggling to fill their seats and consistently gives over half its organization low scores, they just continue to open up more restaurants and not even down the street but right next door! This isn’t competition in education I’m afraid, this is the takeover of public education as we know it!
 
But let’s get back to that 15 million dollars… at the school board meeting on Thursday in under 1 minute over 15 million dollars was spent. I know the school board members knew what they were doing because they mentioned over and over again the financial responsibility they were committing to but like they said several times, this was a learning week. I heard from school board member after school board member that we need to learn from what we’re doing here and make sure that we grow from it and watch out for the financial responsibility in the future. Barbara O’Brien even encouraged the treasurer to remind us the next time we want to spend money that we don’t have any left because we just spent 15 million on the renovation of the Co-located Campus of wait for it… Another Beacon School. Kepner Beacon is housed with Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest and Strive Kepner (2 charters and the Innovation zone we just talked about.) Apparently, in order for these three schools to continue to be co-located, they need some massive renovations. It has some “Capacity needs and programmatic upgrades to provide the space needed for all three schools to co-exist in the campus long term. Includes construction of additional classrooms and multipurpose.” Click here for the Pre-Approval of CMGC contract for PP 6303: Kepner Shared Campus Lisa Flores, though not usually a DCTA supporter, was the only one to vote no on this expenditure. Good for you Mrs. Flores and thank you for thinking hard about our financial obligations!
 
There seems to be plenty of money for these two charters and innovation school/zone even though we are constantly reminded at bargaining that we don’t have $24 million to fix ProComp!?! Every time I turn around we seem to be spending more money on Charter Schools that are already privately funded and I hear regularly at the end of the year that we have no more money for subs or paper!
 
And don’t forget the ever present and dreaded SPF. At the work session on Monday, the SPF and SPC were discussed. Click here and here for the presentations and changes. It was brought up by the Portfolio Management team that though teachers and community members always complain about changes in the SPF, they are all also very quick to point out what’s wrong with the SPF. There will be a few changes this year including the equity indicator applying to all schools and the slowing of shutting red schools down, thanks to Board members Jen Bacon and Angela Cobian. However, all of this will be heard and discussed next month at the School Board meeting so make sure to get on the community speakers list now to voice your concerns.
 
There were some good decisions made by the Board last week also… click the links for more info on each

  • The board approved $1.1 million for the continued support for quality preschool services provided through a minimum of 284 slots distributed across seven Mile High Early Learning centers.
  • Several signed financial agreements which show how each union/association, who did not have their allocations finalized prior to the August Board meeting, will be utilizing this year’s funds were discussed. There are three groups included: ABGW, ATU, and DAEOP. There is still one remaining financial agreement to finalize with FMA.
  • Tom received a nice bonus for all his hard work!
    • The Board of Education approved the Superintendent’s 2017-18 performance bonus of $16,500 for 2017-18 progress toward achieving Denver Plan 2020 goals.
  • Failing charter schools continue to be under the watchful eye of the Charter School Tiered Quality Assurance department.
  • Angela Cobian pushed the district for more RTD funding explaining that the current walk zone distance for families is still too much at 3.5 miles for high school and 2.5 for middle school and that all students should have a bus pass regardless of where they live.
  • The Carson Elementary PTA raised over $77 thousand for Experiential Learning, Small Group Instruction Teacher, Kindergarten Professional, Book Sets, Mini-Grants, and Cooling Systems… Way to go Carson PTA. Thanks for all your help in supporting public education!

I appreciate that Lisa Flores was the lone No vote for the Co-located expense of $15 million. I would like to especially encourage Carrie Olson, Jennifer bacon, and Angela Cobian to make sure they have learned from this week… We are watching the money too. We are also sitting in bargaining and listening to Chief Spokesperson Michelle Berge tell us there is no money. What’s strange is she is also sitting in the board meetings and knows how much money just walked out the door, especially since many of these decisions are made with a bunch of legal documentation attached.
 
We only need 24 million to fix the current Pro Comp system according to DCTA’s model and 15 million just went out the door last week without a blink of an eye. Why aren’t we bargaining with the board? They seem to be the ones who make the real decisions on whether or not money is spent. But I guess, I too, am still learning. After nearly 20 years in this District, I’ve been learning quite a bit about what’s important, where the money goes, and who’s really pulling the purse strings in our district.
 
And on that note, this was Tom’s last board meeting, and he was given a beautiful performance by 40 students from Academia Sandoval.