A look back at the top issues in Jefferson County Public Schools in 2017

Posted 1/2/18

Despite small raise, teacher pay continues to lag With the failure of the $33 million mill levy override and $535 million bond package that the Jefferson County Schools Board of Education presented …

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A look back at the top issues in Jefferson County Public Schools in 2017

Posted

Despite small raise, teacher pay continues to lag

With the failure of the $33 million mill levy override and $535 million bond package that the Jefferson County Schools Board of Education presented to voters Nov. 8, 2016, teacher compensation once again was brought to the forefront of issues concerning the district. The board named it as a top priority going into the this years budget.

In Jeffco, the average teacher salary for 2017-17 was $54,923, which is lower than three of the five surrounding districts. The lack in compensation potentially making it hard for the district to attract and retain quality teachers.

The district later identified $11 million in reductions from central staff and services, reclassifying spending as well as reducing budget items to match recent spending levels and an additional $9 million in retirement savings to try and find additional funds for teacher pay.

In May, The Jeffco Board of Education and the Jefferson County Education Association agreed on a new contract which provides steps and levels for teachers with demonstrated effective performance and a 2 percent cost-of-living increase.

The $20 million was used to address pay for paraprofessionals and step raises for teachers, but fell short of the regional competitiveness the district had hoped for.

Board threatens to close five elementary schools, four saved

In an attempt to find $20 million for increased teacher compensation, the Jeffco Board of Education targeted five schools for possible closure.

Closing all five elementary schools would have given the school district an ongoing savings of $3.5 million.

Peck Elementary in Arvada, Pennington Elementary in Wheat Ridge, Stober Elementary in Lakewood, Swanson Elementary in Arvada, and Pleasant View Elementary School in Golden were all named as schools that could potentially close. In February, the board voted to only close Pleasant View.

Just closing Pleasant View — a school repeatedly listed for potential closure — will save the district $662,742 each year.

District officials cited low enrollment, at its lowest since 2000, and aging building conditions as main reasons to close Pleasant View, which shut its doors for good on May 23.

During the closing ceremony, each attendee pinned on a different colored ribbon to represent his or her connection to the school: Students and alumni wore teal, family members royal blue. Current and retired staff members wore gold, school board representatives yellow stripes. School volunteers had a solid yellow ribbon, caring community members white.

Pleasant View’s preschool also closed.

The school district’s records show that 276 students attended Pleasant View at some point during the last school year. With the start of the 2017-18 school year, 230 of them are now attending other Jeffco Public Schools this year. The majority are at Shelton, Welchester and Kyffin elementary schools in Golden. About 60 students are spread out among 30 other schools. And 23 students entered Bell Middle School.The majority of Pleasant View’s teachers joined students at either Welchester or Shelton, and the others have obtained within the district.

Some 75 students are attending Shelton, 420 Crawford St., where total enrollment is 560, and about 50 students are at Welchester, 13000 W. 10th Ave., which has 309 students.

Jeffco schools Superintendent Jason Glass headed a public meeting hosted by the district on Dec. 5 at the Pleasant View campus in Golden, to find out what the community’s preferences are for the future of the building.

The school district owns the property, so it can retain ownership of it, or put it on the market for sale. The district has proposed a few potential uses, including an early childhood education center, domestic violence resource center, or use as a charter school.

District seeks new leadership

The Jeffco Board of Education voted in early January not to renew Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s contract and launch a national search for his replacement.

McMinimee became superintendent of Jeffco Schools in July 2014, replacing longtime Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. He was selected on a 3-2 vote, with the support of Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk. Those three board members, all elected in 2013 on a conservative reform platform, were later the target of a successful recall campaign in 2015, during which McMinimee’s hiring became an issue.

McMinimee’s contract with Jeffco Schools — which lists his base salary as $220,000 with up to an additional $40,000 of performance pay bonuses — was set to expire June 30.

Board members voiced that their decision to pursue a national search does not reflect McMinimee’s performance, however, they are not confident his leadership is the leadership they want moving the district forward.

To assist in its national search, the district has hired Ray and Associates, Inc., and Iowa-based company that specializes in educational executive leadership searches and set a base salary for its new superintendent at $300,000.

Throughout February, the district held 13 stakeholder focus groups, five community and six staff forums, and conducted a superintendent profile survey.

In March, McMinimee stepped down from his position as superintendent. In April, he took a job as the next superintendent for New America School in Colorado, a public charter high school network that serves primarily immigrant students and their families.

The superintendent search in Jeffco continued, as the field of 69 applicants was winnowed down to 11 top candidates.

Those candidates, coming from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, were presented to the board by the hiring firm Ray & Associates Inc on April 20, so the five-person body could select which candidates they wished to interview further.

The list of 11 candidates was not made available to the public.

On May 1, the board announced Dr. Jason E. Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools, as the sole finalist for the position as head of Jeffco Schools. He was unanimously approved by the board.

Before leading Eagle County Schools, Glass was Iowa’s director of education, serving as the state’s chief state school officer. He has also worked as Eagle County Schools’ director of research and assessment, as vice president of quality ratings with Qualistar Early Learning, held several posts with the Colorado Department of Education and worked as a university instructor and high school teacher in Kentucky.

Glass holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and two master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky in education and political science. He has a doctorate in education from Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

He was confirmed at the new superintendent on May 16 and started July 1.

Sixth-grade shift stays on schedule, classroom additions underway

An estimated 3,355 incoming sixth-grade students in Jefferson County Public Schools will move from elementary to middle schools districtwide next year, a shift district officials say will better utilize building space and expand academic offerings.

The change, announced more than a year ago, will bring the state’s second largest school district into alignment with how most Colorado districts and the nation split up elementary and middle school grades. A few schools, with K-8 and 7-12 grade configurations, will remain as they are.

The mountain-area schools started the 6-8 model in the mid-1990s and various schools throughout the district have already enrolled sixth-graders throughout the years.

The following middle schools will serve grades 6-8 beginning 2018-19: Carmody (Bear Creek), Drake (Arvada West), Dunstan (Green Mountain), Everitt (Wheat Ridge), Mandalay (Standley Lake), Manning (Option School), Moore (Pomona), North Arvada (Arvada), Oberon (Ralston Valley), and Wayne Carle (Standley Lake).

Bell in Golden already serves some sixth grade students. In 2018-19 they will have sixth-graders from all feeder schools in their area.

Alameda and Jefferson area sixth-graders will remain in current elementary schools since those areas are on a K-6 elementary/7-12 secondary model. Option schools, other than Manning, will remain unchanged. Arvada K-8 in the Arvada area, Bear Creek K-8 in the Bear Creek area, and Three Creeks K-8 and Coal Creek Canyon K-8 in the Ralston Valley area will continue serving the K-8 model.

This year, the Jeffco Board of Education approved funding to build a $10 million addition to Drake Middle School in Arvada and a $4.5 million addition to Dunstan Middle School in Lakewood to accommodate the changes. Tim Reed, executive director of Jeffco facilities said construction at both schools will be done and classrooms open by August 2018.

Three schools — Ken Caryl in Littleton, Creighton in Lakewood, and Summit Ridge in Littleton— will delay their transition to the new model because the district estimates it needs to find another $15.5 million to add eight classrooms to each school.

In total, the grade shift is expected to have a cost of $32 million over the next two years.

DeAngelis Center opens, trains area for active-shooter situations

On the day before the 18-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, Jeffco schools dedicated a training facility where law enforcement agencies and other first responders can prepare for active shooter situations, learn crisis prevention techniques in a real-school environment and use a simulator that offers interactive training for school threat scenarios.

The Frank DeAngelis Center for Community Safety, named after former Columbine High Principal Frank DeAngelis, is located at the Martensen Elementary School building, 6625 45th Place in Wheat Ridge.

Martensen opened in 1954 and closed to students in 2011. The facility now serves Jeffco Public Schools safety and security staff, local police and fire departments, other school district security departments, and has also hosted training for the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI.

The training facility is a result of partnerships with the school district, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and individual police departments in Jefferson County.

Jeffco schools have seen three school shootings in 1982: Deer Creek Middle School in 1982 and again in 2010, and Columbine High School in 1999.

John McDonald, Jeffco’s executive director of safety, security and emergency management, and Steve Bell, chief operating officer for the district, have plans to enhance the center’s financial situation in the years to come.

One way of doing that is to create a nonprofit to achieve sustainable funding.

The district currently offers the site at no cost to local law enforcement, and has also partnered with other area school districts including Denver, Aurora and Adams 12 Five Star to offer training.

Since opening, the DeAngelis Center has been a training home from 37 agencies and 5,000 officers and is booking out dates well into 2018.

Outdoor labs add greenhouse classrooms

Every sixth grader in Jefferson County Schools spends a week at one of the districts two outdoor labs, Mt. Evans or Windy Peaks. Now, those students will be learning in new greenhouse classrooms.

The greenhouse classrooms unlock a myriad of science lessons for students including food growing and aquaponics, weather, heat transfer and engineering.

The $200,000 project was funded by a variety of donors and grant gathered by the Outdoor Lab Foundation.

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