3 Questions for Jeffco

I am excited to officially begin as Jeffco’s Superintendent of Schools on July 1, 2017. In my first few weeks, I’ll be working to meet and talk to as many people as I can – building relationships and getting to know the community.

While that’s a few weeks away, I would like to begin that conversation now. So, I have three simple questions about education in Jeffco.

  1. What should we keep doing?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What should we start doing?

If you’d like to join in this conversation, please just comment to this posting with your answer(s) below. I will monitor this discussion regularly and jump in where that makes sense.

A reminder – some ground-rules for contributing are to be nice, be respectful of other points of view, and treat others with dignity. This does not mean that we should gloss over the important or contentious issues. It does mean that we are capable of having an important conversation, and modeling civility.

Jeffco is a politically diverse community with roughly 1/3 registered Republicans, 1/3 registered Democrats, and 1/3 registered Independent. In this era of national acrimony and discontent, I believe we have the opportunity to show the nation that – in spite of these times – we are capable of coming together around our children and our schools.

Thanks in advance for engaging – I look forward to listening and learning!

68 thoughts on “3 Questions for Jeffco

  1. First, thank you for engaging the community so quickly and openly. I believe our community is hungry for this kind of outreach & invitation to engage.
    I am very proud of the work our Jeffco staff continues to do with less & less resources. I no longer have a student in Jeffco. It should be noted, my daughter graduated in 2012. I do think, while Jeffco has gone through a very rough few years, one of the things we lost in those years was the valuable stakeholder network. I think the district & board is in dire need of better guided communications to help bring that back. I look forward to working with you & truly wish you great luck as you work to get settled in Jeffco. Welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks much for this, Jonna. I completely agree that schools have to have and execute an intentional and inclusive communications strategy. Looking forward to that work.

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  2. First off let me welcome you to JeffCo and let you know I am so excited to work with you. I used to read your articles in the Vail newspaper and think “Why can’t JeffCo have a Superintendent like that?” Now we do! Yea!

    1) We need to continue to work on keeping our current teachers in JeffCo. Trachers are the backbone on the district and the engines in the classroom. They are key in student achievement. JeffCo must do all it can to kept its current teachers as well as attract the very best teachers out there.

    2) We need to begin to focus more on our infrastructure and our classrooms. If we want to offer our students a 21st Century education we must have 21st Century classrooms.

    3) We have to begin reducing the size of the administration as well as the number of people at the Administration Building. When I began teaching in JeffCo in 1999, there were TWO (2) people who did Social Studies for the ENTIRE district and I personally knew each of them. Today I have no clue how many people are up there, much less know them. We need to reduce the number of these people, get them back in the classroom, take the extra money and re-direct it towards infrastructure and salaries to keep as well as attract the best and the brightest.

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    1. I agree with the focus on teachers. Raising their salaries should be top priority, and don’t forget continuing professional development. Make arts programs high priority. Research shows that districts with strong arts programs do better on testing, which quite frankly is not a priority for me. Don’t forget the gifted, the most under served population in the classroom

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      1. Thanks, Dr. Bob! Teachers aren’t primarily motivated for money, but they are professionals and deserve to be paid as such. Talented people have other options. If we want to attract and retain talent, we’re going to have to get the compensation packages competitive.

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  3. From Facebook:

    Patty Kacka Laushman I would like to see more effort spent on meeting the needs of twice exceptional (2e) students. These kids have incredible world-changing potential but they rarely achieve it if their diverse needs are not met. Their giftedness masks their learning disabilities and their LD’s mask their giftedness — and they end up testing as average students who don’t qualify for the supports they need. Then they disengage from school and flounder. It’s a tragedy when this happens and it’s completely preventable.

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    1. I second Patty’s comment. Several years ago, our GT & SpEd team sat in front of the then-board and said they had it all under control. As the mom of two 2E kids, I can assure you that isn’t the case. There are several schools in the district who handle it well. But most Middle & High schools do not. And that does a grave disservice to our amazing kiddos – who we will lose to dropping out, drugs, etc.

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      1. Thanks, Wendy – twice exceptional students present great opportunities for us to think about how we REALLY customize instruction and learning to fit the student.

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    2. Thanks, Patty – A core element of a quality education system is the robust ability to meet the needs of kids where they are, providing a customized experience. These twice-exceptional students challenge our systems because their needs require customization on two variables and there are interactions between the disability and the giftedness. Complex indeed! You are correct in saying we must have processes in place to identify these needs and then adapt the learning experience to meet the student.

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  4. Welcome to Jeffco!! We are excited for your vision, experience and leadership!
    I believe we need to keep evolving so that students are always learning the critical skills needed in the future. Teachers and administrators also need to be challenged and given the freedom to reach.
    At the same time, we need to stop focusing on where we disagree, and instead come together in the best interest of Jeffco’s students. A strong school district benefits all Jeffco residents.
    Finally, I would like see us share our achievements so that every school can benefit from progress. Rather than competing for students from one school to another, let’s all work together to raise the bar across the district so that Jeffco can become a national leader.
    Thank you for already engaging the community!!

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    1. Kelly, I couldn’t agree more with you. Authentic peer observation and collaboration provides some of the most powerful learning our educators can participate in. The more systemic we can make this, the better.
      It is disheartening to me that we have come to this place of competing for students. At the same time, I would fight hard to keep Site Based Budgeting because it has had a profound impact on meeting the needs of students at individual schools. Nevertheless, I believe is a big driver behind this competition. It’s a wicked problem that I’m not sure how to fix. A good topic for conversation, though.

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  5. Thanks for asking, Dr. Glass. So many of us have wanted to have these conversations for YEARS!

    What should we keep doing?
    We need to keep our teachers. Just this year, we lost a most amazing teacher at Parmalee, who made a huge difference in the lives of many students, because she is being paid thousands of dollars less than the brand new teachers she is asked to mentor. That is unacceptable. She is a grave loss to the school district, and I know that she is but one of many throughout the district. These teachers are supposed to be teaching our children to advocate for themselves, yet as teachers, they end up being silenced.

    What should we stop doing?
    We have to stop focusing so much on data. Many of the things our children need to learn in school (executive functions, resilience, emotional strength, compassion, etc.) cannot be measured by tests. I vehemently oppose high-stakes testing for children, especially at every grade level in multiple subjects. That is a waste of valuable time that our professional teachers can be working with our children on much more important skills/tools.

    What should we start doing?
    Rather than focusing so much on data, let’s use the data to highlight which schools are doing far better than one would expect (and far worse). Let’s have district and school staff collaborate to figure out what’s making some schools highly successful, and some schools not so much. What’s working, what’s not. How can it be modified & work in other places. Most importantly, let’s have some continuity with respect to what we’re teaching our kids K-12 . . . let’s use math lessons that use the same language, language arts/writing curricula that approach things the same way. Look at the schools that are having great success & let’s consider expanding the curricula they use.

    Finally, we need a serious, detailed look at the many inadvertent consequences of Student Based Budgeting. SBB has turned our schools into competitive little islands, where principals are more focused on maintaining the cash flow than doing what is in the best interest of each student. That is completely unacceptable. Schools that offer additional district-benefitting programming (such as GT, autism centers, pre-schools, etc.) ought to have additional budgeting considerations. And Principals need to get back to the job of running our schools- not acting as chief financial officers. IMHO, SBB has probably done more harm than good, but it would be wise for folks to speak candidly about the dangers/drawbacks, as well as the benefits. I think principals are crucial to this discussion, as well as SAC members who have had direct experience working with these issues.

    And I’d like to see far more community outreach. Communication has become a bit of a laughingstock in Jeffco since 2013. Before that, we had an amazing & talented staff. Without sharing on an on-going basis the amazing things going on in Jeffco (and the challenges we face), we will never be able to encourage continued support of our public schools. Communicate, collaborate, connect/continuity. Those are the keys to success in Jeffco.

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    1. I whole heartedly agree with Wendy McCord regarding her statements surrounding SBB. Our talented and student – centered principals shouldn’t have to divert their attention to a marketing campaign to increase enrollment in an attempt to sustain funding.

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    2. Thanks, Wendy. I totally get your point on data. While important, if it doesn’t provide us information with which to improve the learning experience for students, then it has very limited value. This can be exacerbated by the long time delay we have on some assessments. In this era of instantaneous data transactions, it takes us 5 months to get state assessment results? Really?

      I have started looking into SBB. While it hasn’t been without it’s growing pains, I’ve found that the principals I’ve talked to like the flexibility it brings. However, it’s still a relatively new model so we’ll have to keep working on it.

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      1. Thank you again for your dedication! It would be great if you spoke with especially the smaller schools, for whom SBB presents great challenges, both financial and administratively.

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    3. Thanks, Wendy. Will definitely look at the SBB process. Generally, I’m a fan of giving a lot of flexibility to building leaders in making decisions, but we have to be careful not to design systems that create incentives to do things as a system we don’t want. Also, we have to be cognizant of how we design equity into these systems. Look forward to learning more!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for asking, Dr. Glass. I love the responses already posted, and I will only add that we need to stop closing schools. I do understand that there are larger budgetary considerations, but the cost to our students and their communities is greater than you can imagine.

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    1. Thanks, Linda – the decision to close schools is difficult and personal. While there are real fiscal issues to confront, it also has the capacity to devastate communities. We have to tread gently here.

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      1. It did devistate a community and closing a school while the district was transitioning leadership was far from treading gently. Hopefully this community; students, teachers and parents; will be remembered ( and not just a political fodder in the upcoming elections), checked in on and provided some of the care and support that they didn’t recieve from the district this Spring during the closure.

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  7. Welcome to Jeffco! We are thrilled to have you join us. Thank you for your questions. I agree with others that we have to do what we can to retain and attract good teachers. I also would like to have the teachers, speech therapists, etc. give input about what works and what doesn’t as far as curriculum, testing, programs, etc. They have a wealth of knowledge in this regard. I also think it is imperative that we pass our next attempt at a mill levy by informing the public about the true financial condition of our schools. I think that a lot of people have misconceptions that we are now rolling in pot money or that we getting enough from both the state and county instead of the reality that our state is one of the bottom in the country for funding education. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Annie – I agree wholeheartedly with your point about the importance of staff input. If it isn’t working for the people closest to the work, it isn’t working! Empowerment to make important decisions at the point of interaction with the student and building up both trust and capacity in our professionals will have to be a major priority.

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  8. First off, I’d like to welcome you to Jeffco and thank you for reaching out to the community so quickly.
    1st- we need to keep our teachers we must value their experience, encourage mentoring partnerships with new teachers and validate their concerns.
    2nd- we’ve got to stop with the endless pursuit of data while ignoring the cost to the students and faculty.
    3rd-We’ve got to find more effective ways to educate our neediest students. Those on the Autism spectrum and with sensory processing disorders are without the necessary support to effectively make it through the day. SBB makes it eapecially difficult for our smaller schools to accomodate the special needs these students have.

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    1. Thanks much, Kay. I will definitely keep looking at this SBB concern. Generally, I like models that empower building leaders to make decisions that best fit their kids. However, we’ve got to also attend to equity concerns in those kinds of systems. Some kids require more support (and thus more resources) than others due to things such as disability. As I understand it, Jeffco provides resources for kids on IEPs separately than through SBB, so we may have this covered. However, we can always keep working to improve these systems with adequacy and equity in mind.

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  9. We should continue to provide students with many different opportunities including arts, music, libraries, Outdoor Lab, extracurricular activities, and sports. School is so much more than academic achievement. Students are so much more than grades and data.
    We should immediately stop out of control testing and insist that any testing that remains be meaningful for teachers, students and their families — not just the district and the state. Beyond being meaningful, we need to have testing that is efficient enough to give teachers the information they without absorbing days and days of instructional time.
    We should also stop looking for the next new trendy program or strategy and focus on a few key principles that can be well done. As a teacher, I feel like each year there is a new “approach” or strategy and while many of them are great, we seem to never truly master anything before we are told to change or re-think our approach. I feel like this compromises the very value of any of them no matter how wonderful they are.
    Finally all Jeffco employees, and particularly teachers, need to feel valued. Salary is one part of that but respect, autonomy, flexibility, recognition and trust are important as well. I honestly felt valued when I came to Jeffco in 2001 and now it seems like every year there is some talk about cutting my position or I’m told I need to “market” my work to staff and communities to show them how important it is. It’s very frustrating and frankly it just feels bad. My focus should be on kids and my administration should focus on making sure I have everything I need to do the best work I can with kids.
    Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts.

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    1. Thanks, Amber. I really appreciated your point about not chasing the next big thing! While we should have an entrepreneurial spirit as a district and innovation is important, we must remember that the magic happens in that interaction between the teacher and student in the process of learning. All our innovations need to have an impact on that learning experience, or we aren’t really changing things.

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  10. Welcome to Jeffco – a place I happily call my home as a teacher, parent and community member. My husband’s family has been a part of Jeffco since the 1940s and we have nearly 50 family members who have graduated from Jeffco schools – with more to come!
    Thank you for the opportunity to engage in this important transition in Jeffco – I look forward to your passion, engagement and innovation.
    What should we keep doing? Looking towards the future of ALL students and continuing to allow for innovation and creativity in the classroom.
    What should we stop doing? Stop the continual belief that Jeffco knows more or better than other expert groups. We do NOT need to keep reinventing every initiative – like rewriting standards and using our own educator evaluation rubric.
    What should we start doing? Engaging teachers in meaningful, thoughtful ways in as many aspects of the district as possible. Many of us will volunteer time if we feel we are listened to, respected and a true part of the conversation. Also, I would love for a recognition program for years of service to the district to resume – while it sounds cheesy, simple recognition for staying with an organization at certain milestones coild help boost morale and possibly increase retention.

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    1. Thank you, Cheryl. You raise several points others have also brought up. However, I’d like to take note of the generational aspect of your comment.

      I’ve met so many families, community members, and employees whose family connections to Jeffco schools goes back generations. This sort of community pride and connection is a real asset to Jeffco, though we may not realize it. It allows a community to pull together in support of its schools. While we have work to do in showing we deserve the trust of the community (which we will do!), there is a solid base of support on which to build.

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  11. 1) we should keep looking for innovative ways to teach kids. Strategic compensation was innovative. While it wasn’t perfect, we certainly learned a great deal about what does and what doesn’t increase student achievement.

    2) we need to stop treating all Jeffco schools the same. Our schools are diverse and should be treated as such. We need to stop the one size fits all approach, especially when it comes to our title one schools.

    3) we need to start looking critically at our title one schools. Poverty has a huge impact on students’ learning. Title one schools also have the highest staff turnover rates. How do we ensure that our best and brightest are at the helm? Yes, the elephant in the room, how do make it far less difficult to remove teachers who are detrimental to the learning process? How do we retain teachers who make a significant difference in the classroom when the work is so much more demanding than our higher end schools?

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie.

      This issue of keeping great teachers in high poverty schools is a real concern. The effect of teachers leaving these schools is not isolated to Jeffco by any means. Teaching kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds involves giving more of yourself, investing more time, and adapting instruction and learning experiences to a more diverse group of students. All these things add up to make the job tougher. You mention strategic compensation, which was all the rage a few years ago and where I’ve done some work as well. I wonder if we can’t create an incentive and system for some of our best teachers to work in these schools where we have the greatest needs?

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  12. Thank you for asking us our opinion!

    1. Please keep programs that support diverse learners, especially if they are successful.
    2. Please stop looking only at data as a way to describe your learners. It is inappropriate to attend back to school night and have to sit through a “staff meeting” where the principal talks to parents about test scores for the building, highlighting “low socioeconomic” kids’ scores. This move reduces everyone to numbers and stats and it is depressing for a school culture/climate.
    3. Personalized learning- stop the ‘sit and get’- empower your learners to become part of the process .

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    1. Thanks, Sarah. This concept of student engagement, empowerment, and personalization needs to be a central element. Allowing kids to learn through a skills-based education, where the basics are gained but more focused on using those basic skills to complete real-world, complex, and meaningful tasks is where we need to head. This change is profound and will challenge our education systems more than I think we know – but it is the right work with which to engage.

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  13. Hello Dr Glass, we are so glad to have you!
    We need to keep support in place for our gifted and twice exceptional students. (Also the once exceptional, but I think gifted kids are at higher risk right now due to provisions in IDEA that make it a LITTLE easier for our special kids to access services.) Giftedness is not a gift if you look at statistics, these kids learn differently in exactly the same ways that kids getting special education services learn differently, and they need significant extra guidance to reach their potential.
    Two, we need to stop treating teachers like villains and like a drain on resources. They do need to be evaluated based on standards based criteria and held accountable, but the pervasive idea that the majority of teachers are anything but dedicated is ridiculous.
    Three, we need to do much more community outreach. Community members need to hear early and often about all the amazing things that happen in their schools and stakeholders need to understand our reality much better.
    Welcome to Jeffco!

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. See my response to Patty above on the twice exceptional students. I really like your point on the teaching profession. Through international benchmarking, we see that best performing systems see and treat teaching as a profession. I don’t know anyone who ever said “My greatness was brought about by my annual performance review!” Some people need accountability to get them moving, but in my experience it’s much more about empower and inspire than accountability.

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  14. Hi, Dr. Glass. I came across this blog on FB, and although I’m not a community member of Jeffco, I am an advocate for Twice Exceptional families. I wanted to bring your attention to the Twice Exceptional Handbook, which is available on the CO Dept of Education website. CO has many established 2E schools that would make good role models for the public school districts. I saw that you also served in Iowa (my home state) which has the Belin – Blank Center, another wonderful resource for supporting gifted and 2E families. I encourage you to continue supporting our G/2E students and their families. As educational consultant and 2E advocate Rich Weinfeld says, these students are “Diamonds In The Rough”, which is also the name of his annual conference in the Silver Springs, MD area. Thank you for being open and engaging your community.

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    1. Can’t wait for you to get started! Thanks for offering this platform and giving us all faith that someone is listening again.

      What should we keep doing? Focusing on ALL 86,000 students and understanding that is the only reason for our existence.

      What should we stop doing? The ALP process as is. It’s a waste of time for all of us, we’ve also participated in numerous surveys and never receive the results. Also, I love data and know the stories it tells and pathways to better serve our students, but too often we have the data and don’t share it. There have been many grant programs and there are some wonderful results from the work that was accomplished but that often isn’t shared and the successes which could benefit other schools are not implemented. Also, the cabinet has grown tremendously over the past few years. It has become too much about title and less about the work. Most organizations benefit by a small but organized and effective team of leaders that handle the work and distribute information to their areas of expertise and those leaders under them. There’s so much separation in departments now, with various areas protecting turf instead of the collaboration that used to exist and because all but one are so new to their positions or position in the new heirarchy, they aren’t aware that the collaboration between departments that used to exist has fallen away. Speak to retirees and administrators who have left our district and ask them for the facts surrounding all that has happened.

      What should we start doing? Communicating! I’ve been desperate for quality information that we used to receive for so long now! Holding community meetings regularly should return. There has been so little access to what’s going on in the district over the past several years now. More complete communications to the entire community and rebuilding of collaborations and partnerships. The burden of proof when a mill and bond are needed is on the district. Some of us know the funding issues but not the majority of the community. In fact, some individuals have been given inaccurate responses to items such as PERA and that does not help the district or the community. The district needs to improve communications and when meetings are held, it needs to be a true conversation, not just words to placate the concerns. Advertisement of meetings needs to occur and recognition that community members without children surrounding schools and those with children not in school yet also should be invited and included as they are also important stakeholders. Recognizing parents are the main stakeholders is important and district staff needs to talk WITH, not AT parents. Parents should have access to ALPs and be included in the creation process as with IEPs, access to MAP testing results and information without having to ask for scores (should be on parent portal), access to ICAP along with all the information attached.

      Valuing our educators, making Jeffco a destination district where educators want to come because they feel respected and appreciated and, hopefully, inspired. Revision of SBB, every school marketing their own individual school is causing issues. We are putting a monetary value on students instead of value on education overall and money is being shifted in some cases to make jobs easier rather than what would benefit students most. We are less and less one Jeffco but instead are becoming branded little entities. Competing for students is not healthy for communities and

      A few other items that might be of consideration, as of March, food services had a net income of $1,668,329 for the year. Instead of moving that funding into the general budget and sending it to other items, wouldn’t it be more ethical to use the money to fund expansion of the breakfast before the bell/breakfast after the bell program in our communities that are close to but not at the 70% requirement as well as consideration as to when preschoolers are counted or not as it changes the rates? At the very least, expanding the free full-day kindergarten program (that used to be larger but was cut due to funding years ago) to serve our neediest students. When poverty is a problem, let’s give our students those tools to deal with the issues that allow them to focus on their studies.

      Finally, I’d like to see the district respond when inaccurate information is posted about our schools, our funding, our educators, our data. We have amazing and well-qualified staff members at the district. Correcting inaccurate information is important, allowing it to remain without response actually hurts the district and our children as people then believe it to be fact. I have loved seeing your writing in Eagle and the information you share and inaccuracies you correct. Please do that for Jeffco!

      Thanks so much for offering this platform. It is very much appreciated.

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      1. Hi Shawna,

        I love your points about being proactive in communicating. Sure, there are going to be issues and problems – that comes with an 86,000 student district with a billion dollar budget! However, we can and should be telling our stories about the many positive and exciting things happening in and outside our schools for students and families. When we have an issue or problem, we also need to own that and then take steps to right our wrong. It is only through having this proactive message approach, owning our mistakes and then doing something about them that we will really build trust and engagement.

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  15. Hello Dr. Glass!
    I know that I, and many others, are beyond excited to welcome you to our amazing district! Thank you for reaching out!
    What should we keep? I believe we should keep SBB. I know it’s an imperfect process right now. There must be a way to equalize the situation and try to end the competition that seems to have resulted. I think it’s important for each school to have the ability to decide how to spend their dollars. As a Financial Secretary, I do my very best to get the best bang for the buck, making sure that every cent is spent to it’s best advantage for our students.
    What should we stop doing? We should stop focusing on Data. Yes, it’s important to see how our students are doing. But in today’s changing world, there should be more opportunities to value successes in alternatives. Yes Language Arts, Math, Sciences, and Social Studies are important and should be measured in some way. But we also need to highlight and pay attention to the skills that are “out of the box”.
    What should we start? Our school is bringing forward a Humanities program in the 17-18 school year. I really believe that we should start preparing students, early, to learn and work in environments that are creative and collaborative. Creativity is where the future lies. Collaboration and valuing each person’s gifts is so important!
    Thank you again – we are so very happy to welcome you to Jeffco!!!

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    1. Thanks much, Joanie. I agree wholeheartedly with your ideas about measuring student success in more ways than we have been. While things like reading and math are certainly important, they represent a limited view of human talent and ability. Our kids come to our schools with an abundance of talents and passions. Rather than shoe-horning them into what we have traditionally valued in school, we need to be working to unleash those passions and connect kids into futures and careers that build on their strengths.

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  16. I just finished my 22nd year as a classroom teacher in Jeffco, and I’m very pleased to have to join the family Dr. Glass.
    I believe in being brief, and too the point, so…
    START giving Special Education the resources they need to meet the huge burden placed on them.
    STOP segregating gifted & talented student in GT Center classes.
    KEEP doing exactly this… communicating with your schools and staff.
    Again, welcome to Jeffco Dr. Glass.

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    1. Thanks, JCushing and thanks also for your service to the district. I will do my very best to be the Superintendent you deserve! You make a poignant statement with the resources necessary for special education services. The federal government has never fully funded this morally important mandate so (generally) districts have had to use general fund dollars to meet our obligations to these students. That became all the more tough in light of the recession era cuts. Going forward, we are going to have to work to both identify new resources to support this important work, but also work to be more efficient and smarter with the dollars we have. The reality may be that help is not on the way – and it will be up to us to come up with the services our kids really need.

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  17. Welcome Dr. Glass! I am thrilled to have you here and especially because coming from Eagle County you are fully aware of what you are taking on here in Jeffco. The volatility of the community in the past several years combined with the state laws (Tabor, Gallagher, etc) are significant issues. Looks like you are plowing right in and both demonstrating transparency and communication. Thank you:)
    1) What should we keep doing? Over the past two years the BOE has made every effort to show our teachers they ARE valued and they have made strides in bringing Jeffco incomes the right direction in an attempt to bring teachers salaries closer to neighboring districts. Keep heading this direction. Teachers are our biggest assets and having spent many hours volunteering in various classrooms over the years I see first hand how much they are required to do-and how influential they are on our children. Keep focusing on improving the buildings the children attend that average 45 years old to make them safe and warm and possibly up to date with technology!
    2) What should we stop doing? As a parent it appears their are too many layers in Jeffco. While it is a large district with 86,000 students it “feels” like in order to get anything done it has to go through several places/people. This delays results and puts off getting our children’s needs met in a timely manner.
    3) What should we start doing? Take a deep dive in to Special Education. I ask you to look in to how much work a speech therapist, occupational therapist and a physical therapist and a special education teacher are being asked to do with their hours in a day. Please go directly to them as opposed to asking someone above them. Just ask for facts. Between the lack of funding (largely due to Jeffco voters not supporting 3A and 3B) and the demands put on the front line staff this is an area that has a ton of potential to make a difference. Also, I am part of JAASD Parents (Jeffco Association of ASD parents-we like to call ourselves “jazzed parents”) we have expressed some of our insights at BOE meetings over the past 18 months. If you haven’t already, it would be advantageous for you to go listen to these talks. And we would love to have you attend one of our monthly meetings:)
    Thank you for opening up this method of direct communication from the Jeffco community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lorri – I really like the point you make about eliminating the “layers.” I’m a proponent of strong school level decision making and empowerment close to the students, especially at the classroom teacher level. The trade-off in that effort is you can start to lose your ability to act as a system and solve big community problems. We do not need one big monolithic ship, nor do we need 10,000 boats going in random directions. I think what we need is some form of bounded autonomy, or a loose-tight relationship, which gives lots of flexibility to our front-line practitioners, but also establishes some guardrails so we are addressing community problems and ensuring equity.

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  18. Welcome to Jeffco, Dr. Glass! Thank you so much for asking these 3 very important questions! Here are my thoughts:

    1. We should keep the focus on what’s best for students. Every decision made should come back to the question of – is this what’s best for students?

    I believe we’re already doing this, but we need to do more of it – and that’s focus on the whole child. Our children need to leave Jeffco Schools as well-rounded individuals – and there’s so much more to ensuring the health and well-being of the whole child than just student achievement.

    We are already communicating, but not nearly at the level we need to be. Especially considering the divisiveness in Jeffco; the more information, the better.

    Along this line, we need to strengthen existing relationships with community leaders, build new ones, and re-build broken ones.

    We need to continue to ensure our teachers and staff feel loved and valued, and give them the supports they need. Feels so much these days that they are questioned and judged – not viewed as professionals – not given the opportunities to be creative with teaching methods, etc.

    2. We should not rely on test results so heavily when determining teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Test results – meaning PARCC especially – are but one data point out of many. There are so many other factors to consider.

    3. I believe/hope this is being done already; however, I don’t know specifically what work is being done with regard to SBB – but I know it needs tweaking – a lot of tweaking. Schools are competing for students. Schools allocate marketing dollars to compete – money that, IMO, is better spent in the classroom. Schools compete for students because the more students they have, the more money they have for programs and electives – lose students=lose programming. It shouldn’t be this way.

    Thank you, Dr. Glass!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Tina and thanks for your post.

      You make a great point on SBB and school competition. As I’ve noted in other responses, I’m generally a fan of budgeting and decision-making systems that empower those closest to the work, with some reasonable guardrails. Jeffco is now entering it’s third year of SBB and has already grown and learned through that process. We do need to make sure we are including elements related to equity – some students cost more than others to educate and our systems must be responsive to these needs so that every child gets a shot at success.

      The competition element is really tough, but the reality is that we must operate in an increasingly competitive world in terms of school choice and competition. While we have to work hard in ensuring that the playing field is REALLY level for schools competing for public dollars, we also have to market the good things happening in our schools. These market-based elements are likely to only increase in the years ahead – we are going to have to step up our game from an outreach and communication standpoint to highlight what our schools are doing and what they can provide.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Welcome, Dr. Glass. We are so excited to work with you! I sit on the SAC at Green Mountain Elementary and would like to commend the staff on the Jeffersonian Conversation at the DAC/SAC meeting. Really fascinating discussions about best practices in community outreach-some of which we will be implementing next year. Would like to see that program replicated. Also…teacher and PERA compensation are the top of my list as issues in JeffCo We are losing great teachers to school districts who pay teachers what they should be paying them. It’s difficult when I have conversations with teachers who have to have second jobs to make ends meet. Which means more funding. I’m also organizing JeffCo for Great Education Colorado – we’ll be working to achieve a statewide school funding ballot initiative in 2018 to help you do that. At some point this summer, when you get your feet under you, we’d love to meet with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kristen – I did get your messages and I think we have you connected with Helen in my office to get us together. Thanks for all your efforts on behalf of Jeffco and Colorado’s kids and I look forward to talking with you more about how I can help!

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  20. Dr. Glass,
    Here are some different thoughts from what you have already seen:
    Teachers. I’m not going to wade into the minefield of teacher compensation, but I will discuss the bell curve of teacher quality. Yes, there is a range of teacher quality in Jeffco, they’re not all extremely good as some would have you believe. I know this quality range. My kids have had a few really great teachers, but they have had an EQUAL number of absolutely horrendous teachers. I suggest that you propose to the JCEA (union) a yearly bonus to identified GREAT teachers (1% or 2% of total teachers) in exchange for a streamlined process to rid the district of the horrendous teachers (they’re out there and they truly negatively impact education). There should be no bonuses without a corresponding streamlined firing process. I’m suggesting that this be an All or Nothing. Let’s see if the union is willing to partner to improve education. Yearly bonus should be something substantial ($4,000 – $5,000). Parents can help you identify both the great and the terrible teachers.
    District Staff. The District Staff should be dedicated to education and the improvement of academic performance in Jeffco. They should demonstrate integrity and ethics. They shouldn’t invoke the Urban Dictionary definition of Educrat – “It describes a special kind of person in education: pinheads who are so process-oriented that they are more excited in the process of learning than the myriad wonders that can be learned.”
    Staff members shouldn’t be more concerned about dollars than students.
    Unfortunately, we have more than our share of Educrats. While I didn’t vote for him, one of Trump’s mantras – ‘Drain the Swamp’ could be appropriately applied to what is needed at Denver West.
    We have Cabinet members with titles with words such as “Innovation”, “Success” and “Effectiveness” in them who certainly don’t exhibit any desire or ability to live up to those titles.
    We have Cabinet members who intentionally deceive and lie (and I don’t use that word lightly) to the Board, teachers and parents.
    Restore some community trust in Denver West by getting rid of the people there who have forgotten who their real constituents are – the students.
    Note: I can back up my accusations of intentional deception and lying with documentation and evidence and would appreciate a meeting so I can give that to you.
    Let’s talk when you’re settled in!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bob – I have a personal and professional interest in the points you make about educator compensation. I spent a lot of time working in that area and actually wrote my dissertation on the topic!

      My dissertation question was (simply) are teachers motivated to help kids or motivated for money. Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was “yes!” More precisely, the altruistic motivation is stronger, but teachers are also rational people who do respond to incentives.

      Compensation systems generally must be grounded on two basic principles: 1) is it adequate (meaning are you providing enough for people to make a living and 2) is it fair (meaning is it responsive to market forces and do people have trust and understanding in it).

      Going forward, I think we do have to consider the questions about adequacy, fairness, and what we are really incentivizing in our compensation systems. Fascinating topic – at least for me!.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Welcome to Jeffco Schools, Dr. Glass! It’s great to see you proactively engage our community before your official start date. We love that! Thanks for the opportunity to weigh in with some quick thoughts and read others’ comments. Please let us know how we can best support you!
    • Double down on efforts to attract and keep high quality educators to ensure great instruction and learning for students. Research shows great teachers are the single biggest contributing factor to student achievement during the school day. Effective principals are just as critical. More districts are placing educators in the driver’s seat to better design and tailor professional development. How can we best ensure principals, teachers and support staff are successful with Jeffco’s 86,000 diverse learners? Treating educators as professionals, offering timely support/feedback and securing competitive compensation are critical – especially as Colorado faces a growing shortage of teachers and Jeffco has lost some of its best to surrounding districts.
    • Continue to rebuild public trust, show transparency and foster a collaborative culture across the district. This district has been through plenty of upheaval and we’re finally turning the corner. Relationships and trust matter deeply. Listening openly to the community’s values and priorities, and sharing how their feedback will be used to help shape the district’s and the board’s work is key. Debunk myths. Over communicate. Strengthen community partnerships. Ramp up the superintendent’s and the board’s visibility in the community. (Thank you for starting this process and thanks to the board for engaging the community, especially during the budget process and superintendent search.)
    • Tell our story – and what it means for ensuring every student receives an excellent education and graduates career- or college-ready. Use every opportunity – from community coffees to school board meetings to social media – to both listen and deepen public understanding about the successes and challenges facing Jeffco Schools. And we can’t shy away from talking about the hard stuff – achievement/opportunity gaps, the highest number of suspensions statewide among our youngest children, budget challenges, poverty, underserved populations of students and more. We’ve worked hard in Jeffco to do more with less, but student needs continue to grow. Since 2009, Jeffco Schools has lost more than $558 million in funding thanks to the negative factor. Jeffco Schools has yet to restore cuts since 2009 – including deferred maintenance for buildings. Lack of funding forces tough choices. Let’s find common ground and work side by side on solutions.
    • Demonstrate a strong return on taxpayers’ investment and sound fiscal stewardship that’s student-centered. Not only is there a moral imperative to successfully educate our kids, but there’s a huge economic incentive too. Many of us reside in Jeffco because it’s a great place to live. The quality of our schools contributes to our quality of life. Good schools mean involved citizens, a well-educated workforce and better property values. And that’s good for all of us – whether you’re a homeowner, an empty nester, or you have a child in a Jeffco school like I do. Taxpayers should have a clear understanding of where the district is investing, the rationale behind those decisions and what results we’re getting. We can do much more to communicate about these areas more broadly, year round – and not only when Jeffco introduces a campaign for a bond package or mill levy increase.
    • Restore the once effective working relationship between the superintendent and board to get results for Jeffco students. Research points to eight qualities of effective school boards in high achieving school districts. One of those qualities is a board that “leads as a united team with the superintendent, each from their respective roles, with strong collaboration and trust.” This includes a commitment to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction. It’s exciting to think about what’s possible as the current board works with you, district/school staff and the community to be bold, creative and realize Jeffco’s 2020 Vision.
    • Invest even greater time into engaging the community in a meaningful, sustained way. Jeffco Schools is one of only a handful of school districts in Colorado with a board policy on community engagement, which was developed when I was board president. Let’s take community engagement to the next level so it’s truly ingrained in the work of Jeffco Schools. Everyone has a different definition of community engagement. It’s helpful to start with a common understanding of what community engagement is and isn’t – and the issues in which you and the community want to engage. It’s a long-term process involving two-way dialogue to find common ground. It’s not a quick fix or a one-time event or a photo op.
    • Ramp up the district’s and schools’ efforts to provide ongoing relevant, timely communications to internal and external audiences. Ensure the district’s communications plan is grounded in current communications research and aligned to advancing the district’s vision and mission. Find out what key audiences want to know and how they want the information delivered. Dump communications tools that are no longer effective. Provide targeted communications support to schools. Measure the effectiveness of communications strategies and refine as needed. Repackage useful information using different communication vehicles – from Chalk Talk to social media – and over communicate. Just when you think you sound like a broken record, your audience is hearing your message for the first time.
    • Reach out to members of our community without kids in school. More than 70 percent of Jeffco’s voting population no longer has kids in school. Reaching these audiences – empty nesters, senior citizens, young professionals – is just as important as communicating with parents and staff. Are our current communications efforts with these audiences and others working? How do we know? What can we do to improve?
    A heartfelt thanks to all who work tirelessly on behalf of Jeffco students – especially during some of the district’s most challenging times! Here’s to the next chapter…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Leslie – you make a number of excellent points! I’d like to touch on one of them, the Board/Superintendent relationship.

      The best school boards operate from a policy governance standpoint. This means that they set out the goals, ensure fair processes are in place, hold high their fiduciary responsibility, and hold the Superintendent responsible for delivering. They also stay out of the day-to-day operation of the organization.

      The Superintendent is responsible for delivering on the Board’s goals, communicating directly with them on successes and challenges, keeping the district’s spending in check, and helping the Board in their strategic role.

      Getting clarity on these roles is a critical first step to our long term success. I’ve been fortunate to work for great Boards who understood this framework in both Iowa and in Eagle. I admire and respect the members of the Jeffco Board now. There can be no doubt about their courage and commitment and I’m inspired to be a great superintendent for them and for Jeffco!

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  22. 1. We should continue to have the District Accountability Committee function as it has in the last year. It finally “got its act together” with bylaws, appropriate representation of the Jeffco community, and subcommittees working on important topics. After several years with changes to its structure, it should now be allowed to carry on without further disruption.
    2. We should stop approving new charter schools for the northeast part of the district (Arvada, Westminster, and Wheat Ridge) – almost all the charter schools in the district are in that area. It’s enough!
    3. We need to start using a consistent School Readiness Assessment in kindergarten. I recommend using Teaching Strategies GOLD, because that would be consistent with the assessment used through Results Matter in our preschool classrooms that are part of the Colorado Preschool Program and Early Childhood Special Ed. We should also start creating School Readiness Plans for students who are not school-ready. Giving the assessment and creating the plans have been required by state law since CAP4K was passed, but I don’t see this happening.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks much, Evie – and I’m honored you contributed!

      I’m looking forward to working with Jeffco’s DAC and getting up to speed. I did hear about some of the changes and improvements that were made and that those were positively received. I ran the DAC in Eagle, but I think I have some things I can learn from Jeffco’s approach and I am excited about being part of that team!

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  23. Welcome Dr. Glass! I’m extremely excited to see what the future holds with you here.
    1. What should we keep doing?
    We should continue recognizing the extraordinary diversity that Jeffco has in terms of students, families, teachers, staff, and schools. Overall, I think the district has done a reasonable job of recognizing the successes and challenges–which is good. For example, I’ve been really happy with SBB at our school, and it hasn’t led to more competition than existed before. (I do know there are some neighborhood schools that are preferred over others in the area, but that was equally true before SBB. My disclaimer is that I’ve heard horror stories from SBB in schools further south, which goes back to the diversity that Jeffco has and how things play out.) SBB has given my children’s school the flexibility to make decisions that are best for our school, which I particularly appreciated a few years ago when the district unexpectedly handed us a top-down decision regarding mental health staffing and told us our school mental health professional would be reduced to half time because (essentially) their policy had changed. We were able to work out a compromise for the rest of the year, and then SBB gave us the flexibility to decide that having a full-time mental health professional was a priority. Before SBB, either our principal would have had to lobby with district staff to get us what we wanted or we would simply have had to submit to “district policy,” despite the fact that our schools do have different needs. That said, the district needs to continue to improve being responsive to the different needs (such as addressing competition that may have arisen at certain schools), and more importantly, to communicate the diversity of challenges and successes so that the community has a better understanding of what Jeffco looks like in other parts of the county.
    2. What should we stop doing?
    We need to stop letting the negativity of others drive the conversation. I don’t doubt that some students and families have not be served as well or effectively as they deserved, and that some have had bad experiences with teachers or schools. But I also know that my children have had wonderful teachers in a supportive school environment, and those successes deserve just as much credit. Jeffco’s communication needs to focus on telling the stories of our successes, making sure those are also in the newspaper, and more importantly, provide a more holistic picture of student evaluation that can help the entire Jeffco community see how our students are doing (more in a minute, under #3). Also, the level of testing is insane and needs to be reduced to something more reasonable. I’m all in favor of a test that gives me data about specific details (i.e., “her math facts are good but she needs to work on her use of math vocabulary and explanations in her answers”), but the current state standardized tests do not do that. As a parent, I want to know where my child needs to be more challenged and the areas we need to work out so I can work with her at home to provide that extra challenge and extra support. Giving me a report months later with little more than a score and a claim that “now I know how my child’s ‘really’ doing,” is pointless and a bit insulting–and why I’ve opted my children out of state testing.
    3. What should we start doing?
    There are so many great Jeffco Schools stories to tell, and the community needs to hear them. There are so many Jeffco residents who don’t have children in the schools but need to know the challenges our kids face, the successes, the realities we face (shrinking populations in some areas, growing populations in others, and the reality that we can’t just stash students wherever we’d find most convenient). They need to understand what makes a student successful–and Jeffco needs to communicate that as a holistic picture. The current conversation is driven by test scores, remediation numbers, graduation numbers, etc, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, when a teacher talks to me at conferences about how well my child is reading, that conversation is based on multiple assessments and other observations. It’s not based on a single test, and that information is communicated so that I have the whole picture of her reading level. We need a similar framework to talk about student performance to the entire community in order to help them better understand our Jeffco students and schools.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Realrellim – you make a number of great points for discussion!

      I’d like to focus in on one you make, around responding to negativity. I think this is a real balancing act. As an organization (and I as Superintendent) must keep up a proactive and positive messaging effort about our schools and the good things that are happening for kids and families and the community because of them. This drum-beat must never stop!

      At the same time, we do need to listen and be responsive to our critics. Often, people who are critical are giving us real feedback on how we can improve and get better. We must work to separate the message from the messenger and, if a good point is raised, we need to respond and do something about it – and then thank the person who raised the concern.

      We also will have people who are irrational, use personal attacks, intentional misinformation – who are actually trying to undo the positively focused things we are trying to do and who wish for us to fail. While we must do what we can to try and reasonably engage and listen, at some point it just becomes counter-productive as your conversation partner is just looking for more ammunition and to try and score points. This isn’t productive. We’ve got to keep dragging the conversation back to the issues and what we can do as a community to improve.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Welcome to Jeffco! Thank you for reaching out to the district communities so quickly….
    I believe we should keep working towards keeping our teachers current with the latest technology and pedagogy in their professional development. Online classes and opportunities are great resources for Jeffco teachers.

    I believe we should stop SBB. I have seen that it is crippling for schools that don’t receive Title 1 money and who are smaller sized. The inequity throughout the district is frustrating. New schools/large schools like Three Creeks and West Woods have more money than they can spend and smaller schools are selling cookie dough to buy a few Chromebooks. ALL Jeffco students deserve the same opportunities.

    We need to start having resources/facilities for our students that are profoundly affected by mental health issues. We can’t teach when students in our classrooms are out of control behaviorally and continual disruptions, but there’s no help for us or them.

    Thanks for your support and here’s to a great 2017-2018 school year!!

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    1. Thanks, Tami. I’ve written in other posts about the need for equity factors in SBB, but I’d really like to respond to your point about mental health. This issue is part of a broader set of student needs in the community. Not only do we have mental health issues, but also health care issues, food security issues, safety from violence issues – just to name a few. What is required is a community-wide response and the creation of an intentional system so that no child suffers from the effects of poverty or lack of needed help/services in Jeffco. Our schools can’t do it alone, but a network of the schools, other government entities, faith-based organizations, philanthropy, nonprofits, and the business community – that group (if aligned and united) could really make something happen.

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  25. 3 basic questions presented to the Jeffco community
    Here is my response to the three questions presented by Dr. Glass in the “3 Questions for Jeffco” posted on Facebook in advancejeffco.blog (a community conversation about Jeffco’s children and schools). I am a teacher with over 20 years in the district and former parent of 3 now grown children who attended and graduated from Jeffco Schools. I am also a resident of Jeffco. I consider myself a stakeholder in the future investment of Jeffco Public Schools.
    The questions:
    1-What should we keep doing?
    2-What should we stop doing?
    3-What should we start doing?
    #1-What should we keep doing?
    In the 1950’s All Jefferson County school districts consolidate into the state’s largest school district, Jefferson County R-1 ( http://jeffco.us/archives/chronology/1950s/). Jeffco remained the largest school district in the State of Colorado until recently. What happened? We are no longer considered the largest. We are stated as “one of the largest” up against the likes of Denver Public Schools and Cherry Creek. How did this shift occur?
    Part of this shift is that we live in a mobile, fast paced society. Families move more than ever. Population in the Denver Metro area has increased more. Instead of Jeffco declining in enrollment, it should be increasing. What do we need to do to keep our students, teachers, and other stakeholders that believe in Jeffco in Jeffco? Let’s start globally and universally with a glance into the district by…….
    Studying solid foundational systems that have been strong and successful for an extended period of time.
    After a review of the demographics of Jeffco from 2010-2030 (file:///C:/Users/patti/Downloads/planning-and-zoning-demographics-population-age-group-00-40.pdf) there has been a decline of population from 2010 to 2017 with an increase of up to 5 to 7,000 each year(from 2020) till 2040 prediction. This change in populations has a significant impact on a district that was at one time the largest in the state. That decline has caused some of the setbacks in our district to move us from the largest to “one of the largest.” We have the tools to bring it back. Jeffco’s history of success is long, strong and successful. Take guiding systems that are solid, foundational, successful and continue to apply them to our now fast paced needs in society to help. Going back and researching the best practices from the 1970’s and 1980’s when Jeffco was at it’s hey day might give us some insights as to how to apply those solid foundations to a now ever changing world. In addition, there are traditions in many large districts that are sound and true with successful results that we may need to fall back on. Keep in mind, the needs of a very transient and mobile population. That may be one method. Learning from large districts across the country and taking those tried and true success stories to heart with the needs of our district may help. Conducting surveys could help meet the needs also.
    Another concept is to dive deeper into the essences of classroom that involve students and teachers. Let’s try dissecting a trend called mindfulness.
    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/research_round_up_school_based_mindfulness_programs
    What is mindfulness in schools? The last decade there has been a huge spike in secular applications of mindfulness, the practice of focusing our attention on our thoughts, feelings, and environment in the present moment. While the first wave of mindfulness-based programs were originally for adults, more recent efforts have targeted the well-being of children and adolescents; as a result, mindfulness programs in schools are becoming more and more widespread. With the ever-present fast paced society that WE are supposed to function at, mindfulness helps students and teachers focus on what is important in learning. In recent studies such as:
    1)Black, D. S. & Fernando, R. (2013). Mindfulness training and classroom behavior among lower-income and ethnic minority elementary school children. Journal of Child and Family Studies. Published online in advance of print.
    Here are a few results.
    What did they study?
    The curriculum of the Oakland-based Mindful Schools program, which serves low-income, ethnic-minority elementary school students. The Mindful Schools curriculum lasts five weeks, with three sessions per week, and focuses on mindfulness practices that help children pay attention, build empathy and self-awareness, improve self-control, and reduce stress. More than 400 students were evaluated in total in this study.
    What did they find?
    Immediately after the program ended, student behavior improved significantly in all four areas measured—paying attention, self-control, classroom participation, and respect for others—and these gains were maintained seven weeks later. Though this study is limited by the lack of a true control group—i.e., the researchers don’t know whether other students at the school might have shown the same improvements, even without the Mindful Schools training—it is one of the largest studies of a school-based mindfulness program to date. Its findings have exciting implications for the potential of mindfulness training to benefit underserved elementary school students.
    If student behavior improved significantly in these areas, wouldn’t this aid in the learning process? The question asked is with an increase in self-control, class participation, respect for others and paying attention wouldn’t more learning happen? Which in turn, give a higher quality of learning in the time allotted?
    In another study below:
    2) Klatt, M., et al. (2013). Feasibility and preliminary outcomes for Move-into-Learning: An arts-based mindfulness classroom intervention. Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(3), 233-241.
    What did they study?
    The feasibility of an eight-week mindfulness-based program called Move-into-Learning (MIL), administered to two classrooms of third graders at a low-income, urban elementary school in the Midwest. The MIL program involved a weekly 45-minute session, led by an outside trainer, that included mindfulness meditation, yoga and breathing exercises set to music, and positive self-expression through writing and visual arts. In addition, the two classroom teachers led shorter, daily practice sessions that reinforced those skills.
    What did they find?
    At the end of the eight weeks, teachers observed significantly less hyperactive behavior, ADHD symptoms, and inattentiveness among their students; these improvements were maintained two months later. In fact, students continued to show improvements in their attentiveness even after the program had ended. What’s more, interviews with the participating teachers revealed that they found the program to be feasible to implement, appropriate and enjoyable for their classrooms, and beneficial for students’ attendance and behavior. These promising preliminary results seem to warrant larger, more rigorous studies of the program.
    This may result in less classroom management control on the teacher’s part with less stress resulted.
    Mindfulness helps to bring back the foundational supports necessary to make Jeffco great again. Students should keep doing this as well as any and all stakeholders vested in Jeffco. If mindfulness is not practiced in classes, it should be included in primarily voluntary basis first, especially at the secondary level.
    #2-What should we stop doing?
    Stop making teachers leave the district! For that matter, parents, students or any other invested population that at once were vested in Jeffco.
    Cut back on data driven results. Not everything is answered in numbers!!
    http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/06/24/ctq_faridi_finland.html
    Happy Teaching, Happy Learning: 13 Secrets to Finland’s Success. Have you heard of the happy wife, happy life. Well, teachers are the core to a successful district. Below are 13 secrets to Finland’s success in education.
    1-A heavy emphasis of play.
    2- No high-stakes standardized testing.
    3-Trust.
    4- Schools don’t compete with one another.
    5- Out-of-this-world teacher prep programs.
    6- Personal time is highly valued.
    7- Less is more.
    8- Emphasis on quality of life.
    9- Semi-tracked learning.
    10-National standards are valued.
    11-Grades are not given until 4th grade.
    12-Ethics is taught in the primary grades.
    13-Collaboration and collaborative environments are strongly emphasized.
    I am not saying we have to do ALL of the 13 secrets that they do in Finland, but wouldn’t it make sense to try some?
    Teachers are stressed out. Majority of the secondary teachers that I have encountered say that in the first sentence when you asked,” how is their day going?” We love what we do BUT, the pressures of everyday demands put on us for various requirements such as meeting all the standards, finding new and improved resources, keeping up with technology, putting fires out in the classroom, meeting deadlines from the front office for all kinds of issues, etc., can run any person down. But we LOVE what we do, right? I cannot put a price on the value of that one student who comes to me and tells me I made a difference in their life. Teachers must take care of themselves better. Learning is natural when we are put in an environment of safe, caring atmosphere with little distractions so that our young people can understand and comprehend. I believe, after reviewing these 13 secrets above, I can pinpoint at least 9 or more that can be incorporated into Jeffco’s vision and mission. I also believe those secrets may/can help to keep our teachers in the district. I will add one more to the list of secrets. That is to value our experienced, passionate, master teachers and hold them in high regards for their esteemed work.
    Data-I am not going to elaborate on data but to only say…..life is NOT managed primarily with numbers. I believe in data but in this technology driven society, some of us go overboard with it. Facts do not lie, nor do numbers BUT life when it comes to children learning IS NOT all numbers and facts. We all learn differently. We all comprehend and understand at different rates, paces, levels or whatever you want to call it. To put a label on a child based on data or numbers can cause some devastating and long lasting results. At times, the obvious is not obvious to the educator when it comes to measuring growth in learning based on numbers. What appears arbitrary to the unexperienced professional because of their interpretation of numbers becomes substantial to a seasoned, experienced master teacher because of their ability to interpret actions and behaviors developed over a long period of time in the classroom due to one on one relationships NOT one-time relationships. Teachers still make a difference in the classroom. Below is an encapsulation of how teachers do make a difference.
    http://www.rand.org/education/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/teachers-matter.html
    •Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.
    Many factors contribute to a student’s academic performance, including individual characteristics and family and neighborhood experiences. But research suggests that, among school-related factors, teachers matter most. When it comes to student performance on reading and math tests, a teacher is estimated to have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.
    •Non-school factors do influence student achievement, but they are largely outside a school’s control.
    Some research suggests that, compared with teachers, individual and family characteristics may have four to eight times the impact on student achievement. But policy discussions focus on teachers because it is arguably easier for public policy to improve teaching than to change students’ personal characteristics or family circumstances. Effective teaching has the potential to help level the playing field.
    •Effective teachers are best identified by their performance, not by their background or experience.
    Despite common perceptions, effective teachers cannot reliably be identified based on where they went to school, whether they’re licensed, or (after the first few years) how long they’ve taught. The best way to assess teachers’ effectiveness is to look at their on-the-job performance, including what they do in the classroom and how much progress their students make on achievement tests. This has led to more policies that require evaluating teachers’ on-the-job performance, based in part on evidence about their students’ learning.
    •Effective teachers tend to stay effective even when they change schools.
    Recent evidence suggests that a teacher’s impact on student achievement remains reasonably consistent even if the teacher changes schools and regardless of whether the new school is more or less advantaged than the old one.
    Keep teachers happy in what they do BEST and our district will improve which will bring back the enrollment in our schools.
    3-What should we start doing?
    Follow successful school programs across various countries. If it works, why change it? Research good solid successful programs and design similar programs to meet the needs of Jeffco.
    https://www.skyward.com/discover/blog/skyward-blogs/skyward-executive-blog/december-2016/3-conversations-to-follow-in-2017
    Below is an example.
    The Value of Authentic Learning
    There is a push toward an increase in real-world learning experiences that will continue.
    Authentic learning can take many forms. Vocational training and apprenticeships give students the freedom to discover and foster their passions. In addition to allowing students to test-drive careers, these real-world experiences also help schools establish relationships within their communities. These partnerships can lead to further collaboration down the road, with business leaders coming to talk in schools or providing on-site demonstrations for students interested in pursuing their fields. We’ve been fortunate enough to participate in a few of these opportunities firsthand, and the level of engagement we’ve seen from students is promising.
    A New Role for Teachers
    Today’s teachers are trending in the direction of mentors and coaches for their students, overseeing activities and providing assistance when needed, but not the helicopter oversight that was once an expectation. Teachers are lecturing less and consulting more, encouraging students to discover and explore their passions in a more flexible manner.
    Even grading looks much different than it did 10 years ago. Some schools are eliminating exams from their curricula altogether. Instead, educators are expected to pay increased attention to each student’s strengths and weaknesses and evaluate their levels of knowledge throughout the course. We have continued to document the rise of standards-based grading, and those who have adopted it tend to swear by it. Could we be headed toward a future where A’s and C’s are replaced with skill mastery levels? It seems more likely than it did just a few years ago.
    Consumer Students → Creator Students
    As the role of a teacher changes, so too must that of a student. In 2017, the push to transform students from consumers to creators will continue. Much of this movement is driven by technology, which has opened up a new world of possibilities for students who otherwise had to wait until after graduation before they could think of making significant contributions to the real world.
    We are seeing more curriculum strategies that lean on real-world application over closed-circuit projects. Students are being asked to interact with their communities and take on the responsibilities of entrepreneurs, rather than just playing the role. These immersive techniques, coupled with follow-up presentations in which students become teachers, open up a much deeper level of understanding. Some educational leaders have gone so far as to invite students to co-develop their own curricula.
    As a CTE teacher for over 34 years, I have found that giving secondary level students the opportunity to apply their interest to real-world applications and “try out” their skills gives them the confidence and knowledge to be self-sufficient, thriving adults when they graduate. Also, I have found that students at any grade level given the opportunity to volunteer or help/assist in their community with helping others, improving their community, etc., brings the student “out of their egos” and into a realm of “helping others,” which brings the young teen the ability to see there is a world out there that they can leave an impact in instead of being self-absorbed in their own world.
    Finally, thank you Dr. Glass for reaching out to the Jeffco community to assist us in this ongoing conversation with you. I appreciate your leadership and we have not even started your term. After watching my father command 3 military bases during his Army career, I grew up with some
    outstanding leaders around me, including my father. I see traits of that with you. It gives me inspiration to be even a better educator because you are raising the bar of communication for all of us vested in Jeffco. I have considered retiring next June 2018 after 35 years of teaching BUT, with this upcoming new year, I may change my mind because you as well as the new school and students I will meet in August are giving me hope once again.
    Kind regards,
    Patricia OKeefe
    pokeefe@jeffco.k12.co.us
    720.300.6144

    Like

    1. Thanks much, Patricia – you make a number of great points and I appreciate your detail and thinking!

      A few others here have also mentioned the concern about making too many decisions based on “data.” While I am empiricist and much prefer to make decisions based on data than the alternative, too often this data comes narrowly framed as simply results from standardized measures. While these are important, they don’t give us the full and robust picture of how our kids are doing and what they need. So, we do need to make data-based decisions, but our definition of “data” and what we bring into the conversation as we set our course must be broadly inclusive and open-eyed.

      Fascinating topic, which definitely needs more time and attention to think through.

      Thanks much for engaging!

      Like

  26. Hi Dr. Glass. I am a little late to the party, but here are my initial thoughts.

    First, Jefferson County Public Schools should continue welcoming and doing everything possible to educate and ensure the safety and well-being of ALL students, regardless of socioeconomic status, immigration status, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, etc.

    Second, we need to stop thinking of funding in terms of dollars per student and rather think about how we can give each student what they need, when they need it.

    Finally, we must incorporate comprehensive mental health early intervention and services throughout Jefferson County Public Schools. Mental health is essential for students to work toward and achieve the Jeffco 2020 Vision core competencies of content mastery, civic and global engagement, communication, critical thinking and creativity, and self-direction and personal responsibility. Too many of our children and youth are suffering without access to the early intervention and treatment they need.

    Like

  27. From Paula Reed via email:

    Dear Dr. Glass:

    I have been in leadership positions myself a number of times and have always felt that it was vital to get community input as I crafted the way forward for whatever group I led. This is why I am so pleased to see you actively seeking input from stakeholders all over Jeffco as you assume the helm as the school district superintendent. Your thoughtful answers posted on social media show that you are actively listening and taking into careful consideration all that people have to say. This is such a heartening sign in a district that has felt so disheartened in the past.

    You have consistently asked three questions, and I wanted to provide my own perspective. I grew up in Jefferson County, graduating from Pomona in 1980. I married a Jeffco grad and raised two Jeffco grads. I have been a teacher in Jeffco for 30 years at Columbine High School. I have been a member of JCEA since I came to Jeffco and was the Communication Action Team chair on the operational board for three years. I still consider myself an active union member.

    Your first question is “what should we keep doing?” The district has been working to rebuild the shattered trust between educators and district leadership since the utter dissolution of trust brought on by an anti-teacher, anti-public school board elected in 2013 and subsequently recalled. One of the ways this trust is being rebuilt is through a true partnership between the school board and the union to make sure that Jeffco provides the Schools Our Students Deserve—a vision created by the union and other Jeffco stakeholders. It has taken the form of projects like the community school model at Jefferson High School. Teachers in our district want to be active participants in meaningful reform. Please continue to include us, especially through our association, in efforts to do right by our kids.

    Your second is “what should we stop doing?” This is tough. I know you’ve seen a lot of “stop focusing on data” and “stop SBB.” Your responses have been thoughtful, showing how complicated these issues are, and I genuinely appreciate that. I am fortunate to work for a principal who really tries to look at multiple data sources, and I realize that SBB has helped many schools. I guess my biggest concern stemming from both of these is the competition aspect that arises. I know many people feel that competition among schools creates better quality, and maybe that’s true in some ways, but I see schools spending more and more time on marketing themselves—time that should be spent on educating children. I honestly don’t know how you stop this. I just don’t think it’s healthy or creates a better educational experience for kids, so maybe I’m not asking you to stop it as much as I’m asking you to be aware of it and perhaps be concerned about it.

    Finally, you ask what we should start doing. I’m going to go back to my union experience here because data shows that districts with strong unions get better results for kids. Having served on the JCEA board, I know intimately what our union’s priorities are, and they are entirely wrapped up in what is best for kids. Because we work hand-in-hand with JESPA, I know their union has the same priorities. When we talk about compensation, we talk about attracting and retaining the best educators, but we also spend a lot of time figuring out how we can make sure our most vulnerable kids get books in their hands and food in their stomachs, and we invest time, talent, and treasure in these efforts. I would like a superintendent who vocally supports our unions and counters negative national rhetoric about teachers’ unions with communication to the community about the positive partnerships the district has with JCEA and JESPA. I would like to see the district make a truly concerted effort helping us recruit at new teacher induction. In general, I would like district leadership to really understand that our association can do so much to help them, but we need the strength that can come from leaders who vocally support JCEA and JESPA.

    Once again, I thank you for asking these questions and taking time to consider the many and varied answers you have received. I have a blog, and it has been my practice to publicly post my letters to Jeffco’s superintendent, so I will be posting this at paula-reed.com/blog. If you find the time to reply to this letter, it would be great if you could reply there so my readers can see.

    Like

    1. And my response to Paula:

      Thanks, Paula, for this well-thought through message.

      Regarding SBB, I’m not sure the intent is to create adversarial competitive situations between schools. Rather, the intent is to empower the building leaders with more flexibility in how funds are used. Even if the district were to revert to some kind of centralized budgeting formula, we would still need to heavily take into account enrollment differences across schools.

      We do need to consider the balance of factors within that system and how we are ensuring adequacy and equity – these are cornerstone concepts for any education budgeting system. By adequacy I mean are we providing schools the funding they need to deliver on what we are asking them to do. In Colorado, we have some definite structural issues around that which are well-known. As far as equity, that really means are we sending dollars to the kids who need it the most and recognizing differences in students in terms of required services. With that, districts really have a great deal of flexibility in how dollars are assigned.

      Thanks much for engaging – I look forward to working with you for great Jeffco schools!

      Like

  28. At the community welcome event on June 8, I asked the participants to discuss and then write down their start/stop/keep ideas. Below are all the responses we received.

    Thanks to Helen Neal with Jeffco Public Schools for compiling all these!

    Keep

    • Providing opportunities for student to excel no matter their career aspirations (GT to WT to AP/IB classes)
    • Choices in schools and in options for students
    • New social/emotional services
    • Supporting central administrators. Support services are the backbone of the district. Hidden and not very glamorous but essential to the body of the work.
    • Continual work with the need of students with disability and their need to expand their thought and ability
    • Capital assets improvement – walking to school
    • Providing food and resources for families in poverty
    • GT programming, WT programming
    • Fine art, theatre and music programs
    • Walking to school – yes!
    • Working together to solve problems and address issues
    • Continue working with Jefferson Center for Mental Health (JCMH) and other community resources
    • Bring back the occasional voice mail from the superintendent
    • Provide support for wellness and health education
    • Collaborating with partners in the community
    • Supporting Safe Routes to School
    • Collaboration, partnership, spirit, action, attitude
    • A la, “Raising of America,” keep the focus on early childhood education (it seems the rest of the problems will be minimized if we start there)
    • Keep making family engagement a priority in title I schools as well as districtwide. How can we advance these efforts?
    • Continue to create opportunities and ladders of education for our students
    • Keep health and collaboration
    • Working on PLC implementation (become a PLC district, I like the current narrow focus)
    • Positively collaborating with associations and treating teachers like professionals. It makes my job as a principal a lot nicer when my teachers are not considered a replaceable commodity.
    • Striving to value our teachers and staff
    • To push and encourage for major parent involvement and participation. It is so noticeable when the community is engaged in the schools.
    • Arts, Music, Theatre!
    • Evaluation coaches
    • Support arts (music) education in Jeffco. How will that impact students/teachers as we move to a countywide 6-8 MS?
    • Pushing forward with K-5 and 6-8 reconfiguration of schools
    • Doing things that allow teachers to be able to learn, and then spread that learning back to their buildings.
    • Continue to work to help kids that come in disadvantages to find the importance of school and learning and how this is their path to success.
    • Innovating and putting kids first
    • Discussing what the options are – reaching for more
    • The atmosphere of teamwork and collaboration in Jeffco staff
    • The arts in the curriculum
    • Engaging the community
    • Health and wellness initiatives
    • Pushing for a mill and bond
    • PLC and support on training so its implemented tightly. All Ed researchers agree that PLC is the highest level strategy for student achievement.
    • Let teachers teach
    • Honoring students and families
    • Focusing on our students
    • The diversity of school options including Long View HS
    • Instill love of learning, experiential learning
    • SBB as a principal it is more work, but worth it!
    • Achievement director role
    • Providing families (parents/adults) with opportunities to gain skills needed to lift their families out of poverty; (ie., Adult ESL, Adult Basic Ed)

    Start

    • Providing a non-AP Calculus class in all high schools
    • More coordination city/school district
    • Pushing past compliance. We’re greater than that, honor innovation
    • Looking at diversity
    • Celebrating our successes. We have incredible students, teachers and administrators
    • Building relationships with teachers, parents and staff. Jeffco has been successful with rigor and relevancy but lacks the connections with community at large.
    • Knowing your staff all this way down to our paras
    • Consider changing the title of the achievement directors back to community superintendents
    • Supporting food service with more county dollars
    • Increase respect for teaching profession
    • Improve teacher evaluation process
    • Increase recognition of need for equity
    • Increase support for early childhood nutrition, activity, social emotional skills
    • Parent engagement in operations
    • Elevating the teaching profession, pay our teachers, retain talent
    • Ensuring that all stakeholders are represented for discussions and collaboration
    • Use MAP to measure student growth for teacher evaluation (Brenda Fletcher)
    • Figure out a way to better support small schools through SBB
    • Talk with Pleasant View Elementary school staff/community to understand issues of how high-poverty school closures can be prevented (there is some bitterness among community partners that the district did not work with them. We need a better way to determine closures and work for high poverty neighborhoods).
    • Healthy Kids Colorado Survey – we need the data
    • Honestly, I feel there is a disconnect between what is really happening in the schools v. what people THINK or FEEL is happening. It’s really hard to try to connect with people in meaningful ways to work together for positive solutions when people’s perceptions are based on completely different versions of reality (Eliz. Panser)
    • We really really really need to share best practices. Our schools do not operate as teams. They’re silos. We are knocking it out of the park in so many ways but why have each school recreate the wheel?
    • When it comes to education we must once again become a bipartisan school district inclusive of all.
    • Explore identifying more locations from which students can walk to school, away from electronic devices, movies in cares, etc. I would hate to think about not learning what I learned from walking to school – in addition to the lifetime health benefits from walking.
    • Partner with Jeffco Health Dept even more than you currently do – to help encourage students to choose not to do drugs, including marijuana, and to increase walkability in Jeffco (sidewalks, etc.)
    • Educate the voters about what is needed to continue to provide a quality education for our students
    • Including students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the execution of the vision of high expectations for all students.
    • Aim zero dropouts
    • More concurrent enrollment with Red Rocks CC
    • Zero dropouts
    • Creating systems where departments talk to each other and to principals before rolling out programs/PD, etc. Create shared leadership between achievement directors and principals
    • Working districtwide on developing cultural responsiveness. Let’s talk about our biases, about diversity in our curriculum, “change your words, change your world!”
    • Expanding community family engagement and partnerships
    • Expanding the arts and programs
    • Increase funding extracurricular activities
    • Look at business/community partners
    • Increase awareness for foundation
    • Increase awareness of and need for a district school foundation and culture of internal philanthropy to support it
    • Priority: homeless services
    • More partnerships with Human Services for early childhood programs: Head Start, Jeffco Prosperity Project
    • Do a better job of informing/educating the Jeffco community; need to pass the next mill/bond issue
    • Need more $$ for Jeffco schools
    • Value teachers more and value their input
    • Talking to us again
    • community meetings
    • recreating a trusting and supportive relationship between the district and community
    • shift our focus to an emphasis on social/emotional learning. Only then will academic achievement follow!
    • Increasing mental health support for elementary schools. .5 FTE is not enough; full time should be standard. SBB is not as friendly to elementary schools. We usually have to choose intervention staff with spare $.
    • Move ahead to get all middle schools 6-8 by 2018.
    • Being intentional about teacher collaboration by giving them the resources to do so
    • Ensuring effective planning time for teachers
    • Valuing teaching
    • Marketing the great work we are doing
    • Working together – there has been lots of talk about getting rid of silos – it has yet to happen
    • Ensuring everyone is focused on our vision (Karla Hankins)
    • Finding new and creative ways to inspire learning
    • Making school curriculums focused around real-world applications and skills as opposed to busy work unapplicable (sic) outside of the classroom. As a high school senior, I think this would greatly benefit coming generations.
    • Engaging the community
    • Rebuilding (so much blame, nastiness and division)
    • Supporting each other regardless of political sides
    • Building consensus within district so we can build consensus in our communities
    • Provide more strategic training/ education to parents (we throw a lot of info at parents but due to the size we should tailor the message geographically)
    • Engaging whole community, more meaningfully, the blog is a great first step
    • Full day kindergarten – this could give kids a chance to get a solid start to their education

    Stop

    • Pit interest of different groups against each other
    • Hindering ourselves through silos
    • Denying USDA meals when children’s accounts run out
    • Allowing food nutrition services to market junk food to students via copycat smartsnacks
    • Working in silos
    • Selling chocolate donuts in the elementary cafeteria
    • Not loving people. Stop non civil descriptions of others
    • Stop not loving
    • The enormous amount of testing
    • Siloes
    • Inequity in south Jeffco (6-8 MS)
    • Keeping our great work a secret
    • Starting new initiatives without having all departments/stakeholders at the table. Lots of things are said that may not align.
    • Overtesting, especially young kids
    • Politics don’t belong in schools
    • The political divisiveness involving decisions for our district
    • Being satisfied with status quo
    • Letting others speak for the district by being more vocal and negative (ie., get out in front of messaging)
    • Make things too difficult sometimes (ie simplify)
    • The perpetuation of the us v. them (district admin v. schools) on both sides. We’re all in this together, working to provide the best we can for our students.
    • Acting like we don’t have a curriculum. We have done premier work on it and we are sending people back to square one unpacking standards.
    • Putting politics before students
    • Divisive and critical rhetoric
    • Change for the sake of change
    • Ending programs before we know how they are working

    Thank you
    • For asking!
    • For your reference to Pearl Harbor and need for unity

    Like

  29. I would love to see class size addressed. My son is in a kindergarten class of 31 students. This is completely unacceptable. At the kindergarten level class size should be capped at 25, with a 1:15 adult ratio at all times. School choice sounds like a good idea in theory, but in reality it is kindergarten choice because it’s much harder to get a space after kindergarten. I feel like I played Russian Roulette for kindergarten choice and lost when the school that said they try to keep kindergarten classes at 25 made their classes 31. Now the first week of school there are no other close options available for my child to be in a kindergarten class with 25 or less students. This is only the beginning of my Jeffco experience, but it has me more than a little concerned.

    Like

    1. Hi Kerrie – thanks for raising this important issue. School systems generally have two levers to pull to contain costs – 1) how many people you employ and 2) how much you pay them. When spending gets tight, we do see pay stagnate and class sizes rise. When we consider solutions to this issue, we must look to the ones which scale. Increasing educator compensation or lowering class size in Jeffco is a proposition which involves tens of millions of dollars. I’m not sure what the circumstance is at your school, but I’d check in with the building principal to see what might be done. Sometimes, schools assign paraprofessionals to large classes or take steps to break up the classes by having support or specialist teachers come in – effectively breaking the class size down by 1/2 or more – a practice called “flooding.” Again, check in with your principal to see what they are doing to address the issue. I agree – 31 is a big kinder class.

      Like

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