An Open Letter to the Jeffco Community from Jeffco School Leaders

As school leaders, we see the critical issues that our students, our educators and our schools face daily. We know firsthand how important it is that Jeffco residents vote Yes on 5A and 5B, the mill levy override and bond to support Jeffco Public Schools.

At a recent Board of Education meeting, several of us shared how difficult it can be to hire quality teachers for open positions. Many Jeffco teachers can often go to other districts and increase their pay by $10K or more annually.

JEFFCO Teachers Earn Less

 In April, when CBS4 investigated average teacher salaries around the metro area, they found Boulder teachers earn $75K per year, Cherry Creek teachers earn $71K, Littleton teachers earn $66K, and Jeffco falls far behind, at just $57K per year. It’s difficult to keep great teachers in Jeffco while also paying much lower salaries.

One reason for the discrepancy is that neighboring districts all benefit from the recent passage of mill levy overrides. This puts tens of millions of dollars into the budgets of those competing districts, leaving Jeffco Schools behind.

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What 5A & 5B can do to improve school safety

interior door locks

The Jeffco Schools Safety Task Force presented a list of recommendations early this month. Among their top recommendations?

  • More physical security improvements like door locks, secure entryways, safety window film, and door alarms
  • Additional security personnel, including more school resource officers (SROs) and Jeffco security personnel
  • Adding a campus supervisor to every Jeffco middle school
  • More mental health support, especially at the elementary school level
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Let's talk administration, part 1

Ever had questions about the numbers of central administration in Jeffco and whether budget woes might be solved by eliminating a number of those positions?

We have answers. Read on!

First, only 0.46 percent of Jeffco’s budget, approximately $4.6 million, is used to fund senior district administration.

Second, without central district administration, there’s no one to hire school principals, cafeteria managers, no lawyers to look over contracts with construction companies or other businesses. Without district administration, there’s no one for families to turn to if they are unhappy with the principal. There’s no one to handle threat assessments or to monitor students on safety plans.

And there’s no one to put together and track the district budget, no one to pay bills, no one to post budget transparency information on the school website — nor is there anyone to maintain the district website.

Simply put, central district administration exists to take care of the business side of Jeffco Schools. That means handling the finances, reporting school accountability data to the state, figuring out school bus routes, and directing school maintenance work.

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Charter Schools share in 5A & 5B

What is in 5A & 5B for Charter Schools?

In Jeffco, we have 15 charter schools with 17 charters throughout the district. These public schools operate under a contract, or “charter”, with the school district. They are each managed by their own school-level board of directors comprised of parents, teachers and/or community members. Charter schools also receive support from the district, including from the Charter School Office which is the liaison between charter schools and the district. Each charter school renews their agreement with the district every 5 years through a detailed charter renewal application process. To learn more about charter schools, you can visit the Charter School Process section of the Jeffco Schools website.

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Why mental health support is a vital part of education

Two years ago today on a typical September day, my 6-year-old was a block away from school with my husband, waiting for the stoplight. It was a special day at school: her class was presenting a museum to the parents that morning.

And then a car ran a red light and plowed into their car.

Instead of school, she was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for emergency surgery.

I tell this story because I’ve seen some questions about how school psychologists improve student achievement. It’s the wrong question. The right question is how school psychologists improve education.

When you’re 6 and your life is turned upside down on the way to school, you associate school with the accident. You don’t want to leave home. When your mother volunteers in your classroom, you burst into tears and cling to her, refusing to let go when it’s time for her to leave. Every time. Until the end of first grade.

Because my school has invested in a full time school psychologist, I was able to walk her down to our school psychologist to help her calm down and focus every time that happened. Two years later the trauma isn’t totally gone, but my third grader looks forward to going to school again.

The first step in learning is making sure a child feels safe.

My child couldn’t learn when she was overwhelmed by trauma. Even on some good days she said she’d sit at her desk trying to do work and think about how much she missed me. She told me that even though she tried to keep them in, the tears would leak out.

Over time, with the support of our school psychologist and additional outside counseling to address the trauma, she thought less about the accident. Her world grew safer. Only then was she fully equipped for academic work.

Improving education and student success requires us to address the whole child, not just the part that fills in bubbles on a standardized test. Mental health support is a crucial component of that process at all levels. 

My daughter is not the only student who has tried to focus on schoolwork, trying to hold in tears while their mind struggles with trauma. But we can help them feel safe again. 

Money from the Jeffco Schools mill levy override will be used to increase mental health support to improve student safety and to help students feel safe. Please vote yes on Jeffco Schools 5A and 5B.

Invest in Tomorrow by voting Yes on 5A & 5B

About a year ago, I went to a community town hall that talked about education funding in Colorado. During the discussion, a gentleman talked about a shortage of skilled technical workers needed to fill a growing number of job openings his company had.

As a seasoned veteran and leader in the software industry, I also know how hard it is to find skilled software developers. However, he thought that if he didn’t have enough workers to meet his needs, the problem must be due to a flaw in our education system.

I asked him, "What have you or your company done to invest in our schools?"

He didn’t have an answer.

If you ask business owners how they build and grow a business, they will quickly tell you that it takes a tremendous amount of investment and effort to build a market for their products or services.

At the same time, the business community has also assumed that the school district’s responsibility is to fill their pipeline with workers. The reality is that producing college and career-ready students requires an investment in the education we provide for students.

The mill levy override, 5A, and the bond, 5B, are two ways to invest to improve education throughout Jeffco.

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Making schools safer

While everyone agrees that school districts should to do more to broaden and strengthen school safety, most safety and security improvements carry a large price tag. While Jeffco Schools has leveraged existing budget dollars to strengthen safety and security in our district, additional funding from a mill levy override and bond would allow the district to do so much more.

The proposed Jeffco Schools mill levy override, 5A, would allocate 20 percent to school safety and security. That amount includes adding additional mental health and counseling resources for students. It could also support providing additional school security and campus supervisors or other personnel who are trained to identify and support struggling students.

The bond, 5B, would also fund additional safety and security improvements like interior door locks. Most Jeffco classrooms currently have doors that must be locked with a key from outside the classroom. The new interior locks can be locked from the inside without a key.

As of March 2018, Jeffco had changed out 1,300 traditional classroom locks for interior locks at a cost of $800,000. However, Jeffco has 4,800 classrooms, and it will cost an additional $4 million to change the rest of the locks. Money from 5B could put that process on the fast track.

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Jeffco Schools Funding 101

Where does Jeffco Schools get its funding?

Jeffco Schools receives money from the State of Colorado, Jefferson County, student fees, and kindergarten tuition paid at schools where free full-day kindergarten is not offered.

Funding is based on a per-pupil calculation, which is determined by how many Jeffco students attend school on “count day” - the school day nearest October 1 each year. In 2017/2018, Jeffco Schools only received funding for 83,129 students although 84,911 students were actually enrolled.

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Citizen Oversight: Financial Transparency & Accountability

Jeffco Schools is committed to rigorous financial oversight procedures, financial transparency and accountability, including a long history of citizen advisory and oversight committees that involve independent citizens with a range of expertise. If 5A and 5B are approved in November, both the mill and bond will be monitored by a citizen oversight committee — as required by the ballot language for 5A and 5B.

In fact, two citizen oversight committees will share that work: the Capital Asset Advisory Committee and the Financial Oversight Committee.

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Why vote yes?

Vote YES on the Jeffco Schools mill and bond because we can do more for our kids, schools, and community.

We're excited to spread the word, but also are waiting to know what our issue number will be on the ballot. (In past years, the mill and bond were "3A and 3B," but that will not be the case in 2018.) 

We'll find out what our issue number will be on Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, we have created a simple half-page handout that you can share at events. Just print it, cut it in half, and share! 

Download your own flyer to print at home.


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