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Jeffco School Board revises TS Gold decision, reviews legislative platform

TS Gold will remain part of the Jeffco Schools preschool program, but will be limited to students enrolled in the Colorado Preschool Program and those whose slots are funded by federal IDEA money for the time being.

The Jeffco School Board made the decision to reinstate the use of TS Gold on a limited basis at their Feb. 6 regular meeting, after the Colorado Department of Education told the district that they would lose approximately $5.4 million in funding for CPP slots unless the district uses either the TS Gold or HighScope COR to assess CPP students.

Jeffco Schools has used TS Gold to assess preschool students for three years. It is one of two programs currently approved by CDE to assess students.

HighScope COR is the only other assessment approved by the CDE, but the cost of implementing HighScope in Jeffco would run nearly $94,000, including subscription costs and teacher and staff training for the new system.

A group of parents asked the board to continue the use of TS Gold for all Jeffco preschool students, allowing parents to opt-out students rather than deny parents the choice to have their students assessed.

"We respect their option to opt-out, but we as a group are in. We want this for our children," Jeffco parent Darcy Wood told the school board.

A separate group of parents opposed the use of TS Gold, as did a second group, citing privacy concerns and questioning the evaluation of developmentally appropriate preschool skills.

The board voted 3 to 2 to use TS Gold only for those who are covered under IDEA funds and those who participate in the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP), and to simultaneously pursue a waiver to eliminate the requirement to use TS Gold for those students.

The Jeffco School Board also voted 3 to 2 to ask for new applications for Jeffco's Performance Evaluation Council rather than to continue with the existing council.

Board member Lesley Dahlkemper urged the other board members to delay the application process until May, pointing out that the committee has already been working together for months and that their experience is crucial because of SB 191.

The new majority members disagreed.

"Having new ideas is a nice decision," Williams said.

The Performance Evaluation Committee is a requirement of SB 191, requiring every school district to establish a committee appointed by the local school board, consisting of a minimum of one teacher, one administrator, one principal, one parent of a current student and one district resident without a current student.

The employee associations make their own appointments to the committee.

According to the Jeffco Schools website, committee members typically serve a term of two years.

The district is currently accepting applications and will make committee appointments at the March 6 meeting. Existing committee members may reapply.

Also at the board meeting, the board heard an update on teacher compensation redesign. A task force has been working on a proposed compensation redesign plan for months, but had only presented to the previous board.

Jeffco Schools teachers and staff have not seen a pay increase since the 2010-11 year, and steps and levels were suspended in fall 2012.

Board member Julie Williams asked whether the model would address educator effectiveness, but Amy Weber, Jeffco Schools Executive Director of Human Resources, explained that teacher effectiveness was addressed through evaluation, not pay scales.

The task force also explained that the redesign model did not incorporate merit pay in part because it is too early to have conclusive data from the Jeffco Schools strategic compensation pilot. The pilot is now in its third year at twenty schools in the district, but results will not be available until after the pilot is completed.

In other business, the Jeffco School Board approved a list of potential directions for the Financial Oversight Committee, including:

  • Advise on PERA contributions; advise on the AED and SAED contributions
  • Advise on Healthcare Reform; advise on strategies for managing the increases
  • Advise on the size of the reserves in the final budget for 2014- 2015
  • Advise on charter equalization; advise on what it means and what the impact might be
  • Advise on the 3A/3B promises and funding
  • Advise on capital construction needs
  • Advise on the costs of special education; advise on due process and the placement of students out of district

The board also approved the 2014 legislative platform and approved positions on selected current legislation.

Board member Jill Fellman made a motion that the Jeffco School Board support eliminating the negative factor. Originally called the “State Budget Stabilization Factor" when introduced for fiscal year 2010-11, the negative factor was used to reduce the amount of funding each district would have received otherwise.

More than 170 Colorado superintendents signed a letter to the Colorado legislature this month, asking lawmakers to buy down the negative factor and restore school funding. The Colorado Association of School Boards also supported a similar resolution this year.

Stevenson told the school board that without the negative factor, Jeffco Schools would receive $98 million more in funding.

Board president Ken Witt said he wanted to know more about the impact of the negative factor before taking a position. John Newkirk echoed his statement, stating that the negative factor was such an "ethereal concept" that he wasn't prepared to take a position before getting more information.

The motion failed on a 3 to 2 vote.

The next Jeffco School Board meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 18, beginning at 5:30 pm in the boardroom.

The agenda includes voting on a superintendent transition plan and approving a contract for an executive search firm to conduct the new superintendent search. Board members will hear from firms Ray and Associates, Inc. and PROACT Search on Tuesday evening.