Board Report: The (Increasing) Cost of WNW
Mar 04, 2016
It was another pleasantly uneventful evening at the BoE. The Clean Slate took unanimous action to start cleaning up one of the big messes left behind by Witt, Newkirk, and Williams – the mishandling of growth in northwest Arvada.
Steve Bell highlighted the fact that he had given ten presentations about the need to invest in the region since July of 2014. Several of those presentations became confrontational and one involved Mr. Bell leaving the Board Room to “compose himself.” District staff and multiple committees had weighed in numerous times over the last nineteen months with the recommendation to issue Certificates of Participation (COPs) in order to finance the $40 million of urgent needs ($25 million to build a school at Candelas and $15 million for Sierra Phase 2). The recently ousted Board Majority dragged its feet and, when it finally acted, invested $18 million cash from the General Fund towards building a school (the estimated cost of which was $7 million more) and nothing towards Sierra Phase 2. That $18 million came from underspend dollars (savings from retiring staff) which are traditionally rolled back into compensation.
A couple of meetings ago the BoE moved that $18 million back to the General Fund. With two unanimous votes, the BoE directed the district to issue COPs for construction of a K-8 school at Candelas and Sierra Phase 2. The resulting conversation centered on the increase in the costs of the projects. Mr. Bell had warned the Board Majority that construction in Denver Metro is booming and costs could increase if they didn’t act on the recommendation. Nineteen months after that initial recommendation, the costs have increased by $8 million ($6 million for Candelas and $2 million for Sierra Phase 2). Members of the BoE agreed that this is a short term fix and discussions will need to take place about longer term solutions to the more than $400 million funding shortfall in JeffCo.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Mitchell asked if District Legal Counsel, Craig Hess could take a look at Dr. Cindy Stevenson’s separation agreement drafted by Witt, Newkirk, and Williams. He is concerned about Dr. Stevenson having been banned for life from participating in district events – even volunteering at schools – stating that seemed “mean-spirited” and doesn’t reflect the values of JeffCo. Mr. Hess said that he could look at the agreement and there could be a discussion at a future BoE meeting.
Our opponents who supported WNW continue to lurk on social media and a few even attend BoE meetings, tweeting from the back corner of the Board Room and recording the proceedings for selective editing and distribution to their vast, online echo-chamber. JeffCo Students First has been quietly submitting CORA requests in preparation for 2017 when they will attempt to paint educators and the Clean Slate BoE as the problem and present a slate of three new candidates as the solution. We must remain engaged and vigilant and we must not let that happen again.
Please take the survey about the Vision for the Schools Our Students Deserve linked in the latest Board Watch email and show up to support the JCEA bargaining team when you are able. Write letters to the BoE letting them know what we need as we continue to Stand Up For All Students.