Archive for the ‘Board and Admin’ Category

Mead Boundary Decision

February 12, 2009

Last night, the school board set boundaries for Mead High School.  The Times-Call story is here.

I read this statement at the conclusion of our discussion.

I would like to thank everyone who spoke tonight but especially the students – that takes guts.

I had a bottom line when I arrived here tonight.  While these boundaries are not my first choice the proposal meets this bottom line.  Any student who lives in the Tri Towns and wants to attend Frederick High School will have that choice.

I am making this vote in an effort to show respect for the Tri Town communities, to give students and families options and to enable Mead High School to open successfully.

That’s the bottom line and it’s a good one.

I also want to thank staff and Long Range Planning committee for their work.  They followed the guidelines set out in board policy.  They did the work they were asked to do.

I do want to say a few words to the elected officials who are here tonight – my colleagues on the school board and the elected officials in the audience.  I appreciate everyone’s indulgence.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, it is important for us to acknowledge when we could have done better.  This is one of those times.

I will begin with myself.

I have been a part of the boundary setting process in the past.  I knew from experience that the process we have is backward.  We ask the Long Range Planning Committee to make recommendations first and then we ask the public for input, second.

This creates a very contentious atmosphere.  The committee feels beat up.  The community believes our process is just for show.

We end up scrambling for data at the 11th hour which we then try to discredit depending on our point of view.

I knew this from past experience but I did not speak up.  I let the process unfold without saying a word.

As my colleague Bob Smith reminded me, Steven Covey teaches that people who are affective are proactive.  I did not meet this standard.  As a board, we did not meet this standard.

Looking forward, I want to make clear we need to redesign this process.

We also have known for a while that the elected officials in the Tritowns – speaking on behalf of many of their constituents – had concerns with the proposed boundary areas.  The concerns were valid and worthy of discussion.

Yet again, I was not proactive in reaching out to officials in the Tritowns to say, “let’s figure this out.”

I could have done better.  As a board, we could have done better.

Having said this, the same applies to the elected officials from the Tritowns.  They could have been more proactive, too.  There was no meaningful effort to engage us in constructive dialogue.  I did not receive a single phone call from an elected official asking, "John, what do you think?"

The public hyperbole that we’ve witnessed, especially over the past week, is not helpful.  It’s effective in the sense that it gets a lot of people riled up.  It fills up board rooms.  And, it may create a sense camaraderie among those who got fired up.

But, this public hyperbole did not bring us together to figure out a solution. It just made people defensive and put people on edge.

People want to know that elected officials understand their concerns, that they will account for these concerns, and that they have the abilities to work and play well with other elected officials.

People understand that compromise is part of the process.  They will accept decisions that work reasonably well for everyone even if it’s not exactly what they want.

That is what I believe we have here tonight.  A compromise that works reasonably well for everyone because families get to choose where their child attends school.

So, I claim responsibility for my lack of action that led us to the place we are today.  I can and should do better.

I hope that all of the elected officials who are here tonight or watching on tv or who may read this on my blog will also consider ways to be more proactive in the future, too.

We have more issues to work on.  Let’s look forward.  Together, let’s do better.

The people in our communities as well as our municipal and district staff deserve it.

Thanks for your indulgence.


BOE Report – February 11, 2009

February 11, 2009

Early in each school board meeting, board members give an update of things that they’ve done over the past week.  Here is the update I plan to give later tonight.  I am anticipating a very long meeting so I am trying to keep my remarks brief.

Education Task Force

I attended an Education Task Force meeting today.  One of the topics we discussed is parents knowledge of and comfort level using technology.  There were several representatives from the parent education task force of which the school district is part.  This is a group of organizations that offer parent education classes.  They are trying to coordinate their efforts to increase their impact.

Given that we are adopting Infinite Campus next year, the parent education group plans to offer parents training so that parents can make effective use of this tool.

Intergovernmental Agreements

I am a member of two committees that has overlap between the city of Longmont and the school district.  Both of these committees have very small budgets – less than $10,000.

These committees are having trouble spending the money they’ve been allocated.  In some cases, because of the source of the funds, the school district is the source of the money but city staff are in charge of spending the money – and vice versa.

The intergovernmental agreement (IGA) process that’s required to spend the money is tedious and slow.  Tonight we have an IGA on our agenda, if I read correctly, for $21,000.  The groups I’m working with are trying to spend $450 and less than $5,000 respectively.

At some point in the near future, I think we need to discuss ways to simplify the IGA process.  When do we want an IGA to come to the board and when can the superintendent (or city manager) just approve it?  The city of Longmont needs to review its policy, too.

We can make more effective use of everyone’s time.

 St. Vrain Student Technology Tech Fair

See post below

Immigrant Dialogues

I was not able to attend but I want to make everyone aware that there have been Immigrant Dialogues this week at Skyline High School and Central Elementary.  I would like to thank everyone who made those possible.

Accreditation and Accountability Committee

The committee met this week and had another very productive meeting.  Thanks to everyone who is giving their Tuesday evenings to this work.

Micronotes – Finances & Engagement

February 5, 2009


The fiscal world is changing daily – not for good.  State budget recisions (cuts in original allocations) expected to be close to $900,000 this year (budget that ends June 30).  Last week est. $600,000.

Expected reductions from planned allocations for next budget year still around $2.2 million. Stay tuned.

District health care premiums expected to rise significantly.  Initial estimates approximately 17%

Good news: We're in better financial shape than many districts. Our current budget built on assumption of no mil levy override.  Community support of mill levy override helps a lot.

We will be able to move forward our strategic initiatives despite state reductions.  But, no escaping that the pie will be smaller than estimates just a few weeks earlier.


I am not spending as much time in community and schools listening and learning as I would like.  My biggest barrier is managing the logistics.

Need to build systems to facilitate engagement process. Ad hoc system does not work well.

Compared notes with other board members. We will be working on creating a system to get all of us out in community and schools more.  Essential to stay grounded.

BOE Micro Blogging Notes – Miscellaneous

January 28, 2009

The Classified Staff Professional Development Team received the National Staff Development Council’s Shirley Havens Support and Classified Staff Development Award.
February 7 is the St. Vrain Valley 2009 Technology Fair at Trail Ridge Middle School.
Skyline High School hosted an information event regarding the school’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program and the VPA (Visual and Performing Arts) program.  More than 250 people attended.
St. Vrain Schools have received just over $194,000 in gifts in the second quarter of the 2008-2009 school year – $30,000 from parent groups in the second quarter.

BOE Micro Blogging Notes – District Finances

January 28, 2009

We are not immune to the overall decline in the state and national economy.
The Colorado state legislature is considering up to $600,000 in reductions of funding to our school district this budget year.  To be safe, we are adjusting the district budget as if we will lose this $600,000.
The legislature is considering a $2.2 million reduction next budget year in per pupil funding. They are making adjustments to at-risk student formula; portion of formula outside state constitution.
On the upside, district enrollment is up beyond projections resulting in an additional $2.2 million in funds – charter schools will receive $250,000 of this due to an increase in charter school enrollment.
We will spend $5.2 million of mill levy override dollars this budget year.  Charter schools will receive $1.2 million this budget year.  The remaining mill levy dollars collected this budget year will be put into reserves specifically earmarked for purposes outlined in the mill levy override ballot language.
We are planning to issue $104 million in new bonds in early February (roughly February 10).  Bond advisors estimate an interest rate between 5 and 5.4%.  The maximum rate per the bond question is 6%.

Board Comments – January 28, 2009

January 28, 2009

Each board meeting, board members take turns reporting on things they’ve done the past two weeks. Typical there is more to report than one wants to take the time to report.

I prepare talking points for myself before each meeting – as do other board members. I am going to try to make it a habit to post my talking points before the board meetings. I will make note of those things I say at the meeting and those, in the interest of time, I did not mention.

Lunch with Silver Creek Teachers

Last Wednesday I was able to have lunch with Silver Creek teachers. It was a great day of learning for me. I want to thank Kent Willmann for making arrangements. I also want to thank Sherri Schumann for making time for me that day.

Teachers indicated that they are very supportive of the district’s strategic initiatives. Specifically, to…

– Align curriculum and create common assessments

– Create focus schools

– Address the achievement gap and at-risk students and schools

The group did raise important questions for the board and management to keep in mind as we move forward. I know that management is thinking about these questions and we’ll have the opportunity to discuss them more at our retreat on February 13. The types of questions I took away from the discussion:

– How do we need to sequence the initiatives so that we ensure there is adequate time to implement these initiatives thoughtfully and with rigor?

– What type of communication material do we need on the website and in other places that people can refer back to so people can be clear on why we’re undertaking each initiative, the timelines, progress, etc.?

– How can we make use of resources and thinking that already exists – in particular on the standards and common assessments?

– A bit of a tangent… in an electronic world, how do we need to rethink the “textbook” adoption process? Is “textbook” even the right mindset to be in at this point?

There are other questions that came up but that’s enough for this forum.

John Irwin School of Excellence Award

I had the opportunity to attend an award ceremony for St. Vrain Valley schools that received the John Irwin School of Excellence award [there’s not a great website for this].

I am sure that the first and most important thing to point out about this award is that John Irwin was a Jayhawk.

In seriousness, the John Irwin Award goes to schools in the to 8% in the state based on the state accountability report card.

The event was hosted at Xilinx by Flagstaff Charter Academy one of the five St. Vrain schools that received the award. The other schools were:

– Niwot Elementary

– Altona Middle School

– Lyons Junior/Senior High School

– Niwot High School

Some of these schools have received the award on multiple occasions.

Congratulations to all the schools and thank you to Flagstaff for hosting the event.


Tuition Equity Bill

The board has been approached to support the

Tuition Equity Bill

expected to be introduced in the Colorado state legislature later this week. The bill would allow undocumented students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend Colorado colleges and unvisited at in-state tuition rates.

My inclination is to support this bill though I certainly would need to learn more about it. While I believe there needs to be immigration reform, I am a pragmatist on this issue. Undocumented children are living and working in our communities. We should maximize the education possibilities of those students who are ready, willing and able to pursue college. We all benefit when those who share our communities are able to maximize their education.

I disagree with the logic of Colorado State Sen. Dave Schultheis who said:

“Many citizens have been productive members of society and have made considerable income with only a K-12 education. While some students become successes because of their college education, the notion that a college education is a requirement for a successful life is a myth that for years has been fostered by the higher education institutions.”

This type of logic suggests that since Bill Gates dropped out of college we should all drop out of college. It’s nonsensical.

I understand that illegal immigration is a sensitive issue and that there is a need to address it. I don’t think that penalizing children is the best approach.

Skyline Baseball Silent Auction

I was invited to attend a silent auction fund raiser for the Skyline High School baseball team at Scooter Hinge in Mead on February 7. Do to other commitments I will not be able to attend.

Mead High School Boundaries

Not a single person has contacted me directly regarding the Mead High School boundaries.

BOE Microblogging Notes – Miscellaneous

January 20, 2009

One more set of micro-blog style notes from last BOE meeting. As I mentioned in previous post, I am experimenting.  I'm still deciding if this is a useful exercise.

BOE Microblogging Notes – Miscellaneous
March 11 is the date for the district Job and Career Fair
May 8 is the date for the second annual Tribute to Teachers celebration.
January 22 will be the kick-off date for the new Frederick High School.  The first group to meet will be students.
The lead organization for the new Frederick High School design is Klipp Architecture 
Legislative update: Budget cuts expected. Full day kindergarten will not be expanded and possibly cut.  There will be no new construction money to support full day kindergarten.
Accreditation committee: ACT, Explore, Plan and PSAT tests are more relevant to students than CSAPs.  BOE should consider funding for all tests.
An article distributed at the board meeting – graduating students in need of remediation.
The school district is developing a system wide Response to Intervention program.  See documents from board packet.
I would like to attend a school presentation on Response to Intervention.  The nutshell report is difficult to gain a full appreciation for the program.
Gifted and talented programming is being extended to preschool age children who are ready to begin academic instruction early.  Board packet info if interested.

BOE Microblogging Notes – Longmont Committee for the Cultural and Performing Arts (LCCPA).

January 20, 2009

I am experimenting with micro-blogging. Capturing salient ideas in 140 characters or less.  I made an effort to take notes in micro-blog style at the last school board meeting. Not sure yet if I think this will be a useful exercise.  I may experiment a little bit more.  My hope is to capture and post relevant information on a more timely basis.  Here's a first installment of micro-blog notes.  We met with the Longmont Committee for the Culture and Performing Arts (LCCPA) in a work session prior to the regular school board meeting.

BOE Microblogging Notes – Longmont Committee for the Cultural and Performing Arts (LCCPA).

LCCPA is interested in creating a regional arts and education center that they will call the Longmont School for the Arts.
The school would serve people of all ages from youth to adults in programs ranging from culinary to theater.
LCCPA envisions a post secondary arts school.  A model for their vision is the Savannah College of Art and Design.
The group believes the Longmont School for the Arts will be complementary to, not in competition with, public school arts programs. I see these possibilities.
LCCPA would eventually like to build a performing arts center.  An example of their vision is Santa Fe’s Lensic.
The group is interested in leasing the building on 9th and Main Streets which currently houses Twin Peaks Charter Academy.
I am impressed with the group’s vision.  The BOE agreed to have staff pursue conversations about a potential lease option on the 9th and Main facility.
LCCPA was represented by Dr. Peter Schmid, Jim Marty, Julia Pirnack, Scott Pirnack and Scott Dunn.
Conversation points that stick with me…
Arts centers are evolving away from a place that hosts events for subscribers to observe. The trend is for arts centers to host participatory programs.
Young arts enthusiasts expect to participate in and socialize around their performing arts experiences.
Yet another industry/institution that must reinvent itself to be a platform for people to have co-created experiences.
From Daniel Pink’s Book, A Whole New Mind… The Master of Fine Arts is the new MBA.

Board Priorities

November 9, 2008

With the election results all but official, the work continues to honor the investment the community has made in the school district.  First and foremost we must be vigilent to remember that the dollars voters approved are indeed a community investment and not an entitlement.

Now that we know the election results, the school board will be able to continue its focus on a set of strategic priorities established in the spring and fall.  These priorities include:

Continue to strenghten district fianances.  Passage of the mill levy override is a big step forward.  We are responsible to ensure that these dollars are used as intended.  In addition, as we all know, effectively managing finances is always a top priority.  The board's role is to ensure that we are maximizing the value of the resources we have and ensuring that there is a clear, transparent and accurate accounting of how funds are being uses.

Continue to strengthen leadership, management, teachers and staff.  Again, the mill levy override will make it easier to compete with surrounding school districts to recruit and retain high quality educators.  At the board level, we also must ensure that the conditions exist to enable people to succeed at their jobs and that we have systems in place to manage situations in which people underperform.

Align standards, curriculum and assessments.  This is the number one recommendation of the Comprehensive Appraisal for District Improvement (CADI) a study done in the spring.  We have district standards for each of our instructional areas now.  The problem is that they are too vague, schools interpret these differently and there are not consistent assessments to guage student learning.  The process is already underway to develop clarity and consistency.  The board's role will be to ensure that there is timely progress on this work; that the work on standards and assessments includes policies to support students that either exceed or fall short of standards and that schools are developing effective quality improvement programs.  A strategic question we must sort through is how to balance standarization between schools with the need and demand for customization for students.

Develop a portfolio of high demand focus schools, course offerings and learning environments.  We must offer our students a learning experience that they value.  And, we must make sure that we have the program offerings that will enable students to successfully advance beyond high school.  Again, the mill levy and bond provide a big boost in this effort.  The board role will be to, again, ensure timely progress on the initiatives to create focus schools, reduce class sizes and ensure that we have a robust set of course offerings for all our students.  The board also has a responsibility to stay current on the needs and interests of the stakeholder groups so that the district keep pace with these needs.

One area of work that needs particular attention is extended instruction for students at our low income schools.  I will write more about this in the future but extending the time of quality instruction time is the only formula that has proven consistently successful in serving low income communities.  That is a lesson being learned all across the country and one we need to act on.

Align organizational structure with growing size of the district.  Over the years, the school district has outgrown our management structure.  As a result, communications with, collaboration and responsiveness to studenst, teachers, building administrators is not as effective as it could or should be.  District leaders are working on ways to more effectively organize.  I will be able to say more about the board role when we hear their report.

Improve communications and collaboration.  The strategic priorities we are taking on are big not small.  The importance of effective communications and collaboration is at a premium when an organization takes on big initiatives.  It also is a challenge for a time starved enterprise.  But, we must not let the challenges of time impeded our efforts.  We have established good intentions.  Now, we must improve our execution of efforts to effectively communicate and collaborate with various stakeholder groups.  And, the district will need a mutual effort on the part of the stakeholder groups – e.g. teachers, parents, community members.  The board's first responsibility is to strive to be a role model for good communications and collaboration.  We'll make mistakes from time to time but we must keep striving to do better in this regard.  The board's second responsibility is to help ensure that effective communication and collaboration becomes an organization habit.

Improve board effectiveness.  I have great appreciation for each of the board members who serve their communities and the school district.  I now know from first hand experience that service on the board is a time intensive undertaking.  I believe we have good board members.  Our priority must be to continue to improve our effectiveness as a group and our effectiveness to support district leaders, managers and staff.  We need to do better at staying focused on strategic issues and strategic questions.  We must resist the temptation to drop down into organization operations.  The strategic priorities outlined here is a good step forward in staying focused.

School Board Effectiveness

June 2, 2008

Any effective group is continually asking itself the question, what can we do to be more effective?  For a governing board, such as a school board, we should continually be asking, are we focused on the most essential issues?


In my six months on the St. Vrain Valley School Board, I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for each of my fellow board members.  They are a group of passionate and dedicated people.  I am learning from each of them.


I also have come to believe that, as a board, we can be more effective and more focused.  We need to spend a greater proportion on what's essential.


How to be more focused?  This is a common challenge for governing boards.  It is so common that there are many books and articles written on the topic.  Countless consultants earn their living helping boards learn to be more effective.


I am reading two books by John Carver to learn how a governing board can be more effective.  The two books I am reading are Boards that Make a Difference and Reinventing Your Board.