Jeffco Education Looks for Improvements

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Posted Sat, Feb 27, 2010

Golden, Colo. – An incendiary town hall meeting with members of the Jefferson County Board of Education on Feb. 20, brought 40 plus residents out of the cold and snow into city hall to have a heated discussion about new ideas and propositions regarding education spending.

 Board members  Jane Barnes, Laura Boggs, Paula Noonan, and Dave Thomas received a cry for change from angered taxpayers, concerned teachers and curious parents about how to reform Jefferson county public education.

The meeting intensely unfolded when State Sen. Moe Keller (D) said that she had lost over a $1,000 of his property taxes to fund new parks and trail programs which he deemed unnecessary.

Keller quelled her outburst when Board members underlined the fact that voters approved the initiative to build the trails, and that Colorado Lottery money was used to fund the trail programs, not property taxes.

Keller did receive some applause from citizens attending the meeting who agreed that they were unsure of how their property tax dollars were helping fund public education in the areas.

 “Jeffco is one of the finest (school districts) in the country,” said board member Dave Thomas officially starting the debate.

Thomas added that children were struggling with the achievement gap and it was the board’s job to keep kids in school and getting them to graduate was critical.

Two teachers asked the board why they  decided to start spending some of the $100 million reserves the district had saved over the last few years, and was still cutting more teaching jobs at the same time.

“Education is a much more complicated activity,” replied board member Laura Boggs referring to how much more this recession was a set back for the district, monetarily. She added the board needed to reevaluate where it could save money for the future.

Boggs and Thomas  punctuated the fact that a Colorado Department of Education study found in order to fix the state’s entire education system , it would take an estimated $2.2 billion to ‘properly educate’ all Colorado children.  Thomas added that this funding was out of reach while the country was in a recession.

The audience also asked about, Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics or (STEM) programs and how the board views them.

One audience member talking about STEM hoped the board would bring it to the district saying that their needs to be more support for real science not imaginary science; referring to poor alternative programs for learning science, math and technology.

 “The district is open to STEM,” said board member Jane Barnes.

Another issue the audience was concerned about was the misuse of school buildings.

 “I think there’s a lot of ego going into building those buildings,” said a parent and former architect, referring to fancy designs and over accommodated sized structures with pretty views, which served as a faceplate for the district, not bearing any effectiveness in teaching students.

This led to a high school writing teacher to ask what the board plans on doing to reduce class sizes in some schools and dispersing students to other schools. He added that having 140 students to teach each week and only giving 15 minutes to each student’s essays was not proper feedback. He said especially when some schools are over crowded, and others are at 50 percent capacity.

Boggs asked the audience “what would you all like us to do? Furloughs, freeze spending? That is why we are here today; to get your opinions and ideas.”

More town hall meetings with the school board members are scheduled for future dates and they are encouraging more people to attend.

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