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​​​​​​​​​​​Week in Review October 7 through October 13
Posted October 14, 2017


ctivities from this past week that I have been involved with, attended, or am sharing, are:

The school board meeting held this past Monday,

A community town hall on race organized by a local church on Tuesday.(Town halls organized by Dr. Larry Linthacum have been scheduled).

Missouri Auditor, Nicole Galloway, CPA released a report on tax credits.

 

For more information about all these topics, please scroll down.

School Board Meeting Monday, October 11:

The Board met and took these actions:

Approved the finalized bus routes for the school year.There are 77 routes with projected miles to travel totaling 817,911.Due to the size of the district it is unavoidable that some routes exceed one hour.The District approves bus routes in October as that is when we are certain how many students are attending each school and will be riding the bus as opposed to getting to school some other way.

Held first reading of policies from the Policy Committee (see Week in Review posted September 29, 2017 for a description of the policies.)   The Board chose to postpone discussion until the November meeting when the second reading and adoption is to take place.

Approved a contract with CenturyLink for voice and data pending change of a provision that would dictate jurisdiction should there be cause for legal action.

Approved the latest draft of the Construction Manager At Risk contracts with the Nabholz company.The Construction Manager At Risk will be paid 1.9% of the total of construction contracts.In exchange, they will manage all the subcontractors (possibly more than 30), and get the new high school completed on time and within budget as well as complete the renovations of the current high school.The new high school on route 179 needs to be ready to accept the freshmen and sophomores on the west side of the JCPS district in August 2019.The entire 179 project should be completed by the end of 2019, it must be ready for another group of freshmen in 2020.The current high school renovation time line is not as firm; the challenge of working while the high school is in session presents additional difficulties.As much work as possible will be completed during school breaks.The priority will be on safety for students and staff as well as minimizing disruptions.As a result, the renovation may take longer than the new construction.

You can watch the YouTube video of the meeting through this link:  https://youtu.be/8dbYQLk74FM 

Still to be resolved is insurance for the construction projects and this will be the topic of a Special Board Meeting on October 30th.   Usually each contractor or subcontractor on a project obtains their own liability insurance and rolls the cost into their bid.  When you have 30 or more subcontractors, there can be gaps and overlaps in insurance.  In the event of a claim you may have two or more different companies trying to minimize their payout or disagreeing about which company should pay.  This has the potential to hold up a project.  Additionally, the cost of all those policies rolled into bids can increase the cost of a project.  One way to avoid this is what is called “rap up” coverage.  That is, in short, having all subcontractors be insured through one policy either held by the Construction Manager at Risk (CCIP) or by the Owner (OCIP).  There are advantages and disadvantages to both options.  Subcontractors can get a credit from their insurers by not having to have a policy for a specific project.  The school board will discuss this on October 30.  The Construction Manager at Risk contract was worded to allow for these options.

On October 30th the Board will also get an update from the architects about both projects.

On Race, Respect, Our Schools, Credibility and Our Community, Week 4:

On September 18 a photograph of teens posed in front of profane and racist words along with swastikas surfaced from social media where it had been circulating.  Within a few days, print and television media reported on the photograph as well.  Most of the students pictured have been acknowledged as JCPS students.  Due to the hateful nature of the words and symbols in the picture, many in our community were outraged, deeply offended and hurt. 

 

On Tuesday, October 10th, the One in Christ Baptist Church held the second church organized community meeting on race.  Moderating was Pastor Jon Nelson.  The panel members were Superintendent of Schools Dr. Larry Linthacum, City Councilman Larry henry’ Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, and Bishop James Howard, Jr.  About 75 people filled the church, with many providing a question or engaging in discussion with the panel. 

 

The meeting began with the Moderator asking questions and then going back and forth from people in the audience speaking to questions he selected from submitted notecards.  Here are highlights:

Please describe your first encounter with racism in Jefferson City.The minority panel members first experience came early; both came to Jefferson City as Lincoln University students.Councilman Henry was followed by store security when he went shopping at Dillard’s and told black people steal.Bishop Howard was working at the Gerbe’s grocery store on the east end of Jefferson City and called the “N” word by a customer.

When an incident like the picture on social media occurs, the Black community sees it as “here we go again” or continuation of racism in the community; the White community sees it as an individual act and since they are not the one in the picture do not feel affected.How do we get past this?All expressed the importance of dialogue.Other answers included: acknowledging there is problem; looking within; putting yourself in the shoes of another; and knowing how you respond defines you.

Who makes disciplinary decisions?(Discipline was a frequent topic, as it was at the Quinn Chapel meeting.)Dr. Linthacum stated decisions are made at each school building level but can be appealed.He went on to say the District is looking at data and working towards assuring there is uniformity and fairness to the discipline process.He also stressed the need for looking at decisions on an individual basis.Some remain concerned that reports of light discipline for the students in the picture were upsetting and inappropriate.Dr. Linthacum stated the reports were incorrect.In response to this, a woman got up and stated she didn’t care about those three students because there were plenty more harboring the same attitudes; the real concern is, What is the plan to change those attitudes?She stated you can’t count on the parent to teach the kids, it has to be through peer interactions.

Diversity in hiring, and not just at the school district, was brought up again.It was quite clear the answer of “it is hard to find difference makers” was not satisfactory.Again, as at the Quinn Chapel meeting, a woman spoke up about her inability to get hired as a full-time teacher at JPS, although she substitute teaches.She brought with her a magazine story about her working with students at an advanced level and bring them opportunities.(At Quinn Chapel the woman who reported having difficulty getting an interview at JCPS was for a non-teaching position.The continuing message is, “You say you can’t find us’.We are right here.”Another woman, now retired from a large organization spoke about her struggles in Human resources to get managers to hire qualified minority applicants.

Another recurring question has been about curriculum that neglects black history (as well as other minorities).Black history does NOT begin with slavery.The speakers in the audience felt the lack of inclusion was directly tied to the hiring issue.

There was a frustration from many of the speakers who are fearful (because they have seen it in the past) that after the meetings, the messages will be forgotten and nothing will change.I have seen speaker after speaker bare their soul, share their experiences, and relive acts of callousness and hate just to try to explain the depth of the race problem in our community.

An audience member shared their observation that individuals (white) can be against racism, but what do they do to stop groups they belong to from acting in a racist or biased manner?

A journalism student from Lincoln University stated he is using the photo of students as proof there is still racism; some people think it ended long ago.He told the panel “No one wants to be represented as racist, but you are.You have to do something, not leave it to others.

 

In St. Louis some teachers are taking an approach to teaching black history and related topics that is worth exploring.  Here is a link to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article: http://stltoday.com/news/local/education/st-louis-teachers-turn-their-classrooms-into-hubs-of-social/article_a570de73-f748-58e9-aea1-c8c651563526.html 

Dr. Linthacum has announced dates and locations for three upcoming School District scheduled town hall meetings on race and diversity:  They will be on October 24 at the Boys and Girls Club; November 7 at the Hawthorn Bank Community Room on Amazonas Drive (across from the Bank) and on November 8 at the Mid America Bank Community Room in Holts Summit (at the Center Street exit from US 54).  All meetings are scheduled to run from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Having Two Middle Schools Now and Two High Schools Soon:

This past April the community voted to support having two high schools.  Community discussion among those wanting the community to have one ever growing high school had used the argument that dividing students would divide the community.  This was despite the school district having two middle schools since 1993.

On this past Wednesday the two middle schools, Lewis and Clark and Thomas Jefferson played against each other in volleyball.  Due to scheduling issues, the games (there are “A” and “B” teams from both 7th and 8th grade, a total of 4 teams per school) were played at the high school.  Students, parents, fans and even the high school volleyball players and coaches who had just finished their practice, were in attendance.  The gymnasium was loud with team spirit, with the two schools cheering for their teams from opposite sides of Fleming Fieldhouse.  One school gave a loud cheer and the other responded.  It was great to see the friendly and very respectful spirit of the cross-town rivalry.  It bodes well for having two high schools with more opportunities for students to participate.  As both a grandparent and a school board member, I was very proud of our students, our staff and all in attendance.

Tax Breaks and the Missouri State Auditor:

Over the last several years I have written about proposals from businesses wanting to have their tax payments to the school district and other local governments turned into a building fund for their private (and for profit) development.  One of my objections is that IF there is a payoff to tax payers, it comes years from now with the estimates based on the venture being successful at some point in the future.  Essentially, the local tax abatements (avoidance) withholds increasing taxes from a development for up to an entire generation (23 years) and then begins to pay.  Among allowable costs are overhead (that includes salaries for services the developer provides to their development) as a “soft” cost.

This week Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway, CPA, issued a report calling for more oversight of these special programs.  Ms. Galloway stated Missouri does not adequately track tax breaks and incentives.  Of 209 tax exemptions only three are tracked by the state.  So, how do we know whether or not they are a true incentive to improve the economy for Missourians or are just a giveaway to developers? 

Below is a link to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch news article followed by a link to the actual audit report:

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missouri-auditor-calls-formore-tracking-of-tax-breaks/article_c9e15b3d-f71c-5428-b965-a34c4bd44c1.html

https://app.auditor.mo.gov/AuditReports/AudRpt2.aspx?id=61

 

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:



Tuesday, October 24, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Town Hall on Race.  Location:  The Boys and Girls Club on the Lincoln University Campus across from Jefferson City High School (Lafayette Street).

October 30, 6:00 pm:  Special School Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street. Topics include an architect update on the two high schools.

Friday, November 3, 7:00 a.m. “Coffee with Larry”, Location:  Miller Performing Arts Center Atrium.

Tuesday, November 7,6:00 p.m.: JCPS Town Hall on Race.  Location: Hawthorne Bank Community Room (across Amazonas Drive from the Bank).

Wednesday, November 7, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Town Hall on Race.  Location: Mid America Bank  Holts Summit Community Room, Karen Drive at the Center Street exit from US 54.

Saturday, November 11:  Veterans’ Day.

Monday, November 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, November 30, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location: Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street. 

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review September 30 through October 6
Posted October 6, 2017


There were no meetings of the full Board of Education this past week.  The Board will hold its regular October meeting on Monday, October 9.  Members of the public wishing to so may make public comment on agenda items (see the link to the full meeting agenda in the School Board Meeting section, below).  The Board meeting will be streamed starting after the public comment period.  Streamed meetings can be found on the JCPS YouTube channel, follow the link at the bottom left of the JCPS website homepage: www.jcschools.us

On Race, Respect, Our Schools, Credibility and Our Community, Week 3:

As has been much discussed in the media, on September 18th a photograph of teens posed in front of profane and racist words along with swastikas was widely circulated.  Most of the students pictured have been acknowledged as JCPS students.  Due to the hateful nature of the words and symbols in the picture, many in our community were outraged, deeply offended and hurt.  On September 27th, Quinn Chapel AME church organized and sponsored a community discussion about race.  On Tuesday, October 10th, the One in Christ Baptist Church is holding another community meeting (see information in Important Dates section, below).  JCPS has not yet announced the dates and locations or other details for community meetings Dr. Linthacum is organizing. 

In a previous posting I stated JCPS policy dictated that I could not discuss any punishment dealt to JCPS students; minors have rights of privacy unless criminally charged as adults (a call made by courts, not school districts) and all students are protected by federal privacy laws.  People I have spoken to on the phone or in person have been very understanding of this.  Yet, just this week, in a completely unrelated event, the local newspaper indicated school district officials told them a student was suspended for ten days.  The mixed messages regarding student accountability and disclosure are troubling.  As a district we need to either protect all students’ rights of privacy or make the conscious choice that some students’ privacy appears to be more important than that of others.   When the Board meets Monday evening for the first time since these tragic events unfolded, there will be many things to discuss. 

School Board Meeting Monday, October 9:

The Board is scheduled to:
     *     approve the finalized bus routes for the school year.  There are 77 routes with projected miles to travel totaling 817,911.
     *     hold first reading of policies from the Policy Committee (see last week’s
Week in Review for a description of the policies.)
     *     consider a contract with CenturyLink for voice and data; and,
     *     consider the latest draft of the Construction Manager At Risk contracts. 

You may recall the District voted to employ a Construction Manager At Risk who would manage all construction contracts from as many as 30 firms involved in the construction of the second high school on route 179 and renovate the existing high school.  All work would go through the public bidding process.  A Construction Manager At Risk takes responsibility for the projects completion within budget and within time constraints.  For many months the District has been negotiating with the Nabholz firm who was selected through a process outlined in Missouri Law.  As of today, there are still outstanding details in the 60+ pages of contracts.

Here is a link to the Board meeting packet:  https://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/Regular%20Board%20Meeting%20Packet%20-%20October%209%20%202017.pdf

Following the regular meeting the Board will hold a Closed Session to discuss legal matters; personnel; and records protected by law from disclosure.

Poverty in Missouri:

The Missouri Budget Project is a nonprofit organization that this week published a three page report breaking down federal public services by congressional district.  The organization credits federal assistance such as health care, child care, and other safety net programs with reducing the poverty rate by 2/3.   To view the numbers follow this link:  http://www.mobudget.org/congressional-fact-sheet/

Of note, approximately 60% of JCPS students qualify for reduced price or free breakfast and lunch due to low household income as verified by JCPS staff each year. 

Coffee with Larry:

This morning JCPS Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum hosted his monthly Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.  Pre-construction work continues at the Route 179 new high school site.  Actual construction work is anticipated to begin in January 2018. 

Amy Berendzen, Director of School and Community relations, reported there were 1,200 submissions of names for the new high school.  Of Committee of community members, including middle school students has been formed to narrow down the name selections to about 10.  Those finalists will then be further narrowed down by the School Board.  The community will then vote from the list of finalists.  The current plan is to announce the name at the groundbreaking ceremony in January 2018.  Selection of a mascot and school colors will come later in 2018.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Tuesday, October 10, 6:30 p.m.: One in Christ Baptist Church Town Hall, 900 Jefferson Street. 

Friday, November 3, 7:00 a.m. “Coffee with Larry”, Location:  Miller Performing Arts Center Atrium.

Saturday, November 11:  Veterans’ Day.

Monday, November 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review September 23 through September 29
Posted September 29, 2017


This week a community meeting on race was hosted by an area church and the Board Policy Committee met for routine business. 

On Race, Respect, Our Schools and Our Community, Week 2:

For those who missed the television, print, and social media reports, on September 18th a photograph of teens posed in front of profane and racist words along with swastikas was widely circulated.  Most of the students pictured have been acknowledged as JCPS students.  Due to the hateful nature of the words and symbols in the picture, many in our community were outraged, deeply offended and hurt.   

On Wednesday evening, September 27th, Quinn Chapel AME church sponsored a community discussion about race.  The panel consisted of Chris Sutton of the Boys and Girls Club; Michael Couty of the JCPS School Board and Director of the Prenger Center; Dr. Larry Linthacum, Superintendent of JCPS; Rod Chapel of the Missouri NAACP; Reverend Cassandra Gould of Quin Chapel AME Church; and Larry Henry, Jefferson City Councilman.  Susan Cook-Williams of Habitat for Humanity was the moderator.  Several other community leaders were specifically invited to attend; they included Municipal Judge Cotton Walker, several city councilmen and me.  Attending the discussion were over 100 community members and School Board President Steve Bruce. 

The discussion began with Moderator Cook-Williams posing several questions to the panel.  Here they are, paraphrased in my notes:

·         How would you describe the state of race relations in the Jefferson City area?
·         Is focusing on race divisive since everyone does not agree?
·         The census describes Cole County as 83% white, 12% black and 2.7% Hispanic.  Does this describe what you see?
·         How can our communities and schools be more aware of these issues and work towards solutions?
·         If we had excellent race relations, what would we see, hear, and feel?

 This is how panelists answered the questions:

·         There has always been an underlying separation of the haves and have nots in our community
·         Missouri’s history as a state and the Missouri Compromise set in place “Plantation Politics” and segregation within the community that still makes an effort to whitewash everything
·        Opportunities are not the same for whites and minorities
·         There are a disproportionate number of referrals to juvenile court for minorities
·         Slavery is America’s original sin; to not discuss race gives it momentum.  Affected people just want a platform and dialogue
·         When Jim Crow laws changed it did not change hearts
·         As a community we need to open our eyes and listen; we need to acknowledge problems, have conversations, understand each other and accept each other
·         JCPS as well as our businesses need to change hiring practices; there are well qualified minority applicants out there, we need to welcome them and hire them
·         Actions, not words, will change the community  and have all to work together
·         Understand that my walk in America as a black man has been a little different than your walk.

Following the prepared questions, the second portion of the discussion was led from community members sharing their experiences, suggestions and questions.  Here is a sampling of discussion between the attendees and panelists:

·         Reverend Gould shared that minority students have expressed concern for their safety in the wake of hateful speech and incidents, both the local picture that circulated on line and incidents all around the nation
·         Black leaders are left out of history curriculum leaving minority students to feel their ancestors did not help shape our nation
·         Discipline has not been meted out by JCPS proportionate to the offense or equally.  Parents, black and white shared specifics in support of this
·         Confederate flags, because of what they symbolize now, need to go from school property.
·         Administrators need to visit schools more often to get a pulse of what is going on
·         The community must insist on the hiring of qualified minority applicants in schools and businesses; people when they apply must feel they have a legitimate shot at being hired or they won’t make the effort to apply in Jefferson City
·         Racism is a systemic problem affecting every institution; implicit bias training needs to take place  (NOTE:  JCPS is going to have diversity training, as I learn more details, I will share them)
·         If you want change, become a mentor and work one on one with young people

 The News Tribune story about the meeting can be accessed here:
http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/sep/28/town-hall-racial-disparities-draws-large-crowd/693242/    All three local television stations also were present and filed stories. 

Dr. Linthacum shared that JCPS will organize Town Halls on race in October.  Details have not been determined yet.  Several area churches will also hold their own conversations on the topic.  I plan to attend as many of these events as possible to listen, learn and talk with people.

Other recent and related news links:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/sep/24/lu-grand-marshal-talks-baseball-race-relations/692645/

http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/sep/24/your-opinion-jcps-needs-to-take-action-after-racist-photo/692623/

 
Policy Committee Meeting September 28th:
The Committee reviewed 12 sets of policy recommendations from the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA):

 1.     SCHOOL BOARD VACANCIES:  County Commissions fill school board vacancies IF more than two vacancies occur at the same time, per present policy.  In 2016 SB 638 enacted provisions for districts within counties that do not have a county commission and have three or more vacancies at one.  MSBA has also clarified sections of the policy that generated frequent questions.  Both counties in the JCPS District have county commissions, so the policy does not constitute substantive changes for JCPS  The Committee accepted the recommendation
 2.     PERSONNEL RECORDS:  MSBA has updated the policy for clarity as to what records parents/guardians and school board members may access, and compliance with the new federal ESSA or Every Child Succeeds Act.  The Committee accepted the recommendation. 
3.     REFERENCES:  ESSA has new requirements limiting writing of references in cases of suspected or actual sexual misconduct with a minor or student.  The Committee accepted the recommendation.
4.     SUSPENSION OF PROFESSIONAL STAFF MEMBERS:  In 2016 Missouri passed HB 1432 requires employers to provide employees with notice of reasons and their rights in certain instances.  The Committee accepted the policy change to comply with the law.
5.     SUSPENSION OF SUPPORT STAFF MEMBERS:  This is the companion policy to the above policy and changes are also due to HB 1432 (2016).  At some point in the past JCPS deleted a portion of the policy and MSBA recommended JCPS restore that deleted portion relating to employee rights.  The committee accepted all the recommendations.
6.     NONRENEWAL AND TERMINATION OF SUPPORT STAFF MEMBERS:  This new policy contains clarified language previously found in a different policy which now deals only with suspension of employees.  (MSBA has been changing a number of policies to have them only deal with one major issue.  This has resulted in more policies, but they will be easier to find in an index.)   The Committee accepted the recommendation.
7.     DISTRICT-SPONSORED INSTRUCTION OPTIONS:   This is an update of how post-secondary courses (dual enrollment) are counted and allowing student pay when participating in work programs.  These changes are driven by DESE, the Missouri department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The Committee decided to withhold a recommendation until further review of current practices can be completed.  The Policy will be on the next Policy Committee Meeting agenda.     
8.     GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS:  DESE has changed graduation requirements as a result of SB 620 (adopted in 2016) creation of the CTE certificate (Career and Technical education).  Students with a CTE certification may have certain academic requirements waived.  MSBA has added a statement to the policy requiring students to take all end of course exams.  The Committee accepted the recommendation.
9.     INTRADISTRICT TRANSFERS:  References to No Child Left Behind have been omitted, ESSA or Every Student Succeeds Act changes has been inserted although in a generic manner so the policy will not require revision every time the federal education law name changes.  MSBA has added language regarding JCPS legal obligations to homeless students.   Intradistrict transfers can also be triggered by DESE designating a school for comprehensive support and improvement.  The Committee accepted the recommendation
10.     INTERDISTRICT TRANSFERS:  This is a NEW policy that previously was optional.  MSBA now recommends it be adopted.  Interdistrict transfers can occur when a district loses accreditation.  SB 638 (adopted in 2016) now allows students to transfer to a Charter school or other public school within certain geographic limitations (the transfer must be to the same or an adjoining county.)  The Committee accepted the recommendation. 
 11.     A+ SCHOOLS PROGRAM:  Federal regulation now requires students to have maintained good citizenship for all high school years (not just the last three.)  Missouri SB638 (adopted in 2016) adds the option for districts to recognize student participation in the Constitution Project as a demonstration of good character.   The Committee accepted the recommendation.
12.     STUDENT RECORDS:  The ESSA allows student themselves (not just their parents) to opt out of providing student information to military recruiters.   MSBA has clarified language in minor ways in other sections of the policy.  The Committee accepted the recommended changes but further recommended existing language regarding information that can be published in a student directory be modified to exclude place of birth.  The Committee felt that District dissemination of this information may not be in the best interests of all students. 

Ten of the twelve are due to changes in state or federal laws.  The recommendations from the Committee will go to the full Board of Education for two readings, the first being on October 9, 2017 and adoption at a later meeting.  Although the Committee meeting is a public meeting, there was no public comment period.  Members of the public may comment at the full board meetings. 

The Committee continued its ongoing discussion regarding board member training.  Currently Missouri Law mandates all school board members receive 16 hours of training from the Missouri School Boards Association in their first year of service.  The Committee is weighing whether or not JCPS should add a requirement for our board members to participate in ongoing training should they serve more than one three year term and if so, what form should that training take.  It was decided that since a Board retreat is planned for early January; that may be a time when the Board as a group participates in training.  Board President Steve Bruce will bring the discussion to the full Board.

Second High School Naming Process:
The JCPS Office of School and Community Relations is coordinating finding a name, school colors and mascot for the second high school to be built on route 179.  The first part of the process is gathering potential name through an open survey that can be accessed through this link:  https://www.jcschools.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=270&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=21663&PageID=1

The survey will be open through October 4.   The next steps of the process are for a stakeholder group including students to sort names.  The school board will be asked to approve finalists to be voted on by the community.  The stakeholder group has not yet formed.  The selected name will be unveiled at the ground breaking for the new school, tentatively set for late January 2018. 

Construction Manager At-Risk Contracts:
I have no news on the status of contracts as of this posting and I have not received updated draft contracts.  Scroll down to the top the September 15, 2017
Week in Review for the last status report.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Friday, October 6, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium

Monday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.
 
________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review September 16 through September 22

Posted September 21, 2017

This past week has been one of several positives and one big negative.  The positives are  there is now a Mentoring Coordinator and the Parents as Teachers Program is serving more families; and a week filled with dismay.  The negative is that a small group of teens (most of them JCPS students) chose to write profane racist and anti-Semitic things, memorialized it through a posed photograph and posted it online.  Once online, it spread throughout the community, causing considerable pain to many.  Please scroll down to read about the highs and lows from my perspective.

Mentoring Program Update:

As previously reported JCPS entered into an agreement with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization (BBBS) to run the mentoring program for JCPS.  BBBS have considerable experience in running a recognized mentoring program.  JCPS agreed to partially fund the Mentoring Coordinator position.  This past week it was announce that Mr. Kirk Schreiber will be the Mentoring Program Coordinator.  He was previously the Executive Director of the Children’s Trust Fund and prior to that worked as a Chief Deputy Juvenile Officer.  Mr. Schreiber begins his new position with the Big Brothers Big Sisters on September 25.

Parents as Teachers (PAT):

On September 19th I attended the JCPS Parents as Teachers Advisory Meeting.  PAT serves pre-kindergarten families and their children five years and under.  During the 2016 – 2017 school year, PAT served 468 families and 684 children.  PAT services are geared towards families and children with needs, whether economic, health or social.  PAT has parenting classes as well as classes geared towards making children ready to attend kindergarten on a level playing field with other children. 

One of the services offered by PAT is screenings to ascertain if children are developing within average ranges.  The screenings are open to all children residing in the District.  In the 2016 – 2017 school year, 345 children under the age were screened:  69 had developmental issues; 9 had vision issues; and 13 had health issues.  321 children ages 3 to 5 were screened:  85 had development issues; 36 had vision issues; and 6 had health issues.  Children screened and found to have issues are referred for follow-up and those eligible are enrolled in PAT programs.

Parents as Teachers programs have benefitted from new revenue as a result of the tax increase passed by voters this past April allowing for the opening and staffing of an early childhood education center within Callaway Hills Elementary School. This opened slots at Southwest Early Childhood Center formerly used by Callaway County JCPS students.  More revenue was realized when the Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation received a private donation enabling still another pre-kindergarten class to be opened at the Southwest Early Childhood Center, where PAT is based.  Pre-kindergarten classes now serve 170 students, up from 105 this past year. 

To learn more about Parents as Teachers and upcoming events, visit www.jcschools.us/pat

State School Board:

Each state has a State Board of Education charged with hiring an Education Commission and setting standards for the conduct and assessment of public schools.  State Board of Education members are appointed by the Governor for set terms. Board composition must represent each major political party equally and appointees must come from around the entire state.  (Read more about the function and rules here:  https://dese.mo.gov/state-board-education/about-state-board  )

Governor Greitens, a proponent of charter schools, has had some trouble appointing members to the State Board.  First an appointee dropped out because his full time job prohibited service; this week an appointee (Melissa Gelner) had her appointment withdrawn and she stated she was pressured to fire the current Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven; and now a third potential appointee (Heidi Crane) has withdrawn from consideration citing the pressure placed on Gelner.  Every Governor has a philosophy they favor and they usually appoint like-minded individuals.  It is very unusual to tell how to do their jobs or to request a specific action from appointees. 

This is important for several reasons:  education dollars are very limited and if funding goes to charter schools meeting lesser requirements than public schools, public schools will likely receive less funding; and, even more importantly, the education of our children should not become a political football.  I want State Board of Education members and the Education Commissioner that will make decisions that are guided by their professional qualifications and judgement, not a politician of any party.  I want my rule makers to make rules from a position of knowledge, I want them to do their jobs based on what they determine is best for students, not whatever a political party – any party – thinks is trendy.   In other words, educators should make the education decisions, not Governors.  Governors get to choose the Board and that is enough.  Appoint them and let them do their jobs.

Here is how the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on the story this week:  http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/missouri-governor-s-bid-to-oust-school-leader-flounders/article_6017b803-a058-58d5-a27a-120508f7da1c.html

On Race, Respect, Our Schools and Our Community:

For those who missed the television, print, and social media reports, this past Monday a photograph of teens posed in front of profane and racist words along with swastikas was widely circulated.  That the photograph had a banner caption of “LMAO” (the texting shorthand for laughing my ass off) just made it that much worse, that much more hurtful. 

Teens will do stupid things, sometimes rooted in ignorance, sometimes rooted in a false sense of feeling extra special, sometimes in anger or confused feelings.  That does not make it any less painful for those who have a memory or sense of what the words and symbols have meant to their life experiences.  Teens today are blessed with not having lived through a time when people were snatched off the street or out of their homes, dragged away from their families and hung from trees, their bodies left there as a message to others; or witnessed a Holocaust where millions of Jews, Romani and other people were rounded up into concentration camps where they were worked until they were no longer needed and then gassed, their bodies thrown into heaps.  In fact, the parents of most teens do not have first -hand experience of these events and may not have heard previous generations talk about them.  But some in our community have lived through those times or have heard accounts from others who had the experiences.  And it is those memories and experiences that are dredged up when looking at a picture of kids laughing about the words and symbols.

I find it hard to fathom that anyone who knows of the violent treatment of minorities anywhere in the world, and especially right here in our country, in our state, whether old history, 20th century history or even more recent history, could find symbols of hate funny or intentionally inflict pain by flinging those symbols and words out so carelessly.

Racism, whether coming from ignorance or malice, is a community problem and it requires a community solution.  Ideally, I would like to see community stakeholders (or partners) come together and dedicate themselves to begin discussions between parents and children; educators and families; business and faith entities; and commit to really rooting out all forms of intolerance in our community before it poisons us all.  Dealing with incidents as isolated events or aberrations is not a long term solution.   A start is what Dr. Shindorf describes as a social skills curriculum for elementary school students in the News Tribune article about the teen incident  (link here:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/sep/19/jcps-disciplinary-action-taken-students-racially-insensitive-photo/691865/ )

However, that is not enough for a community wide approach.  I had hoped the school board would hold a special meeting and we could take the lead in a broader approach.  Absent that, the Jefferson City area is blessed with many community groups that have been speaking to the issue all along. 

It is, in my opinion, vital that everyone speak up when they see instances of racism, or any prejudice.  No one among us is any better than anyone else, to think so is folly.  It is also vitally important to help our youth get back on track when they have strayed due to ignorance of the history and meaning of the symbols and words they use.   

Policy Committee Meeting September 28th:
The Committee is slated to review 12 sets of policy recommendations from the Missouri School Boards Association.  Ten of the twelve are due to changes in state or federal laws.  The Committee will also continue its discussion regarding ongoing board member training.  Currently Missouri Law mandates all school board members receive 16 hours of training from the Missouri School Boards Association in their first year of service.  The Committee is weighing whether or not JCPS should add a requirement for our board members to participate in ongoing training should they serve more than one three year term and if so, what form should that training take.

All recommendations from the Committee go to the full Board of Education for two readings and adoption.  Although the Committee meeting is a public meeting, there is no public comment period.  Members of the public may comment at the full board meetings.  The Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. in the Board offices. 

Second High School Naming Process:
The JCPS Office of School and Community Relations is coordinating finding a name, school colors and mascot for the second high school to be built on route 179.  The first part of the process is gathering potential name through an open survey that can be accessed through this link: https://www.jcschools.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=270&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=21663&PageID=1

The survey will be open through October 4.   The next steps of the process are for a stakeholder group including students to sort names.  The school board will be asked to approve finalists to be voted on by the community.  The stakeholder group has not yet formed.  The selected name will be unveiled at the ground breaking for the new school, tentatively set for late January 2018. 

Construction Manager At-Risk Contracts:

I have no news on the status of contracts as of this posting and I have not received updated draft contracts.  Scroll down to the top of last week’s
Week in Review for the last status report.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Friday, October 6, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium

Monday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.
 
________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review September 9 through September 15
Posted September 15, 2017


The school met for the regular September meeting this past Tuesday, September 12th.  There are no school board meetings currently scheduled for next week but a special meeting may be called to approve the Construction Manager At Risk contracts that are still pending.  Several key elements of the contracts are still in negotiation.  Those elements relate to the guaranteed maximum price and timing of setting the guaranteed maximum price.

The Construction Manager At Risk (CMAR) assumes some responsibilities usually left to the owner (JCPS).  The CMAR assumes liability for work done by contractors (on a large job like building a high school and renovating an existing school it is reasonable to project 30 contract firms); that the job will be done on time and within the budget.  (The budget is the amount of the voter approved bond issue, $130 million for professional services like the architects, CMAR, engineers, materials, construction and furnishing the school.)  CFO Jason Hoffman indicated the CMAR would like to defer setting a guaranteed maximum price until after the bidding by subcontractors in completed.  The subcontracts will do the actual work.  The problem, as I see it, with waiting too long into the process to come to terms is this:  The new high school is set to open August 2019 for the largest freshman class ever in JCPS history.  Sophomores will also enter the new high school or current high school, depending on which middle school they attended.  The time line for construction is very tight.  IF JCPS cannot come to terms in a timely manner with Nabholz, negotiations with another CMAR firm will have little time to take place and JCPS will be in a position of weakness as we are the ones with no time and fewer options.    

September 12th School Board Meeting Highlights:
JCHS student Mitchell Donnell Huston, Jr. was formally recognized for his outstanding performance at the national Speech and Debate competition held this past summer where he placed second.  Mitchell treated those attending the board meeting to his performance.  It was moving and riveting.  To see it yourself, visit the JCPS YouTube link (https://www.youtube.com/user/JCPSVIDEOS) and click on the video with the 56:42 time marker.  (The performance by Mitchell Donnell Huston, Jr. comes up almost right at the beginning and lasts about 5 minutes.)

In other business:

     *     Shelby Scarbrough, Director of Human Resources, presented the staffing report for the 2017-2018 school year.  JCPS has 1,232 full time employees and 85 part time employees.  There were 161 new hires this school year in the following categories:  Four administrators or managers; three principals or assistant principals; 83 classroom teachers; 14 other professional staff; and 57 nonprofessional staff members.  (Note: the category may not be the same as the job title, but is a descriptor of function.)  JCPS staff is 1,108 female and 370 male.  Of new employees who identified a race, 63.7% are white; 6% are African American; 2% are two or more races; .14% are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander; .14% are American Indian or Alaska Native; .14% are Asian; and 28% did not mark a category.  The top five undergraduate degrees earned by new teachers came from these institutions:  Lincoln University; University of Missouri; Columbia College; Missouri State University; or University of Central Missouri. 
     *     Dr. Brian Shindorf, Chief of Learning, spoke of the professional development for new teachers and work done by the Student Information and IT departments in getting ready for the school year.   These teams prepared 3,500 electronic devices (iPads and Chromebooks) for student use and another 700+ for faculty use.  They also created faculty user accounts combining multiple logins.  In past years teachers have had unique login names and passwords for every program they use in the classroom.  Spending time logging in; even remembering all the different logins was cumbersome and time consuming. 
     *     Jason Hoffman Chief Financial Officer and Chief of Operations reported the outside audit firm has been onsite this past month in preparation for their audit for the fiscal year just ended this past June 30.  He indicated they have been looking at areas not previously reviewed by outside auditors.  The final report is to be presented to the Board no later than December.  
     *     Dr. Larry Linthacum, Superintendent of Schools, reported enrollment data overall is flat compared to last year; however the “official” enrollment in Missouri is recorded the last Wednesday in September.  That count of enrolled students is what appears on Missouri department of Elementary and Secondary reports for the school year.  He also reported the state average school district expenditure per student is $10,437; JCPS’s expenditure per student is $9,529.  Dr. Linthacum views expressed this as good stewardship of tax dollars.   He reiterated the vision for the school district:  “We will strive to become a premier school district in the state of MO by raising the bar and growing our traditions of pride through excellence!” 
     *     Policies removing limitations to the total amount of time for public comment were approved. 
     *     Several contract renewals for Special Services were approved.  The contracts involved contract nursing, physical and occupational therapy. 
     *     A Closed session lasting 35 minutes to address personnel and legal matters was held following the public meeting.

This month most of the Board meeting was streamed and archived on a test basis.  The recording begins after Open Forum (no one spoke) and ends after the vote to enter into Closed Session.  It does not cover when the Board returns to Open Session after the closed meeting.  Usually the board adjourns at that time.  This month the Board held a discussion about a “retreat”; its purpose and what topics would be on an agenda.  No decision was reached as to agenda but tentative dates in early January 2018 were set aside.  The YouTube recording of the meeting can be found through the YouTube link at the bottom of the JCPS Homepage (www.jcschools.us) or by going directly to this link:
https://www.youtube.com/user/JCPSVIDEOS   Many JCPS videos can be found here, the September 12 meeting is not marked as such, and it is the one with the 56:42 time stamp.

JCPS Music Department:
For the past four years I have been attending Lady Jay Volleyball games, both at home and at some away games.  Before every Varsity game the National Anthem is played.  At Jefferson City High School the Anthem is performed live by one of our very talented JCPS music student or the acapella group.  This makes JCPS truly unique and it is a proud moment when our students are showcased before the home town crowd, visiting teams, families, and fans.  Not only does our version of the Star Bangled Banner sound best, it is a great start that gets everyone cheering.   

Second High School Naming Process:
The JCPS Office of School and Community Relations is coordinating finding a name, school colors and mascot for the second high school to be built on route 179.  The first part of the process is gathering potential name through an open survey that can be accessed through this link: https://www.jcschools.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=270&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=21663&PageID=1

Surveys may be completed by anyone but only one submission per device is permitted.  The survey asks for your name, contact information, suggested school name and reason for that name.  The survey will be open through October 4. 

The next steps of the process are for a stakeholder group including students to sort names.  The school board will be asked to approve finalists to be voted on by the community.  The stakeholder group has not yet formed.  The selected name will be unveiled at the ground breaking for the new school, tentatively set for late January 2018. 
The selection process for school colors and mascot will take place at a later date.

Emails and Chromebooks:
The school board has issued Board members a JCPS email account but Board members may choose to continue to use their personal accounts.  Board meeting packets will be transmitted electronically to members via the JCPS email accounts.  The JCPS issued email accounts will go through the JCPS server which will also archive emails.  My school email account address is pam.murray@jcschools.us  Your emails sent through this website’s Contact Pam will continue to be linked to my personal email, pammurray@centurylink.net and is not automatically archived with JCPS.  (NOTE:  a group email to or from a majority of board members becomes a public record regardless of which email address used.  The only exceptions to that are those noted in the Missouri Open Records law and would most usually pertain to identifiable information about a student or staff member.)  As always, I welcome your comments and concerns no matter how you contact me.

The decision to send board packets to board members via email to district issued Chromebooks was made by the Board officers in conjunction with the Superintendent and board secretary.  The goal is to get board members information in a timely manner; allow for additions to the packet information prior to the board meeting; cut down on time spent preparing packets; and cut down on the amount of paper used.  With packets routinely exceeding 10 pages (sometimes exceeding 300 pages) this is a savings to the district.  The Chromebooks come with software allowing the individual user to highlight portions of the packet for discussion.

For the Policy Committee that I chair, I look forward to using the features to mark policies to reflect Committee recommendations and track them through the process of two Board meetings.  It should become easier particularly since the Committee does not have a staff member taking minutes or tracking changes; currently I do this manually and then coordinate with the Board Secretary.  Look for updates as to how things work in practice in the coming months.

The Chromebooks issued to board members are marked as board property for inventory purposes.  They remain the property of JCPS and are on loan to the board members.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Friday, October 6, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium


Monday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review September 2 through September 8
Posted September 8, 2017


As there were no meetings of the school board this past week, the school board will hold its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, September 12th at 6:00 p.m.  (Monday the 11th, the usual meeting date conflicts with the Helias Catholic High School fundraising golf tournament.)

Two High School Projects Construction Manager At Risk Meeting:

Although the board has not seen or approved the contract, the Nabholz company held a Summit for local (and other) companies interested in working on the two high school projects on Wednesday, September 6th.  (I was told they felt the risk of the Board not approving the contracts is low and the timeline to open the new high school is ambitious.  The Construction Manager At Risk contracts should be on the agenda of the next school board meeting, September 12th.) 

To recap:  A Construction Manager At Risk assumes liability for the project being completed on time, within the established budget and up to the specifications required by building codes and architectural designs.  This is a major risk for the Construction Manager and a reason why their compensation is more than an ordinary construction or project manager.  The school district benefits because it limits the number of contractors we, a school board and administrative team, have to manage.  With the construction of a new grade 9 to 12 high school and complete renovation of the existing high school and Nichols Career Center, this could easily be 30 or more contractors. 

The meeting was attended by about 50 contractors interested in details of the two high school projects.  All construction will be subject to the public bid process with public opening of bids.  The new high school construction and current high school renovation will have different schedules. 

Nabholz anticipates a December 2017 bid date for early site work including utilities at the Route 179 site with construction starting in January 2018.  All remaining 179 work is expected to be bid in April 2018.  There is a firm date of August 2019 to open at least a portion of the Route 179 high school to freshmen and sophomores.  (Transitioning to the second high school will be phased in to minimize disruption to high school students.)

The current high school is a more difficult project as the campus must remain operational throughout construction.  Renovation of the existing structure is classified as light (cosmetic refinishing and carpet type work); medium (doors, windows, hardware); and heavy (moving of walls).  Additionally, there will be new construction:  a second gym to double as a storm shelter; a classroom; and a common area connector between Nichols Career Center and the High School.  There will also be parking and landscaping work.   Bid packages for this work will likely be in April and May 2018.  Work will begin as soon as the campus is vacated in May.  Staging will be required to minimize disruption to students and teachers.

Nabholz presenters emphasized the desire to have as much work done by local contractors as possible.  The guiding principles they conveyed were good stewardship of tax dollars; the need for contractors to demonstrate their ability to adhere to construction requirements and meet deadlines.   They also asked contractors at the meeting for suggestions to make the process run smoothly and maximize opportunity for local firms to compete.   Suggests made included assuring timing of bid projects so that firms would have an understanding of how one set of bids went before they submitted bids for a second project and combining addendums to construction documents when bids are awarded to minimize errors.

Nabholz indicated they will hold pre-bid meetings prior to bid dates which will be advertised.  Contractors contacting them will be sent a set of documents to “pre-qualify” or demonstrate the contracting firm’s ability to complete work should they be awarded the bid. 

ACT Testing:

In 2015 the State of Missouri began requiring all public high school juniors to take the ACT test and the state paid for it, once per student.  This year, in a budget move, Governor Eric Grietens dropped the requirement and subsidy.   The test is used as an indicator of how students in one district are doing compared to another and as the basis of awarding some scholarships.  Those scholarships can make the difference in which students go to college.  By taking the test in their junior year, students who might otherwise have thought attending college was a pipe dream, may find doors open or at least slightly ajar.  With a year to plan students have the opportunity to explore work study options and colleges with good financial aid packages. 

It is, in my opinion, incredibly short-sighted for the State of Missouri to discontinue paying for the ACT test.  Tuesday evening, at the school board meeting we will be presented with a budget amendment to allocate money for JCPS juniors to take the test at district expense. 

Not all states require taking the ACT.  You can read about how Missouri ACT results compared to other states in this article: 
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/missouri-ranks-below-average-in-act-scores-but-tested-all/article_2ee555b9-1561-5432-b311-f5776702273a.html

Charter Schools:

Charter schools are private schools that receive state funding – not “new” money, but funds diverted from the public school budget.  Charter schools in Missouri are found in Kansas City and St. Louis, two areas with schools deemed “failing” by the Missouri department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  (A failing school district is defined as having an annual report card grade (APR) of below 65% and subject to State takeover of governance.  A district can be passing -- APR of 70% or more – with failing schools within the district.)   Charters do not have to meet all the requirements public schools are held to and can be profitable for their operators.  They also have a checkered history with many Charter students not performing as well as their counterparts in “failing” schools.  Here is a description of Charters from the DESE website with a link to the page below:

“Charter Schools are independent public schools that are free from some rules and regulations that apply to traditional public school districts as specifically identified in charter school law.  In exchange for flexibility, charter school sponsors are to hold the schools accountable for results. Charter schools are non-sectarian, do not discriminate in their admission policies and may not charge tuition or fees.
Any student residing in the Kansas City 33 School District or the St. Louis Public School District may choose to attend a charter school if they reside within either city.  There is no cost to parents for sending their children to a charter school. Any student residing in an unaccredited school district may transfer to an approved charter school in the same or an adjoining county.  As of October 2016, there are 21 LEAs in Kansas City operating within 38 buildings and 17 LEAs in St. Louis operating within 34 buildings.”

https://dese.mo.gov/quality-schools/charter-schools

Both the new State and Federal executive branches of government have expressed an interest in expanding Charter schools into other areas of Missouri where the public schools are not “failing”.  The federal Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, comes from a family that has a financial interest in Charter schools.  Neither she nor any member of her family has ever attended a public school. 

Opponents of Charters express concerns about money being diverted from schools having to meet more stringent requirements (often requirements that are costly to meet) and the eventual impact on public schools.  Free access  to a grade K-12 education is often called the backbone of a democracy and what has enable many past generations to have a better life than their predecessors. 

Here is a link to an article further discussing the issue:
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/missouri-lawmakers-prepare-to-spar-again-over-charter-school-expansion/article_6ae01784-c517-5a65-b5ed-8736671d31c9.html

A few of the things I think are great about public schools are:
·         The diversity of students.  Public school attendance is determined by where you live meaning students are exposed to a wide range of backgrounds in all respects; including thoughts, philosophies, etc. 
·         Stringent requirements for teachers.  Public school teachers and administrators are certified in subject and/or grade level. 
·         Because public schools educate ALL children, even those with serious physical or other needs, public school children have the opportunity to learn compassion at an early age and can see first-hand that a “handicap” in one area is not a barrier to success.

Regular School Board Meeting to be held Tuesday, September 12th:

At the time of this posting, the agenda for the meeting is not available.  When it becomes available, the agenda and meeting packet will be found through this link:
https://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158

Following the open meeting, there will be a Closed session.  The reasons for the session will be listed towards the end of the agenda in compliance with the Missouri Open Meetings and Records Law commonly known as the Sunshine Law.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Friday, October 6, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium


Monday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 
________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review August 26 through September 1
Posted September 1, 2017


As there were no meetings of the school board this past week and none are scheduled for next week, this may a good time to reflect on issues addressed in the past two and a half years and look towards what the future may bring. 

Issues Faced, Progress Made:
The three major issues I campaigned on while running for election in 2013 were: retaining experienced teachers; building trust through transparency; and, managing finances wisely.  Let’s take a look at progress of these and other issues:

Retaining Experienced Teachers:  JCPS continues to lose more than 10% of teachers to retirement or other opportunities (in and out of teaching) each year.  In the past two years we have had a change of leadership in the Superintendent and much of the Central office staff; six of seven school board members are now in their first term of office; and progress is being made.  This year the district has a unified series of math text books from grade 1 through Algebra; instructional coaches have continued to be hired to support classroom teachers; and behavioral expectations and supports have been put in place throughout the district.  With the passage of the increased tax levy for operations, continued purchase of learning supports will continue.  This past year teachers used math texts from three different publishers before selecting the series for the entire district to use this year.  This respect for teachers’ opinions coupled with supports for them to be able to focus on teaching will, I think, result in less turnover in future years.  It is vital to continue this path in order for both teachers and students to succeed.

Building Trust through Transparency: If approving an increase in school taxes is a measure of trust, we have succeeded.  The community coming together to approve the financing for construction of a second high school and renovating the current high school  this past April was due, in large part, because the community has regained enough trust in district leadership to undertake these much needed projects.  Board of Education meetings moved around the district and many people came out to hear seven board members hash out competing needs, share rationales, and finally move forward with the needs we could all agree were immediate.  (There are other needs and the Board agreed to address them as soon as possible.)

Through this website and by being accessible to the community, I have tried to share what is happening and listened to those who have called, emailed, or stopped to talk.  Other board members and Superintendent Larry Linthacum have also engaged the community.  In the next month or two video streaming of board meetings will begin and people can watch the meetings from home.

 Managing Finances Wisely:  Accountability to taxpayers as well as education stakeholders is an ongoing process and concern requiring vigilance (as with every tax dollar and every taxing entity.)  My first year on the board there were no work session to go over the draft budget, in fact, the only draft was what was presented as a completed budget ready for a vote.  Starting this year, the board held a work session in advance of receiving the “final” budget and there was more discussion than ever before.  JCPS has the largest budget of any local government entity in the area and a lot of organizations that want to “partner” with the district.  Some of those partnerships are a win/win and lead to greater opportunities for students.  An example of this is using Jefferson City Parks and Recreation facilities instead of building our own for every sport.  Other partnerships have a less obvious advantage to the district. 

Another area of concern has been contracts.  With 20 buildings needing upkeep continuously and many services needed to provide education for every student in the district, there are many contracts.  My first year on the board we were expected to vote on a contract without seeing it even though no one could define the cost, scope of services, or other basic details.  That no longer happens but contracts continue to be a source of questions causing delays and renegotiating terms.

7 to 0 votes by the Board: Back in 2015 many people wondered why the votes were all 7 to 0 and there was little, if any, discussion.  My first year on the board discussion was not welcome at all, asking any question was called “micro-managing.”  That has changed and we now have a board whose members seek to understand each other’s opinions and find common ground.  When that is not possible, we respectfully hear each other out and then vote. 

Visiting Schools:  Visiting schools is no longer taboo.  You may recall it took six months and an assembled entourage before I was allowed to visit schools in 2015.  That has changed.  There now seems to be an acknowledgement that board members want to visit to better understand issues facing the district and to support staff and are not there to take over day to day management of the schools.   

Top Upcoming Issues:
With the passage of a $130 million bond issue to finance grades 9 through 12 infrastructure this past April along with a tax increase for operations across all grade levels, the top issues facing the district in the next three years are these:  assuring the construction and opening of the new high school goes smoothly; assuring the current high school is on par with the new facility; sound fiscal management of those (and all) tax dollars; tweaking boundary line issues across the district so that students attend  the schools in close proximity to their homes; and retaining experienced teachers.  Another major issue looming beyond three years is addressing infrastructure needs across grades pre-K through 8.

 The High School Projects:  With a budget of $130 million for the construction of the new high school on Route 179 and the renovation of the current high school and Nichols Career Center, perhaps the greatest priority facing the district in the next several years is completing the work on time and within budget.  That is essential to alleviating overcrowding at the current high school and at the Simonsen 9th Grade Center (the Simonsen building will be re-purposed for another use.)  With two high schools both serving grades 9 through 12, JCPS will change in a dramatic fashion.  What the future school boards must do is assure promises made to the community are kept:  the schools must be equal in ability to serve their students; taxpayer sacrifices must be honored by not duplicating facilities that can be shared, like athletic stadiums; and the designs must meet the needs of today and the future, as envisioned by our staff and designed by leading architects experienced in building public education facilities. 

 Tweaking Boundary Lines:  This past year boundary lines affecting East, Moreau Heights and Thorpe Gordon Elementary Schools were tweaked where the three school boundary lines came together to alleviate (some) overcrowding at East.  The result was a more logical appearing map.  Similar tweaks are needed elsewhere in the district.  A demographer is preparing a preliminary look at middle school lines that will be presented in late September.  Before it is adopted, there will be public meetings and the opportunity for public comments.   Elementary school boundary lines should be reviewed as well.

Retaining Teachers:  In order to retain experienced teachers, the district must assure teachers have resources and administrative support needed to provide effective student instruction.  This covers everything from textbooks to behavioral supports, effective policies that are followed, and having a voice in identifying needs as well as solutions.  The district has taken positive steps and must continue to take further steps.  With the community coming together to increase taxes for resources, the board and administrative team must work together to assure fidelity to all stakeholders.

Other Infrastructure Issues:  There are other space needs in the district; both middle schools are crowded.  Many of the elementary schools are close to or over student capacity.  Ideally class sizes should be smaller in the first school years when children need to learn so many basics and are not used to the structured environment of school.  However, there are not enough rooms to have ideal class sizes.

As the district pays off the high school projects bonds, it will be possible to build more schools without further raising taxes.  For any additional buildings, the voters will be asked to approve every project.

The district first bought land on the east side of Jefferson City for another elementary school in 1967.  Since then many elementary and two middle schools have been built, with eastside residents again and again told, “next time.”  When a “next time” comes, board composition has changed and the east side passed over yet again.  Although there are many needs, the “next time” promise for the east side must be fulfilled next time.

 A Note About Student Achievement:  With education students being the core mission of the school district, why is student achievement the last item on this list?   Every item on the above lists relate to student achievement.  Students must have the room to sit in class; they must have teachers whose core duty is teaching; and they must have a board that passes a budget that allows for the chosen curriculum to be supported with texts and/or electronics.  It is the job of the board and administrative team to assure all the pieces are in place for positive classroom experiences for students and staff.
 
Coffee with Larry: 


This morning was the monthly Coffee with Larry.  These events (on the first Friday of every month) are a time for Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum to update the community on issues and to take questions.  The two high school projects have dominated the discussions thus far.  Some new information:

·         Moving dirt is taking place on the Route 179 site.  Outside agencies are involved in the planning and timing of the project:  The City of Jefferson; the State Department of Natural Resources (for the identification of streams, habitats, etc.)

·         Actual construction on Route 179 will begin in January 2018. 

·         Renovation of the current high school and Nichols Career Center will largely take place when school is not in session although some areas may require temporary space solutions.  Timelines are still a work in progress. 

·         The new high school target opening date is fall 2019 with grades 9 and 10 only.  A new group of freshmen will be added each year until it is a fully functioning four year school.  This phased approach will likely have some flexibility in the first years so that household family members are not forced to attend two different high schools at the same time.

 
Two High School Projects Construction Manager At Risk Meeting:

Although the board has not seen or approved the contract, the Nabholz company will go ahead and hold a Summit for local (and other) companies interested in working on the projects.  I am told they felt the risk of the Board not approving the contracts is low and the timeline to open the new high school is ambitious.  The Summit will take place on September 6 at the Dix Road Center behind West Elementary School.  They are requesting through their advertising that interested contractors either by email at Jamie.lancaster@nabholz.com or by phone at (913)393-6518.

The Construction Manager At Risk contracts should be on the agenda of the next school board meeting, September 12th.
 
A Construction Manager At Risk assumes liability for the project being completed on time, within the established budget and up to the specifications required by building codes and architectural designs.  This is a major risk for the Construction Manager and a reason why their compensation is more than an ordinary construction or project manager.  The school district benefits because it limits the number of contractors we, a school board and administrative team, have to manage.  With the construction of a new grade 9 to 12 high school and complete renovation of the existing high school and Nichols Career Center, this could easily be 30 or more contractors. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Wednesday, September 6, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Nabholz Subcontractor Summit for all contractors interested in the two high school construction projects.  Location:  Dix Road Center, 204 Dix Road.  Contact Jamie.lancaster@nabholz.com to RSVP or for more information.

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Friday, October 6, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium


 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review August 19 through August 25
Posted August 25, 2017


There were no meetings of the school board this past week. 

With school back in session, the fall sports season has begun.  I attended the Tuesday season opening Lady Jays Volleyball games against Rock Bridge High School.  The Jays won in an exciting match with the varsity teams each winning one game decisively and forcing a third game, which they the Jays won.  The Lady Jays played very well, coming together as a team. 

As exciting as the volleyball was, seeing so many members of the community in Fleming Fieldhouse cheering on the Lady Jays was more exciting.  The student section was alive and, by the end of the evening, as loud as the Rock Bridge student section.  It was good to see athletes being supported by their fellow athletes and other student supporters as well as by family, JCHS staff and community. 

 
TIF or Tax Increment Financing proposal for the old St. Mary’s property Public Hearing approved 9 – 0 by the City Council

On August 21 the City Council passed the necessary ordinances to create a Tax Increment Financing District to divert increasing property taxes for up to 23 years to the F & F Development Company (part of the Farmer Holding Company) to pay costs of development of four to six commercial spots.  There is a slim chance Lincoln University could locate a satellite campus at the old hospital property, but given the very limited funding Lincoln University receives from the State of Missouri; I do not believe that will happen. 

 The City Council vote was 9 to zero with Carlos Graham, an employee of Lincoln University, abstaining.  You can read about the City meeting in this News Tribune article:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/aug/22/council-approves-ordinances-st-marys-tif-project/687400/

The project will also receive Brownfield tax credits (due to a gas station having been located there at one time); Historic Preservation Tax Credits (the original 100 year old portion of the hospital will be restored); and a Community Development District has been created to allow commercial tenants to be located there to collect an extra penny of sales tax on ever dollar collected to help pay the Developer for their costs.  When the developer is fully paid back allowable costs OR 23 years passes, the school district and other entities may receive the fully assessed tax dollars. 

Two High School Projects:

At the last school board meeting the board tabled action on approving the contract to hire the Nabholz company as the Construction Manager At Risk as the contracts were not ready.  The contracts had been reviewed by an attorney for JCPS and were being reviewed by an attorney for Nabholz.  There will be two contracts, one for the new construction of the a high school on Route 179 and one for the renovation projects of the current high school and Nichols Career Center.

A construction Manager At Risk assumes liability for the project being completed on time, within the established budget and up to the specifications required by building codes and architectural designs.  This is a major risk for the Construction Manager and a reason why their compensation is more than an ordinary construction or project manager.  The school district benefits because it limits the number of contractors we, a school board and administrative team, have to manage.  With the construction of a new grade 9 to 12 high school and complete renovation of the existing high school and Nichols Career Center, this could easily be 30 or more contractors. 

Although the board has not seen or approved the contract, the Nabholz company decided to go ahead and hold a Summit for local (and other) companies interested in working on the projects.  I am told they felt the risk of the Board not approving the contracts is low and the timeline to open the new high school is ambitious.  The Summit will take place on September 6 at the Dix Road Center behind West Elementary School.  They are requesting through their advertising that interested contractors either by email at Jamie.lancaster@nabholz.com or by phone at (913)393-6518.

The Construction Manager At Risk contracts should be on the agenda of the next school board meeting, September 12th.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Friday, September 1, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium.

 
Wednesday, September 6, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Nabholz Subcontractor Summit for all contractors interested in the two high school construction projects.  Location:  Dix Road Center, 204 Dix Road.  Contact Jamie.lancaster@nabholz.com to RSVP or for more information.

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review August 12 through August 18
Posted August 18, 2017


Last week an unfortunate thing happened that touched a nerve:  books at one of our schools were thrown out and the justification given to the media was “following policy.”  As a book lover, as the Policy Committee Chair, and as a member of the school board charged with oversight, this just seemed so very wrong.  And it was. 

Upon investigation it turned out that some of the books were quite old, I do not know what shape they were in.  The issue of what JCPS policy is has more clarity:  only the school board has the authority to declare property as “surplus.”  From there property can be sold. 

There are online auction sites specializing in surplus government property, and that is a frequent way to dispose of property.  However, the board has the ability to designate sale to local groups.  As everything the school district has ever owned was either purchased with tax dollars or contributed by someone, the district must exercise good stewardship when deciding if property is better sent to an auction site that might generate revenue for the district or to be sold/donated for a token amount such as a dollar to a group serving the same population as JCPS.  An example of both good stewardship and partnership would have been to donate old books to the Missouri River Region Library for the annual book sale – the profits of that sale go in part to benefit adult literacy, a program JCPS runs. 

As for district personnel who are unfamiliar with the district Policies and Procedures, corrective action has been taken to assure employees both know and follow the rules. 

Here is a link to the KRCG story:  http://krcgtv.com/news/local/jcps-elementary-school-throws-away-dozens-of-library-books   I appreciate both the person who brought this lapse to light and to all who made sure I was made aware.  

Dr. Sue Szachowicz:

Dr. Szachowicz, retired principal of Brockton High School in Brockton, Massachusetts, spent the day with JCPS on August 14.  She spoke to the entire staff in the morning and then conducted sessions for teachers; building administrators; central office administrators; and then the school board.  Brockton High was in crisis and deemed an “educational cesspool” following the first state wide assessment tests.  Dr. Szachowicz, then a history teacher, led a team of teachers to focus on literacy in all subjects.  In a few years the “failure rate” was cut in half and when progress continued Brockton became the top performing school in Massachusetts. 

Brockton student demographics were over 80% minority students and over 80% of students qualifying for free or reduced price meals.  At one point 49 different languages were spoken in students’ homes.  As Dr. Sue stated, “No matter what you look like, you will find someone who looks like you at Brockton.”   I include this because sometimes when discussing demographics, people come to the conclusion that success is impossible and lower expectations.  Brocton decided the goal would be for all students to perform at grade level or above or to goals set in individualized education plans.  AND, that all means all.

Brockton dedicated itself to teaching skills needed to perform well on tests as opposed to trying to teach what might be on assessment tests.  The skills they worked on teaching students were these:  reading; writing; speaking and reasoning.  Learn these and students will be able to adapt to test questions. 

The Brockton team of teachers implemented a plan so that literacy was taught in all class subjects and they monitored the work of students.  The key to their success was in consistency and support for teachers as they worked through major changes in curriculum.  Dr. Sue’s advice for the JCPS board was to hold schools accountable for what they say they will do; to be supportive – change is hard; and to realize that sometimes you have to step backwards to move forward.

You can learn more about the Brockton experience through this You Tube PBS story:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zONaQeAMFMc  After the video plays you will see other Brockton stories. 

School Board Meetings on Monday, August 14:
The Board held its regular monthly meeting and took these actions:

     *     Food Service Bid:  During Open Forum a speaker came forward to express concerns about food quality.  Two companies bidding were each selected to provide the specific food and supply items where they were the low bid.  The bid documents spelled out specifications for each item, safety and quality requirements.  The board will be provided a report about how the vendors are doing mid school year.   
     *     Tax Rate Hearing:  The property tax levy for operational costs and for debt service this year will be $4.5428 for every $100 of assessed valuation.  The hearing included a public comment period specific to the tax rate but no one came forward to speak.
     *     Introduction (first read) of policies relating to Open Forum:  The Policy Committee recommendation is eliminate reference to a limitation on the overall public comment period.  The Committee also recommends increasing the time allotted for each individual to speak to four (4) minutes.  As only the JCMNEA representative spoke in support of my request to eliminate the limitation of speakers having to address agenda items that restriction remains.  At a later meeting the Board will vote on adoption of the policy change.
     *     Mentoring Update:  A Memorandum of Understanding with Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS) was approved. The BBBS and JCPS Mentoring Programs will be combined and a Mentoring Coordinator will be hired by BBBS with JCPS able to participate in the interview and selection process.  The Mentoring Coordinator will be a BBBS employee; JCPS will pay an annual cost of $22,198 towards the Coordinator salary.  The agreement runs for two years.  As with all agreements, it can be renewed.
     *     Construction Manager At-Risk:   At the July 24 Board Meeting the Board authorized contract negotiations to proceed with Nabholz.  Approval of the contracts was tabled as the contracts were not ready. 
     *     Tennis Courts at Lafayette and Dunklin Streets:   Board action will come after an agreement is written to include JCPS.  Lincoln University owns the courts and entered into a partnership with the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation department to renovate the courts.  The City has put $300,000 into the project; Lincoln University has put $200,000 in and will be responsible for upkeep and maintenance up to $5,000 per year with the City paying half of amounts above $5,000.  The project is short $42,800 and the City and University are asking JCPS to pay that amount.  The high school gym classes have long used the tennis courts and will continue to do so.  Team play takes place at the Washington Park courts and will continue.  My expectation is that the document the Board will act on will include details as to how our students’ use of the Lincoln courts will be guaranteed.
     *     Annual Approval of Special Education Compliance Review Standards and contracts related to Special Education and Therapy Services.  The standards were adopted by the Board.   Contracts for services were also approved although one contract had questions and the approval time period was for one month to allow for time to clarify a technical point. 
     *     Staffing:  Three new positions were approved; a Foundation Associate Director; a Hearing Officer (currently this service is being provided though an independent contractor, it is proposed to make it a part-time position); and an Interim Associate Activities Director.  The Activities Department is currently being run by two interim directors who work 550 hours per year each but the position previously was a full time position with over 2,000 hours.  This interim position will fill in the gap. 
     *     An Easement to the City of Jefferson for surface water drainage improvements on the south side of Belair Elementary School was approved. 
     *     Two Closed Sessions were held, one before and one after the regular meeting.  Personnel and legal topics were discussed.

TIF or Tax Increment Financing proposal for the old St. Mary’s property Public Hearing and final vote scheduled

The final vote of the City Council is scheduled to take place on August 21 at 6:00 p.m.; public comment will be allowed and is encouraged.  As the proposals rely heavily on securing commercial tenants, the promises of great returns to taxing entities in 23 years are questionable; Business experts predict 25% of malls will close in the coming decade and there are a record number of retailers closing due to changing consumer shopping habits. 

The Farmer Holding Company/ F & F Development proposals include an option to build a satellite campus for Lincoln University and include four commercial sites OR build six commercial sites.  With Lincoln’s sub-optimal funding from the Legislature, that option is unlikely; currently Lincoln University has cut positions and fields of academic study and is not likely to have the $10 million needed to contribute to the project. 

The redevelopment, if approved, will be funded through a combination of tax abatements (or tax avoidance); tax credits (Brownfield for the old gas station once there; Historic Preservation for the original 100+ year old portion of the hospital; and New Market credits for commercial uses); an additional sales tax (Community Improvement District); commercial and private financing.  The CID is also set for approval Monday evening.  The City Council agenda and meeting packet can be reached through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/0/doc/437513/Page1.aspx

St. Louis, home to may TIF’s and other special taxing districts has been grappling with the impact on revenue as many of their 28 Aldermen seek to have taxpayer supported developments take place in their districts, sometimes benefitting their donors.  As a city, there are measures being taken to rein in the special breaks, but on a case by case basis, they seem to be losing the battle.  You can read more about it in this article: http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/as-st-louis-tries-to-rein-in-tax-breaks-aldermen/article_c232e47a-7f9e-5283-97db-bf5a8c54ab7b.html

Parent Teacher Conferences:

With school back in session, it won’t be long before Parent Teacher Conferences begin.  St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Aisha Sultan talks about the struggle she goes through as a parent preparing for these 7 to 10 minute meetings.  While she is looking for hard information about how she can help her child succeed, her husband is trying to build a rapport.  Ms. Sultan also wonders if the teacher is prepared to give parents bad news, if there is any, about a child’s behavior or learning during this brief meeting. 

http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/parenting/aisha-sultan/aisha-sultan-the-most-important-question-to-ask-during-parent/article_6273c828-1b52-58f8-ae62-4d769f750d6b.html

A personal note about books and literacy:

As JCPS increases emphasis on literacy and in a week where books and literacy instructional strategies have taken center stage, I have been reflecting on my own years as a public school student.  My family always had books in our home while I was growing up and reading was the main family indoor activity.  Books were my window to the world taking me places and teaching me things when I didn’t even realize I was learning.  Much of my youth was spent under a tree reading for hours until my parents came home from work.  The day I got my library card is still a vivid memory. 

Through books I learned about medicine in the 1800’s when a main character fell ill; I learned about the adversities famous people faced as children through reading biographies and felt lucky by comparison; I learned that standing up for what you believe is right is something you should do automatically and that it need not be done in a “loud” manner.  Through the characters I read about, both real and fictional people, I learned about many cultures and many vantage points.  Reading is also a form of listening and I am grateful to have heard the voices of many authors.

I am grateful to my parents who encouraged reading without limitations; to my public school teachers who introduced me to new ways to listen and reason as well as to write without fear.  It is my dream that every student have the same opportunities.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, August 21, 6:00 p.m.: City Council TIF Meeting regarding the old St. Mary’s property.  (Note:  the City and school district are separate local taxing entities.)

Friday, September 1, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium.

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street
.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review August 5 through August 11
Posted August 11, 2017


This past week JCPS began a week of professional development and orientation for about 120 teachers and educators new to the district.  Monday morning, August 7th, I was in attendance as Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum welcomed everyone and spoke about district goals.  I hope the message our newest employees took away from his remarks was that we all, whether Board member or Administrator, are here to help them succeed and to support them as they educate the youth of our community.

School Board Meetings on Monday, August 14:

The school board will have a series of meetings Monday.  At 4:00 p.m. there will be work session with guest speaker Dr. Szachowicz.  She is a former principal who is credited with turning around Brockton High School in Massachusetts.  Her efforts have been profiled on CBS and PBS.  District Administration brought Dr. Szachowicz in to address the entire JCPS staff on Monday morning and work with staff during the day.  Before she leaves she will hold a discussion with the School Board at 4:00 p.m.  Following this, the Board will go into a Closed Session to discuss legal and personnel matters. 

At 6:00 p.m. the Board will hold its regular monthly meeting with these items on the agenda:

     *     Food Service Bid:  Every five years the district asks vendors to put together bids on items, both food and paper type goods that are used in preparing meals.  This is my first time going through the process and I have many questions.  During my time on the board the district has used multiple vendors and it appears this will continue.  There is no contract in the meeting packet and this is of concern to me whenever awarding a bid as there is more than price in most contracts.  Every school day every student (and building staff member) has the opportunity to eat a hot breakfast and lunch; meaning well over 10,000 meals a day are served in 18 buildings across the district.  To assure meals meet nutrition guidelines and are appetizing, there must be high quality food delivered in a timely manner. 
     *     Tax Rate Hearing:  Each year the District must calculate a property tax levy for operational costs and for debt service.  The bottom line, after calculating present tax, voter approval of bonding for construction of a new high school and renovation of the existing high school facilities, and voter approved increase in operation costs for resources, the total property tax rate will $4.5428 for every $100 of assessed valuation.  The hearing includes a public comment period specific to the tax rate.
     *     Introduction (first read) of policies relating to Open Forum:  The Policy Committee recommendation is eliminate reference to a limitation on the overall public comment period.  The Committee also recommends increasing the time allotted for each individual to speak to four (4) minutes.  By majority consensus, the limitation of speakers only addressing agenda items remains.
     *     Mentoring Update:  A Memorandum of Understanding with Big Brothers/Big Sisters (BBBS) is being presented for approval.  The BBBS and JCPS Mentoring Programs will be combined and a Mentoring Coordinator will be hired by BBBS with JCPS able to participate in the interview and selection process.  The Mentoring Coordinator will be a BBBS employee; JCPS will pay an annual cost of $22,198 towards the Coordinator salary.  The agreement runs for two years.  As with all agreements, it can be renewed.
     *     Construction Manager At-Risk:   At the July 24 Board Meeting the Board authorized contract negotiations to proceed with Nabholz.  Approval of the contracts (one is an Agreement Between Owner and Construction Manager as Constructor and the other is General Conditions of the Contract for Construction) is on the agenda but the contracts are not ready as of this writing.  The Construction Manager At-Risk works closely with JCPS, the Architect Team and all subcontractors (as many as 30 companies) on the two high school projects.  The At-Risk part means the Nabholz company assumes liability for the job being completed on time, within budget and within quality specifications for materials and workmanship.  If the contracts do not arrive in time to thoroughly review them, I am reluctant to vote on approval.  During my time on the board I have made it a practice not to vote for contracts without adequate time to review all the details.  Very early on the board was asked to vote on a contract that upon questioning did not even exist and terms (including price) had not been negotiated.  As a representative of taxpayers, it is vitally important to protect the financial assets of the district.  With a construction project this means more than just pricing – it is assuring that terms and responsibilities are spelled out in great detail.  The two high school projects have a value of $130 million and the buildings will be used by multiple generations of students.  Just as we don’t want contractors to take short cuts, neither should the board.  There is too much at stake and the board is the guardian of both tax dollars and student/staff safety.
     *     Tennis Courts at Lafayette and Dunklin Streets:  Lincoln University owns the courts and entered into a partnership with the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation department to renovate the courts.  JCPS was approached about 18 months ago to participate monetarily as our students use City courts for the Tennis team and gym, but the discussion did not advance.  The City has put $300,000 into the project; Lincoln University has put $200,000 in and will be responsible for upkeep and maintenance up to $5,000 per year with the City paying half of amounts above $5,000.  The project is short $42,800 and the City and University are asking JCPS to pay that amount. 
     *     Annual Approval of Special Education Compliance Review Standards and contracts related to Special Education and Therapy Services.  These are actually three items, the plan and two contract renewals for ongoing services for our students.  There is an area shortage of physical therapists and we contract with St. Mary’s Hospital to provide therapists when we lack staff. 
     *     StaffingThree new positions are being requested; a Foundation Associate Director; a Hearing Officer (currently this service is being provided though an independent contractor, it is proposed to make it a part-time position); and an Interim Associate Activities Director.  The Activities Department is currently being run by two interim directors who work 550 hours per year each but the position previously was a full time position with over 2,000 hours.  This interim position will fill in the gap. 
     *     An Easement to the City of Jefferson for surface water drainage improvements on the south side of Belair Elementary School is being requested.  If you were in the area in the past year you may have seen the City installing pipe in the area.  I am not clear if the easement is for work already done.  The easement will clarify ownership of the pipes and their function belongs to the City.
     *     A second Closed Session for legal and personnel discussions will be held following the regular meeting.

To review the agenda and meeting packet, click on this link to the JCPS website Board Meeting and Agendas page:  https://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158

Streaming Update:  All equipment needed to stream video and audio of Board meetings has been purchased ($2,100 under budget) and is expected to be fully installed by the end of today (August 11th.)  Staff training on software will take place this month.   This is a very positive step towards more transparency.  Although media and individuals in attendance can summarize what transpires at meetings from their perspective, there is no substitute for being your own witness to events; for seeing how decisions are made and what viewpoints were considered during discussion.

TIF or Tax Increment Financing proposal for the old St. Mary’s property Public Hearing and final vote scheduled

The City Council heard about the proposals from the Farmer Holding Company’s F & F Development to demolish parts of the old St. Mary’s Hospital property and redevelop the area on Monday, August 7.  I did not attend the City Council meeting; the school board by majority supported the tax abatements.  Although I vehemently dissented, the decision of the Board has been made.  You can read the News Tribune article about the meeting through this link:   http://www.newstribune.com/news/news/story/2017/aug/08/st-marys-tif-project-presented-to-city-council/685450/     Their final vote of the City Council will take place on August 21 at 6:00 p.m., public comment will be allowed and is encouraged.  As the proposals rely heavily on securing commercial tenants, the promises of great returns to taxing entities in 23 years are questionable; Business experts predict 25% of malls will close in the coming decade and there are a record number of retailers closing due to changing consumer shopping habits. 

The Farmer Holding Company/ F & F Development proposals include an option to build a satellite campus for Lincoln University and include four commercial sites OR build six commercial sites.  With Lincoln’s sub-optimal funding from the Legislature, that option is unlikely; currently Lincoln University has cut positions and fields of academic study and is not likely to have the $10 million needed to contribute to the project. 

The redevelopment, if approved, will be funded through a combination of tax abatements (or tax avoidance); tax credits (Brownfield for the old gas station once there; Historic Preservation for the original 100+ year old portion of the hospital; and New Market credits for commercial uses); an additional sales tax (Community Improvement District); commercial and private financing.  The CID is also set for approval Monday evening.  The City Council agenda and meeting packet can be reached through this link:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/0/doc/437513/Page1.aspx

Other Tax Abatement News: 

This past May (see
Week in Review posted May 12, 2017) the school board was informed about another tax abatement request being promoted by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce.  It was presented as an anonymous company wanting abatement of personal property tax for seven (7) years for major equipment to be purchased for their business that would locate in a spec building built by the Chamber more than a decade ago.  The board had limited discussion as there were no specifics.  Board members are prohibited by law on voting on matters involving family members out to the third degree of consanguinity (cousins).  Not knowing what company is involved it is hard to assure there are no personal or business conflicts.  A further sticking point is that equipment has little taxable value after 7 years of abatement.  At that time the company usually purchases newer equipment which can become taxable, however, there is nothing to prevent them from requesting yet another tax abatement.  The Board did not receive another briefing after the May 8 meeting although I have learned from News Tribune articles the Board President, School Superintendent and School CFO were present at a May 15 Closed Meeting held by the City. 

The City did grant the requested tax abatements, the company will create 70 new jobs, and the Chamber sold its spec building.  You can read more about it here:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/aug/06/chamber-sold-spec-building-at-loss/685286/

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, August 14,
4:00 p.m.:  Work session, Closed Sessions and 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items during the 6:00 p.m. meeting.

Thursday, August 17:  School Opens for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Please drive extra carefully.  Start time varies by school. 

Monday, August 21, 6:00 p.m.: City Council TIF Meeting regarding the old St. Mary’s property.  (Note:  the City and school district are separate local taxing entities.)

Friday, September 1, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium.

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


 ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review July 29 through August 4

Posted August 4, 2017

The School Board did not meet this past week, but two Board Committees that I am a member of, did:  Safety and Security and Policy.  This morning the monthly “Coffee with Larry” was held.  Below is a summary of the highlights.  The full School Board will meet again on August 14th at 6:00 p.m.  The Jefferson City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the old St. Mary’s / Farmer TIF request for Monday, August 7.

 
 
Safety and Security Committee Meeting held August 1:
The Safety and Security Committee met for the first time this week.  Board members serving on the Committee are Chair Michael Couty, Lorelei Schwartz and me; representatives from the Central Office were Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum and Safety Director Kurt Mueller; Building Administrators present were Angela Otiker and Jacob Adams; from the Jefferson City Police Department was Sgt. J. Payne.  The meeting began with discussion of a mission statement to clarify direction for the Committee.  The statement will be finalized and approved at the next quarterly meeting.  The gist of the mission is to identify and mitigate impediments to safety.   The Committee went on to review existing safety initiatives; emergency and safety plans; review materials from the Office of Juvenile Justice; and, discussed how safety tools are used.  For example, when an incident is reported, there is a review of security tapes.  In addition to using the tapes to handle the incident, the review also determines if adjustments to security feeds are needed.   

The Committee discussed the increase in traffic in front of Pioneer Trail Elementary School; administration is looking into adding a crosswalk with flashing caution lights.  In a separate discussion, the Committee addressed the need for all four police jurisdictions in the district to have access to real time monitoring of security cameras in schools during emergencies such as an intruder.  (The Jefferson City Police Department has primary jurisdiction in 15 of the 18 schools; the Cole County Sheriff, the Callaway County Sheriff and the Holts Summit Police Department each have one school within their primary jurisdictions.)


The Safety and Security Committee plans to meet quarterly.

 
Policy Committee Meeting held Thursday, August 3:
 
The Policy Committee consists of Board Members Steve Bruce, Rich AuBuchon and me (I am the Chair) and members of Administration.  Representatives from the teachers’ organizations, JC-MNEA and JC-MSTA were invited.  David Ganey, JCMNEA attended. 

The Committee addressed two discussion items, rules for public participation during Open Forum and ongoing education for school board members serving beyond one term.  

Current policies pertaining to Open Forum have these rules:

     *     The Board may limit the total amount of time allotted to public comments.
     *     Persons wishing to speak must reside in the JCPS district or be employees or parents of JCPS students.
     *     The Board may set a consistent limit on the time each person may speak.
     *     Persons may only speak once per meeting.
     *     Comments must pertain to an agenda item.

Following general discussion, the Committee tackled the rules one by one with these results:

     *     Reference to a limit on the total time allotted to public comment will be deleted as it is inconsistent with inviting public comment.
     *     Residence, employment or affiliation with JCPS student requirements was not changed, but board members present stated the connection a speaker has to JCPS is not as important as having their remarks relevant to JCPS.
     *     A time limit will remain, but be increased to four minutes. 
     *     People may speak once per meeting for four minutes.
     *     Comments from the public must pertain to an agenda item.  People are encouraged to ask to be placed on the agenda prior to a meeting for specific topics of concern.  

Policy change recommendations made at this meeting will move forward to the full board for readings, discussion and votes at two meetings before becoming policy.  Members of the public may weigh in at those meetings with comments, or contact Board members directly. 

Having brought forward the suggestion to remove the limitation for the public to only address agenda items three times without garnering support from the full Committee, I am not likely to bring the suggestion forward again.  This year Mr. Gainey spoke to the desire to occasionally make comment at a board meeting regarding something positive that may have happened in the district but is currently hampered by the current rules. 

A consistent argument against having the Open Forum truly open to any educational topic has been fear that a speaker may violate students legally protected privacy rights or speak disparagingly about a staff member.  The difference of philosophy regarding public comment topics is, in my opinion, couched in our view of people.  Some fear a hypothetical possibility of the public behaving inappropriately.  My assumption has been to believe people generally exercise good judgement when speaking at a public meeting and that if a speaker goes off track into topics better addressed in a closed meeting, the person presiding over the meeting will exercise their good judgement to gently but firmly stop the person speaking and offer them an alternate means of imparting the information to the Board and/or Administration.  

Although I did not prevail, I do feel the current school board is more receptive to hearing from the public than at times in the past.  Whether this is related to the frequent interaction with the public leading up to the April 2017 vote to approve a boost in taxes for a second high school, renovating the existing high school and purchasing additional resources, I do not know.  Whether there is a relationship to the residents of the Roland Street area coming forth to express opinions when the District was considering purchasing land in the middle of their neighborhood, I do not know.  What I do know is this:  the public participation has been good for the District and I hope it continues.  I feel that having the benefit of input from stakeholders with differing perspectives and having to answer questions from the public results in my making better decisions.  I invite you to come to meetings, speak to agenda items if you have something to share, and, if your topic is not on the agenda, please contact me and/or other board members.  I believe we all want to be responsive.  (And if you have a concern about a particular situation involving a student or staff member, please try having a discussion with the teacher or staff member involved or closest to the situation.  If that does not resolve things, then try the principal, and then contact the Central Office.  The board remains your last option for specific situations.)     

A note about what makes policies important.  A school district has several key documents that together dictate how the organization will operate.  Those documents are:

     #     A strategic plan outlining what the district needs to concentrate on in the near and long term.  For example, JCPS several years ago saw a dip in student achievement as measured by standardized tests.  As a result, the number one priority in the current plan outline is learning. 
      #     The budget that allocates district funds should reflect the district priorities.  If learning is the priority, then tools for learning should be the spending priority.  Hiring teachers certified in the subject they will be teaching; textbooks; electronics to support teaching; and other learning tools should come first.
     #     Policies and procedures are the rules or clear expectations for how the district conducts its business.  They provide standardization for rules of conduct for students, staff, school board and other stakeholders and assure compliance with state and federal law as well as best practices.  Policies are approved by the school board with input from the Missouri School Boards Association and interested parties.  Procedures are an administrative document outlining how staff will implement policies.  For example, a policy may state all job openings will be posted for a certain number of days.  The procedure will outline where a job is posted; on a website, in the newspaper, or other place and provide further guidance.  Policies are the rules a school district uses to assure smooth and consistent operations. 
     #     Curriculum, while not usually thought of as an operation (set of) document(s), is the key to fulfilling the purpose of a school district:  teaching and learning. 

All of these key documents are subject to review and amendment at any time.  They are tools to enhance operations.

Coffee with Larry held August 4th:
The monthly “Coffee with Larry” was held this morning to present updates with the high school construction and renovation projects.  Cary Gampher of Architects Alliance indicated land clearing for construction will begin in January at the Route 179 second high school site; borings are being done at both the 179 site and at the existing high school to determine how much reinforcement must be done at each location to support buildings.  There is a plan to sell the walnut tree root balls for trees that must be removed from the 179 site.  There will be meetings in the coming weeks for local contractors interested in bidding on either of the high school projects. 

Questions and comments from the public, along with answers were as follows:

     There should be a district wide policy to address discipline.  There is and the Behavior Task Force started last year continues to work towards age specific consistency.
     Will scheduling of sporting events for the two high schools that will be sharing facilities be fair, or will the second high school always be second in line?  Dr. Linthacum stated there will be fairness and equity.
      Will there be adequate space for growing programs like Speech and Debate?  Will there be enough rehearsal and storage space for music programs?  Cary Gampher indicated the architects continue to meet with high school staff to build needs into the designs, and the two schools will be equal.
     Will the second high school be built for academies and what is the status of academies?  (There was one parent against and one for academies.)  Curriculum will be equal at the two schools; there are currently three “career paths” that have the same core curriculum supplemented by courses specific to areas of interest.  There is also a general course of study available.  The emphasis is to have students ready upon graduation to pursue a college education; advance a trade education; or be ready to enter the workforce. 
     There are no immediate plans to pursue an International Baccalaureate program but this has been and continues to be discussed within administration.
     When both high schools are operational as grade 9 through 12 facilities, teachers from the Simonsen 9th Grade Center and the current high school will be asked if they wish to teach at the current high school or the new one.  If the volunteering method does not provide staffing solutions, then seniority will prevail.  About 27 additional teaching positions will be required.  Simonsen will be re-purposed for another use.  The building is structurally sound, evaluations of plumbing and electrical systems is not yet complete. 


TIF or Tax Increment Financing proposal for the old St. Mary’s property Public Hearing and final vote scheduled:
The City Council has scheduled their public hearing and vote on the proposal from the Farmer Holding Company’s F & F Development to demolish parts of the old St. Mary’s Hospital property and redevelop it for Monday, August 7 at 6:00 p.m.  The proposals include an option to build a satellite campus for Lincoln University and include four commercial sites OR build six commercial sites.  With Lincoln’s sub-optimal funding from the Legislature, that option is unlikely; currently Lincoln University has cut positions and fields of academic study and is not likely to have the $10 million needed to contribute to the project. 

The redevelopment, if approved, will be funded through a combination of tax abatements (or tax avoidance); tax credits (Brownfield for the old gas station once there; Historic Preservation for the original 100+ year old portion of the hospital; and New Market credits for commercial uses); an additional sales tax (Community Improvement District); commercial and private financing.  The CID is also set for approval Monday evening.  The City Council agenda and meeting packet can be reached through this link:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/0/doc/437513/Page1.aspx

Tax Abatement for Ordinary Citizens, Tax Free Back-to-School Shopping:
Interestingly, the City of Jefferson is one of many municipalities that opted not to waive local sales tax this weekend.  Each year the State of Missouri waives the State portion of sales tax (4.225%) during the first weekend in August for certain Back-to-School items. This tax abatement for ordinary folks is intended to both ease the burden for families buying clothes and school supplies, and to give businesses a boost.  This is a big shopping weekend with school supplies costing (based on my experience) around $50 per student not including specialty calculators for advanced high school classes, backpacks or shoes and clothes.  At a time when parents and guardians could use a break they can at least know that their shopping destinations will likely include one or more locations with a tax abatement or be in a “special” taxing district such as a Transportation development District or Community Improvement District. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, August 7, 6:00 p.m.: City Council*
TIF hearing.  Location:  City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  
*The City and School District are separate forms of local government independent of each other.

Monday, August 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, August 17:  School Opens for the 2017-2018 academic year.  Please drive extra carefully.  Start time varies by school. 

Friday, September 1, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry at the Miller Performing Arts Center atrium.

Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, September 28, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street  ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review July 22 through July 28
Posted July 28, 2017


 
This past week the School Board held a special meeting and work session.  Next week two Board committees that I am part of will meet. 

 
School Board Special Meeting and Work Session Held Monday, July 24 at 6:00 p.m.:
At the board work session held this past Monday, administrative staff presented data showing where students are in terms of academic achievement and a plan to improve outcomes for students. 

Ms. Dawn Berhorst, Director of Student Information, Planning and Assessment, presented preliminary data showing how JCPS students were doing academically in the four areas the state assesses (English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies), both district wide and by building.  This past academic year the district began using an iReady assessment tool to measure whether students were at grade level in reading and mathematics.  The iReady tool has accompanying tools to help students with the particular area within those subjects that each student may find a challenge.  As the iReady assessments were done three times during the school year for the first time JCPS could measure growth from the beginning of the academic year to the end.  The iReady assessments tell us whether or not a student is performing at, below or above expectations for their grade level.  The State assessments tests (MAP) use terms such as proficient.  Ms. Berhorst’s presentation showed us where we are today in terms of measuring learning.

 iReady (the District assessments) for elementary schools reading at or above grade level show 57% improvement in Kindergarten (from 27% in September 2016 to 84% in the Spring); 60% growth for First graders (from 17% to 60%); 26% improvement in the Second grade (from 28% to 54%); and then tapering down to lesser improvements  in grades Three through Eight.  State MAP testing begins in Grade Three and shows, on average, 57% of students in grades Three through Eight are “proficient” at reading.  When it comes to Mathematics, again, the iReady tests show the greatest improvements (as expected) in the youngest students with improvements tapering off but continuing in grades Two through Eight.  However, Mathematics is an area where both iReady and MAP test results show less than 50% of students in grades Three through Eight are “proficient”.   (NOTE:  MAP data is preliminary and unverified)  The iReady tool is not intended for or used in the upper grades and MAP preliminary data shows relatively little to no change from last year.  There is much room for improvement and student achievement remains the top District wide priority.    

Next, Dr. Brian Shindorf, Chief of Learning, Ms. Lorie Rost, Assistant to the Superintendent for Elementary Education, and Mr. Gary Verslues, Assistant to the Superintendent for Secondary Education, presented the plan for moving forward.  As one example, the District recently purchased $900,000 worth of math books, all in the same series for elementary grades through algebra. District teachers have had copies of the workbooks all summer and on August 15th; the publisher will present a day long professional development program for all teachers involved in teaching math.  Later in the year the publisher will return and have a day of professional development in each building tailored to the needs of teachers in that particular building.  (Currently not all buildings have the same outcomes or challenges.)  The cost of professional development from the publisher was included in the price of the textbooks.  Dr. Shindorf, Ms. Rost and Mr. Verslues will be monitoring the implementation of the new math series and providing support for JCPS students and staff.  This hands-on approach, working collaboratively with frontline staff, will hopefully show results in the coming years.  These Central Office Administrators assumed their current roles earlier this month, making the presentation quite remarkable and encouraging.

 
In other business, the Board took these actions:

     #     Selected the Nabholtz firm as the Construction Manager At Risk contractor.  Now further negotiations will take place and a contract will be brought before the Board at the August 14 meeting.  The selection recommendation came from the Facilities Committee  (Chaired by Board Member Rich AuBuchon and including Board members Lori Massman and Scott Hovis as well as administrative staff) with Cary Gampher from Architects Alliance participating.  A Construction Manager At Risk not only manages the project, but assumes liability for the performance of subcontractors and assures the projects will finish on time and with budget.  With 30 or more firms potentially involved in the construction of a new high school on Route 179 and renovation of the current high school and Nichols Career Center, keeping things on trach is essential.  Voters approved bonding of $130 million to pay for these projects.
     #     Approved a lease purchase agreement through Central Bank for $1 million (plus $40,000 in interest) to purchase 4,105 Chromebooks with software.  This lease purchase is to provide additional devices as promised to voters as part of the increased operational tax levy.  It is anticipated the devices will need to be replaced in four years.  The devices are being purchased from Dell through a Columbia dealer and come with support from Dell.  Dell offered to finance the purchase at an interest rate of 2.5%; the Central Bank rate is 2.0%.     (Other devices purchased annually will come out of the regular budget.)
     #     Ms. Brenda Hatfield, Director of Quality Improvement Outcomes held discussion with the Board regarding adding metrics to the District Data Dashboard (http://198.209.134.5/Pulse/PublicAccess.aspx ) in non-academic areas such as partnerships with families, volunteers and the community.  The Data Dashboard learning measures will remain the same. 
     #     Approved a new staff position within the Student Information, Planning and Assessment area.  This department has taken on several new initiatives this past year (adding iReady testing and learning modules and digitizing student records for permanent storage) and was already extremely busy.


 
Safety and Security Committee Meeting Tuesday, August 1 at 2:00 p.m.:
The Safety and Security Committee will meet for the first time next week.  Board members serving on the Committee are Chair Michael Couty, Lorelei Schwartz and me; there will also be representatives from Central Office and school building Administration. On the agenda for this first quarterly meeting is developing a Committee mission statement; reviewing draft emergency and safety plans; review materials from the Office of Juvenile Justice; and, discussion of security initiatives. 

If you have visited a classroom in the past year or so you may recall seeing an emergency booklet at the front of the room.  Inside that booklet are instructions specific to that school building for all types of emergency situations.  Those plans have been reviewed by administrative personnel.  Each year staff in all buildings with students practice emergency drills for situations like fire or weather emergencies.  


 
Policy Committee Meeting Thursday, August 3 at 4:30 p.m.:
 
The Policy Committee consists of Board Members Steve Bruce, Rich AuBuchon and me (I am the Chair) and members of Administration.  Representatives from the teachers’ organizations, JC-MNEA and JC-MSTA have been invited to regularly participate.  On the agenda for this meeting are two discussion items:  ongoing training for Board of Education members, and revising the rules governing public participation through the Open Forum comment period at Board meetings.  (see Week in Review posted last week -  July 21 --for more details.)

Any policy change recommendations made at this meeting will move forward to the full board for readings, discussion and votes at two meetings before becoming policy.  Members of the public may weigh in at those meetings with comments, or contact Board members directly. 


TIF or Tax Increment Financing proposal for the old St. Mary’s property:

As of today, Jefferson City has not scheduled their hearing and vote on the proposal from the Farmer Holding Company’s F & F Development to demolish parts of the old St. Mary’s Hospital property and redevelop it.  Their proposals included an option to build a satellite campus for Lincoln University and include four commercial sites OR build six commercial sites.  With Lincoln’s sub-optimal funding from the Legislature, that option is unlikely; currently Lincoln University has cut positions and fields of academic study and is not likely to have the $10 million needed to contribute to the project. 

The redevelopment would be funded through a combination of tax abatements (or tax avoidance); tax credits (Brownfield for the old gas station once there; Historic Preservation for the original 100+ year old portion of the hospital; and New Market credits for commercial uses); an additional sales tax (Community Improvement District); commercial and private financing. 

St. Louis, home to many TIF and other special taxing districts, has been tasking a fresh look at the economic development payoff through the use of their districts.  The first step will be to measure the cost through lost tax revenue against property value changes and gains in jobs from taxpayer financed projects.  Here is a link to an article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatchhttp://www.stltoday.com/business/local/how-much-is-that-tif-worth-st-louis-moves-toward/article_9b8fc553-cb62-5e6d-a0ae-6585eb2a4c48.html


UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Tuesday, August 1, 2:00 p.m.:
Safety and Security Committee Meeting. Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Thursday, August 3, 4:30 p.m.:
Policy Committee Meeting. Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

 
Friday, August 4, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry.  Location:  The Miller Performing Arts Center.  There will be a Question and Answer period following presentation of information

Monday, August 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.
 ________________________________________________________________________

 
W
eek in Review July 15 through July 21  

UPDATED 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.*

Posted July 21, 2017

There were no meetings of the full school board last week.  The Facilities Committee met in closed session regarding matters pertaining to selecting a construction manager at risk.  A construction manager at risk assumes the responsibility (and liability) for a project (in this case the second high school and renovation of the existing school projects) to be completed within the defined budget with materials as specified in bidding documents and contracts.  A report and recommendation from the Committee (
see below) is expected on Monday, July 24th during special school board meeting and work session will be held. 


*Shortly after 5:00 p.m. on July 21st the agenda for the July 24th meeting was updated to include curriculum approval and add a Closed Session at the end of the Work Session.  The Closed Session will cover unspecified legal and personnel matters and other individually identifiable records.  The curriculum information and revised agenda are available at the JCPS website page linked below.  Additionally, a date for the Policy Committee Meeting has been set.  See below
 
School Board Special Meeting and Work Session, Monday, July 24 at 6:00 p.m.:
As of the original posting, no agenda for the Special Meeting had been announced.  
Updated information is reflected in purple font.  The Meeting packet posted to the Jefferson City Public Schools website (https://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158 ) includes approval of a financial report not available earlier in the month; approval of routine personnel transactions (new hires, changes in assignments, etc.) and a resolution for the lease purchase of technology.  Specifically the resolution outlines obtaining 4,105 Chromebooks from Infini Tech of Columbia, Missouri with financing from Central Bank.  The value of the Chromebooks is over $1 Million.  Interest payments over the life of the agreement amount to approximately $40,000.  Although the plan for technology devices has been discussed by the board, the lease purchase resolution and related documents are new information.

 The work session topic includes “performance measures and using data.”  Last week I posted a link to the Data Dashboard available to the public through the JCPS web site ( http://198.209.134.5/Pulse/PublicAccess.aspx .)  These data sets are found through the link:

     *     Attendance
     *     Graduation Rate
     *     Achievement as measured by State assessment tests
     *     Achievement as measures through the iReady tests used by JCPS
     *     ACT scores and participation rates
     *     Student enrollment
     *     Student demographics
     *     APR (the State annual district report card) score trends
     *     Discipline data

The board will discuss these and other reports members find helpful in meeting oversight responsibilities.

Other topics are a review of the District long and short term goals; metrics; “big rocks moving forward;” and staffing.

Construction Manager at Risk:  The Board voted in June to seek qualifications from firms to be construction manager at-risk for the two high schools project.  This differs from a traditional construction manager in that they assume all risk should (for example)a contractor go out of business or use materials of a lesser grade than specified in a contract.  The high school projects will easily have over 30 contractors.  The District is committed to giving local firms the opportunity to work on the high schools through competitive bidding.  Because construction managers at-risk assume responsibility for risks ordinarily belonging to the District, they get paid more than a traditional construction manager, however, they also keep construction costs down.  The Revised Statutes of Missouri govern this and the regulations can be found here: http://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=67.5050&bid=33346&hl=Construction+Manager+at+risk%u2044   Firm qualifications were submitted and reviewed by the Facility Committee who then interviewed the top firms. 

Included in the meeting packet received this morning, is a page score sheet grading two firms.  Based on the criteria listed, there is a difference in firms in the areas of “identification and solution for critical issues” in both pre-construction and during construction; “GMP Development” (I am unsure what GMP stands for); and in the “scheduling and phasing approach.”  Scheduling and phasing are key to working on the existing high school to minimize disruption to students and teachers.  It may also come into play with the new high school if the entire building cannot be ready at the scheduled time.  Another key difference between the firms on the score sheet is in the fee category.  The lower scoring firm made up all its points to become the higher scoring firm with a total fee of $4,808,000.00 versus $5,746,500.00 for the other firm.  I expect all the point differences to be the subject of discussion Monday evening.   Although there is no contract in the meeting packet, the agenda lists” Approval of Construction Manager At Risk.”   


 
Policy Committee Meeting Rescheduled for August 3, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.:
 The next scheduled Policy Committee meeting was to be July 27, however, that date now poses a conflict for Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum.  As of this writing a replacement date for the meeting has not been set. 

Items on the agenda include routine changes as a result of recommendations from the Missouri School Boards Association, the organization that monitors federal and state legislation and best practices.  Two items for general discussion were also planned:  ongoing training for school board members and loosening restrictions on who can speak and what topics they are limited to addressing during the Open Forum portion of regular school board meetings. 

Regular readers may recall that twice before I have tried to amend the Open Forum restrictions but was unable to get them out of Committee.  I was prompted to try again in light of a federal court ruling this past April indicating speech at a city council meeting could not be limited as to topic.  

Once a governing body makes a decision, that item does not come up on an agenda again.  When we limit the ability for concerned citizens to tell us how that decision is working out because of well-intended but arbitrary rules, we miss an opportunity to improve and to freely communicate with the public we serve. 

Look for more about this topic when the Policy Committee Meeting is rescheduled.  In the meantime, here is a link to the judge’s decision:  http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/judge-orders-university-city-to-apologize-pay-lawyer-fees-of/article_40b6584f-7f5b-550b-9674-5da97f11bc7f.html

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m.:  School Board Special meeting and Work Session.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.


 Rescheduled.  Thursday, August 3, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting. Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Friday, August 4, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry.  Location:  The Miller Performing Arts Center.  There will be a Question and Answer period following presentation of information. 

Monday, August 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.
 
________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review July 8 through July 14
Posted July 14, 2017


 The school board met for its regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 10th.  The next board meeting will be July 24, 2017.

Regular School Board Meeting on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 p.m.:
Items addressed by the Board included the following:
  * Recognition of Chad Rizner of Jefferson City High School, recently named “National High School Student Council Advisor of the Year.”     
  * Dr. Larry Linthacum, Superintendent, and Ms. Amy Berendzen, Director of School and Community Relations, provided a Mentoring Program update.  In the Administration’s latest plan for the program, a partnership with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters is being pursued.  The original mentoring program was started by the Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  In 2010 the school district took the program over (for finding mentors for students) and since then it has gone through several changes in how it has been administered.  As the Administration’s plans take shape, I will provide updates as I receive them. 
  * The Board re-adopted its conflict of interest ordinance.  The Missouri Ethics Commission requires the Board to either re-adopt the ordinance every two years or have “all elected, appointed, and decision making personnel, as well as candidates”, complete a long form Personal Financial Disclosure Form.  Missouri law has strict guidelines governing how business between these officials and the school district may do business with each other and who may be party to those decisions.  As there were no changes to the ordinance, it did not go through the Policy Committee. 
  Following the open portion of the meeting, the board held a closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters.  The meeting lasted nearly two hours.

Special Board Meeting and Work Session July 24, 2017 at 6:00 p.m.:
The board will meet again on July 24th in a special meeting to address contracts for the two high school projects (construction of a new high school on Route 179 and renovation of the current high school) and hold a work session regarding performance measures and using data.  If the term “performance measures” sounds vague, please take a few moments to visit the official JCPS website and view measures both the board and the public have access to:    http://198.209.134.5/Pulse/PulseDisplay.aspx?eparg=kKLWINBU+0NWlzBrxVh+KjoGoZGoulAT3e7AGI6G9MtZbG4OmmZRSt/7btSKXOQcue9z8ngnt8VXJwsfwrvfw3Q1BDOYVrNn3dDAELWDyfA0gPKLmYWLMA==   Depending on the measure, some tables can change as often as daily. 

 The board will discuss what measures are useful to the board in performing their responsibilities for oversight and setting policies and what other data they would like to see. 

July Coffee with Larry Event held last week:

At the Friday, July 7th Coffee with Larry event, District CFO Jason Hoffman filled in for Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum.  Also present was architect Cary Gampher from Architects Alliance, one of the firms engaged to design both the new high school and the renovations to the existing high school and Nichols Career Center.  Here are some of the highlights:

·         The sale of bonds went well with orders of $122,580,000.  Since only $85 million in bonds was authorized at this time, that drove down the interest rate saving the District money (nearly $1 million).  Voters authorized a sale of $135 million in bonds, but not all that is needed right away.  The high school projects will take several years. 

·         Faculty and student representative have been meeting with architects every two weeks as designs are developed.  Those meetings are now shifting to more specific departmental meetings (math, music, etc.)  By August there will be a schematic design and narrative from every discipline or department.

·         In late July site work on Route 179 will begin; surveyors and geotechnical studies will take place to assure the building is situated on solid rock, etc.

·         Architects are meeting with the City of Jefferson regarding permitting, traffic, and utility location.

·         Questions from the public centered on assuring that both high schools will have “an inspiring” feel; Nichols Career Center will be expanded; all departments (particularly all the music disciplines) will have the space they need; there will be adequate parking.  Note:  parking at the current high school will ease when there are less students and teachers. 

·         At the next Coffee with Larry on August 4th they hope to have more drawings of the two facilities.

·         The demographer who has worked with the District is working on mapping where students are so that boundaries can be looked at.  There is not intent to have a wholesale boundary line change; lines for some elementary schools do not make sense.  In some cases students are passing the closest school to get to one several miles away; some schools are very crowded, some less so.  By this fall there will be a Committee, including members of the public, tasked with looking at the data.  There will be plenty of public input

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

 Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m.: Board Work Session and Special Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Thursday, July 27, 4:30 p.m.:
Policy Committee Meeting. Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Monday, August 7, 7:00 a.m.:  Coffee with Larry.  Location:  The Miller Performing Arts Center.  There will be a Question and Answer period following presentation of information.
 

Monday, August 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review July 1 through July 7
Posted July 7, 2017


The JCPS school board did not have any public meetings this past week.  The monthly “Coffee with Larry” event was scheduled for Friday, July 7th at 7:00 am in the Miller Center atrium.  Due to an early morning posting, information from that event will be in next week’s post. 

Regular School Board Meeting on Monday, July 10th at 6:00 p.m.:
The Board will hold its regular monthly meeting on Monday.  Items on the agenda include the following:

  *  Recognition of Chad Rizner of Jefferson City High School who was recently named “National High School Student Council Advisor of the Year.”     Here is a link to the News Tribune story about Mr. Rizner:      http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/jul/06/jchs-student-council-adviser-wins-national-recognition/681011/
  *  Dr. Larry Linthacum, Superintendent, will provide a mentoring update.
  *  The Board will be asked to re-adopt its conflict of interest ordinance.  The Missouri Ethics Commission requires the Board to either re-adopt the ordinance every two years or have “all elected, appointed, and decision making personnel, as well as candidates”, complete a long form Personal Financial Disclosure Form.  Missouri law has strict guidelines governing how business between these officials and the school district may do business with each other and who may be party to those decisions. 
  *  Following the open portion of the meeting, the board will hold a closed (from the public) session to discuss personnel and legal matters.

The State of Missouri Budget and the Impact on the JCPS Budget:
This week Governor Eric Greitens cut $250 million from the Legislature approved state budget due to “sluggish revenue growth”.  Included in the cuts were $15 million of funding for public school transportation.  The JCPS budget adopted just two weeks ago will not need to be adjusted; JCPS CFO Jason Hoffman anticipated the State would not be able to meet revenue projections and did not include a “fully funded” transportation scenario.

At the same time the Governor has cut money from the State budget, the State Office of Administration is considering if Missouri net revenues have increased enough to cut the state income tax rate as required by law enacted in 2014.  This year Missouri net revenues increased 2.6%.  Here is a link to the Associated Press article as published by the News Tribunehttp://www.newstribune.com/news/missouri/story/2017/jul/05/missouri-appears-track-income-tax-cuts/680884/

So, you might ask, which is it?  Are Missouri state tax revenues up or down?  And why ask questions about a tax cut when we all could use a break?  The answer is that both things are true – taxes paid by ordinary folks are up; taxes paid by corporations are down.  From state fiscal year 2015 to 2016 corporate tax collections dropped 36% from $436 million to $281 million per the Missouri Budget Project.  In an easy to read four page report (http://www.mobudget.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/MO-Faces-Additional-Cuts-January-2017.pdf ) they detail how the Legislature has passed bills that allow multistate corporations that do business inside and outside Missouri to allocate profits in a way that reduces their Missouri tax obligations.  Additional tax deductions for corporations have also been enacted and these deductions are having a larger negative impact on Missouri revenues than thought when the Legislature passed them. 

Another factor in slipping Missouri revenues is tax credit programs that are out of control.  Redemptions of these credits have increased 2.8% each year and have exceeded $500 million every year since 2009 according to the Missouri State Auditor’s office.  But it doesn’t end there.  Tax credits amounting to $3 Billion have been authorized but not redeemed.  Even if these programs were to change or go away, that $3 billion would remain available to the corporations and entities to whom they were granted.  In the economic benefit projection reported to the General Assembly the analysis of $418 million in credits redeemed (73% of redemptions) the benefit/cost ratio was less than 1.00, “meaning the program returns less to the state than it costs.”  Here is a link to the Auditor’s one page Citizens Summary and the complete report:  https://app.auditor.mo.gov/AuditReports/CitzSummary.aspx?id=581

The Legislature this past session also did something extraordinary; it passed a bill to allow a major utility to negotiate a “special” (discounted) rate for a major user that might bring jobs to Missouri.  The wording of the bill will allow for other utilities (or the same one) to negotiate “special” (discounted) rates for others as well.  The bill also allows the utility to make up the “special” (discounted) rate by having others (you and me) pay a “little” more.  How much more?  Whatever is needed to assure profitability for their shareholders.  The same utility that got this extraordinary treatment has also been contesting their property taxes for years despite losing at every court level thus far.  In the meantime, affected local governments (including JCPS) are paying legal fees to fight the battle.  (In our area Cole County has taken the lead and paid all the initial legal fees.  Now, the fees are split among our local governments.  Those fees now are collectively in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but still less than the disputed taxes.)  Currently JCPS just budgets for the legal expenses. 

All of these things; a changing economy, questionable legislation, special bills for corporations (who happen to employ a sizable amount of lobbyists and generously contribute to lawmakers political campaigns), and contested taxes all play a part in determining if there are adequate resources for our students and teachers to be productive.  And they play a part in whether or not the school board has to ask its local citizens to pitch in more money to make up the difference when others don’t pay a full share for any reason.

Periodically the JCPS budget is amended to reflect actual versus projected revenues and expenditures.  (Note:  the JCPS budget year runs from July 1 through June 30.)

Senate Bill 43:
The Legislature passed Senate Bill 43 into law this session.  It has broad implications for all employees in Missouri.  Here is a statement from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, CPA that I found on the official website for the Auditor’s office (www.auditor.mo.gov ):

Auditor Galloway statement on signing of Senate Bill 43 legislation to weaken whistleblower protections for public employees


June 30, 2017


Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway issued the following statement on Senate Bill 43, which jeopardizes whistleblower protections for public employees and was signed into law by Gov. Eric Greitens today.

"At a time when President Trump is increasing protections for federal government whistleblowers, it is surprising that Gov. Greitens would sign into law a bill that does the exact opposite. Senate Bill 43 compromises long-standing whistleblower protections, increases the threat of retaliation and fosters an environment of intimidation for those who report wrongdoing. Missourians deserve better. Employees must be able to raise concerns without fear of losing their jobs. This measure will almost certainly create a chilling effect that will undermine the state's ability to uncover wasteful, improper or illegal uses of taxpayer dollars. In short, this legislation makes it easier for government to operate in the shadows."”


You can read the bill in its entirety here:  https://legiscan.com/MO/text/SB43/2017

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Friday, July 7, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, July 10, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Thursday, July 27, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Monday, August 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review June 24 through June 30

Posted June 30, 2017

The school board did not have any public meetings this past week.  The only scheduled public meeting next week that I am aware of is the “Coffee with Larry” event on Friday, July 7th at 7:00 am in the Miller Center atrium.  “Coffee with Larry” is a monthly time for the public to hear school superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum address topical issues and take questions from attendees.  

Model Schools Conference:

This week most, if not all, the JCPS Administrative staff attended the Model Schools Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.  The conference is put on by the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE), the same company that has been working with the District since September of 2015.  The ten page Scope of Work document was titled, “Building Effective Instruction to Support a Culture of Learning for ALL Students.”  Staff members who have been working with ICLE remain enthusiastic as they work towards aligning curriculum from grade to grade so that there is a progression in learning and consistency from building to building within the district.  Another key area has been the development of instructional leaders. 

To find out more about the Model Schools Conference, you can view materials at the ICLE web page:  http://www.cvent.com/events/2017-model-schools-conference/event-summary-e19696ac0e434274b09f14d491c9d37d.aspx


Textbooks and Your Tax Dollars:

One of the first tangible things to see as a result of the voter passage of the increased operation levy is the order of textbooks.  The operational increase will appear in fall tax bills and the district will begin receiving collected revenues in December.  Based on this knowledge, the district ordered math textbooks (paper and electronic) for the entire district at a cost of nearly $900,000.00.  The price includes professional development for teachers before school begins in August. 

Thanks to the voters, there will be revenue to order new texts for English language arts, science and history in future years. 

Have a safe Independence Day!

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Friday, July 7, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, July 10, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

Thursday, July 27, 4:30 p.m.: Policy Committee Meeting. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review June 17 through June 23
Posted June 23, 2017


This week the school board held a special meeting to authorize sale of bonds for the high school projects as authorized by voters this past April, approve a budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, and approve the architectural contract for the high school projects (construction of a second high school on Route 179 and completely renovate the current high school on Union Street).  Below is more information about the meeting, by topic:

Budget Approved for the 2017 – 2018 Fiscal Year:
The JCPS fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30 each year.  A copy of the budget is available on the JCPS website:  https://www.jcschools.us/Page/121  While most of the document is a little tedious to decipher, the first 13 pages are a narrative and graphic overview of revenues by source and expenditures by category.  Also in the narrative are explanations of challenges facing the District and explanations of how spending will take place in the coming year and move the District towards further improvement.

One of the challenges to setting a budget is feeling secure about funding from outside sources such as the State of Missouri.  The Legislature first lowered the definition of “fully funding” education then committed to fully fund public schools.  However, they also passed a tax cut bill that reduces revenue at the same time.  In order to meet the education funding goal, JCPS CFO Jason Hoffman reports state revenues would need to grow 4.6%.  At the end of May state revenue had only grown 2.6%.  When the state does not have enough funds to meet their budget obligations the state then “withholds” funds and those expecting “withheld” funds must adjust their budgets. 

Increasing community needs can be measured in part by the “free and reduced price” meals the District provides to qualifying students (based on household income and number of members in the household.)  Fifteen years ago, 29% of students qualified for free and reduced price meals.  Now that number has grown to 59.4% for the District as a whole.

In April voters approved a $1.10 cent increase to their property taxes.  In the tax bills to be sent out this fall, $0.85 cents of the increase will be reflected.  The remaining $0.25 will be added when the second high school is to open. 

Issuance of General Obligation Bonds:
At Tuesday’s meeting the board approved the issuance of general obligation bonds in the amount of $85 million for the two high schools projects.  Stifel is the financial consultant handling the bonds and Gilmore & Bell are the bond counsels who are preparing a resolution for the board to approve.  In about two years or so there will be another bond issuance for the rest of the funds needed to complete the two high school projects.  On April 4, 2017 voters authorized $130 million in bonding capacity for the two high school projects. 

The day before the meeting Stifel took orders for the bonds in anticipation of the issuance.  There was a greater demand for bonds than there were bonds available.  This allowed Stifel to lower the interest rate to be paid to bondholders resulting in a savings to the District.  The sales will not be final until a July 6, 2017 closing takes place.  A one page report from Stifel can be found on the JCPS website:  https://www.jcschools.us/Page/121

Architect Contract Approved:
The board on Tuesday approved a contract for the next phase of architectural services for the second high school project as well as renovation of the current high school.  Late last year the board selected three firms to handle the projects:  DLR, ACI Boland and Jefferson City’s Architects Alliance.  Prior to the bond passage the architects developed preliminary drawings; met with JCPS staff to better ascertain specific needs; and worked on scheduling.  The contract settles a fee for all services ($6,860,533.00) that falls within the range expected. 

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Friday, July 7, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, July 10, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.
 
________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review June 10 through June 16
Posted June 16, 2017


 The school board held its regular monthly meeting on Monday, June 12th.   The Jefferson City TIF Commission
* met on Wednesday, June 14.  Next Tuesday, June 20th, the school board will meet again to approve a budget for the coming year; approve the sale of $85 million in General Obligation Bonds; and some routine business.

(
*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.)

School Board Meeting on Monday, June 12th:

*    Distinguished Students:  The graduating 2017 Valedictorian and Salutatorians were recognized at the beginning of the meeting.  Speech and Debate Student Leticia Nketiah performed her Persuasive Oratory in preparation for competing in the National Tournament.  Her original oratory was about choosing your own direction as opposed living to please others; you diminish yourself when you surrender decisions to others.  This does not preclude being nice to others, but rather is to know yourself and live by your own values and decisions.  Her presentation was a great way to start the meeting.  Ms. Nketiah will do quite well in her future endeavors.

*   Live streaming of Board meetings:  By a vote of 7 to 0 the Board voted to proceed with video and audio streaming of meetings.  The option selected calls for the purchase and installation of two fixed cameras in the Board Room on East Dunklin Street and two portable cameras and microphones for use at other locations and for other events.  The microphones at the Dunklin Street Board Room will be replaced.  (For several years they have been failing and parts are no longer available.)  A date to begin streaming has not been determined, but ordering equipment has been authorized. 

*  Construction Manager At-Risk: The Board voted to seek qualifications from firms to be construction manager at-risk for the two high schools project.  This differs from a traditional construction manager in that they assume all risk should (for example)a contractor go out of business or use materials of a lesser grade than specified in a contract.  The high school projects will easily have over 30 contractors.  The District is committed to giving local firms the opportunity to work on the high schools through competitive bidding.  Because construction managers at-risk assume responsibility for risks ordinarily belonging to the District, they get paid more than a traditional construction manager, however, they also keep construction costs down.  The Revised Statutes of Missouri govern this and the regulations can be found here: http://www.moga.mo.gov/mostatutes/stathtml/06700050601.html   Once firms qualifications are submitted, the top firms will be interviewed and pricing negotiated. 

*   The Old St. Mary’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Proposal TIF:  Korb Maxwell, representing F & F Development, presented information about the Farmer family’s plans for the old St. Mary’s Hospital site and their “need” to abate future taxes to help finance the plans.  The plans are actually two plans: the first is premised on Lincoln University having funds ($10 million) to locate a satellite campus in the center of the St. Mary’s property and adding four other sites for commercial projects; the second is a commercial only project with six buildings.  Given the lack of State funding over the years for Lincoln University and that State not meeting budget projections, it is unlikely the Lincoln scenario will happen.  The Board spent about an hour discussing the proposal and its impact on the school district and community.  Several board members indicated they were struggling with the decision, but ultimately when asked to make a decision the majority of the board supported the TIF proposal.  I remained in opposition for reasons well documented in previous
Week in Review postings.  Based on the outcome, the two JCPS staff members sitting on the TIF Commission were directed to support the proposal.  Although I would have preferred a different outcome, I was pleased the board had a thorough and respectful discussion.  This is how the News Tribune reported the decision:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/jun/13/jc-school-board-endorses-tif/677856/

* Closed Session:  Following the open meeting the board went into closed session to discuss personnel matters.  The session lasted about 35 minutes.

Jefferson City TIF Commission Meeting for the Old St. Mary’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Proposal:
On Wednesday, June 14th, the Jefferson City TIF Commission met with 10 of 11 members present.  This meeting was a continuation of the May 18th public hearing.  (See Week in Review post of May 19, 2017)  Presentations by Korb Maxwell for F & F Development and the City hired consultants were repeated.  Two members of the public came forward to speak in opposition to the TIF, Ed Williams and Patsy Johnson.  There was no rebuttal to their statements.  The TIF Commission then voted 10 to 0 in favor of the TIF proposal.  They held no discussion and asked no questions at any time during the hearing. 

The City Council will take up the matter, probably in mid-July.  Their decision will be final.  Should they approve the proposal then a contract will be entered into between the City and F & F Development spelling out the terms of the TIF; what expenses of the Farmers are reimbursable through tax dollars and other details.  

The News Tribune report about the meeting is here:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/jun/15/tif-commission-unanimous-approval-farmer-plan/678116/

Budget and Special School Board Meeting TUESDAY, June 20:
School districts are required to pass a budget each year by June 30.  Failure to meet the deadline can result in the State of Missouri withholding state funding.  The fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30 each year.  A draft copy of the budget is available in the board meeting packet on the JCPS website: https://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158

Also on Tuesday’s agenda is issuance of general obligation bonds in the amount of $85 million for the two high schools projects.  Stifel is the financial consultant handling the bonds and Gilmore & Bell are the bond counsels who are preparing a resolution for the board to approve.  In about two years or so there will be another bond issuance for the rest of the funds needed to complete the two high school projects.  On April 4, 2017 voters authorized $130 million in bonding capacity for the two high school projects. 

Because Tuesday’s meeting is a Special meeting, there is not a public comment period.  As always, please feel free to email or call me with comments.  Contact information for other board members can be found on the JCPS website:   https://www.jcschools.us

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval (and other business) Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Friday, July 7, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, July 10, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.
 ________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review June 3 through June 9
Posted June 9, 2017


 The were no meetings of the Board and no Committees that I am a member of met.  The School Board will hold its regular June meeting on Monday, June 12.  (see below for more information)

The Old St. Mary’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Proposal status update:
Last Sunday the News Tribune published a long article on the TIF’s currently in place in Jefferson City as well as TIF’s applied for and denied (the Truman Hotel proposal) and pending (the old St. Mary’s property.)  It is worth reading to see how TIF’s have changed in nature from being used to improve neighborhood areas that gradually declined to a developer’s tool.  Here is a link to the article:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/jun/04/st-marys-redevelopment-citys-fifth-proposed-tif-project-15-years/676751/

After reading the News Tribune article, I felt it did not explain why I was opposed to the old St. Mary’s property TIF application and I wrote this letter to the editor that was printed on Thursday, June 8th:

“Editor:   The Sunday article on the St. Mary’s TIF and the use of Tax Increment Financing in other projects did an excellent job of describing why cities find tax abatements so attractive.  The article fell short in two areas:  it incorrectly described me as a retired nurse, and it failed to indicate why I am opposed to diverting tax dollars from schools back to developers.

My local job experience in healthcare was to assess quality of care and optimal utilization of resources, two experiences that, when coupled with my vantage points as a taxpayer and public education advocate, help me formulate my public policy positions.  Here are some points about TIF’s I considered:

  *  Property taxes are substantially education taxes:   Approximately 70% of these taxes go to schools, resulting in over 48% of JCPS revenue.
  *  Today’s kindergarten students will be parents to future kindergarten students before the TIF expires in about 23 years.  Do we know what demands our schools will need to meet in 23 years?  And what is the likelihood that the public will be able to support both schools and businesses from school taxes?
  *  TIF’s are like mortgages with compound interest.  Except with a TIF it is lost school income that is never recouped.  Tales of future revenue are based on a best case scenario that may not happen.
  *  JCPS voters approved a 28% increase in school taxes to improve our district.  It was not with the intent that our most fortunate corporate citizens would be granted a waiver of increased valuation.
  *  Increased assessed valuations of property are very important:  JCPS calculates a budget line item each year for increased assessed valuation based on expected increases in assessments and new construction.  This expected increase across the district is expected to bring in over $1 million of new revenue in next budget year beginning July 1.  This line item offsets increased costs occurring annually.
  *  The school district and the students of this community should keep its fair share of tax money, as determined by the citizens of the school district through their many votes establishing operating and debt levies for JCPS.
  *  Recently the News Tribune ran an editorial calling special utility breaks for economic development “corporate welfare.”  Are TIF’s any different?

For more information about my position, please visit www.pammurray.org Week in Review for details about my positions on this TIF and tax abatement (avoidance) in general.  Pam Murray”


This past week several other letters to the Editor were printed by the News Tribune.  Here are links to them:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/jun/06/your-opinion-tif-unfair-advantage-farmers/676939/

http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/jun/08/your-opinion-st-marys-tif-crony-capitalism/677150/

my letter: http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/jun/08/your-opinion-tif-would-divert-money-schools/677149/

The School Board will determine its stance on the tax abatement proposal during the Monday, June 12th Regular Board Meeting.  Representing the Farmer Holding Company, parent company of F & F Development (the name attached to the TIF application) will be Korb Maxwell, attorney from Kansas City.  The School Board vote will determine how the two school board representatives vote during the TIF Commission meeting on June 14.  You can view all the official documents (the proposal, City Staff report and But For determination report through this web link to the City’s website:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=265947&dbid=0

Are Vouchers the Future of Education?
At both the federal and state level there is a push by those in power to divert public funding away from public schools and towards private schools through the use of vouchers.  The argument is often made that it gives parents “choice”.  However, in some proposals those vouchers come in the form of tax credits, so only those earning enough money to benefit from a tax credit would see the potential benefit of that credit.  The credits usually would only cover a portion of a private education.  Again, only those fortunate enough to afford to pay the remainder would benefit. 

This past week I came across an article describing how vouchers have been working in the state of Vermont where they have been an option for many years.  Vermont (unlike Missouri) does not have a public school option at the high school level for all students.  In their districts that are only K-8, the state pays to send those high school students to another school, public or private.  (In Missouri the K-8 districts are affiliated with a neighboring district for grades 9-12 and taxed accordingly.)  Over the years Vermont tax dollars have gone to boarding schools, some out of state and even out of the country with the state dollars usually only covering about a third of the tuition.  Is this what our future will look like?  Here is a link to the article:  https://www.propublica.org/article/voucher-program-helps-well-off-vermonters-pay-prep-school-at-public-expense

Note that Vermont pays schools about $15,000 per pupil per year.  In Missouri the average per student expenditure is about $10,000 with JCPS being about $9,500. 

School Board Meeting on Monday, June 12th:
The following items of note are on the Monday agenda:

  *   The old St. Mary’s TIF proposal, as discussed above.
  *   Live streaming of Board meetings.  This idea was defeated by a vote of 5 – 2 in March 2014.  Four of the people voting “NO” are no longer on the board and the outcome is uncertain.  Staff has presented five possible proposals for board consideration.  They range in cost from $2,800 to $12,400.  The cheaper cost is to have one fixed camera located at the Board office to having two fixed cameras at the Board office and two cameras and microphones capable of being moved to locations when the Board meets in various locations around the District.  (The proposals can be viewed on pages 211-212 – the last pages of the board packet – through the JCPS website:  https://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158 )
  *   Policies from the Policy Committee.  Most are under Old Business and have previously had initial approval.  Under New business are two policies the board will consider for the first time; these two will be on track for final approval at a later board meeting.
  *   Consideration of contracts:  one new contract for security video services and three contract renewals for specialized services such as vision, speech, and other therapies.
Information regarding construction management for the high school projects. 

The full agenda and board packet is available through the link above.  The Open Forum part of the meeting allows for public comment regarding agenda items. 


 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting, Including discussion of the TIF proposal.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Wednesday, June 14, 6:00 p.m., TIF Commission Meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval (and other business) Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Friday, July 7, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.


Monday, July 10, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Monday, July 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review May 27 through June 2
Posted June 2, 2017


 
Policy Committee Meeting Held May 31:
The School Board Policy Committee met on Wednesday, May 31.  This marks the beginning of my third year on the Committee and my first as Committee Chair.  Other members are Board members Steve Bruce and Rich AuBuchon; Administrators Dr. Larry Linthacum, Jason Hoffman and Penney Rector.  Beginning with this meeting, we invited teacher representatives from JCMNEA and JCMSTA to participate.  Previously the teacher representatives were not part of the Policy process until after the full School Board had completed the first of two readings of the policies.

At the May Board meeting the full board sent back to Policy Committee several polices that were questioned by teacher representatives.  Two policies dealt with what type of “extra” assignments for teachers and staff are considered part of the job and what types qualify for extra compensation.  The new language continues to give flexibility to the District and does not change expectations for staff.  Occasional assignments, such as supervising bus drop off once in while or attending a particular meeting are considered part of the job.  The District will continue to offer hourly compensation for teachers and staff taking money and checking passes as sporting events.  Extra assignments such as coaching a team or activity will continue to qualify for stipends.  Another area of concern was how long job openings are posted.  The District policy calls for a minimum of five days.  Exceptions to this will require notification to the School Board with an explanation.

These policies will go to the Board for final approval on June 12 at the Regular Board Meeting.  The Policy Committee will continue to include teacher representatives. 

Coffee with Larry:  Construction, Taxes and Sports
On Friday, June 2nd, Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum held the first of a series of monthly “town hall” meetings to discuss the two high school projects and other concerns.   About half of those in attendance were members of the construction industry.  The meeting began with a presentation from Dr. Linthacum and was followed by questions and answers.   Here are some highlights:

   
*   Construction will not begin on Route 179 for several months; the Architects continue to meet with High School staffevery two weeks to assure the building design reflects needs.  This summer there will be preparatory at the Route 179 site; geotechnical assessments will be done to assure the ground can support the weight of the building and that environmental issues that may be present are mitigated through project design.  The process will make it possible for local contractors to be part of both high school projects. 
   
*   Although renovation of the current high school is about half the work of building the new school, working around students and staff will mean both projects will take about three years to complete.  The new high school opening date is still intended to be August 2019.
   
*   Boundary lines may need to be adjusted.  The new high school is located in the Cedar Hill Elementary boundaries but those students would go to the current high school (after attending Lewis and Clark Middle School) and Thorpe Gordon students who are literally adjacent to the current high school currently attend both middle schools.  Situation like this need to be addressed.   Dr. Linthacum intends to have a plan for boundary lines ready by August of 2018 for implementation in August 2019.  Public meetings and input will be a crucial part of the process.
   
*   Sports questions centered on equity; Adkins Stadium will become a district facility.  Will the second high school be second in line to use it?  Dr. Linthacum indicated that as a district facility, both schools would be treated equally and the field would be marked to reflect markings of both schools.  The new high school will have practice fields.  There are no plans to construct duplicate facilities at either high school.  Many other districts share facilities between two or three high schools. 
   *  
Tax rates: The bond issue passed this past April permits a 65 cent increase for construction and 45 cents for operations.  However, all the money will not be needed immediately.  Each August the District holds a public hearing to set the tax rate.  This August (2017) CFO Jason Hoffman will ask for an 85 cent increase; the 65 cents for the construction projects and the 20 cents of operations for resources to be used in grades K-12.  In August 2018 another 15 cents will be requested and the final 10 cents will be requested in August 2020. 

The next Coffee with Larry will be July 7th, 7:00 a.m., at the Miller Center. 

Corporate Tax Breaks:
One of the difficult things about corporate tax breaks is tracking them.  In Missouri the State Auditor’s office tracks TIF’s (Tax Increment Financing Districts and taxing authorities created to benefit developers (TDD’s or Transportation development Districts and CID’s or Community Improvement Districts)  and you can view information from their web site:  https://auditor.mo.gov and then click on "Local Government" .  However, not even the Missouri Auditor has the authority to compel developers to act in accord with best practices. 

This past week several news outlets reported on the problem of tracking corporate tax breaks.  Here is a link to the article as it appeared in the Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/new-rule-gradually-bringing-corporate-tax-breaks-to-light/2017/05/21/c536d652-3e4a-11e7-b29f-f40ffced2ddb_story.html?utm_term=.84ebe6ff042c

The article discusses the desire for accountability from corporations and how this has led to the nonprofit Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to issue recommendations that, if followed, would create transparency and allow taxpayers to understand the impact of corporate tax breaks on their pocketbooks.  The GASB recommendation, GASB Statement 77, can be found through this link: 

http://gasb.org/jsp/GASB/Document_C/GASBDocumentPage?cid=1176166283745&acceptedDisclaimer=true

The Old St. Mary’s TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Proposal status update:
The School Board will determine its stance on the tax abatement proposal during the June 12th Regular Board Meeting.  No one from the Farmer Holding Company or F & F Development is expected to attend.  The School Board vote will determine how the two school board representatives vote during the TIF Commission meeting on June 14.  You can view all the official documents (the proposal, City Staff report and But For determination report through this web link to the City website:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=265947&dbid=0

This past week there was a Letter to the Editor regarding the project published in the News Tribune:
http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/may/30/your-opinion-old-st-marys-tif-welfare-wealthy/676059/

 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting, Including discussion of the TIF proposal.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Wednesday, June 14, 6:00 p.m., TIF Commission Meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


Friday, July 7, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review May 20 through May 26
Posted May 26, 2017


The school board met on Monday, May 22nd for a closed session to discuss personnel.   On Tuesday several new hires were announced.  Another closed session for personnel is scheduled for Friday afternoon, May 26th.   The closed sessions held on days and times the board does not usually meet were held at the request of Superintendent Larry Linthacum to fill vacancies at the administrative level.   All personnel changes (hiring, promoting, or separation from the District) are ratified by the Board following the opportunity for discussion.  With over 1,200 full time employees, not every decision is discussed; the board relies on staff recommendations for most decisions.  Per Board policies, all proposed hires are vetted by the Human Resources Department for qualifications and suitability through background checks. 

Policy Meeting set for May 31:
On May 31 the Board Policy Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. to review the policies sent back by the full board and to set meetings for the upcoming year.  The Committee consists of three board members (Steve Bruce, Rich AuBuchon and I will Chair); three members of Administration (Superintendent Larry Linthacum, CFO/COO Jason Hoffman and Legal Counsel Penney Rector.)  Beginning with this meeting representatives from the teacher organizations (JC-MNEA and MSTA) have been invited to participate.  Previously, teacher representatives were not sent policies until after the full board held the first of two readings.   Policy Committee meetings are open to the public but do not have a public comment period.  Comment can be provided to the full board during Open Forum prior to adoption.  You may email or call me with comments at any time during the process.

Adult Education and Literacy Program:
The High School Equivalency Student Recognition Ceremony was held on Thursday evening, May 25th.   JCPS is the administrative home for adult education programs in Jefferson City, Eldon, Fulton and Versailles.  The Class of 2016-2017 consisted of forty-nine students, approximately 20 attended the ceremony.  The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had three staff members attending the ceremony.  In the absence of Administrative staff, fellow board member Michael Couty and I had the honor of presenting Certificates to the students.  Seventy-eight percent of students scored 75% or higher on their final exams and also received a College and Career ready certificate. 

Adult education students face additional challenges in returning to high school studies.  Often they are working, some have families, and they must carve out time to attend classes and study.  One student this year earned her certificates the same month her youngest child received his high school diploma.  While all graduations have a celebratory atmosphere, this ceremony is also tinged with tremendous relief and the knowledge that now the students can open doors that have previously been closed. 

I am grateful to have been again invited to participate by Ms. Sarah Porter, Adult Education and Literacy Program Coordinator and all the AEL teachers and staff.

Tax Increment Financing (tax abatement) for the former St. Mary’s Hospital Property:
The Board will be holding its discussion during the June 12 Regular Meeting, thus allowing public comment during Open Forum at the beginning of the meeting.  The Board will decide how the two JCPS representatives to the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Commission will vote; either to support or deny the request for up to 23 years of tax abatements.  Details of the request can be found through the Jefferson City website or this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=265947&dbid=0

On Tuesday, May 23rd, the News Tribune printed a Letter to the Editor about the proposal: http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/may/23/your-opinion-reject-st-marys-tif/675168/

The TIF proposal would abate new taxes for up to 23 years to help the developer, F & F Development, pay for the project.   Last week I asked the question, what will our schools look like in 23 years?  Will that lost revenue be needed to provide resources for our students and teachers?  Will JCPS be able to keep up with new technology?  Will JCPS be able to respond to the ever increasing demands of the Legislature to address special topics of their concern?  Could existing space needs at the elementary and middle schools be addressed earlier if JCPS received the full amount of assessed taxes from everyone?  Is it the job of schools to finance economic development?

Look for more information here closer to the meeting, or scroll down to previous
Week in Review posts.

Utility Costs Passed Along to “Ordinary” Taxpayers:

Earlier this week the News Tribune printed an editorial regarding the Legislative Special Session called by the Governor, http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/may/23/our-opinion-special-session-it-worth-it/675167/ .  The purpose of the session is to enact legislation to enable Ameren Missouri to set special rates for large consumers, specifically to lure a business to southeast Missouri and re-open a plant that when operating at full capacity was using as much electricity as Springfield, Missouri.  Ameren would then like to pass the costs of the special rate reduction along to other consumers.  When discussed, this usually is in terms of only costing the average consumer a few dollars a month.  However, the average consumer doesn’t just pay for their household electricity usage; they also pay to light up the County Jail; City Hall; State office buildings and schools.  At JCPS all but one of our buildings is served by Ameren Missouri.   (Callaway hills Elementary School is served by the Callaway Electric Co-op)  To give you an idea of what JCPS utility bills look like I pulled the checks authorized to Ameren Missouri in January 2017 ($86,386.79) to reflect a winter month and July 2016 to reflect a summer month ($150,724.62).  If utility rates increase even 2% to offset a large user, that is a large sum to come out of our education budget, enough to pay for a teacher’s salary.  I do not know what amount of rate increase Ameren would receive if the legislation passes.

Also note:  Payment of Ameren’s full share of property taxes is still in litigation.  They have for several tax years objected to their assessment.  JCPS is part of a group of local entities that are fighting the assessment litigation in court.  Cole County paid the initial $200,000 of legal expenses and JCPS now pays a pro-rated portion of fees over the initial amount.  Cole County has taken the lead in the case that has dragged on for years.  Thus far Ameren has lost at every judgement but has not reached the end of the appeal process.  Meanwhile, the taxes paid under protest sit in an escrow account.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Wednesday, May 31, 4:30 p.m., Policy Committee Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  No public comment period.  (There will be public comment opportunities before the full board adopts recommendations from the Committee)

Friday, June 2, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting, Including discussion of the TIF proposal.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Wednesday, June 14, 6:00 p.m., TIF Commission Meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.


Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 ________________________________________________________________________

​Week in Review May 13 through May 19
Posted May 19, 2017


There were no meetings of the school board this past week.

TIF Commission Meeting Regarding the Old St. Mary’s Hospital Property:

On Thursday, May 18, the TIF Commission met to act on the proposal from F & F Development.  The meeting began with the consulting attorney for Jefferson City presenting an overview of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) regulations and requirements.  He assessed that the proposal met all the required elements.  The City consulting financial advisor presented his analysis that consisted of reviewing the submitted information for reasonableness of assumptions; projected profits if the project would be undertaken without any tax incentives or creation of a special taxing district; comparing the project to like projects; and performing a sensitivity analysis to see if the project would be profitable if the costs were lower or the profit were higher.   He said there were some discrepancies regarding costs; some were high, others low and were overall “a wash”.  City Staff then recommended approval of the project. 

Rob Kingsbury of F & F and his consultant, an attorney with the Polsinelli Group presented their proposal.  There are two scenarios, one with Lincoln University at the center and four out parcels for retail and restaurants and one without Lincoln University that has six out parcels for commercial endeavors.  Participation by Lincoln University is dependent upon the Legislature approving funding and the Governor not withholding any appropriations.  (The Legislature thus far has not adequately funded Lincoln University at their primary campus.  Several years ago when the Sisters of St. Mary’s still owned the vacant site, the Legislature budgeted funding for Lincoln University and the then Linn State Technical College to refurbish the site for educational use.  When the State revenue projections fell short, then Governor Nixon withheld the money to balance the budget.  Eventually St. Mary’s sold to the Farmer owned company.)  Mr. Kingsbury said they will present information to the Legislature prior to their 2018 session.

Details from all the reports can be found through the Jefferson City website through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=265947&dbid=0

 Following the presentation was a time for public comment.  As the school district has not yet discussed the proposals (several reports were only completed this week) I spoke as an individual school board member to inform the Commission the Board was unable to act.  While I very much would like to see the development go forward and succeed, I feel that TIF’s disproportionately affect school districts and asked the Commission members to consider information I handed out to them: 

TO:  Members of the TIF Commission   May 18, 2017

Here are some points I respectfully ask you to consider before you vote:

Property Taxes are Substantially Education Taxes:   Approximately 70% of your property taxes go to the Jefferson City Public Schools.  In my case, it is 72.4%.  In some areas in the district 75% of the property tax bill goes to JCPS.  (2016 property tax bills used for calculations)  JCPS draws over 48% of its revenue from local property taxes.

Today’s Kindergarten Students will be Parents to Future Kindergarten Students Before the TIF Expires:  The TIF is proposed to abate taxes for up to 23 years.  Today’s kindergarten students will be in their very late 20’s in 23 years before the property pays its full share of property taxes.   The school district will lose out on much needed revenue for nearly two full cycles of K -12 students who will have to make do with less classroom resources such as textbooks.

TIF’s and Mortgages:  A TIF lasting up to 23 years can be equated to a mortgage.  Both are long term use of someone else’s money.  Both cast the consumer (taxpayers) costs best calculated bearing in mind the spiraling cost of compound interest on debt.  In the case of a TIF, the consumers are taxpayers primarily of the school district.

JCPS Property Tax Payers:  The greater JCPS community recently voted to increase their property taxes by 28% to support public education.  It was not with the intent that some of our most fortunate corporate citizens would be granted a waiver of increased valuation for the coming years.

When the Sisters of St. Mary’s (SSM) owned this property they did not pay taxes:   As a nation it was decided that churches not be taxed.  The Sisters of St. Mary’s are no longer the property owners and the tax exempt status runs with the use and owner, not the land itself.   On what basis of entitlement does a future owner of property have to not pay taxes?

Increased Assessed Valuations of Property  Are Very Important:  At JCPS the CFO calculates a budget line item each year for increased assessed valuation in the district based on expected increases in valuation (for re-evaluation years) and new construction.  This expected increase across the district is expected to bring in over $1 million of new revenue in next budget year beginning July 1.  This line item offsets increased costs occurring annually.

Parks and Schools:  The Staff report indicates on page 4 that the Parks and Recreation sales tax will not be abated.  I agree parks are very important.  So are schools.  So are textbooks for students.

What Will Our Schools Look Like in 23 Years?  Will they have modern resources?  Will those in charge have the flexibility for innovation in ideas?  Or will they be scrambling to keep up?

I come here tonight not asking for special treatment, but rather to ask you to let the school district (and the students of this community) keep its fair share of tax money, as determined by the citizens of the school district through their many votes establishing operating and debt levies for JCPS.

Thank you,   Pam Murray (speaking as an individually elected member of the JCPS Board of Education)


No one else came forward to speak.

The TIF Commission, with 10 of 11 members present (Mr. Bauman was absent) then voted to stand in recess until June 14 at 6:00 p.m.  The school board will discuss the TIF proposal at the June 12 meeting. 

The TIF Commission has 11 members.  The six City appointed members are:   John Pelzer, Willie Jude, Eric Struemph, Robert Gammon, William Betts and Seth Bauman.  The Cole County appointees are Larry Benz and Sam Bushman.  JCPS appointees are Larry Linthacum and Jason Hoffman.  Representing all other taxing authorities is Betty Hagenoff from the Missouri River Regional Library.

 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Friday, June 2, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting, Including discussion of the TIF proposal.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Wednesday, June 14, 6:00 p.m., TIF Commission Meeting, City Hall, 320 east McCarty Street.

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review May 5 through May 12
Posted May 12, 2017


School Board Meeting on Monday, May 8:
The School Board met Monday, May 8 at 6:00 p.m.  Here are some of the outcomes of items of note to me:

   
*   A timeline for the high school construction projects was presented by Cary Gampher of Architects Alliance.  It will be months before preliminary work is done and earth is turned at the 179 site.  The architects continue to meet with teaching staff and students regarding their needs.  Input will be incorporated into the designs for the new high school and renovation of the current high school. 
   
*   Summer School:  all JCPS schools will hold summer school and all students residing within the JCPS boundary lines may enroll, this includes students attending private school or home schooled.  See the JCPS home page at www.jcschools.us
   
*   Another tax abatement request, this one under the Revised Statutes of Missouri Chapter 100, was on the agenda.  The applicant for tax abatements is anonymous; the plan includes purchase of the spec building built by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce.  Requested are a 75% abatement for 15 years on the property and a 75% abatement for seven years on personal property.  As presented it should be revenue neutral or better for the building and an improvement on personal property as the building currently is vacant.  On the other hand, at the end of seven years the personal property may have depreciated by 90% and there is nothing to prevent another abatement request for replacement equipment.  There is no way for people to track potential conflicts of interest prior to a decision being made.  The school district does not have a vote in this but officials who do have asked for the school district position.  During discussion I stated my concerns regarding diverting taxes intended for public education to private developers; economic development is not the job of the school district.  Most board members did not participate in discussion and no vote was taken. 
   
*   TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property
Discussion of how the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission will vote was deferred as the City had not yet presented their analysis of the proposal and JCPS did not present an analysis.  It was relayed that at the City scheduled the TIF Commission Meeting for Thursday, May 18, there will be presentations of information but not a vote.  However, delaying the vote is not guaranteed.    The revised proposal from F & F Development can be found at this City webpage:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=427423&dbid=0                     You can view all the public documents the City has posted regarding this and other TIFs here:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=265947
   
*   A new audit firm was selected.  Last year JCPS sent out a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and selected Graves and Associates to be the audit firm.  The RFQ document had called for a one year engagement with four renewals.  Graves and Associates have declined to continue with JCPS.  The St. Louis audit firm that also submitted a response last year was selected to perform an audit for the period from June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2017. 
   
*   Eight contracts with a total value of $467,740.00 were awarded to the low bidders for flooring coverings in various buildings; three are asphalt projects; and three tuck pointing, calking and sealing.  The projects were for specific rooms within buildings except for the tuck pointing, cleaning and sealing of three buildings.
   
*   A series of math textbooks was selected.  Based on staff recommendations, the Go Math series from Houghton Mifflin was selected at a cost of nearly $840,000. 
   
*   Policies were sent to back to the Policy Committee for additional changes.  Several policies were questioned by teacher representatives and the Board agreed extra clarity was needed.
   *   A closed session to discuss personnel matters followed the open meeting.  

FFA Banquet:
On May 9th I attended the 15th annual Nichols Career center FFA Banquet.  The Chapter serves students from JCPS and sending schools.  FFA is an extra-curricular activity; the FFA Mission statement is, “FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education.  The evening program was run by students and the meal was catered by the Nichols Career Center Culinary Arts Students. 

The Guest Speaker was Katie Imhoff, a Nichols Career Center FFA alum from California, Missouri.  Her address imparted several life lessons:  First, the best is not behind you, the best is yet to come.  Second, don’t be too harsh on yourself if you don’t measure up to your goals; assess your progress and take comfort in improving.  Third, appreciate those who help you; your family, your teachers, and the community who all make your opportunities possible.

Outgoing Chapter President Alicen Jennings shared a message of perseverance.  Sometimes you have to slow down, but don’t give up.  Weakness is not measured by mistakes made, but by giving up in the face of adversity.

I was impressed by the maturity of the students; their individual and team accomplishments; and support of each other.  Our students truly work hard and have a thirst for knowledge.   They are wise beyond their years.  As a Board member I take inspiration from them and know I must work even harder to assure that as a District we provide all our students the tools they need to succeed. 

How another community views economic development and education:
This past week the City of Ashland announced a new commercial development near Columbia regional Airport.  Interestingly, the developer is not seeking tax breaks; instead the discussion included how the new taxes will benefit the school district (Southern Boone).  The KMIZ online article is below followed by the web page link.

Development plans approved for land near Columbia Regional Airport

Posted: May 09, 2017 09:20 PM CDT
Updated: May 09, 2017 09:24 PM CDT

 Potterfield and Ashland partner to develop land near

ASHLAND, Mo. - Plans to develop land near Columbia Regional Airport were approved Tuesday night.

Ashland's Planning and Zoning Commission gave the approval that would allow two commercial buildings to go up on a portion of nearly 500 acres of land between Highway 63 and the airport.

The two buildings were proposed by Hummingbird Properties, which is owned by Larry Potterfield. 

Last year, Potterfield and his wife, Brenda, decided to move ahead with plans to develop much of the 477 acres they own within Ashland city limits. 

Ashland's mayor says the additional property tax revenue will help the school district and pay for infrastructure issues.

Copyright 2017 KMIZ”


http://www.abc17news.com/news/development-plans-approved-for-land-near-columbia-regional-airport/490333379

Coffee with Larry:
Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum has announced a monthly “Coffee with Larry” time to meet with community members to update them about the high school construction projects and other topics of interest to the community.  The Coffees will take place on the first Monday of each month from 7 to 8 a.m. at the Miller Center.  The location may change in the future but will be at the Miller Center for the first several months.

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Sunday, May 14, 5:00 p.m. JC High School Graduation, Adkins Stadium.

Thursday, May 18, 6:00 p.m.: TIF Commission* meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing, public comment is invited.

Friday, June 2, 7:00 a.m., Coffee with Larry at the Miller Center.

Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 ________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review April 29 through May 5
Posted May 5, 2017


Personnel Changes in the Central Office:
The school board met on Tuesday, May 2 at 7:00 a.m. and immediately went into closed session to discuss personnel and legal matters.  The meeting was adjourned about 8:20 a.m.  Later in the day it was announced that four Central Office positions have been filled beginning July 1.  Lorie Rost, presently principal at Cedar Hill Elementary School, will be the Director of Elementary (K-5) Education; Gary Verslues, currently at the Blair Oaks  School District, will be the Director of Secondary Education; Bridget Frank, currently a school psychologist with JCPS, will become the Director of Special Services; Shelby Scarbrough, currently with the Knob Noster School District, will become the Director of Personnel.  Dr. Brian Shindorf, current Director of Elementary Education, will have a new title, Chief of Learning.  This represents an exciting time for JCPS as new leaders take over and will guide the District in the coming years.  It is also an exciting time for the Central Office staff members who are moving onto new chapters in their professional lives.

School Board Meeting on Monday, May 8:
 The School Board is scheduled to hold its regular meeting this Monday, May 8 at 6:00 p.m.  You can find the full agenda and meeting packet (all 281 pages) here:  https://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158

Here are some of the agenda items of note to me:

   
*
  A timeline for the high school construction projects will be presented by Cary Gampher of Architects Alliance.
   
*   Summer School Plans will be announced.  (see also the JCPS home page at www.jcschools.us )
   
*  
Another tax abatement request , this one under the Revised Statutes of Missouri Chapter 100, will be discussed.  From what I understand the applicant to the City of Jefferson is anonymous and the plan includes purchase of the spec building built by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce.  Requested are a 75% abatement for 15 years on the property and a 75% abatement for seven years on personal property.  As presented it should be revenue neutral or better for the building and an improvement on personal property as the building currently is vacant.  On the other hand, at the end of seven years the personal property may have depreciated by 90% and there is nothing to prevent another abatement request for replacement equipment.  Also, as the applicant is anonymous and known only to the Chamber, there is no way for people to track potential conflicts of interest.  The school district does not have a vote in this but officials who do have asked for the school district position. 
   
*  
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property
Discussion of how the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission will vote is scheduled to take place Monday during the May 8 school board meeting.  The City has scheduled the TIF Commission Meeting for Thursday, May 18.  In lieu of a private meeting, I sent questions to F & F Development (the Farmer Group) by email and they provided written answers to my questions.  A financial analysis by the District will be shared at the meeting.  Look for more information here next week, including my questions and the F & F Development answers.  The City posted an additional document on their website Thursday afternoon:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=427423&dbid=0                     You can view all the public documents the City has posted regarding this and other TIFs here:  http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/Browse.aspx?startid=265947
   
*   There will be an update on the 2017-2018 budget.
   
*   An audit firm will be selected.
   
*   Eight contracts with a total value of $467,740.00 are being requested.  Two are flooring covering projects in various buildings; three are asphalt projects; and three are for tuck pointing, calking and sealing.  Beyond the location, prices and results of the competitive bids, there is no further information available at this time.
   
*   A request for math textbooks will be presented.  You may recall I wrote about a Math Resources Fair on April 14.  As a result of that Fair where teachers from across the District used three different sets of texts and shared their experiences with their peers is the recommendation to purchase the Go Math series from Houghton Mifflin.  The purchase will total nearly $840,000.  Of the four grade level teachers I spoke with at the Fair, the Go Math series was the number one choice of everyone.  Teachers reported their students liked it and they found it easy to use.
   
*   Policies introduced at the April meeting are set for final approval. Board members have received communication from the JCMNEA representative with suggestions for several policies.
   
*   A closed session to discuss personnel matters will follow the open meeting.  

A note about economic development and school funding:

Last year the school district objected to abating the taxes for the Puri Group to re-develop the Truman Hotel property; a hotel that was open and operating when they purchased it.  They then closed the business, let it become run down, had their property assessment lowered, and then presented a plan for up to 23 years of abated taxes.  Their proposal was denied.  Months later they presented a different type of abatement that runs for 10 years.  The school district had no say.  It was granted.

Also last year, Modern Litho requested an abatement of personal property tax for five years on equipment.  Again, the school district had no public discussion (and no private discussion that I was aware of) and the abatement was granted.

This year, F & F Development, a Farmer Company, requested a Tax Increment Financing  abatement of taxes for up to 23 years to re-develop the old St. Mary’s Hospital property they purchased long after the hospital moved and after several proposals had fallen through to make the property part of state higher education.  F & F delayed their proposal until after the April 4 bond issue vote.  There is a reluctance to hold public meetings prior to the TIF Commission hearing on May 18.

Now the Chamber has proposed a package to sell the building they built nine years ago and grant the anonymous owner tax abatements on real and personal property.  The name of the  company requesting the tax abatements is so secret the Chamber has given the project a “code name”.  (I do not even know the code name.)  This might be a good time to note that the Missouri Constitution prohibits me (and any elected official) from acting on a matter involving a family member of the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity (my first cousin or a my spouse’s cousin).  Yet public officials are being asked to informally  bless a project without knowing the particulars of potential conflicts.  Another concern about this latest project is that the building in question was built by the Chamber who receives a substantial portion of their budget from City and County taxpayers.  And now the buyer would like to not pay their full taxes.

What all these requests have in common is a desire for the public to provide subsidies while each of us must pay our fair share or lose our property.  What the latest proposals have in common is the avoidance of looking taxpayers in the eye while asking for special treatment.

I think we all want Jefferson City and the surrounding areas to prosper and for our business  community to succeed.  But when is enough enough?  Some of these businesses have received several special designations and/or abatements at their businesses over the years.  Isn’t it time everyone started paying their own way?  And if you need a hand out, or a hand up, have the courage to state your case in public. 

The school district gets 48% of its revenue from property taxes so these property tax abatements hit us harder that the City or County.  On a personal level, my tax bill from 2016 (and that does not include the tax increase for schools that we approved last month) shows that 72.4% of my tax bill goes to JCPS.  (That percentage will go up in coming years.)  As a supporter of education, I am glad that is where the bulk of these tax dollars go.  I am equally saddened that this source of education funds is being diverted to hotel rooms; equipment that may become obsolete before the abatements expire; and for speculative uses that may or may not come to pass.  When tax rates are set and approved by voters it is with the intent that everyone pays their fair share.  And that should go for business as well as residential and agricultural property owners.

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, May 8, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting, Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comments permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion is to be on the agenda.

Sunday, May 14, 5:00 p.m. JC High School Graduation, Adkins Stadium.

Thursday, May 18, 6:00 p.m.: TIF Commission* meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing, public comment is invited.


Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m.: JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 
_________________________________________________________________

Week in Review April 22 through April 28

Posted April 28, 2017

There were no public meetings of the school board this past week. There will be a special meeting of the Board on Tuesday morning, May 2.  The planned agenda consists of personnel and legal matters and will be closed to the public.  The next regular meeting of the Board will be on Monday, May 8 at 6:00 p.m.

Honoring Teachers:
On Thursday, April 27th, the 25th annual Teacher Appreciation Banquet was held at Lewis and Clark Middle School.  The highlight of the evening was honoring our teachers for length of service to the JCPS community; announcing the selection of the Outstanding Educator and Teacher of the Year; and honoring retiring educators. 

The 2017  Eisinger Outstanding Educator is Rhiannon McKee of Jefferson City High School. The 2017 Eisinger Teacher of the Year is Rhonda Allen of Thorpe Gordon Elementary School.  These two teachers were selected from a pool of 142 nominees.  The News Tribune report provides more detail about the nominees:


http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/apr/28/rhonda-allen-named-jcps-teacher-year/671692/

The Missouri Budget Process and Education Funding:
On April 28th the Missouri Budget Project (www.mobudget.org) sent out his report:

“Budget Passes Senate, Moves to Conference:

The Senate approved its version of the fiscal year 2018 budget this week, and conference committees are expected to begin deliberations next Tuesday and Wednesday to resolve differences between the House and Senate recommendations.

In a break from tradition, Senators amended the recommendations from the Appropriations Committee on the floor.

Education Funding

By far the biggest change this week was approval of an amendment to fully fund the school foundation formula.. Fully funding the formula has always been a priority for the House, however the bills voted out of the Senate Appropriations committee did not provide for full funding. Most felt that this would be a major sticking point in conference. Now, with the approval of the amendment, the two chambers are in agreement and it will not need to be discussed.

The chambers also made different recommendations for higher education funding. Higher education institutions would see a cut under the Senate proposal, but that cut could range between 6% and 9%.”


For those interested in some of the Senate politics that went into the decision, here are links to stories written earlier in the week.  Per tweets from a Kansas City Star reporter, both Missouri Senators with JCPS constituents (Mike Kehoe and Jeanie Riddle) voted against fully funding K-12 education.  Senator Riddle explains her position in the Columbia Tribune article below.


http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article146730724.html

http://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/republican-split-leads-senate-to-fully-fund-k--formula/article_e676b350-2a0e-11e7-b23c-7f920491f045.html

The Missouri Budget Project, an independent group that provides analysis and reports about the Missouri Budget, has prepared a report explaining the basics of K-12 education funding:


http://www.mobudget.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Budget-Basics-K-12-Education.pdf

Trump Executive Order on Education:
Earlier this week President Donald Trump signed an executive order limiting federal control of education with the intent to restore control to the states and local governments.   One of the hallmarks of past federal education laws such as No Child Left Bend (George Bush Administration) and Every Child Succeeds Act (Barack Obama Administration) has been to have standardized expectations for what is taught at each grade level across the country.  In other words, every fourth grader in America should be reading at a fourth grade level and every school district should be able to demonstrate that through measures put in place and verified by  each state.   This order cedes that standardization to each state.   Given the limited number of textbook and testing companies, I would not expect major differentiation in the near future.  What is more likely to create differences quickly is changes in how states and localities fund their public schools.  Funding is a necessary tool that dictates the availability of resources.

Here is the full text of the order:


“The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

April 26, 2017

Presidential Executive Order on Enforcing Statutory Prohibitions on Federal Control of Education

EXECUTIVE ORDER

- - - - - - -

ENFORCING STATUTORY PROHIBITIONS ON FEDERAL CONTROL OF EDUCATION

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to restore the proper division of power under the Constitution between the Federal Government and the States and to further the goals of, and to ensure strict compliance with, statutes that prohibit Federal interference with State and local control over education, including section 103 of the Department of Education Organization Act (DEOA) (20 U.S.C. 3403), sections 438 and 447 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), as amended (20 U.S.C. 1232a and 1232j), and sections 8526A, 8527, and 8529 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (20 U.S.C. 7906a, 7907, and 7909), it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  It shall be the policy of the executive branch to protect and preserve State and local control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, and personnel of educational institutions, schools, and school systems, consistent with applicable law, including ESEA, as amended by ESSA, and ESEA's restrictions related to the Common Core State Standards developed under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

Sec. 2.  Review of Regulations and Guidance Documents.  (a)  The Secretary of Education (Secretary) shall review all Department of Education (Department) regulations and guidance documents relating to DEOA, GEPA, and ESEA, as amended by ESSA. 

(b)  The Secretary shall examine whether these regulations and guidance documents comply with Federal laws that prohibit the Department from exercising any direction, supervision, or control over areas subject to State and local control, including:

(i)    the curriculum or program of instruction of any elementary and secondary school and school system; 

(ii)   school administration and personnel; and 

(iii)  selection and content of library resources, textbooks, and instructional materials. 

(c)  The Secretary shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, rescind or revise any regulations that are identified pursuant to subsection (b) of this section as inconsistent with statutory prohibitions.  The Secretary shall also rescind or revise any guidance documents that are identified pursuant to subsection (b) of this section as inconsistent with statutory prohibitions.  The Secretary shall, to the extent consistent with law, publish any proposed regulations and withdraw or modify any guidance documents pursuant to this subsection no later than 300 days after the date of this order.

Sec. 3.  Definition.  The term "guidance document" means any written statement issued by the Department to the public that sets forth a policy on a statutory, regulatory, or technical issue or an interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue, including Dear Colleague letters, interpretive memoranda, policy statements, manuals, circulars, memoranda, pamphlets, bulletins, advisories, technical assistance, and grants of applications for waivers.

Sec. 4.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:  

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or 

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,
April 26, 2017.”


 https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/04/26/presidential-executive-order-enforcing-statutory-prohibitions-federal

Vouchers:
Vouchers do have the ability to change education.  They create uncertainty in revenue for existing public schools and allow for public dollars to go towards funding schools with fewer controls regrading curriculum; limited or no measuring of learning through standardized tests; and a lack of public oversight.   This week the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article based on a study comparing progress of Washington DC students in voucher programs to students not accepted to the same private voucher program.  Voucher students scored lower in math and the same as their non-voucher peers in reading.  Here is a link to the story:  

 http://www.stltoday.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/study-dc-voucher-program-shows-poorer-math-results/article_a56ebc76-040a-5124-abf8-4e2f073d1016.html

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property:
Discussion of how the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission will vote is scheduled to take place during the May 8 school board meeting.  Representatives from the Farmer Group and the City have been invited to the meeting.  Previously a representative of the Farmer Group indicated they will not present information at a public meeting prior to the TIF Commission meeting.  Instead they would prefer to meet with elected officials (members of the school board; city council; county commission; and the TIF Commission) in a one on one or closed setting.  A closed session of a public body may only be held if one or more of the 23 legally defined circumstances are met.  Seeking a tax abatement or special treatment is not one of those circumstances.

I have many reservations about meeting in a private session to avoid public scrutiny as could be the case here.  (Note that not all private meetings are for the purpose of avoiding scrutiny, but at the stage where there is a proposal in the process of a vote by a public body, as is the case here, holding private meetings makes me very uncomfortable.)  It is not in keeping with my belief in transparency and the responsibility to conduct public business in public.  I am still doing my research into the TIF and related matters and will have much more to say about this in a future post.  There will not be a school board closed session to discuss the TIF.   The City has re-scheduled the TIF Commission Meeting for Thursday, May 18.  (The City has not yet posted that date on their website.)

A Tax Increment Financing District is a “special taxing district” that freezes the amount of taxes paid on a land area for up to 23 years while the developer recoups some of the costs of redeveloping that land area.  For the old St. Mary’s property, the Jefferson City Council will have the ultimate say if property (and some other) taxes to the City, County, State and JCPS are “frozen” at pre-development levels.  But, first, the TIF Commission will make a recommendation.  The TIF Commission has 11 members: 6 appointed by the City; two by Cole County; two by JCPS; and one from another affected taxing district – the library.

The proposal submitted by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC) to the City of Jefferson can be found through this link:
 http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0   It is likely the financial information will change to reflect the tax increase for school operational and building projects was approved on April 4th.  This may change the impact of the proposed tax abatements on the school district.  When new reports become available, I will share the information and/or links in future Week in Review posts.

 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Tuesday, May2, 7:00 a.m. Special Meeting, Closed (to the public) Session.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, May 8, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion is to be on the agenda.

Sunday, May 14, 5:00 p.m. JC High School Graduation, Adkins Stadium.

Thursday, May 18, TIF Commission* meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing, public comment is invited.

Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Tuesday, June 20, 6:00 p.m. JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 _________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review April 15 through April 21
Posted April 21, 2017


There were no public meetings of the school board this past week.

 
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property:
Discussion of how the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission is scheduled to take place during the May 8 school board meeting.  Representatives from the Farmer Group and the City are to be invited to the meeting.  This week I heard from a representative of the Farmer Group who indicated they will not present information at a public meeting prior to the TIF Commission meeting.  Instead they would prefer to meet with elected officials (members of the school board; city council; county commission; and the TIF Commission) in a one on one or closed setting.  I have not ruled out attending such a meeting, however, I am deeply concerned whenever there is an attempt to circumvent the public process; the school board is a public body that derives its authority from the public and reports directly to the public.  As such, it is imperative to continually maintain the public trust and constantly strive to be as transparent as possible.  That includes discussing and deciding public policy in public in full view of all interested citizens.

 The City has re-scheduled the TIF Commission Meeting for Thursday, May 18.  (The City has not yet posted that date on their website.)

A Tax Increment Financing District is a “special taxing district” that freezes the amount of taxes paid on a land area for up to 23 years while the developer recoups some of the costs of redeveloping that land area.  For the old St. Mary’s property, the Jefferson City Council will have the ultimate say if property (and some other) taxes to the City, County, State and JCPS are “frozen” at pre-development levels.  But, first, the TIF Commission will make a recommendation.  The TIF Commission has 11 members: 6 appointed by the City; two by Cole County; two by JCPS; and one from another affected taxing district – the library.

The proposal submitted by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC) to the City of Jefferson can be found through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0   Please also see the March 17 Week in Review post for more details about the proposal and the Week in Review posts of April 14 and April 7 for links to Reports from Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, CPA regarding two other Farmer developments with special tax district designations.  Here is a link to an editorial from the News Tribune regarding Transportation Development Districts and the Stone Ridge Shopping Center:   
http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/story/2017/apr/13/our-opinion-tdd-protections-needed/669639/

Student Council Community Leaders Breakfast:
This week the Jefferson City High School Student Council hosted the annual Community Leaders Breakfast.  Attending were a State Representative; the Mayor and members of the City Council; judges; school board members; and other civic leaders.  It was an opportunity to hear an update from our student leaders about some of their activities this past year as well as to get to know students individually.  Hearing about their accomplishments and future plans is very uplifting; our future is in good hands.

Parents as Teachers and Child Development:
Parents as Teachers offers developmental screenings for children ages three through five once a year, free of charge.  The developmental screenings offer parents a quick and effective way to look at how their child is learning and growing in the areas of health, visions, hearing, communication, physical development, problem solving and social/emotional health. 

 There is one screening date still available for the 2016-2017 school year:  Monday, April 24 from 4 to 8 p.m.  To make a screening appointment, visit this link: http://www.jcschools.us/Page/12717 or contact Katie Epema at (573)659-2350 or Katie.epema@jcschools.us


 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, May 8, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion is to be on the agenda.

Sunday, May 14, 5:00 p.m. JC High School Graduation, Adkins Stadium.

Thursday, May 18, TIF Commission* meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing, public comment is invited.

Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

TO BE RESCHEDULED Monday, June
26, 6:00 p.m. JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

*The TIF Commission is a City Board. Jefferson City and the Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 _________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review April 8 through April 14
Posted April 14, 2017


On Monday, April 10 the School Board held its regular meeting.  Following completion of old business, retiring board members John Ruth and Ken Theroff were thanked for their service.  Newly elected board members Lori Massman and Scott Hovis took the oath of office along with Steve Bruce who was re-elected on April 4th.  The Board elected new officers for the coming year:  Steve Bruce as President; Rich AuBuchon as Vice President; and Lorelei Schwartz as Treasurer. 

The Board then took up new business, awarding several contracts for partial roof replacements and a new gymnasium floor for Thomas Jefferson Middle School.   

 
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property:

A Tax Increment Financing District is a “special taxing district” that freezes the amount of taxes paid on a land area for up to 23 years while the developer recoups some of the costs of redeveloping that land area.  For the old St. Mary’s property, the Jefferson City Council will have the ultimate say if property (and some other) taxes to the City, County, State and JCPS are “frozen” at pre-development levels.  But, first, the TIF Commission will make a recommendation.  The TIF Commission has 11 members: 6 appointed by the City; two by Cole County; two by JCPS; and one from another affected taxing district – the library.

Discussion of how the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission will vote was moved to the May 8 school board meeting.  Representatives from the Farmer Group and the City are to be invited to meeting.  The City has re-scheduled the TIF Commission Meeting for Thursday, May 18.  (The City has not yet posted that date on their website.)

The proposal based on the report submitted by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC) to the City of Jefferson can be found through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0
Please also see the 
March 17 Week in Review post for more details about the proposal.

Missouri State Auditor Issues Another Special Taxing District Report:
In a press release issued this week by the Office of Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, CPA took issue with Transportation Development Districts:

“Auditor Galloway finds unaccountable tax districts rack up $1 billion in taxpayer debt
State law allows abuse, mismanagement in Transportation Development Districts, debts incurred without voter approval

April 10, 2017

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report on Transportation Development Districts (TDDs) that found districts across the state engaging in questionable practices with little oversight or transparency because of the weakness of existing laws. The audit also found taxpayers on the hook for nearly $1 billion in outstanding project costs to be repaid with sales taxes they did not vote on or approve.

"Insiders have rigged the system to take advantage of Missourians. It is outrageous that taxpayers are on the hook for a billion dollars in debt without even realizing it," Auditor Galloway said. "It appears as though the General Assembly has legalized self-dealing and conflicts of interest through the Transportation Development District laws. I am calling for a total overhaul of the laws that allow and even encourage this kind of activity."

The TDD laws were initially created to assist local communities with transportation projects that benefit the public interest, but have since morphed into public funding sources for private developers. The majority of TDDs are created and managed by the owners and developers that stand to gain the most from the districts' tax collections. This creates an inherent conflict of interest, paired with little opportunity for citizen input and a lack of taxing transparency.

In one example, the St. Louis Convention Center TDD was formed in 2010 with initial plans to charge sales taxes in the district for 13 years. Four years later the board, which is controlled by the property owner, changed the duration of the sales tax to 40 years. Under the current law, that doesn't require a vote of citizens or approval from any outside authority. In fact, the law allows districts to form with no end date in sight, even after the projects have been completed and paid for.

In some cases TDD projects use lease agreements so the taxes collected can be funneled through to the property owner, who may also be the developer. The owners are not required to use the property for public benefit, which allows them to double dip on income generated from the parking lots. In two Washington Avenue TDDs in St. Louis, property owners formed TDDs around existing parking lots and other businesses without a public vote. The owners then elected boards, which imposed sales taxes to be charged by businesses in the district. The boards used sales tax proceeds to pay "rent" to the owners, who also charged fees to the public to park in the spaces. This means the property owners were earning income from sales taxes, and profiting from charging fees for parking.

Auditor Galloway reported multiple instances of noncompliance with state law. All districts included at least one business that violated the law by not notifying customers of sales taxes charged, and 58% did not include a single business that complied with the customer tax notification law.

The report also found the Department of Revenue fails to adequately monitor or track district boundaries. Of the 12 districts reviewed in detail for this report, incorrect boundary lines caused 42% of the districts to have sales taxes that were incorrectly calculated or collected.

The department also does not provide transparent information on taxes paid to the districts. In cases where the taxing district includes fewer than seven businesses, the department keeps that information secret and does not disclose to the public how much income TDDs receive in tax dollars.

Auditor Galloway reported an estimated $941 million owed in project costs statewide for approximately 60% of TDDs that submitted requested financial disclosure documents. The full amount owed is likely much higher than that, and continues to rise as new TDDs continue to be formed.

A complete copy of the report is available here:
 https://app.auditor.mo.gov/Repository/Press/2017020228917.pdf?_ga=1.17216825.1852305801.1453332050   ”

One of those Transportation Development Districts, Stone Ridge Transportation Development District, is located in Jefferson City and is home to Kohl’s, Sam’s Club and other retailers.  The Developer of Stone Ridge lists as contact information in their annual financial filings an email address ending in “farmercompanies” and a physical address matching the address in the old St. Mary’s  TIF proposal documents. 

Here is a link to the News Tribune story about the portion of the audit dealing with Stone Ridge:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/apr/11/audit-rips-stone-ridge-tdd/669224/

You may recall that last week a different taxing authority, The Capital Mall Community Improvement District (CID), was listed in a different Auditor’s Report as not having filed their required annual reports.  That CID also has the same address.

My concern with these taxing districts is their impact on school districts and the tax payers who do not have the luxury of avoiding paying their taxes through abatements.   And, as a proponent of open, transparent, and accountable government, I am bothered by the lack of oversight associated with some special taxing “tools.”

 
Math Resources Fair:
As JCPS prepares to purchase new math books for the entire district, a math resources fair was held this past week.  Teachers who are part of the curriculum committee represent every grade level and were tasked with trying out texts and electronic math resources from three publishers.  Each of the three trial texts was used in classrooms for six weeks. 

The teachers who used the trial materials discussed their experiences with other teachers from JCPS who were able to see the texts and view the electronic resources.  All participating teachers had the opportunity to submit comments that will be incorporated into the final recommendation on which publisher’s series for grades K through 12 should be purchased for use next year.  The purchase will be the first major textbook series purchase in 10 years.  Passage of the resource levy on April 4th makes this possible.

What was missing from the Resource Fair was the actual publishers; the focus was on teachers talking to teachers about teaching and learning.

Parents as Teachers and Child Development:
Parents as Teachers offers developmental screenings for children ages three through five once a year, free of charge.  The developmental screenings offer parents a quick and effective way to look at how their child is learning and growing in the areas of health, visions, hearing, communication, physical development, problem solving and social/emotional health. 

 There is one screening date still available for the 2016-2017 school year:  Monday, April 24 from 4 to 8 p.m.  To make a screening appointment, visit this link:  http://www.jcschools.us/Page/12717 or contact Katie Epema at (573)659-2350 or
Katie.epema@jcschools.us

One of the programs offered at the Southwest Early Childhood Center is a class in conscious discipline and parenting skills.   The eight session course is available through an application process for parents of pre-school children.  On April 14 I attended the graduating session for parents from seven classes.   Parents shared some special learning moments from their time together; moments that represented a turning point in their relationships with their children as well as each other.  A resource used in the classes is a book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky A. Bailey, PhD.     

The class and the books are supported through a $100,000 grant from the Missouri Children’s Trust Fund.   

A follow up note
 In the March 31 posting I shared a letter regarding the bond issue I had submitted to the News Tribune.  It was never published.  This past week the editorial page editor let me know my letter was lost in the shuffle of high volume and other pressing matters.  I appreciate their graciousness and their coverage of the April 4 election issues and candidates for school board.   
 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, May 8, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion is to be on the agenda.

Sunday, May 14, 5:00 p.m. JC High School Graduation, Adkins Stadium.

Thursday, May 18, TIF Commission* meeting, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing, public comment is invited.

Monday, June 12, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting.   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

Monday, June 26, 6:00 p.m. JCPS Budget Approval Meeting.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

*The TIF Commission is a City Board, Jefferson City and Jefferson City Public School District are separate political subdivisions of the State of Missouri; each is an independent taxing authority.
 _________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review April 1 through April 7
Posted April 7, 2017


This past week there were no public meetings of the school board.  There will be a reorganizational meeting of the school board on Monday, April 10 at 6:00 p.m.  The meeting will begin with the current board finishing up old business (approval of prior meeting minutes, paying of bills already incurred, etc.), and certifying (accepting) the election results from April 4th.  Then the retiring board members, John Ruth and Ken Theroff, will leave their seats and the newly elected board members, Lori Massman, Steve Hovis and (re-elected) Steve Bruce will take the oath of office.  The first order of business will be to elect a board President, Vice-President and Treasure for the coming year.   Any new business will then be taken up.  (The agenda is scheduled to be posted later today.)  Expected to be on that agenda is discussion of the Tax Increment Financing (tax abatement) for the old St. Mary’s Hospital project.  (See below)

Community Approves Bond and Levy Request; New Board Members Elected:
I
n a tremendous victory for the community, and especially our students and teachers, there was overwhelming voter support for the high school projects and operational resource levy.  With architecture firms already on board and having met with affected educators, the projects for a second high school and complete renovation of the current high school and Nichols Career center can begin.  

In community surveys going back to at least 2006, this community has stated it wanted two high schools as did the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee in their report to the Board in November 2014.  Nearly 100 community meetings/presentations were held leading up to the vote, led by Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum.  This, and getting community leaders on board with the two high school plan, was pivotal to the success in mobilizing community volunteers and voters.  It bears repeating, this election is a big win for the community. 

This election represents a new beginning for JCPS and the community.  I hope voters whose involvement passed the ballot measures and elected new board members will not step away and stop participating now that the election is over.   Continue to contact your elected representatives and tell us your thoughts about education – what is going well, what could be better, and what is on your minds.  But, please, do not sit back and wait for each of us to knock on your door once every three years.   My observation has been that people generally feel things are going well, but, how do you know that unless you keep a level of involvement?  Do you want to know more than just decisions already made?  Do you want to know how those decisions were made?  Who shaped the outcome?  Was it your elected officials or someone else entirely?

The school board is a representative form of government defined as “An electoral system where citizens vote to elect people to represent their interests and concerns. Those elected meet to debate and make laws on behalf of the whole community or society, instead of the people voting directly on laws and other debates.”  In the case of a school board, we don’t make laws, we make policies to reflect and implement education laws made at the state and federal levels of government; we have the final say on how the nearly $100 million school district budget; and approve personnel decisions as our primary duties. 

As elected school board members, we are the only people directly answerable and accountable to the public.  You, the voters hire and fire board members.  In Missouri the Superintendent, while generally accessible to the public, is not directly accountable to the public; he or she is only directly accountable to the Board.  (Interesting fact:  three states allow for the election of local school superintendents.  Those states are Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.  Florida has both elected and appointed Superintendents.  https://fernandinaobserver.com/2016/09/20/elected-vs-appointed-school-superintendents/ )

School board members serve three year terms and every board has members elected in three different cycles meaning that community feelings and issues may not be the same in every cycle.  For example, when I was elected in 2015 the major themes brought up by voters was the desire for transparency, accountability for decisions (especially financial) and more discussion of issues on the board.  Those were the issues I dedicated myself to then and will continue to pursue while I remain on the board.  More recently voters have brought other ideas to the forefront and I respect that new board members will have the current issues at the forefront through their actions.  It is through the mix of issues and ideas that boards can achieve balance in their collective actions. 

This week’s election in many ways was re-affirming for our system of local elections.  The District held many open meetings and discussions; the media (especially the News Tribune) provided coverage of the issues; citizens got involved and determined the outcome.  That is how local government should work.  Regardless of how you voted on issues or people, this is something we can all rejoice in and utilize as a basis for moving forward in the coming years.

Cole County Youth Day April 8th (THIS Saturday)
The second annual Cole County Youth Day will be Saturday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Jason Gym on the campus of Lincoln University.  The event is for 5th through 9th graders who attend school in Cole County or live in Cole County (JCPS students attending one of the Callaway County elementary schools are welcome).  Students will rotate through issue rooms to identify ways to deal with topical issues and participate in activities with local role models.  Parents may visit informational booths to learn about resources available from non-profit groups.  To learn more, visit www.ColeCountyYouthDay.org

 
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property:
The proposal based on the report submitted by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC) to the City of Jefferson can be found through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0
Please see the
March 17 Week in Review post for more details about the proposal.

There have been no new developments at the City to report at this time.  The new date for the TIF Commission Hearing has not yet been publicly announced.   The school board is to discuss the proposal Monday evening, April 10, and determine how the two school representatives on the eleven member TIF Commission should vote.

 The two different plans for the old hospital site rely heavily on retail, restaurants and office space.   This week the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reprinted an article about the troubles retailers and malls across the nation are facing.  (http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/the-troubles-at-the-american-mall-are-coming-to-a/article_0f5c9f4a-9692-586c-b77a-0b19548400cf.html )   Many major retailers are downsizing or going out of business entirely as shopping habits are changing and markets are saturated.  In Jefferson City we have in the past year lost Kmart, Sears, Hastings Petco, MC Sports and Barnes and Noble.  While some of those merchants were lost due to other reasons, it shows we are not immune to national trends.   It should cause us to question the soundness of granting tax abatements for uses that are no longer prospering.   

Retail is also the basis of another TIF currently in place for the Farmer Group at the Capital Mall.  That TIF has a CID or Community Improvement District designation attached to it as a way of recouping costs faster.  On March 30, 2017, Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway, CPA, released an audit of required Financial Report Findings.  In a press release from her office, this was stated:

“Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today issued a summary report showing just 60% of local governments followed a state law requiring annual financial reports to be submitted to the State Auditor's Office. Missouri law requires cities, taxing districts, and other local political subdivisions in the state to submit an annual report of financial transactions within six months of the end of their fiscal year.

"We continue to see poor compliance with the financial reporting law, which highlights the need for stronger measures to enforce compliance," Auditor Galloway said. "Financial reports are an essential transparency tool for citizens."


The 71 page report lists in a few paragraphs the law requiring any political subdivision within Missouri to file an annual financial report within six months of the end of their fiscal year.  Then all 3,259 political subdivisions are listed by county with a notation that they either filed their report as required (Yes); filed it after the deadline (Late); or did not file it at all (No).  On page 20 of the report is a Cole County listing for “Capital Mall CID”.  The CID or Community Improvement District was formed in conjunction with the 2013 TIF granted for improvements at the Capital Mall.  Elsewhere on the Auditor’s website are listings indicating a financial report has never been filed for the Capital Mall CID and the responsible party for the filings is the Board of Directors of the Capital Mall CID at an address that is the same as F& F Development, who is now asking for the St. Mary’s TIF.  The audit report can be found here:  https://app.auditor.mo.gov/Repository/Press/2017019269031.pdf?_ga=1.110632325.1852305801.1453332050

As a witness at the Truman Hotel TIF hearing in 2016 stated, “Past performance is the best indicator of future performance.”  And as Ms. Galloway stated, “Financial reports are an essential transparency tool for citizens.”

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University.

Monday, April 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting and installation of newly elected Board Members.  (At 6:00 the current Board will meet to conclude old business and certify election results, and then the Board Members will take the Oath of Office, elect officers, and transact new business.)  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion is to be on the agenda.


 
_________________________________________________________________________
 

Week in Review March 25 through March 31

Posted March 31, 2017

 There were no public meetings this past week and none are scheduled for next week.

Tuesday, April 4th is Election Day:
This election day voters will fill three school board seats and decide two ballot issues, Propositions J and C.   School Board terms are three years.  In the next section are links to more information about the issues and candidates.

On March 26th, I submitted a letter to the News Tribune adding my voice in support of the school ballot issues.  To date, it has not been published.  Here is the letter: 

 
After being on the JCPS Board of Education the past two years, and with an election approaching, I want to share some of my experiences.  It is through them that I decide how I will vote for issues and candidates. 

Last December I joined fellow board members in voting to put Propositions J and C on the ballot – “J” to unify grades 9 through 12 in two comparable high school facilities and “C” to operate the second high school and provide resources for students and teachers throughout the entire district.

The most inspirational times for me have been when invited to visit a class and actually see how students are thriving thanks to the direction and leadership of innovative teachers doing their best despite the physical challenges of working in old, out of date, and crowded conditions.  JCPS is blessed with teachers who come to work every day with a smile on their faces and a plan to work around a lack of resources to support their mission.  I have seen students who have researched topics on the internet and present information in written and electronic media, tying it all together with verbal presentations. 

On the flip side, not enough science classes have running water; there is increasing demand for electricity to support equipment and electronics; closets have been converted into classrooms; some families and students are struggling.  It has become apparent that something needs to be done now to increase classroom supports to help students learn and allow teachers to focus on teaching.  This is why I support Proposition “C”.

Eleven of our instructional buildings are over the age of 50; four are over 25 years old.  Bricks and mortar do not last forever.  This is why I support proposition “J”.

As your elected representative on the board I will remember the core mission of JCPS; to continue to provide oversight and base my decisions on verifiable data; be transparent in my actions; to report to you weekly through my website; and respond to your suggestions and questions as we all work together to make more positive changes for our district, its students and all employees.

Whatever you support, I urge you to join me in voting on April 4th.


Bond and Levy Ballot Issues Information and the Candidates:
For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the 45 cent levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

The April 4th election is also about who will serve on the school board for the next three years; three of seven seats are up for election.  Here is a link to the News Tribune Candidate Forum held earlier this month:  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oSgpEKe2AQs&feature=youtu.be

Every bit as important as facilities is how District resources will be managed – will we have a system of checks and balances between the Board and Administration?   

Cole County Youth Day April 8th
The second annual Cole County Youth Day will be Saturday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Jason Gym on the campus of Lincoln University.  The event is for 5th through 9th graders who attend school in Cole County or live in Cole County (JCPS students attending one of the Callaway County elementary schools are welcome).  Students will rotate through issue rooms to identify ways to deal with topical issues and participate in activities with local role models.  Parents may visit informational booths to learn about resources available from non-profit groups.  To learn more, visit http://colecountyyouthday.wixsite.com/youthday


 TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property:
The proposal based on the report submitted by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC) to the City of Jefferson can be found through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0

There have been no new developments to report at this time.  The new date for the TIF Commission Hearing has not yet been publicly announced.   

 Parents as Teachers and Child Development:
Parents as Teachers offers developmental screenings for children ages three through five once a year, free of charge.  The developmental screenings offer parents a quick and effective way to look at how their child is learning and growing in the areas of health, visions, hearing, communication, physical development, problem solving and social/emotional health. 

 There is one screening date still available for the 2016-2017 school year:  Monday, April 24 from 4 to 8 p.m.  To make a screening appointment, visit this link:  http://www.jcschools.us/Page/12717 or contact Katie Epema at (573)659-2350 or Katie.epema@jcschools.us

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

POSTPONED: new date in mid to late May to be determined Thursday, April 6, 2017, 6:00 p.m.:  TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Commission Meeting to consider the Farmer Development Company’s Financing Plan for the old St. Mary’s Hospital redevelopment.

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University.

Monday, April 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting and installation of newly elected Board Members.  (At 6:00 the current Board will meet to conclude old business and certify election results, and then the Board Members will take the Oath of Office, elect officers, and transact new business.)  Location:  Board Office, 315 east Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion will be on agenda.


 
*The City of Jefferson is a separate (from the Jefferson City Public Schools) form of local government.  The TIF Commission is a City Commission.
_________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review March 18 through March 24
Posted March 24, 2017


This week the Jefferson City Public Schools have been on Spring Break and there were no public meetings.  That does not mean that nothing was happening:   City and School Board Meetings regarding the proposed Tax Increment Financing tax abatements for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property have been either cancelled or postponed; and, the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled on a case regarding the rights of learning disabled students. 

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property:
Last week I summarized some elements of the proposal based on the report submitted by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC) to the City of Jefferson.  The full report can be found through this link: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0

A meeting of the 11 member TIF Commission (6 City representatives; 2 Cole County Reps; 2 JCPS reps; and 1 from another taxing authority, likely the Library) was scheduled to meet and hold a public hearing on Thursday, April 6.  The TIF Commission public hearing date triggered me to request the School Board meet to decide how our two representatives would vote and  that meeting was scheduled for Monday, March 27. 

Then a very interesting thing happened – a member of the Farmer Group had a conversation with our school board President and then the Farmer Group decided to ask the City to postpone the TIF Commission meeting.  That led to a postponement of the school board considering an official stance on whether or not to abate taxes for a private development a week before the public is to vote to increase their school taxes.

As it stands now, the new school board will consider the TIF at the same meeting where two or three new members take the oath of office on April 10.  The TIF Commission hearing will be held in mid to late May (the City on Wednesday, March 22 asked TIF Commission members to provide schedule information for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of May.)  That same communication from the City does not state why the developer asked for the delay.

A New Trend in Commercial Tax Assessments?
On Wednesday, March 22nd the News Tribune reported on court rulings in Wisconsin and Michigan that have helped “big box” retailers have their property taxes reduced to pay the same amount as closed and vacant store properties.  In Wisconsin, the League of Municipalities is working towards maintaining different assessed values for thriving retailers and vacant properties.  Fighting to lower property taxes for thriving businesses is the state chamber of commerce and retail giants.  The impact on cities and school districts will be enormous.  Let’s hope Wisconsin is able to stop the retail giants and preserve fairness in the taxation system.  Should Wisconsin fail, I fear the trend will spread.

Rights of Learning Disabled Students:
On Wednesday, March 22nd, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (8 to 0) to increase the rights of learning disabled students from the previously defined standard of “minimal instruction”.  The new standard is intended to have students have instruction requiring students to make progress in their education.  This raises expectations for learning disabled students but still leaves local school districts with great power in deciding capabilities for progress by the individual students.  Interestingly, the U.S. Supreme Court decision reverses the lower standard set by U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.  Here is a link to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:  http://www.stltoday.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/supreme-court-bolsters-rights-of-learning-disabled-students/article_b7920243-baab-5e1f-a692-01639d7f0676.html

The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues and the Candidates:
For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the 45 cent levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

The April 4th election is also about who will serve on the school board for the next three years; three of seven seats are up for election.  Here is a link to the News Tribune Candidate Forum held earlier this month:  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oSgpEKe2AQs&feature=youtu.be

Every bit as important as facilities is how District resources will be managed – will we have a system of checks and balances between the Board and Administration?   

Jefferson City High School, Largest in Missouri?
Several people have raised issue with Jefferson City High School being called the largest high school in Missouri.  Some feel JCPS has manipulated numbers as our Simonsen 9th Grade Center is a separate building housing a good portion of the high school students included in the numbers for the high school.  Actually, it is outside agencies who define high school and which students are counted.

High School is defined as grades 9 through 12 by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri High School Activities Association who defines who can and cannot compete in events.  They do not make the distinction between buildings separated by grade.  Our 9th graders get to try out and compete in music, athletics, speech and debate, etc., the same as if they were in the same building.  Additionally, some of our students are bused between buildings to attend some courses not offered at Simonsen and to participate in extra-curricular activities.  It is the combined total of our students in grades 9 through 12 make Jefferson City High School the largest high school in Missouri. 

If a second high school is built, both high schools will have grades 9 through 12 in one building – Jefferson City will drop in the largest standings and have two high school designations.  Students in high school will get four years of the high school experience.  Simonsen, at over 100 years old, will no longer be a 9th grade center if we have two high schools.  If it is determined to still have a structural life, it will likely be re-purposed for another use in the District and serve less students. 

Here are links to two websites shedding light on the ranking of high schools in Missouri:
https://www.niche.com/k12/rankings/public-high-schools/largest-enrollment/s/missouri/

https://www.mshsaa.org/cmspages/2014-16enrollmentverification.aspx

Cole County Youth Day April 8th
The second annual Cole County Youth Day will be Saturday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Jason Gym on the campus of Lincoln University.  The event is for 5th through 9th graders who attend school in Cole County or live in Cole County (JCPS students attending one of the Callaway County elementary schools are welcome).  Students will rotate through issue rooms to identify ways to deal with topical issues and participate in activities with local role models.  Parents may visit informational booths to learn about resources available from non-profit groups.  To learn more, visit www.ColeCountyYouthDay.org

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
 
CANCELLEDMonday, March 27, 6:00 p.m.: Special Board Meeting to Address TIF for the old St. Mary’s Hospital redevelopment project.  

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

POSTPONED: new date in mid to late May to be determined Thursday, April 6, 2017, 6:00 p.m.:  TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Commission Meeting to consider the Farmer Development Company’s Financing Plan for the old St. Mary’s Hospital redevelopment.  City Hall*, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing.

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University.

Monday, April 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting and installation of newly elected Board Members.  (At 6:00 the current Board will meet to conclude old business and certify election results, and then the Board Members will take the Oath of Office, elect officers, and transact new business.)  Location:  Board Office, 315 east Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. TIF discussion will be on agenda
.

 
*The City of Jefferson is a separate (from the Jefferson City Public Schools) form of local government
_________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review March 10 through March 17
Posted March 17, 2017


The school board met for its regular meeting on Monday, March 13th.  A significant discussion occurred regarding pay increases for the 2017-2018 school year.  Central Office Administrators will not be receiving pay increases; teachers will receive an increase of about 1.8%.  Most other front line personnel will also receive about 1.8%.  Building Administrator pay was not decided following a discussion centering on the appropriateness of raising administrator pay when there is not a dedicated funding source for resources such as textbooks.  The News Tribune report of the discussion can be found by following this link:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/mar/14/preliminary-budget-freezes-pay-jcps-admins/665350/

Following the regular board meeting, a closed session meeting was held to discuss legal matters; personnel records; and other records protected from release by law.  That session lasted nearly three hours.

Policy Committee Meeting
Monday afternoon, March 13th, the Policy Committee met to discuss proposed revisions to policies and new policies (still being formulated) to address how to go about district wide boundary line reviews.  The revised policies will go to the full Board in April and be finally approved in May.

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) proposal for the old St. Mary’s Hospital property
The school board will hold a special meeting on Monday, March 27th to formulate a position on the pending TIF proposal by the Farmer Group (F & F Development, LLC).  The TIF Commission will hold its public hearing on April 6 and the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission, Superintendent Larry Linthacum and CFO Jason Hoffman, will vote in accord with what the full board decides is in the best interests of the District.

To review, a TIF district can be formed by (in this case) a City to help a developer with a particular project that the City feels will not take place unless the developer has help from the public.  Major steps in the process are for the project area to be declared as “blight”; the developer demonstrates the project is too costly to undertake without taxpayer help (the “but for” test – but for taxpayer help, the project is not feasible); financial analysis is undertaken to show the project will eventually have an acceptable increase in taxes; a list of allowable costs is established; and the TIF Commission and City hold public hearings prior to approving the project.  When the approval is granted, the taxes (property and sales) are “frozen” at the current level.  The County Property Appraiser continues to appraise the property and collect the increased property taxes.  Those new (increased taxes) are then returned to the developer if they fall into the allowable schedule as determined in the TIF approval documents.  This goes on for up to 23 years or until all allowable costs are recouped by the developer, whichever comes first.  During those 23 years it is not just City taxes that are in the “pay back to the developer” pool; it is also County taxes, library taxes, school taxes and any other property taxes ordinarily paid by property owners in that location.

The Redevelopment Project:  The TIF proposal envisions two different projects; one based around Lincoln University, and the other a strictly commercial project.  The Lincoln Project would have 180,000 square feet for an educational center and four commercial (restaurant or retail) spaces totaling 21,000 square feet on the out parcels. The strictly commercial project would have 6 retail or restaurant components comprising 32,000 square feet.  Both projects call for the original, stone portion of the hospital and the medical office building to be restored and used as office space.  No tenants have been named; Lincoln University’s participation in the project will be determined in this Legislative session.

Redevelopment costs for the Lincoln Project are $44,382,718; for the Commercial Only Project redevelopment costs are $30,654,350.  Financing costs will need to be added to both figures.   The TIF reimbursable costs for the Lincoln Project are estimated at $6,264,589 or 14.04% of costs.  For the Commercial Only project, reimbursable costs are estimated to be $5,399,557 or 17.47% of project costs.

In addition to the TIF, the Farmer Group will likely create a CID or Community Improvement District allowing the collection of an additional one cent sales tax to hasten reimbursement of allowable costs.   The Farmers also are using Brownfield tax credits worth $2,000,000 available for use in cleaning up land that may have been contaminated in the past; at one time there was a gas station on the property.  They also are claiming New Market Tax credits in the amount of $753,144.  If Lincoln University participates in the project, they will bring $10,000,000 to the table to have their building constructed to their specifications; the Farmer Group will retain ownership of the land. 

A key component of a TIF is the declaration of “blight”.  Like the Puri Truman Hotel project, this blight declaration is based on property not being maintained and then photographed with a leaky roof, puddles on the floor and some mold growing.  This property is different from the Truman Hotel in that the Truman Hotel was an operating hotel when the Puri group purchased it and they chose to close it, turn off the heat and air and not make repairs.  The old St. Mary’s Hospital was closed by the original owner when they outgrew the facility.  The St. Mary’s ownership offered the property to the State of Missouri to expand two higher education entities; Lincoln University and the State Technical College in Linn.  However, when there were budget shortfalls, the money needed to renovate the property was withheld by the State and property was idle.  Per the Quit Claim Deed, the Farmer Group purchased the property for $1 and “other considerations” (a term sometimes used to maintain privacy regarding the exact sales price) and prepared a long range plan for the property. 

Cost Benefit Analysis:  As part of the application, the consultants hired by the Farmer Group have prepared an estimated rate of benefit to taxing authorities should the projects proceed.  In the Lincoln project the net benefit estimates per jurisdiction are as follows:

State of MO:                             $5,437,523       or         129,730.14% benefit
Cole County:                            $1,052,900       or          1,829.1% benefit
Library:                                    $44,243            or           258.21% benefit
JCPS:                                       $816,905          or           258.21% benefit
Jefferson City:                         $617,727         or           894.46% benefit
Jefferson City surtax:              $638,699         or          887.58% benefit

For the commercial only project, the consultant estimates the net benefit per jurisdiction as follows:

State of MO:                             $7,790,401        or         185,722.57% benefit
Cole County:                            $1,437,180        or         2,342.99% benefit
Library:                                    $26,216             or         93.75% benefit
JCPS:                                       $484,054            or         93.75% benefit                      
Jefferson City:                         $1,160,375        or         1,492.35% benefit
Jefferson City surtax:              $352,516           or         434.69% benefit

Looking at the numbers and percentages, it is easy to see why the Legislature allows these tax incentives (abatements) and why they are attractive to Cities.  For entities like school districts, it is hard to justify abating taxes for 23 years for such a small return.

The consultant’s note about us – the ordinary citizens of the area:  The Farmer Group consultant included a note about household income in their report.  They note that in 2015 the median household income in Jefferson City was $49,766.  When you extend the area by a 5 minute drive outside of Jefferson City, the median household income dropped to $33,613.  They then projected income changes to take place by 2020:  they anticipate Jefferson City median household income will rise to $57,331 and for households a 5 minute drive away from Jefferson City median household incomes will rise to $39,038, roughly a 3% increase for all.  Too bad we can’t get our taxes abated.

A comment on the “but for” test and the Truman Hotel project the Puri Group had proposed as a TIF:  During their public hearings before the TIF Commission and the City Council last year, they insisted the only way to redevelop the property on Jefferson Street was through a TIF and 23 years (per hotel) of tax abatements.  When they were turned down, they suddenly were able to come up with an alternative method of abating taxes for 10 years.  That last (and successful) method did not include the County, JCPS or any other taxing authority other than the City having a say in the approval.  The real point is that if the elected officials have the will to say “NO” to public financing of private projects suddenly less onerous alternatives are found.  Who knows, maybe the Puri Group might have gone ahead even without any tax abatements. 

To review the entire TIF document prepared by the Farmer Group consultants, the document is on the Jefferson City website:
http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0

The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues and Candidate Forums:
For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

Cole County Youth Day April 8th
The second annual Cole County Youth Day will be Saturday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Jason Gym on the campus of Lincoln University.  The event is for 5th through 9th graders who attend school in Cole County or live in Cole County (JCPS students attending one of the Callaway County elementary schools are welcome).  Students will rotate through issue rooms to identify ways to deal with topical issues and participate in activities with local role models.  Parents may visit informational booths to learn about resources available from non-profit groups.  To learn more, visit www.ColeCountyYouthDay.org

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
 Monday, March 27, 6:00 p.m.: Special Board Meeting to Address TIF for the old St. Mary’s Hospital redevelopment project.  
Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.   

Thursday, March 30, Time To Be Determined, Lincoln University Student Government Association School Board Candidate Forum**, Richardson Auditorium.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 6, 2017, 6:00 p.m.: 
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Commission Meeting to consider the Farmer Development Company’s Financing Plan for the old St. Mary’s Hospital redevelopment.  City Hall
*, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing.

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University.


Monday, April 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting and installation of newly elected Board Members. 
(At 6:00 the current Board will meet to conclude old business and certify election results, and then the Board Members will take the Oath of Office, elect officers, and transact new business.)  Location:  Board Office, 315 east Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 
*The City of Jefferson is a separate (from the Jefferson City Public Schools) form of local government

**Status of this event has changed to tentative

___________________________________________________________


Week in Review March 4 through March 10
Posted March 10, 2017

There were no public meetings of the school board this past week although the Board Audit Committee did meet on March 8.  I am not on that Committee.  The news account of the meeting can be found here:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/mar/09/jcps-board-audit-committee-discusses-preliminary-fy2018-budget/664756/   some of the items mentioned in the article are on the agenda for the Monday, March 13 full school board meeting.

School Board Meeting, Monday, March 13 at 6:00 p.m.:
On Monday evening, the Board will meet at the Board Offices on East Dunklin Street, the meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m.  Major items on the agenda include a budget amendment and a “2017-2018 Preliminary Budget.”   The amendment is a routine procedure to reflect actual income and expenses in the current year as when the budget was adopted, revenue and expenses are projections.  Regarding the preliminary budget, what is in the meeting packet could better be described, in my opinion, as a two page summary sheet of anticipated broad categories of income and expenditures and a comparison to previous years.  The expenditures listed are primarily requested salary increases by job category.  Regarding expenditure assumptions, the following raises are proposed per category of employees:

Employee Category                                       #Employees                            Increase

Teacher/Librarian/Counselor                                 750                               $729
Administrator (Average)                                             52                                $1,700
Secretarial/Prof Support (Average)                           80                                $625
Custodial                                                                     80                                $550
Maintenance                                                               18                                $729
Food Service                                                               95                                hourly (?)
Nurses/Aides                                                              19                                $600
Computer Support Staff                                             11                                $850
PAT                                                                              12                                $550
Facilitators/Aides                                                      140                              $350

Also included as expenditures are several new, full time positions:  5 instructional coaches;  4 new teaching positions at Thomas Jefferson Middle School due to increased enrollment; 1 administrative intern; and, 3 additional teaching support positions.  Additional expenses listed on the summary sheet include technology and supplies, but not textbooks.

The projected increase in revenue for next year is $1,400,000 and the projected increase in expenditures is $1,305,240 leaving a net increase of $94,760.

The Board packet, including the budget documents, is available online at http://mo01909951.schoolwires.net/domain/3158b


School Board Policy Committee Meeting Monday March 13 at 4:00 p.m.:
Prior to the Board meeting, the Policy Committee will meet to review staff and Missouri School Boards Association recommendations to policies and discuss several issues:  meal breaks and planning periods at the elementary schools; meal expenditures not associated with out of town travel; payment processes; and a procedural framework for textbook adoption.

Policy revisions as well as any new policies arising from this meeting will go to the full board for introduction in April and adoption in May 2017.   The complete list of policies and the revisions proposed can be found at the same link above for the Board Meeting packet.


Governance:
In discussions of the role of a school board member it doesn’t take long for two phrases to be bandied about:  “The Board should support (or have faith in) the Superintendent,” and, “The Board should not micro-manage the Administrative staff.”  Yet, when I speak to stakeholders that fall into the parent/voter/taxpayer category, what I hear is, “Keep asking the questions, you represent us,”   and, “We elected you to be our representative, not to rubber stamp everything without question.” 

Clearly the voices represent two different philosophies, so I went in search of more information from three divergent sources in the fields of finance and higher education.  All agreed there is a separation between an effective board and management; all agreed the board is not subservient to management. 

Deloitte, an audit, consulting, tax and advisory services company with an international presence, has prepared a guide for financial services boards and management teams.  (Link: http://deloitte.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2013/06/11/governance-operating-model-a-tool-for-more-effective-board-oversight/ )  The guide is an attempt for boards to a complete governance structure without gaps, overlaps or inconsistencies.  A paragraph from the guide:

“While the board is accountable for oversight of the governance process, management is responsible for implementing the policies and procedures through which governance occurs within the organization.  The board is responsible for understanding –and for advising management on—the processes though which governance occurs within the organization, and is accountable for the results of those processes.  Management is responsible for the governance processes and their workings, and for their results.”  

Next, I turned to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), an organization more similar to a school district.  They prepared a statement (booklet) titled, “Board Responsibility for the Oversight of Educational Quality.”  They conducted a study in 2010 of how engaged higher education boards are in assuring educational quality.  The study revealed many boards are unsure of how to provide stewardship in this area and some boards doubted they should even be involved. 

The AGB report states (in part),
“Governing boards should recognize that assuring educational quality is at the heart of demonstrating institutional success and that they are accountable for that assurance.  The current environment makes this responsibility more pressing.”  

A link to the statement/report is here:  https://www.agb.org/sites/default/files/agb-statements/statement_2011_ed_quality.pdf

Lastly, I turned to the May 2009 issue of The Governance Institute’s E-Briefings.  This report discusses the line between governance and management with an emphasis on how to best provide oversight.  While discussing “
duty of care” required for board directors, it states, “This role calls on directors to foster a boardroom culture emphasizing “constructive skepticism” and an active, independent oversight role while maintaining a collegial partnership with management.”   The briefing goes on to discuss core responsibilities.  I highly recommend checking this link:  http://files.mwe.com/info/pubs/ebriefings_0509.pdf

In essence, I feel comfortable exercising my responsibility to ask as many questions as needed to render decisions based on verifiable data and objective evidence before rendering a decision in the form of a vote. 

TIF for the old St. Mary’s Hospital Property:
The Jefferson City TIF Commission will hold a public hearing regarding the proposal by the Farmer group to develop the old St. Mary’s Hospital property on April 6 at 6:00 p.m.  The eleven member TIF Commission consists of 6 City appointed members; two Cole County appointees; two JCPS appointees; and one appointee representing all other affected taxing authorities.  The last time the TIF Commission met, the eleventh member was from the Mid Missouri Regional Library.   

The proposal from the Farmer group has two contingencies:  one with and one without Lincoln University as the anchor.  Both proposals call for the original portion of the hospital to be renovated and turned into office space; redevelopment of the medical office building; and retail and/or restaurant space on the out parcels.  If Lincoln University is not part of the project (state funding for Lincoln University expansion is in doubt) there will be 6 instead of 4 retail/restaurant structures.  In all cases, most of the existing hospital will be torn down, leaving only the original, historic hospital and parking garage. 

The vision for the property is bold and ties into the proximity to the Capital and downtown areas.  Expansion of Lincoln University would be a plus for the community.  No other tenants have been identified in the proposal.

When the property was used as a religiously affiliated  hospital, there was no property tax collected at all.  All properties, even tax exempt properties are assessed and assigned a value.  However, owners of tax exempt properties do not request changes in their assessed value.  When the Farmer family purchased the property, they requested a re-assessment.  Factoring into the re-assessment was the property status as a vacant special use property.

If the TIF is granted, the current lowered assessed value will remain in place for up to 23 years or until the requested abatement of property (and other) taxes are finished, whichever comes first.  When I met with a representative of the Farmer family in June 2013, he indicated they would also be seeking other incentives:  Brownfield tax credits for clean-up of an old gas station that once was on an outparcel; historic renovation grants for the 100 year old original portion of the hospital; and, they would create a CDD (Community Development District)  allowing for an increased sales tax rate for retail/restaurant properties thus (hopefully) reducing the time for payback.

The full proposal, all 185 pages, can be found at this address within the City of Jefferson website: 
http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0

In the coming week I expect Jefferson City staff to create a report and recommendation as well.

TIF’s, while they encourage development, come at a price.  For entities like JCPS that are heavily dependent upon property taxes, subsidizing development goes against the grain, at least it does for me.   From research done when the Puri TIF was under consideration, it became clear that TIF’s are not sustainable – they encourage other developers to seek them until eventually the current projects cause existing businesses to suffer.  Just as the US manufacturing businesses are having trouble competing with other nations that pay lower wages, local businesses that must pay their full share will have trouble competing with businesses paying less than their full share of taxes.  And public entities that rely on taxes must tighten their belts further and/or ask their taxpayers to pay more.


The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues and Candidate Forums:
For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

In the past week there has been much discussion about who is for or against the ballot proposals.  While I voted to include an East side school in this proposal, that did not have full board support.  I then voted, as did the entire Board, to put forth the bond proposal for the high school projects and operating levy for the second high school and district wide resources.  I voted in favor because I feel the District needs to begin addressing space issues now.  It will be incumbent upon the public to demand that other space issues, like the long neglected East side of Jefferson City, be addressed as soon as the District pays back enough debt that a no tax increase bond measure can be put forth for voter approval, in about 4 to 5 years.

While District personnel, led by Dr. Larry Linthacum, are presenting information to groups around the community, the actual promotion of the ballot issues has been turned over to a campaign committee.  The committee is considered a political committee independent of the school district.  It files financial disclosure reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission. 

I urge all voters to learn more, ask questions, and vote on April 4.  If you have reservations, please consider your choices for school board candidates as they will have a major say in whether or not there is a level of oversight of the projects (and district governance) while the projects move forward.   Whether deciding on issues or candidates, ask yourself, “What kind of community do I want to see in the coming years?”


Cole County Youth Day April 8th
The second annual Cole County Youth Day will be Saturday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Jason Gym on the campus of Lincoln University.  The event is for 5th through 9th graders who attend school in Cole County or live in Cole County (JCPS students attending one of the Callaway County elementary schools are welcome).  Students will rotate through issue rooms to identify ways to deal with topical issues and participate in activities with local role models.  Parents may visit informational booths to learn about resources available from non-profit groups.  To learn more, visit www.ColeCountyYouthDay.org   

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, March 13, 4:00 p.m.: Board Policy Committee Meeting.  Location: Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public invited to attend, there will not be a public comment period.

 
Monday, March 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.   Public may comment on agenda items only.

 
Thursday, March 30, Time To Be Determined, Lincoln University Student Government Association School Board Candidate Forum, Richardson Auditorium.

April 4, 2017:  Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 6, 2017, 6:00 p.m.:  
TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Commission Meeting to consider the Farmer Development Company’s Financing Plan for the old St. Mary’s Hospital propertyCity Hall*, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Hearing.

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University.

Monday, April 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular Board Meeting and installation of newly elected Board Members.  (At 6:00 the current Board will meet to conclude old business and certify election results, then the Board Members will take the Oath of Office, elect officers, and transact new business.)  Location:  Board Office, 315 east Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.

 *
The City of Jefferson is a separate (from the Jefferson City Public Schools) form of local government
___________________________________________________________

Week in Review February 24 through March 3
Posted March 3, 2017


On Monday, February 27, 2017, the school board met.  At 6:00 p.m. Director of Community Relations Amy Berendzen and Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman presented information regarding the upcoming ballot issues to address space and resource needs (see below for links to more information.)  Architects from ACI Boland, Architects Alliance and the DLR Group, the three firms engaged by JCPS for the high school projects, presented schematic drawings  to help illustrate what the existing High School, Nichols Career Center and a second High School will look like after the renovation and construction (should the bond measure pass.)   The drawings showed a reliance on natural light for classrooms.  Some of the architects work can be viewed on the JCPS web page, see the link in the Bond and Ballot Levy section below.  

Following the presentations, the Board met in a closed session to consider legal matters, personnel records and other records protected from disclosure.  The meeting lasted approximately three hours and multiple votes were taken regarding agenda items falling within the three closed session topics.

The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues:
For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

School Board Candidate Forums:
I urge everyone to attend one or more candidate forums to help decide which three candidates will fill the openings on the seven member board.  The News tribune and Lincoln Student Government Association have each announced dates for their forums.  (See below)

On Friday, March 3rd, candidates (in order as they will appear on the April 4 ballot) Lori Massman, Steve Bruce, Scott Hovis, J Don Salcedo, Paul Graham and Victoria Sterling met with the Cole County chapter of the Missouri retired Teachers Association.  The candidates made opening statements and then answered two questions:  What are your top two priorities and how would you address them, and, if the bond issue passes, how will renovations at the current high school be staged to avoid disruptions due to construction and how will asbestos abatement be handled. 

Candidate Joshua Harmon passed away following an automobile accident this past week.  As ballots have already been printed, his name will still appear on the ballots.    

TIF: Another Tax Increment Financing Proposal
The Farmer Holding Group has requested a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) for the old St. Mary’s property that consists of 5 parcels and right of way.  The Farmer Group has two possible development proposals:  the first is to have an 180,000 square foot facility built to accommodate Lincoln University programs as the anchor; the second would be without Lincoln University and rely more heavily on commercial developments such as hotels, restaurants and retail.  Here are links to two News tribune stories, one about the proposal and the other about the property tax reduction obtained by the Farmer Group after they bought the property vacated by St. Mary’s Hospital when they relocated to Mission Drive and Route 179: 

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/mar/01/farmer-holding-seeking-tif-old-st-marys/663597/

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/jul/27/assessed-value-halved-old-smhc/633317/

The full proposal, all 185 pages, can be found at this address within the City of Jefferson website: 

http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=417918&dbid=0

The procedure for a TIF is to first be vetted by City Staff for completeness.  Then, it is sent to the TIF Commission, a body of 11 people.  Six are appointed by the City; two by Cole County; two by Jefferson City Public Schools; and one to represent all other taxing authorities affected.  The TIF Commission is scheduled to meet on April 6 and conduct a public hearing.  Following that hearing they vote. Whether or not the TIF Commission approves the proposal, the next step is for it to go onto the full City Council for consideration.  If the TIF Commission has rejected the proposal, the City Council must have a 2/3 majority or seven votes in the affirmative to approve the proposal.  If the TIF Commission approves the proposal, the City Council needs only a simple majority or 6 votes in the affirmative, to approve the proposal.  Once approved, property taxes for all local governments would be abated for up to 23 years per project within the area or until the approved amount has been recouped.  In other words, their future taxes get abated while the rest of us are left to pick up the slack.

I will be sharing more information as I review the proposal and learn more about its impact to JCPS.   

 News Tribune Business Articles
The Sunday, February 26, 2017, edition of the News Tribune ran a brief item in the Biz Briefs article comparing life in the 50 U.S. state capitals.  Jefferson City’s overall rank was 23rd.  The article is not available online. 
“The survey had four individual performance metrics.  Of the 50 states, Jefferson City was ranked 10 in affordability, 21 in economic well-being, 36 in quality of education and health, and 32 in quality of life.”

While the affordability portion of the survey results speaks well to the low cost of living in the area, I wish there were more information to see what the correlation was to the lower result for economic well-being. 

On Tuesday, February 28th, the News Tribune reported on an economic development meeting held between the Chamber of Commerce and City and County elected officials.  Here is a link to that article:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/28/chamber-city-county-officials-delve-deep-economic-development/663473/

Of the Chamber’s nearly $1 million budget, $335,000 comes from tax dollars collected by the City and the County, the remainder comes from members, including JCPS who pays dues and a portion of the salary of one staff member.  The City and County pay the Chamber to handle economic development efforts.

In 2016 the Chamber worked from March through December on a major economic development project -- an attempt to lure a Korean pet food manufacturer to the area.  The company went to Jonesboro, Arkansas instead, possibly because they have higher unemployment and a lower average wage as well as other Korean employers.

So, what is my takeaway from these articles and the new TIF proposal?  We continue to seek out “economic development” projects that translate into low wage jobs offering few (if any)  benefits. Jobs that lead to more demands on public assistance, more demand on our schools while quite often the profits from these jobs frequently leave the community.  While the current TIF proposal comes from a Jefferson City area family, the commercial tenants they will ultimately rent or sell to will likely be predominantly composed of chains with headquarters far from our community.  And the local community will be subsidizing their businesses, thus minimizing their risk.  And should that risk pay off, the profits will not be shared.  It will be decades before TIF properties pay their full share of assessed taxes. 

Education Article:
With a Governor, President and federal Education secretary all in favor of “school choice” local media have begun examining what some of the ramifications of diverting public dollars to private corporations for education.  This past week KOMU TV posted this report:  http://www.komu.com/news/special-report-komu-8-news-hits-the-road-to-examine-school-choice

Cole County Youth Day April 8th
The second annual Cole County Youth Day will be Saturday, April 8, starting at 1:00 p.m. in Jason Gym on the campus of Lincoln University.  The event is for 5th through 9th graders who attend school in Cole County or live in Cole County (JCPS students attending one of the Callaway County elementary schools are welcome).  Students will rotate through issue rooms to identify ways to deal with topical issues and participate in activities with local role models.  Parents may visit informational booths to learn about resources available from non-profit groups.  To learn more, visit www.ColeCountyYouthDay.org   

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Tuesday, March 7, 6:00 p.m. News Tribune School Board Candidate Forum, Location:  City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.

 Wednesday, March 8, 2017: 
Last day to register to vote with your county clerk in order to vote in the April 4, 2017 election.  Cole County Clerk:  (573)634-9101; Callaway County Clerk: (573)642-0730.

 Monday, March 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  
Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street  (location may change.)

 
Thursday, March 23, Time To Be Determined, Lincoln University Student Government Association School Board Candidate Forum, Richardson Auditorium.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University
.

______________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review February 18 through February 24
Posted February 24, 2017

There were no public meetings of the School Board this past week.  On Monday, February 27, 2017, the Board will hold a work session beginning at 7:00 p.m.  at the Dix Road Education Center.  There appears to only be one agenda item for the work session; a Closed Session to discuss individually identifiable personnel records and other records protected from public disclosure.  Just prior to the work session, at 6:00 p.m., Dr. Larry Linthacum will hold a community presentation regarding the April 4 ballot measures.

The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues:

For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

School Board Candidates:  Seven Candidates and Three Seats:

The News Tribune has begun coverage of the School Board Race; the election will be held on April 4, 2017.  Here is a link to their first article asking the candidates questions; six of the seven submitted responses:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2017/feb/19/six-vying-three-jcps-board-seats/662291/

Several public candidate forums are now scheduled.  See the Important Dates section below.  If you can, please plan to attend and learn first-hand about the candidates.  In 2015 the News tribune candidate forum was carried on JCTV and available on YouTube.  Hopefully that will be the case this year as well.


Puri Group Truman Hotel Project Approved:

The City Council of Jefferson City has given the final approval to ten years of tax abatements to the Puri Group for the Truman Hotel renovation that includes two new hotels and a restaurant.  Abated taxes include school property tax; library property tax; county property tax and more.  Their property tax bill is “frozen” at the current lowered level and will stay that way for ten full years.  The Assessor will continue to re-assess the property, but the bill will remain the same.  Interestingly, 2017 is the year that this type of Housing Authority tax abatement for the DoubleTree Hotel, also owned by the Puri Group, is finally off the books. 

You may recall last summer was spent on stopping the Puri TIF (tax Increment Financing) proposal that would have abated property taxes for up to 25 years (23 years for each of two hotels, built one after the other.)  The approved proposal is for 10 years as an “Urban Renewal Area Plan”.  Ironically, the property did not become blighted until the Puri Group purchased the property, shut the hotel down, and boarded it up, had its assessed value lowered and the property declared “blighted.”   During this very same time frame, other property owners have invested their OWN money into these developments:  Sunbelt Rentals; Southwest Animal Hospital; and Big O Tires.  The Frontier Building on Christy Drive (the other side of US 54 from the Truman Hotel) was recently purchased and is slated for major renovations for a medical office expansion. 

When the project was proposed to be a TIF the Puri Group stated it could only do the project with 25 years of abated taxes, now it can do the project with 10 years of abatements.  With more negotiations I wonder if eventually the Group might have proceeded using their own money.

Tax abatements in general do not have a supporter in the Governor’s Office – Governor Greitens has been quite vocal about taxpayers not subsidizing private development such as stadiums in St. Louis.  It is the Legislature that has enabled one taxing entity (cities) to abate the taxes of other entities such as counties, libraries and public schools.  It is the same Legislature that consistently fails to fund public education at levels the Legislature itself has declared as necessary for education.  This has, in my opinion, contributed to the decline of public education across Missouri (and the nation as every state permits some form of tax abatements.)   Property taxes are the primary source of income for most public schools and have traditionally been the most reliable source of funding.   When property taxes are “tampered” with through the use of abatements, the challenge of providing quality education becomes more difficult – textbooks (or their electronic equivalents) for 9,000 students in all subject areas are expensive; purchases continue to get deferred because of the big price tag. Then the decline in education is used as further justification for loss of additional funds by diverting them to Charters that have spotty records overall or for use by private schools with little or no legally required oversight of the public funds they get.

All of this also adds up to an additional burden for the average taxpayer – it is people like many of us – the proverbial “little guys” that are expected to make up the difference.  When people in Washington DC talk about “local control” they aren’t taking about reducing burdensome testing; they are actually talking about less funding and bigger local taxes or, in some cases, even shuttering public schools in favor of private schools.  And some of these “advocates” may even be invested in high profit, low performing Charters. 

So, I ask, just when people talk about their support for public schools, which ones mean it and which ones are just figuring out how they can get public money to support their investments?  And does it matter if it is a hotel in the Midwest or a Charter in New York, Washington DC, St. Louis or elsewhere?

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, February 27, 2017, 6:00 p.m. Presentation, 6:00 p.m. Work Session.    
Location: Dix Road Education Center (behind West Elementary School)

Tuesday, March 7, 6:00 p.m. News Tribune School Board Candidate Forum, Location:  City Hall, 320 east McCarty Street.

 Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
Last day to register to vote with your county clerk in order to vote in the April 4, 2017 election.  Cole County Clerk:  (573)634-9101; Callaway County Clerk: (573)642-0730.

 Monday, March 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting. 
Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 
Thursday, March 23, Time To Be Determined, Lincoln University Student Government Association School Board Candidate Forum, Richardson Auditorium.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m.:  Cole County Youth Day, Location: Jason Gym, Lincoln University.
_________________________________________________________________
Week in Review February 11 through February 17

Posted February 17, 2017

The school board held its regular meeting last Monday, February 13th at Simonsen 9th Grade Center.  Prior to the meeting Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum made a presentation regarding the upcoming bond and levy proposals for a second high school. 

Last week I shared some information about contracts up for vote on the 13th but was lacking some information.  Here is a brief recap of new information about those contracts with questions and related news:

 
 *   The Two High School Facility Project, Phase I:  A revised contract under the letterhead of Architects Alliance but covering all three architects engaged for the projects (ACI Boland and DLR Group in addition to Architects Alliance) delineating the projects was handed out in the middle of the meeting. What was authorized was a total of $214,000.00 for Phase I work, preliminary programming and schematic design work. JCPS will have to pay $64,000.00 of the actual total regardless of whether or not the bond issue passes.  Once the measure passes JCPS will pay the remainder, up to a total of $214,000.00.  The architects have already begun meeting with teachers from grades 9 through 12 to better understand their needs in the new high school and renovation of the current high school.  The community will see some of the architects work at the February 27 work session to be held at the Dix Road Education Center.
   
*   The Two High School Facility Project, Phase II:  This portion of the same contract requires an authorization IF the bond measure passes.  The major changes to the contract regarding somewhat capping total price and putting an expiration date on the contract.  JCPS attorney Penney Rector presented the changes.  The contract stated typical architectural costs for a new high school range from 6% to 6.5% of the construction costs and for a renovation, 7.5% to 8% of construction costs.  The contract also included a list of hourly fees for the job titles involved.  Ms. Rector had the contract revised to cap those charges at no more than 6.5% and 8%, respectively.  She further initiated a revision to limit the duration of the contract to three years from the April 4, election.  Previously, there was no end date for the 3 firms and JCPS partnership should the bond issue fail.  All construction aspects of the project are subject to competitive bidding and the bid results will determine the actual cost.  The estimate for construction only is $65.4 million for the new high school and $34.6 million for the current high school.  If those construction estimates are correct, the architectural fees would be no more than $4,251,000.00 and $2,784,000.00, or $7,035,000.00 total. 
   
*   Foresight, an Illinois company, to handle roofing work (the design, bidding and project management portion only) to be done at a portion of Simonsen 9th Grade Center; the Food Services Building; and a portion of Thomas Jefferson Middle School.  Foresight’s fee will be $23,772.00.  Foresight has previously prepared a roofing inventory and assessment of roofs and managed other roofing projects.  The actual roof repairs will be subject to competitive bidding.
   
*   A contract with Carrier to perform “Slide Valve Inspection” and work was approved.  The chiller, located at Simonsen 9th Grade Center is a piece of equipment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The regular meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.  The Board then went into a Closed Session lasting about two hours.  One vote was taken on an agenda item.

School Board Work Session February 27:  Architects to Present More Information:

The School Board will meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Dix Road Education Center, the main agenda item for the open session will be the two high school proposal with updates from the architects engaged to prepare preliminary schematics for both locations.  (See link below for ballot presentation times and locations)

Candidate Forum Season:

On April 4, 2017, the public will not only be asked to vote for modern facilities and classroom resources, they will be faced with choosing from seven candidates to fill three school board seats.  The terms will run three years and possibly change the direction of the school board.  On Thursday, February 16, the first public candidate forum for school board candidates was held.  The Forum, held at the Bones Banquet Room, was co-sponsored by the Jefferson Democrat Club, the Capital Women’s Political Caucus (a bipartisan group) and the American Association of University Women (a non-partisan group).  The moderator was Peg Cochran, former teacher, retired Executive Director of the Missouri National Education Association, and President of the Capital Women’s Political Caucus. 

Candidates Present (listed in ballot order) were:  Lori Massman, Steve Bruce, Scott Hovis, J. Don Salcedo, Paul Graham and Victoria Sterling.   One candidate, Joshua Harmon, was absent.

Candidates were given three minutes for an opening statement and one minute to respond to questions followed by a one minute closing statement.  The questions, some that came from the audience on index cards, are paraphrased here:

   *   What is the number one priority you will work on if elected?
   *   You are in an elevator at the Capitol and Governor Greitens and his education advisor.     *    *   What are you going to say to them in the 30 seconds you have together?
   *   The school foundation formula (hoe Missouri allocates funding to school districts) has been cheapened when the formula was re-written in 2005 and 2016 so that fully funding it will take $45 million more than allocated to K-12 education instead of the $800 million needed through the original formula.  Now Betsy DeVos has been named Education Secretary and her agenda is school vouchers, charters and public funding of private schools.  How are we going to keep more money from being funneled away from public education?
   *   Discipline continues to be an issue as is communication about expectations for student behavior.  What are you going to do about it?
   *   There has been a movement of late to increase the nutritional level of meals in public schools.  Is this something you think is important?
   *   How strong is your support for the two high schools bond and levy issue?
   *   What is different this time from the bond issue of 2013?

 The candidate forum presented a good opportunity to hear differing opinions from the candidates.  I urge everyone to attend other forums and hear from them first hand.  It will take more for me than this one evening to make my decision about which three candidates will get my vote. 

My Thoughts on Candidate Forums and the Campaign Process:

When I ran for office in 2015, there were nine (9) organizations that invited all the candidates (five for two seats) to appear together and respond to questions. The News Tribune for several months asked candidates to answer emailed questions that ran in every Sunday newspaper.  Additionally, organizations like the Board of Realtors, the Jefferson City Chapter of the MNEA, and others asked us to complete questionnaires.  Residents emailed with questions of their own.  It was time consuming and rewarding all at once. 

Through the questions I learned what was important to others and appreciated the chance to help them decide whether or not I was the candidate for them.  I also had the opportunity to further define the short phrases on my campaign brochure.  In short, the process did not allow for magnificent generalities; people were looking for specifics. 

The specifics I ran on were these:  retain experienced teachers; build trust through transparency; and manage finances wisely.  My core beliefs were: teachers and students need a safe, supportive environment to foster learning; school board members must be transparent and accountable; and, community engagement is essential.  Because it was a competitive race, my positions were put in writing over and over again and handed out to voters.  Not a week goes by without me reviewing those promises and I try to live them every day with every action I take as a board member. 

In 2016, there were only two candidates for the two open positions.  Missouri law does not require school boards to hold an election when the number of candidates equals the number of positions.  Some think that makes it easier for those candidates.  It certainly is cheaper and more convenient.  However, I am really glad I had to face voters in person, on television and radio as well as in the newspaper.  By the time I was elected I felt quite certain about my beliefs and the direction I wanted to see JCPS go in the next few years.   And having been either the first or second choice of more than half the voters (if they voted for two candidates) I also felt my win came with a mandate; particularly since the candidate whose positions were closest to my own had a nearly identical vote total. 

The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues:

For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, February 20, 2017, 6:00 p.m.: 
City of Jefferson* Public Hearing regarding Truman Hotel Urban Renewal Plan.  Public Comment encouraged.  Location:  City Hall, 320 east McCarty Street.

Monday, February 27, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  School Board Work session. 
Location: Dix Road Education Center (behind West Elementary School)

 Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
Last day to register to vote with your county clerk in order to vote in the April 4, 2017 election.  Cole County Clerk:  (573)634-9101; Callaway County Clerk: (573)642-0730.

Monday, March 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting.  Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day
 for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

*The City of Jefferson is a separate and distinct local government entity apart from the Jefferson City Public Schools District.
___________________________________________________________________________

 Week in Review February 4 through February 11

Posted February 11, 2017

Super Bowl Sunday, A Big Day for America:

What impressed me even more than the game or the commercials was an interview on FOX television with Houston Texan defensive player J.J. Watt.  He spoke about the lasting influence his high school football coach had on him and how he would like to someday have that same positive influence on young people, perhaps by being a high school coach.  Later in the interview Watt spoke about teaming up with former first lady Barbara Bush to work on combatting illiteracy in Houston.  Here is a link to one of many online videos of their collaboration:  http://www.bushhoustonliteracy.org/barbara-bush-jj-watt-talk-strategy/

My takeaway from Super Bowl Sunday was this:  Yes, teachers make a difference!  Yes, what schools do is important! And, Yes, (public) education is important!  Teachers touch so many lives during their careers, sometimes two generations.  We all have fond memories of those special teachers who made a difference in our lives.  As a school board member I strive to squeeze out dollars in the budget for teacher supports, to make their calling to educate our youth just a little bit easier; to assure we have facilities with adequate space and resources to teach and learn; to provide a safe and nurturing environment for students and teachers.  In other words, a successful board provides the setting for the true heroes of education to be heroic. 

School Board Meeting Monday, February 13:

Major items on the agenda include contracts, described below.  The six contracts take up 92 pages of the 170 page open meeting packet received Thursday afternoon.  Here are some contract highlights:

   *   The Two High School Facility Project:  A contract under the letterhead of Architects Alliance but covering all three architects engaged for the projects (ACI Boland and DLR Group in addition to Architects Alliance) delineates the phases of the projects, division of duties and hourly charge per architect employee by job title and employer.  Phase I is the preliminary programming and schematic design work valued at $214,000; but only $64,000 would be paid prior to passage of the $130 million bond request by voters.  In exchange, the District agrees to retain the three architects for the job through multiple ballot requests.  Phase II would begin upon authorization by the District and would only come after voter approval.  The complete contract can be found in parts 2 through 4 of the Board packet (links at the end of this section.)
   *   A professional services contract with Architects Alliance for minimal renovations at three buildings.  The architects will provide design services, prepare construction documents, handle the competitive bidding process and generally manage the projects.  At Nichols 8 classrooms previously used by the State Technical will be slightly renovated for their new use; replacement of non-functioning water fountains.  At the High School an inactive heating unit in the fieldhouse concession stand will be removed along with some pipes and asbestos.  At Simonsen some walls, doors and windows will be moved.  All the projects will be minimal as two of the buildings will be undergoing major renovations should the bond measure be approved and the future use of Simonsen will also be affected.  Architects Alliance’s fee will be $40,125.
   *   Another contract with Architects Alliance for Thomas Jefferson Middle School is proposed.  The nature of the contract is similar in scope to the other school projects above.  The particular work to be done at TJ is to replace the wood floor in the gymnasium and possibly replace the wood bleachers.  Architects Alliance’s fee is estimated at $10,000.
   *   Foresight, an Illinois company, to handle roofing work (the design, bidding and project management portion only) to be done at a portion of Simonsen 9th Grade Center; the Food Services Building; and a portion of Thomas Jefferson Middle School.  Foresight’s fee will be $23,772.00
   *   A contract with Carrier to perform “Slide Valve Inspection” and work is proposed.  From information provided I cannot tell what that entails or which building is involved.  The contract lists the board offices on East Dunklin Street, but it is not clear to me if this is because Dunklin Street is the billing address or if it is the location of work to be performed.  Carrier’s fee will be $26,700.
   *   A contract with Provision Data Solutions is proposed for a wireless Network upgrade.  Provision Data Solutions is the low bidder for the work to be done; the amount is $319,133 and includes equipment and a five day training class. 

Contracts are in the last two portions of the board packet; links to the agenda and information are below.  Next week I will provide more information regarding contract details and board decisions.

Agenda link:  http://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib03/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/February132017Regular.pdf

Board Packet links:      http://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib03/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/February%2013%202017%20Part%201.pdf

http://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib03/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/February%2013%202017%20Part%202.pdf

http://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib03/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/February%2013%202017%20Part%203.pdf

http://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib03/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/February%2013%202017%20Part%204.pdf

In other business Monday, the Board will approve polices and hear annual reports from the Jefferson City Public Schools Foundation and from Project Lead the Way, our nationally certified science,  technology, and engineering program at the high school.  Following the open meeting, there will be a closed session to discuss individually identifiable personnel records and other records protected from disclosure by law.  The meeting packet for the closed portion of the meeting is approximately 100 pages. 

I urge anyone interested in how the District conducts business to review the meeting packets; come to the meeting; share thoughts with current board members; and ask school board candidates what discussion they would like to see and what they would do if elected.


Truman Hotel Tax Abatements are Again Under Consideration by the City of Jefferson:

Last year the Jefferson City Council* denied a TIF, or Tax Increment Financing District, for the Truman Hotel.  If granted it would have abated new taxes on the hotel property for 23 years for each of two projects.  The projects would have resulted in two hotels and a restaurant.  Major reasons cited for the denial were questions surrounding use of lodging tax for other hotels owned by the same set of corporations as own the Truman property and adverse effect of the tax abatements on the school district.  Now, the Jefferson City Housing Authority has declared the Truman property as blight based on a study paid for by the Truman property owners and recommended a 10 year abatement on new taxes for the same proposed projects.  The Jefferson City Planning and Zoning Commission has advanced the proposal.  The City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, February 20 at 6:00 p.m.  More information is available through Jefferson City at (573)634-6410.


Since the blight study was prepared, several things have changed in the area surrounding the Truman Hotel property:  Sunbelt Rentals opened; Big O Tires tore down the old movie theater and construct a large store; the Frontier Building has been purchased and will be open to a new organization following renovations.  None of that speaks to the area being blighted.  The negative impact to schools from abated taxes remains.  

Members of the public may comment in writing to the City or speak at the Public Hearing.   

On being a member of the school board:

Recently, during a discussion about the upcoming election of new school board members, I was asked by a concerned citizen to write about my perspective of the duties and responsibilities of a board member.   My perspective is colored by my experiences with other public bodies:  I served for four years on a Planning and Zoning Commission in another state with an even more open law than the Missouri Sunshine Law and I was a member of the Holts Summit Board of Aldermen (a city council for a small city).  Each of these bodies had differences in duties and scope of authority of the body.  There were many similarities:  each body and individual served and was responsible to the public and each was tasked with conducting business in the open.

The first duty of a public servant is a fiduciary duty – to protect the short and long term financial health of the organization.  All other duties relate back to that first duty:

   
*  Maintain a clear focus on the district purpose:  educating all students within its boundary area who do not elect to seek education elsewhere.  This focus can become muddled through federal and state regulations written by non-educator legislators; lack of stable financing from those legislators; a loss of local tax dollars through abatements; and failure of the district to maintain continuity of leadership direction through changes in board and administration.
 
 *   Connect with the stakeholders in the community:  Surprisingly, this has been a major bone of contention on the school board.  I do not see how the board can serve the community and not engage with the community, yet it has been an issue in some quarters when I have explained my votes or spoken to groups (as an individual, not as a representative of the district) about issues in the news.  It is important, in my opinion, to provide explanations when asked and to express support for the district in one’s own words and in one’s own way.   Having run on a platform of transparency this is a core value of mine.   Understandably, I remain disappointed the board voted against streaming of meetings by a 5 to 2 margin in March 2016.  Another disappointment has been lack of board support for expanding the public comment period of meetings; currently it is limited to agenda items only.  This leaves members of the public unable to speak to the board about issues they may not be aware of or understand their importance to segments of the community.
   
*   Supervise the Superintendent of Schools:  only one employee, the Superintendent, reports directly to the board.  The board provides direction for the district; the Superintendent carries out that direction.  Direction is provided through board votes; documents such as policies; a comprehensive plan; the budget; evaluations; district professional development plans; and the meeting agenda. 
   
*   Oversight:  monitoring district performance in all areas is the job of the board.  Too often some will suggest this monitoring is “micromanagement”; I consider accountability and course corrections, when needed; as a vital part of being a board member.
   
*   Taking responsibility:  The board, although made up of seven individuals, bears a collective responsibility for both its actions and its inactions as a board.  One way to be responsible is to review all materials before a meeting; refuse to vote on matters if sufficient time or discussion has not taken place; hold work sessions to prepare/review/revise governing documents to provide direction; to engage the public as individual members as well as part of the board in meetings; and, to ask questions repeatedly until answers are provided.  The public holds all members responsible and accountable every election, as is their right and responsibility.   
   
*   Be accessible:  whether through a website like this, Facebook; telephone; or email, it is my belief all elected officials should be accessible to stakeholders.  Local government and its officials should encourage citizen participation in the process and be respectful of those who disagree as well as to those who support our positions.  People don’t speak up unless they care and that should be praised even when ultimately we just agree to disagree.  I have learned much by listening and appreciate the time and effort of those who have shared their thoughts.

Many of the points above are courtesy of the Missouri School Boards Association documents and I thank them, even when we disagree on what those points mean.  In particular, I take exception to their view limiting communication between the public and the school board and their very limited view on board members sharing their individual opinions.  I believe you can disagree with a board decision and still respect that decision.  Here a link to the public portion of their website where they provide resources for candidates.  http://www.msbanet.org/board-development/board-members/board-candidates

The Bond and Levy Ballot Issues:

For more information about the proposed $130 million brick and mortar bond request and the levy increase for operational needs, please visit the JCPS website at http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966 the site includes a listing of public information presentations scheduled around the District.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, February 13, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting. 
Location:  Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

 Monday, February 20, 2017, 6:00 p.m.: 
City of Jefferson* Public Hearing regarding Truman Hotel Urban Renewal Plan.  Public Comment encouraged.  Location:  City Hall, 320 east McCarty Street.

Monday, February 27, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  School Board Work session. 
Location: Dix Road Education Center (behind West Elementary School)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
Last day to register to vote with your county clerk in order to vote in the April 4, 2017 election.  Cole County Clerk:  (573)634-9101; Callaway County Clerk: (573)642-0730.

 Monday, March 13, 6:00 p.m.: Regular Board Meeting. 
Location:  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day
 for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

*The City of Jefferson is a separate and distinct local government entity apart from the Jefferson City Public Schools District.

___________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review January 28 to February 3
Posted February 3, 2016


This past week there were no meetings of the Board of Education (school board).   The next board meeting will be February 13th at Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

Speech and Debate – Capital Classic Tournament

Friday afternoon, January 27 and all day Saturday, January 28th, the Jefferson City High School Speech and Debate Club hosted the Capital Classic Debate/Forensics Tournament.  Some of the best and brightest high school students around the state competed.  The event, coordinated by high school debate and forensics team and faculty advisor Jordan Hart, had hundreds of volunteer students and judges from the greater Jefferson City area.  Events like this showcase positive aspects of JCHS and high quality education available.  The respect and cooperation competitors showed each other was an inspiration.  I was proud to have been able to participate; it was a hands on opportunity to see what education is all about. 

Nichols Career Center Open House

On Thursday, February 2nd, Nichols Career Center hosted an Open House for the community to celebrate 40 years of being the area career center.  Over 600 students from 11 area public and parochial high schools attend Nichols half a day for programming in eleven industry recognized and credentialed fields.   In the 2015 – 16 school year, 98% of students went into jobs or continued their education at the college level upon graduation.  Nichols could accommodate even more students given more room.  It is my personal hope that will come to pass.  For more information visit www.nicholscareercenter.org

Update:  The Two High School Bond Issue

This past week a citizen committee, Citizens Investing in J + C, was formed to promote the $130 million bond issue to build a second high school and renovate the existing high school as well as promote the levy increase for resources across the entire district.  Look for them to publish information between now and the April 4, 2017 election.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, February 13, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting. 
Location:  Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

Monday, February 27, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  School Board Work session.  Location: Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
Last day to register to vote with your county clerk in order to vote in the April 4, 2017 election.  Cole County Clerk:  (573)634-9101; Callaway County Clerk: (573)642-0730.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

___________________________________________________________________________​


Week in Review January 21 to January 27
Posted January 27, 2017


KLIK Sunday Morning Roundtable:
This past Sunday, January 22nd, I was a guest on the Sunday Morning Roundtable hosted by Marc Ellinger and Brad Bates.  I was there as an invited individual member of the school board, I was not there as a spokesperson for either the board or the District (a point made clear at the beginning of my participation.)  During the hour we discussed the merits of one high school versus two; space needs across the district; streaming of meetings (the board voted this down in March 2016 by a vote of 5 to 2); whether or not the public can videotape public meetings and stream meetings through Facebook live (yes, they can); and when the election is (April 4th.)

On Monday,
January 23rd, the school district hosted a meeting at East Elementary School.  Tours of the school were conducted followed by a presentation by Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum about space needs in the district.  A question and answer period followed the presentation to about 50 people.  About ten people posed questions with most of the concerns requesting further details about the proposed second high school.  Other questions were about the specifics of resources to be provided by the operating levy increase and elementary school redistricting affecting East, Thorpe Gordon and Moreau Heights Elementary Schools.  Although it was posted as a school board meeting, no business was conducted by the board.

At the
next regular board meeting, on February 13, the district will again start the meeting with an informational session to be held at the Simonsen 9th Grade Center. 

For More Information about April 4, 2017 ballot questions:
Future presentations around the community are scheduled as separate and distinct from board meetings.  For more information about the bond measure seeking $130 million to construct a second high school and completely renovate the existing high school; and the increased levy for operations, the district has compiled information at this web address:  http://www.jcschools.us/Page/9966   
A link to the listing of times and places when there will be community presentations can be found here:  http://www.jcschools.us/Page/15293
Additional links can be found through the District web site home page:  www.jcschools.us  you may also contact the District office of School-Community relations through amy.berendzen@jcschools.us  and request a presentation for your group.  The Jefferson City Public Schools general information phone number is (573)659-3000.

 
Decision time is fast approaching
In 67 days from today, we will all (I hope) be going to vote for candidates and ballot issues.  Decision time is clearly upon us and there is much to learn, absorb and decide.  The district has hired consultants to conduct surveys over the years.  Going back to the earliest one I found, in 2006, they all clearly indicated the community wanted two high schools.  Yet this is still an issue for many people.  Hopefully the desire to see one or two schools will not override the need for our community to address the issue by doing something.  Continued debate will not stall the need for space.

As a baby boomer I experienced first-hand what it meant to attend overcrowded schools in the community where I grew up.  When re-districting hit as a new elementary school opened, it meant I no longer attended the same school as the friends who lived across the street; I attended a different school in a neighborhood I did not know and with kids who already had friends.  When I entered junior high it was a grade 7 and 8 school that was so crowded we were on split sessions; I was done for the day hours before my parents came home from work.  During the two hours of the day when the two grades overlapped, getting from one class to another was a nightmare due to having more students in the hallways than could be accommodated.  We moved in a wave more than as individuals.  But still, I received a quality education and look back fondly on teachers who made a positive difference those years.  But I still would like better for your children and my grandchildren.

A companion piece to the facility and resources issues is the three school board seats and which three of seven candidates will fill those positions.  Who will you trust to oversee the district for the next three years?  Will it be candidates who will continue the present course?  Candidates who will seek change through oversight?  Candidates with priorities that align with your priorities? 

In the upcoming days candidate forums will likely be scheduled through community organizations, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait.  Your group or organization can invite candidates; you can contact candidates individually.  (When I was a candidate I was grateful for any opportunity to speak to voters and concerned citizens.  I still am.)  Candidates are seeking a position of trust in the community, giving an indication of why they are worthy of that trust is part of seeking your votes.  With seven candidates this election has the potential to change the face of the board.  Make your choices informed choices.   

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, February 13, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting. 
Location:  Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

Monday, February 27, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  School Board Work session. 
Location: Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017:
Last day to register to vote with your county clerk in order to vote in the April 4, 2017 election.  Cole County Clerk:  (573)634-9101; Callaway County Clerk: (573)642-0730.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day
 for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.
_________________________________________________________________Week in Review January 14 through January 20, 2017

Posted January 20, 2017

The school board met on Thursday morning, January 19, 2017 to certify the ballot for the April 4, 2017 election.  There are seven candidates vying for three seats.  Additionally, there will be a bond request and an operating levy request on the ballot using language approved at the January 9, 2017 school board meeting.  Below is how these items will appear on the ballot:

School Board members:

Voters may choose three candidates to fill the seats currently occupied by Ken Theroff and John Ruth (who are not running for re-election) and Steve Bruce.  The candidate names will appear in this order:

                       
Lori Massman
                        Steve Bruce
                        Scott Hovis
                        J. Don Salcedo
                        Joshua Harmon
                        Paul Graham
                        Victoria Sterling


 Order of candidate names on the ballot is determined by when they file.  Candidates who file on the first day possible (before 3:00 p.m.) draw a number and order is determined by lowest number appearing first progressing to highest number.  After that opening “lottery” is over, names are added to the list in order of filing. 

 With so many candidates, there are likely to be a number of candidate forums and newspaper coverage where everyone can learn about the candidates and their positions on issues. 

Bond Proposition for High School Needs:

 
This proposition will be formally named in upcoming literature to help identify it from other measures that may be on the ballot depending on which part of the District you reside:

“Shall the Board of Education of the Jefferson City School District borrow money in the amount of $130,000,000 for the purposes of acquiring, constructing, renovating, furnishing, and equipping schoolhouse sites, buildings and related facilities, including additions and renovations to the existing high school and construction of a new high school, and issue general obligation bonds for the payment thereof?  If this proposition is approved, the adjusted debt service levy of the District is estimated to increase $0.65 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property from $0.2528 to $0.9028 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property.” 

Voters will be asked to vote either
YES or NO.  In order to pass, a 4/7 (57.14285%) majority must vote yes.  As a campaign committee is formed, materials promoting the issue will become available.  The school district may provide information, but actual promotion of the issue through pamphlets, signs, etc., will NOT involve public tax dollars.  The campaign committee will raise its own funds and file the necessary campaign finance reports with the State of Missouri.

Proposition to Provide Education Resources:

Like the bond issue discussed above, this measure will have a name in upcoming literature and its promotion will be handled the same way.  The measure ballot language is as follows:

 
“Shall the Board of Education of the Jefferson City School District be authorized to increase the operating tax levy by $0.45 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation for the purpose of paying general operating expenses of the District, including costs associated with operating a new high school and other facilities of the District?  If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the District is estimated to be $3.8900 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.”

Voters will be asked to vote
YES or NO.  In order to pass, a simple majority (50% plus one) of voters must vote yes.  

Boundary Line Meetings:

This past week, two more meetings were held to discuss small area boundary line changes involving East, Thorpe Gordon and Moreau Heights Elementary Schools.  Based on current enrollments on December 21, 2016, it is projected that next August 66 fewer students would attend East.  Thorpe Gordon would increase enrollment by 57 students and Moreau Heights would see a net increase of 9 students.  Two additional teachers would be added to Thorpe Gordon to staff two classrooms.  This would keep class sizes at Thorpe Gordon about the same size as now.  Some grades would see 2 to 3 more students per class, the two grades where a teacher is added would see average class sizes reduced.

At the meetings attended by parents, staff, and concerned citizens, a question and answer period followed the presentations.

Upcoming Meetings of the School Board:

The board is holding meetings at locations around the district and holding informational presentations in conjunction with the meeting as an opportunity for the community to learn about facility and space concerns as well as to have interaction between the board and community.  I encourage everyone to come, ask questions and communicate with the board.  As always, I value the input you provide to me through email, telephone calls and in person. 

A final note about the Week in Review and the posting January 13:

The postings are, as stated on the Home page and at the bottom of every page, an expression of my perspective, what is important to me and what I consider important to communicate.  Those of you have been reading from the beginning may recall that this website was born out of a question at the News Tribune sponsored candidate forum the week before I was elected.  News tribune Editor Gary Castor asked how I planned to keep people informed after taking office if elected.  My response was that I would convert my campaign website into an information one and provide regular updates.  My answer to that question that I did not know was coming is one I have never regretted. 

This opportunity to share what has happened, the joys, victories, and quite often the frustrations, has been a blessing to me.  The response I have received has been overwhelmingly positive and I have learned a great deal from comments and questions.  Seeking out answers and having to think about issues from a different perspective has made me a better board member.  Through this site I have sought to hold myself accountable to you, the stakeholders in this district, the same stakeholders who elected me based on the promises I made during the course of nine candidate forums and weekly newspaper questions during campaign coverage.

I do have regret this:  last week I posted what I thought I heard in a meeting and followed it with a sentence that should not have been in the same paragraph.  The person whose statement I reported me informed that what I thought I heard was not what was said and what I reported in error caused distress.   Although I have apologized verbally, in writing and in the corrected post, one more comment is in order.   I in no way intended to report an incorrect statement nor did I wish to cause anyone distress. 

 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, January 23, 2017, 5:30 p.m. tour of East Elementary School; 6:00 p.m. community presentation; 6:30 p.m. Open Forum Question and Answer period. 
Location:  East Elementary School Gymnasium.  All members of the public are invited.

Monday, February 13, 2017, 5:30 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting. 
Location:  Simonsen 9th Grade Center.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day
 for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.


_________________________________________________________________

Week in Review January 7 through January  13
Posted January 13, 2017  
corrected January 15, 2017 1:15 p.m. see below


On Monday, January 9 the school board held a meeting at Thomas Jefferson Middle School.  The evening started with a 5:30 p.m. presentation about the proposed second high school and renovations at the current high school by Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum and Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman.  Following the presentation and some public questions, answers and comments, the formal meeting began with another public comment period.  About 200 people were in attendance in the early part of the meeting.  The public portion ended at 10:00 pm.  Following that the board met in closed session to discuss legal matters and personnel matters until 11:00 p.m.  Below are some highlights of the public meeting:

Choosing architects:

The first issue to be decided by the board was the choice of architects.  (At the December 22 meeting Superintendent Linthacum indicated his preference was to select Architects Alliance of Jefferson City and ACI Boland of the Kansas City Area.  Both firms have worked for the district before.  No decision was made December 22 as the board had not been provided information, and by a vote of 4 to 3 the decision was moved to the January 9 meeting.   Voting against the delay was John Ruth, Ken Theroff and Lorelei Schwartz.)

On Monday night Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman presented the recommendation that three firms be selected:  Architects Alliance of Jefferson City, ACI Boland of Kansas City and DLR Group of Overland Park, Kansas.  Upon questioning, he indicated he spoke to many of the firms and cited Architects Alliance and ACI Boland as being familiar with JCPS through their past work with the district.  Michael Couty then mentioned news reports regarding an ACI Boland employee who carried out a 10 year embezzlement scheme netting $5,293,300.00. (Link to guilty plea article: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/crime/article93328702.html#storylink=copy ) Michael Couty also reminded the Board that when JCPS hired a new auditor this past year the firms requesting consideration were interviewed by the Audit Committee, a board committee with three board members as well as finance staff serving. 

I too expressed procedural concerns and questioned adherence to our Policies.  Superintendent Linthacum was quick to interrupt with his interpretation of Policy FEB Selection of Architectural, Engineering and Land Surveying Services which, he stated, was affirmed by the Missouri School Boards Association.  However, it was clear MSBA was only consulted about a portion of the policy.   There is another policy that governs this topic:  BBA School Board Policies and Duties.  Both policies make it clear that the responsibility for these decisions lies with the board.  For example, FEB states (this is the section I read aloud in the board meeting):
“The Board, in consultation with the superintendent or designee, shall analyze the data received and list the top three qualified firms…”   At that point several members of the board jumped in to say we (the board) should have faith in Administrative staff and go along with their recommendation without question.  They went on to state what I call oversight and exercising my duties, they consider micromanaging.  Steve Bruce interjected a comment about the importance of having a 7 to 0 vote. 

Despite the interruption, I proceeded to make comments but got no helpful replies I disclosed having had contact with two firms:  one contact was indirect through a connection in common; the other was from someone I had contact months ago regarding a non-architectural matter.  That person then called me to see what was going on.  Both contacts had the common theme of things were not being done in a way the firms were used to.  I learned that 80% to 90% of the time it is customary for the board to interview firms in a public setting.  This accomplishes several things: the public gains confidence from hearing details; the transparency builds trust; and the board comes together through the process. 

Correction:    Ms. Scwartz has informed me that she did NOT contact any architectural firms as part of her due diligence, she contacted a contractor to assist her.  My apologies for the error.   I did not contact firms as I was concerned about inadvertently creating potential liability through expressing individual thoughts to a firm that may or may not be granted a contract with the school district.  This was reinforced when one of the firms who contacted me indicated they were under the impression the decision had been made before the request for proposals was sent out.  Six firms responded and five of them had experience with the type of project we are considering. 

When the vote was called the final vote was 5 to 2 to go along with the staff recommendation to hire three firms.  Voting “no” was Michael Couty and me.    

 
A revised operating expenditure ballot question:

Per Administrative Staff, the bond request remains at $130 million to build a second high school and renovate the current high school.  This translates to an additional 65 cents for every $100 of assessed valuation of real estate and personal property, payable through your annual property tax bills.  As the debt is repaid the district would have the ability to return to voters and ask for permission to build additional schools every four to six years without asking for more tax increases.   In essence, instead of repaying the entire debt in 20 years, the district would have the ability to keep the amount of debt the same, much like people who get a new car every time a car loan is paid.  Taxpayers continue to pay debt service as long as there is debt.  When debt is no longer there, the tax burden is reduced.

The second request of voters is for an operating levy that would continue forever.  It will take an additional 25 cents per $100 of assessed property taxes to pay additional expenses for operating a second high school.  While most of the staff and administration would come from existing staff, some new teachers and coaching staff would be needed.  An additional 20 cents is being requested to meet overall operational needs across the district.  Those needs are for textbook, technology and staff for the most part.  The total increase in operational costs is 45 cents per $100 of assessed value payable through your property tax bill.  (Note this is 10 cents less than previously requested.)  Operational levies once approved stay in place until such time as no longer needed.  Unless there is a large drop in student population, that is not expected. 

East School:

At the meeting, just as at the meeting held at Lewis and Clark Middle School on December 22, many members of the public came forward to request the board consider adding an elementary school to the bond request.  East Elementary School has been overcrowded for many years despite having a trailer for two classrooms.  The district bought land in 1967 and again in 2011 to build an additional elementary school on the east side of Jefferson City.  Since the 1967 purchase, the district has built five additional elementary schools, none of them on the east side.  Again and again boards of education have consistently found other needs in the district more pressing than alleviating overcrowding at East Elementary School.  East also has some of the lowest test scores and the most students per classroom in the district.  Also speaking were those who felt addressing the elementary concerns on the east end of the district would either complicate the bond request or that now is not the time.  In total, about 50 members of the public commented as part of the two presentations or during the board meetings that followed on December 22 or January 9.  Overall, those speaking in favor of adding an elementary school outnumbered those who were against it or neutral. 

What was decided for the ballot questions:

On a motion by Michael Couty and second from me, the request to add an elementary school to the high school projects was defeated by a vote of two to five.  Voting against adding an east side elementary school were Steve Bruce, Ken Theroff, John Ruth, Rich AuBuchon and Lorelei Schwartz.

Given that JCPS went to such great lengths to encourage public input and that input was overwhelmingly in favor of adding an elementary school to the ballot language, I was disappointed that the board felt it was in the best interests of East School to defer a permanent solution until approximately 2021.  

Returning to the motions for the high school projects, the vote was unanimous.  That there is a need for space at the high school level is without a doubt.  That there are also other needs is also without a doubt to me.  That the ballot language does not include everything I think is needed is not reason enough for me to work against getting letting voters decide the high school question.  And a portion of the levy money is to be spread across the entire district so that text books (either paper or electronic) can be purchased.  I was shocked several months ago to learn it has been 10 years since there was a true textbook replacement program in our district.  This is shocking.

Another note about the April ballot:

In addition to asking voters for money for buildings and resources, on April 4th voters will have the opportunity to elect three school board members.  Board President John Ruth and Board Treasurer Ken Theroff are not seeking re-election; Board Vice President Steve Bruce is seeking a second term.  Thus far seven candidates have filed for office.  They represent a variety of backgrounds and governance philosophies.  It is my hope there will be wide spread news coverage and many candidate forums as there were in 2015.  I also hope that voters make their selections carefully as this election has the ability to either preserve or fundamentally change the board.

With a $130 million project that could pass and decide what kind of school the next three or four generations attend, I ask you, what kind of school board do you want?  One that thinks anything beyond superficial questions is micromanaging?  One that feels the board must act on faith?  Or do you want a board with a majority of members prepared and asking enough questions to trust through verifying?  One that does not fear questions, one that believes the best answers can be found through polite discussion?  What kind of board do you want?  The choice of the direction of the Jefferson City Public School District is on the ballot April 4. 

Elementary Boundary Lines:

Superintendent Larry Linthacum revealed information at the January 9 board meeting regarding how small shifts in boundary lines could drastically alter the overcrowding situation at East Elementary School next year.  This was also the only topic of a meeting held at East Elementary School on January 12. 

By shifting students who live on East Dunklin Street and at the former Broadmoor Apartments on Ellis Boulevard around the populations of schools could change significantly.  Here are the numbers presented to those attending the meeting at East:

SCHOOL                                  CURRENT STUDENTS             POST CHANGE ENROLLMENT

East                                         403                                          337

Thorpe Gordon                        289                                          346

Moreau Heights                      354                                          363

________________________________________________________________________

What was not part of the presentation was mention of building capacities.  As part of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee work, architectural firm ACI Boland evaluated all schools in the district and determined their student capacity.  With the trailers currently at East (that house two first grade classes, the capacity was 387.  IF the trailers are removed, as Dr. Linthacum has proposed, the capacity of East would also drop by about 40 students in my estimation.  This would only leave a 10 student “cushion” at East, if my estimate is correct.

The capacity at Thorpe Gordon was stated to be 340 students.  The boundary line change would put them over capacity.  The Moreau Heights enrollment would remain under the capacity of 437 students. 

There will be informational meetings at both Thorpe Gordon and Moreau Heights next week.  Parents and interested members of the public may attend.  The board is expected to vote on the boundary line changes in a future meeting.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017:  Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017, 6:30 p.m.:
Discussion of proposed boundary line changes involving East, Thorpe Gordon and Moreau Heights Elementary Schools, Location:  Thorpe Gordon Elementary School Gymnasium.  A question and answer period will follow Dr. Linthacum’s presentation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017, 7:30 p.m.:
Discussion of proposed boundary line changes involving East, Thorpe Gordon and Moreau Heights Elementary Schools.  Location:  Moreau Heights Elementary School Gymnasium.  A question and answer period will follow Dr. Linthacum's presentation.

Thursday, January 19, 2017, 7:00 a.m.:  Special Meeting to 
certify the ballot for candidates and issues to be on April 2017 ballot.  7:00 a.m. Location: 315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 23, 2017, 5:30 p.m. presentation of proposed bond and levy ballot questions; 6:30 Special School Board Meeting start time, public may speak to agenda items only including facility needs. 
Location:  East Elementary School Gymnasium.

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

___________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review December 31, 2016 through January 6, 2017
Posted January 6, 2017


 The school board will hold its Regular January meeting at Thomas Jefferson Middle School on Monday, January 9, 2017.  The meeting will start at 5:30 p.m. with a presentation about the high school projects from Superintendent Larry Linthacum and Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman.  The regular meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m. with a public comment period.   The Board is expected to vote on the ballot requests proposed by Dr. Linthacum.  The first request is to borrow $130 million:  $90 million would be spent to build a second high school serving grades 9 - 12; $40 million to renovate the current high school to serve grades 9 - 12; each school would serve 1,500 students.  The debt repayment for the brick, mortar and furnishings would be financed by raising property taxes 65 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. 

A second ballot issue request to raise property taxes by 45 cents to operate the second high school and provide resources for the entire district.    This is a 10 cent reduction from the presentation made on December 22.  No explanation for the change has been provided to the Board.  Ballot language is on the agenda for approval at the January 9 meeting.

Second High School Project costs:

Nearly every day at least one person asks me about the cost figures for the high school project.  ($90 million cost for the second high school and $40 million for the existing high school renovation.)  Using information provided by Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman, I decided to do some calculations for the second high school:

   *   Allow 181.9 square feet per student  (this allows for cafeteria, rest rooms, hallways, common areas)
   *   The second high school is to be built for 1,500 students
   *   272,850 square feet needed
   *   Average cost allowance is $266.67 per square foot (national figure cited by Mr. Hoffman)
   *   Construction cost total is $72,760,909
   *   Furnishings and contingency of 30% per ACI Boland report (2014) is $21,828,272.
   *   Over $90 million price tag

 Next, I looked at three projects completed in Missouri and Arkansas as described by architectural firm DLR in their Request for Qualifications proposal.  Note that all three of their projects included full athletic facilities and amenities not discussed by the Board or the Long Range Facility Planning Committee.  Construction costs may not be the same now as in the years these schools were built:

 1.   Battle High School, Columbia, Missouri completed in March 2013 at a cost of $69.9 million.  301,479 square feet for 1,850 students (162.96 square feet per student).  Cost per square foot = $225.14
 2.  Joplin High School, Joplin, Missouri completed in June 2014 at a cost of $115 million.  487,937 square feet for 2,500 students with possible expansion to 3,000 students.  (195.17 square feet per student at 2,500 students)  Cost per square foot = $235.69
3.   Fayetteville High School, Fayetteville, Arkansas completed in August 2015 at a cost of $80,850,000.  353,381 square feet for 3,000 students.  (117.79 square feet per student)  Cost per square foot = $228.79

Last, I recalculated figures.  If the actual cost per square foot for 272,850 square feet falls between $225.14 (Battle High) and $235.69 (Joplin High), construction costs would be reduced by $8,452,893.00 and $11,331,460.00, almost the price of an elementary school. 

The Board is to decide upon an architectural firm at the January 9 meeting.  In meeting packets made available on January 5, 2017, there is still no information as to how the firms Architects Alliance and ACI Boland came to be recommended by Superintendent Linthacum or what process was used. 

Renovation of Current High School Costs:

 The $40 million price tag is about the same as presented by the Long Range Facility Planning Committee to the public.  However, the Committee did not develop cost estimates, all financial figures were brought to the Committee by either ACI Boland (facilitator consultant to the Committee) or they were developed by JCPS and presented by Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman.  “Complete renovation” was never fully defined in writing.  What has been presented recently is this:  High School / Nichols Career Center renovations; site renovations; JCHS and NCC connection addition; one gym and locker rooms addition (FEMA safe room).  FEMA safe rooms are eligible for grants of up to 75% of costs IF applied for and received.

The Issue of Another East Side Elementary School:

At the December 22 meeting held at Lewis and Clark Middle School the board heard from 11 people who wanted the proposal to include building another elementary school on the east end of Jefferson City to alleviate overcrowding in grades K through 5.  Since then letters to the Editor of the News Tribune have expressed support for another eastside elementary school and a grassroots movement has taken hold. 

When the Long Range Facility Planning Committee made its recommendation to the School Board in November 2014, these needs were identified as immediate:

*   Build a second high school and renovate the current one so there would be two high schools for grades 9 – 12.
*   Decommission the Simonsen 9th Grade Center
*   Build a 400 student elementary school on the east side of Jefferson City
*   Add 10 classrooms onto Callaway Hills Elementary School
*   Redo boundaries for elementary school and, if needed, elsewhere

The Committee did not assign a priority to the recommendations, they were all identified a “current needs.”

It should come as no surprise that some in the community view the identified needs as equal.  From a historical perspective, the District bought land on the east side of Jefferson City in 1967 for an elementary school and did not use it.  Land was again purchased in 2011 and sits vacant on East McCarty Street adjacent to Lewis and Clark Middle School.

Other business scheduled for the January 9 meeting:

 Discussion of East, Thorpe Gordon and Moreau Heights boundary lines; however, no information has been provided.

First Reading of Policies from the Policy Committee; final approval will take place in February.

Upcoming meetings will take place at several schools in the District.

A Closed Session to discuss legal action or litigation; individually identifiable personnel records; and, other records protected by law.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Candidate Filing continues on days school is in session, contact the Board Secretary at (573)659-3012 for further information  

Monday, January 9, 2017,  
5:30 p.m. presentation, 6:30 Regular School Board Meeting start time, public may speak to agenda items only including facility needs. Location:  Thomas Jefferson Middle School Cafeteria.

 January 17, 2017:  
Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 19, 2017, 7:00 a.m.:  Special Meeting to 
certify the ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.  7:00 a.m. at 315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 23, 2017,
5:30 p.m., East Elementary School Gymnasium

April 4, 2017:  
Municipal Election Day
 for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.


_____________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review December 24 through December 30, 2016

Posted December 30, 2016


About Procedures, Architects and Urgency
Let me start by saying there is no doubt in my mind that we have a space issue that is headed to the crisis point when our current 6th graders reach 9th grade.  Additionally many of our youngest students are in overcrowded elementary schools.  Our teachers and students do not have the tools and resources they need to be successful.  How we got to this point as a district is for another posting.  Now it is time we stopped asking our teachers to work with one hand (figuratively) tied behind their backs.  It is time we stopped expecting our students to be able to compete without providing texts, in either electronic or paper format.

At the December 22, 2016 special meeting of the Board of Education, selection of an architectural firm for the high school projects was deferred on a 5 to 2 vote as no information had been supplied to the board prior to or at the start of the meeting.  During the meeting Superintendent Larry Linthacum did distribute Board Policy FEBSelection of Architectural, Engineering and Land Surveying Services.  At the conclusion of the meeting I was supplied a copy of six architectural firm responses to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ).  The following day I was provided with the undated content of the RFQ that I was told was emailed to architectural firms around the state.  An RFQ seeks to find firms with the knowledge, team, experience and expertise to handle building a second high school and renovate the current high school all while education continues. 

The Board Policy FEB includes several statements of interest within the Policy:

    *    
“Selection shall be made on the basis of demonstrated competence and qualifications for the types of services specified by the district at a fair and reasonable price.”   The RFQ did not ask any pricing information such as hourly charges of the team that work on the high schools or other methods of determining compensation.
    *    
“The Board, in consultation with the superintendent or designee, shall analyze the data received and list the top three qualified firms.”   If any board member had reviewed the responses in the 27 hours between the submission deadline and the meeting, they did not disclose it.  Further, no review committee has ever been appointed. 

With a $130,000,000 project under discussion, isn’t this the time for strict adherence to policies?  Isn’t this the time to demonstrate what the work ethic of the district and board is?  Isn’t this the time to bring our “A” game?  With so much at stake, why would our Administration and Board Leadership want to cut out those legally responsible for oversight (the Board) from the oversight process?  Why is the atmosphere of urgency being used to circumvent a process previously approved by the Board?

Superintendent Linthacum did make a recommendation of firms to the board.  What he did not tell us was who reviewed the proposals; were the proposals scored; were references checked; or, was there contact with any of the firms to provide cost information? 

After reading the six submissions of qualifications I found five firms with extensive K – 12 experience and team members with an impressive number of years of experience and appropriate educational credentials.  Three of the firms had done work with JCPS in the past; another visited the 179 land previously purchased for a high school and the current high school and presented options for staging the work to meet our optimal timeline.  Two firms stated experience constructing classrooms to meet national Project Lead the Way (PLTW) standards; PLTW is the curriculum we use for science and engineering.  Both PLTW experienced firms mentioned grant availability for that program as well as other grant opportunities.  One of the firms listed recent experience with high school projects similar in size to the proposed new high school as well as larger projects.  Photographs were included.  The costs listed and square footage raised questions regarding our cost estimate – it would appear these other communities got a nice high school with more amenities than we are proposing for less money than we are asking for from voters.

In the RFQ sent out to architectural firms only six (6) copies of their proposals were requested.  This means that when the board next meets the board members will not all have had the same opportunity to review materials.  Speaking from my perspective, I see my role and the role of all board members is to be knowledgeable of all the opportunities before us and to make informed data driven decisions.  I could not proceed with deciding on an architectural firm (or firms working together) on December 22nd and I still can’t without knowing what costs are entailed for what services (some firms offer more services than others).

The magnitude of a set of projects of this size calls for an engaged board with members who are not rubber stamps.  Some board members have in the past been happy to vote on contracts not written or containing clauses potentially harmful to the district.  We cannot let that happen with a multi-million dollar project for buildings where many future generations will spend their high school years.

After reviewing the architectural qualification submissions I have questions as to why Administration selected two proposals over three other excellent ones.  Was it based on personal experience or some unknown other factor?  I cannot tell if cost was even considered.   Decisions made without objective measures in an atmosphere of urgency could lead to costly mistakes. 

Information should be presented in clear defined terms to every board member.  I should not have to “pull teeth” to get information.  And then, when I seek to discuss it with the full board during a meeting, all the members should know where I draw my questions from just as I should know the basis of their opinions because everything is transparent and open.  It is embarrassing to me to be at this point in the process of preparing a ballot issue and not have enough information to respond to basic questions from the public about how we are doing business as a district. 

I will continue to seek more information to be a good steward of district resources; that is what I consider being respectful of taxpayers being asked to vote for a 32% increase in the public school portion of their property taxes.  That is my clear expectation for myself.


UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Candidate Filing continues on days school is in session, contact the Board Secretary at (573)659-3012 for further information  

Monday, January 9, 2017,  
5:30 p.m. presentation, 6:30 Regular School Board Meeting start time, public may speak to agenda items only including facility needs. Location:  Thomas Jefferson Middle School Cafeteria.

 January 17, 2017: 
Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 19, 2017, 7:00 a.m.:  Special Meeting to
certify the ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.  7:00 a.m. at 315 East Dunklin Street.

April 4, 2017: 
Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

_________________________________________________________

Week in Review December 17 through December 23

Posted December 23, 2016

The Special Meeting of the school board scheduled for December 22 at 6:00 pm was moved to the Lewis and Clark Middle School cafeteria to accommodate a larger turnout and the time of the meeting was changed as well.  (See more about this towards the end of this posting.) Approximately 75 people were in attendance.  At 5:30 p.m. Superintendent Larry Linthacum and Jason Hoffman presented essentially the same information about the proposed bond issue as was presented at the December 12 school board meeting.  The request is for $130 million dollars to completely renovate the existing high school; build a second high school on Route 179 and Mission Drive raising taxes 65 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation of property; increase taxes by 25 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation to operate the second high school; and, increase taxes by an additional 30 cents per every $100 of assessed valuation to meet resource needs such as books, technology and staff at all other schools in the district.  The $130 million project costs require a 4/7 majority of voters to approve it; the two other requests totaling 55 cents when combined require a simple majority of voters to approve it.

A link to the December 12 presentation is here:  http://www.jcschools.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=270&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=20061&PageID=1

Following the presentation,
a brief question and answer session followed with several people speaking up.  Several people stated concerns relating to Jefferson City no longer being a good place to live because of our schools; they have become substandard.  The quality of education provided has slipped.  Young professionals would rather start their families in neighboring school districts and commute to work in Jefferson City.   (This appears to be true of some of our administrative staff as well.)   Another person asked the district to consider splitting the 55 cents for two different purposes (operating the second high school and improving resources for the entire district) into two separate questions.  (Later in the evening, when the board held its discussion, several board members were adamant they would not support the splitting of the needs into two questions.)

At 6:30 p.m. the special meeting of the board was called to order and members of the public in attendance could speak to the Board.  Thirteen people came forward with a letter from a 14th person read to the Board.  Those coming forward included two members of the Missouri House of Representatives; a Parent Teacher Organization President; a County Commissioner; a City Council member; a former Mayor; the State and local President of the NAACP; a religious leader; business leaders; a teacher; and other concerned citizens.  Each person’s comments were of equal value to me although some were speaking for their constituents as well as themselves.  No one spoke against the two high school proposal, eleven people spoke of the great unmet need for an elementary school on the East end of Jefferson City.  All the speakers made the point that unmet education needs are affecting us all in many negative ways leading to a less vital community.  Among points made were these:

 
 *  Trailers for classrooms pose a safety issue
 
 *   There is a substandard educational environment due to overcrowding at East Elementary School
   
*   We don’t have 3 to 5 years to wait for another elementary school, the opportunities to learn at the elementary level cannot be made up later
   
*  The community needs to attract young, mobile residents – the very same population that is having families and moving elsewhere because of our schools
   
*   JCPS paid 2.4 times per acre more than Columbia paid for their land purchased for Battle High School, both purchases were around the same time
   
*   It is always “next time” when it comes to the less fortunate
   
*   The time for East is always later; if overcrowding at the high school level is not OK then it also is not OK for elementary school students
   
*   East has been overcrowded since 1967
   
*   East Elementary School is the poorest in the district; it is the most diverse; and it is the poorest performing.  Bring those without a voice along in the plans to fix the district
   
*   Board meetings should be televised and available on You Tube   

Later in the meeting, the board discussed possible ballot language in light of comments from the public and continued the facility discussion.  Here are select highlights:

 
 *   Several board members were adamant they would not support splitting the operating levy question.  Nor did most board members want to add another elementary school to the proposal, but did ask CFO Jason Hoffman to determine how much it would cost and when it could be done without raising taxes.  That information will be available for the next meeting, on January 9, 2017. 
   
*   Superintendent Linthacum read off elementary school enrollment figures showing East School enrollment is fifth highest out of 11 elementary schools.  I then pointed out that the schools have different student capacities as determined by consultant ACI Boland in 2014 so enrollment numbers alone do not correlate to building overcrowding.
   
*   Linthacum stated the board Policy Committee is looking at creating a policy to address how the district reviews and re-draws boundary lines, something that could alleviate pressure at East School.  He was urged to not wait but to begin holding meetings with parents, school personnel and affected parties as soon as possible so that shifts can be made in time for the next school year.
   
*   A decision on selecting an architectural firm was delayed until January 9 as no information had been supplied to board members prior to the meeting.  The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) sent to architectural firms by the District, they were given until noon on December 21 to submit their proposals.  Board President John Ruth and Treasurer Ken Theroff were not in support of the delay.  At the conclusion of the meeting those board members wanting to review the proposals were given copies.  A copy of the RFQ was sent to us via email on December 23.

In other business the board heard from Lynn Graves, CPA and Lindsey Graves, CPA who conducted the
outside audit of district finances for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016.  This was their first year auditing the district.  The audit results were positive. 

   
*   There were recommendations regarding how the district depreciates assets, but in response to my question, this did not alter the financial picture of the district and the district adjusted its miscalculations. 
   
*   The district does not maintain strict segregation of duties.  Graves and Associates noted this is a common finding and the district has instituted mitigating controls.  The auditor identified this as a potential area of potential fraud, misuse or abuse.
   
*   Over 300 employees (JCPS has about 1,200 full time employees) have credit cards in their names and the name of the school district.  Some of those cards have a monthly charge limit in the “tens of thousands of dollars.”    The auditor recommended reducing the number of cards; increasing controls over credit cards statement review; and, reducing unnecessarily large credit limits.  

In my role as a representative of the taxpayers, I asked the auditors several questions.  This made some board members uncomfortable and they attempted to cut me off but I persisted.  The primary function of the school district is to educate and on a night when we discussed so many unmet needs, I would be derelict in my duties if I did not assure myself that we, the Board of Education, were doing everything we can to assure ourselves that when there are errors of any kind it is not the students and teachers of this district that do without and that it is not the taxpayers that pay the price. 

After the public portion of the meeting concluded, the board held a brief
closed session to act on two routine personnel matters. 

Here is a link to the
News Tribune report of the December 22nd meetinghttp://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/dec/23/two-high-schools-not-enough/654391/

A note about how communication flows to board members:  In my last Week in Review I noted the special meeting of the board was to take place on December 22 at the Board Office Building.   On Tuesday, December 20 the News Tribune in a front page story reported the meeting was going to take place at Lewis and Clark Middle School and the start time would be 5:30 for a presentation, not 6:00.  It was many hours later before any information was received from board President John Ruth.  As for an agenda, I received that Wednesday, December 21 when I picked up a hard copy of the audit report (an electronic copy was sent the prior evening.)  A listing of agenda items was not part of the email notification of the time and place of the meeting.  Not wanting to sit passively by, I made a request on Friday, December 16 regarding when we would receive board packets of information and an agenda. 

When the board is asked to vote on matters without everyone having information about an issue or the opportunity to review relevant materials, we become a rubber stamp board.  An effect is that there is no oversight and mistakes (sometimes costly ones) can be made.  This has been a problem since I first joined the board in April 2015.  I was asked to vote on contracts that were not part of the meeting packet and in one case the contract had not even be written.  At that time a good 20 minutes was spent by board members trying to convince me and fellow board member Michael Couty that we should proceed and approve the non-existent contract anyway.  Are things changing?   Perhaps, as only two board members wanted to select an architect for a $130 million dollar project on December 22 ND.   Perhaps they had access to the proposals; I did not. 

Board members should, in my opinion, only be asked to act on information received in advance except in the most extreme of emergencies.  It is not consistent with the fiduciary duties of elected officials to first and foremost protect all assets of the district and then ask the officials to authorize anything affecting those assets without sufficient time to read and reflect upon pertinent materials.  It is customary to give board members four days before a meeting to review packets.  That is a good minimum standard.   

In
other education news, here are links to recent news articles:

Some say superintendent contracts are too binding
http://www.demo-mo.com/2016/12/15/31626/some-say-superintendent-contracts.html

Schools say students could be charged as felons for bullying or getting into a fight http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/schools-say-students-could-be-charged-as-felons-for-bullying/article_1ae5e5a1-491a-5c43-b131-7e60fd474b59.html

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Candidate Filing continues on days school is in session, contact the Board Secretary at (573)659-3012 for further information  

Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Location: 
Thomas Jefferson Middle School.

January 17, 2017:  Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 19, 2017:  Special Meeting to certify the ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.  7:00 a.m. at 315 East Dunklin Street.

 April 4, 2017:  Municipal
Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.

________________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review December 10 through December 16

Posted December 16, 2016

The School Board held its regular meeting on Monday, December 12th.  Discussion of the outside audit of district finances was moved to Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. by mutual agreement between the audit firm and the District.  The board discussed the potential bond issue.  A link to Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum’s presentation is here:  http://www.jcschools.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=270&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=20061&PageID=1

Some key elements of information provided by either Superintendent Linthacum of in Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman’s presentation are as follows:

Construction costs:  $130,000,000 is being asked to finance the cost of constructing a new second high school to accommodate 1,500 students AND to renovate the current high school.  That will add 65 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to all property taxed within the district. 

Renovation of the current high school costs of $44,035,200 call for a connection between Nichols Career Center and the high school by adding an addition between the buildings; one additional gymnasium and locker rooms will be added to provide equity to girls and boys programs (the current high school was constructed prior to Title IX, the federal law requiring equal opportunity); the gymnasium will be also serve as a FEMA emergency shelter for tornado type emergencies, it will be a school wide safe shelter; the original heating system will be replaced; the building will have central air conditioning; window and doors will be replaced.  Classroom and site improvements are included.

The new high school will be a “traditional” building, not the campus approach rejected in 2013.  It will have gymnasiums and practice fields, but not another football stadium or other competition facilities.  Adkins field and the track will be District facilities shared by both schools.  There are no plans to build facilities currently available in the community.  The price tag for the new 1,500 student high school is $84,283,560. 

How were the construction costs calculated?  The explanation provided is predicated on the estimates prepared for the Long Range Facility Planning Committee in 2014 was correct.  My recollection as a member of that committee was that the numbers provided a basis for planning.  CFO Hoffman has calculated costs using planning magazine numbers and the Turner Building Cost Index (TBCI) to arrive at the new figures.   His premise is based on 181.9 square feet of building space per student (this allows for hallways, cafeteria space, bathrooms, etc.) times $266.67, the average cost per square foot to construct a high school in 2015.   The result is $72,760,910.  Using the TBCI inflation factor, this increases to $80,262,866.  When the TBCI adjustment is applied to the ACI Boland estimate for both schools, you get to $128,446,558.  It is still an estimate, no final costs can be determined until the new building is designed and both projects are put out for competitive bidding.  The bond requested will be drawn down in several phases which each phase paid back over 20 years.  Voters must be in favor of this request with a 57.14286% (or four sevenths) majority for it to be approved.

Operating Costs:  While a total of 55 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of all taxable property is being asked, it will not all go the operations of a second high school.  Administration has recommended combining two different sets of needs into one question for voters.  A simple majority (50% plus 1) of voters voting “Yes” will be needed to approve this measure.   

Second High School Operating Costs:  25 cents more per $100 value will be needed to pay the heat/air/light and maintenance costs of an additional building.  That same 25 cents will also pay for 27.5 additional teaching positions; support staff; additional stipends for coaches and activity staff; transportation and food service.  This is $2,823,353 per year.  Teaching staff aside from the 27.5 new positions will come from the Simonsen 9th Grade Center or the current high school as Simonsen will either be closed or re-purposed and the high school will have fewer students. 

K-12 Resources tax increase:  One million dollars annually would go towards digital and paper textbooks and professional development. $500,000 annually would go towards electronic devices in the K – 8 grades; these devices would remain in schools.  One million dollars annually would go towards a facility renovation fund.  With over half schools over 50 years old, renovations in addition to routine scheduled maintenance is required to keep buildings functional.  (This fund would be a contingency fund should state education funding cuts take place.)   About $480,000 annually would go towards truancy officers; alternative behavior setting supports; counselors and instruction coaches.  $100,000 would go towards pre-school programs at Callaway Hills Elementary School.  The thirty cents translates to $3,080,000 in K – 12 resources.

How are my current property taxes tax dollars for schools allocated?  Everyone paying property tax, those who reside or own real estate within the Jefferson City Public School boundary lines pays $3.69 per $100 of assessed value to the school district.  $0.2570 goes towards paying down existing debt (The Pioneer Trails Elementary building; full day kindergarten building additions; and energy efficiency heating units).  The remainder, $3.4358 goes towards operating the school district.

Construction Cost proposed ballot language“Shall the Board of Education of the Jefferson City School District borrow money in the amount of $130,000,000 for the purposes of acquiring, constructing, renovating, furnishing, and equipping schoolhouse sites, buildings and related facilities, including construction of a new high school and renovations to the existing high school, and issue general obligations bonds for payment thereof?  If this proposition is approved, the adjusted debt service levy of the District is estimated to increase $0.65 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property from $0.2528 to $0.9028 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation of real and personal property.”

Operating Cost Increase Proposed Language (Operating Levy Increase)“Shall the Board of Education of the Jefferson City Public School District be authorized to increase the operating tax levy of the District by $0.55 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation for the purpose of paying general operating expenses of the District, including costs associated with operating a new high school and other facilities of the District?  If this proposition is approved, the adjusted operating levy of the District is estimated to be $3.9900 per one hundred dollars of assessed valuation.”  

Was there anything notable about the Board Meeting discussion?  Yes, there were several things.  Administrative staff, Dr. Brian Shindorf (Director of K-6) and Dr. Tammy Ridgeway (Director of 6-12) spelled out for the Board just how dire the textbook (electronic and paper) situation is; a large order of texts has not been made for 10 years.  That was new information.  When I began board service (April 2015) I was told texts were not being ordered on a large scale as State standards were in flux and there is a need to assure texts are accurate and in alignment with standards.  Each month there has been some expenditure made to book publishers.  During the budget process when I made inquiries regarding needs I was told money is allocated for each school and they (the schools) determine how to best use those funds.

Another noteworthy happening at the December 12th meeting was that four people came forward to speak in favor of the potential bond issue; three were elementary school staff members.  This is the first time teaching staff members have addressed the school board since I have been on the board.  I hope to see that happen more often.

Open Forum:  From now until the April election, the Open Forum portion of school board meetings will allow for public comment regarding facilities.

Choosing an architect in case the bond issue is approved:   The school district notified architects around Missouri that JCPS will likely put forth to voters a bond issue for a second high school and invited them to submit their qualifications for board consideration.    At the Thursday, December 22nd meeting the board will choose a firm.

In other news this past week

The 79th annual Capitol Caroling was held on December 13th in the Capitol Building rotunda.  Approximately 300 students from the Simonsen 9th Grade Center and the High School participated. 

Planning for the 2017 Cole County Youth Day has begun.  This event brings together many nonprofits to plan and put on an afternoon of events for 5th through 8th graders and their parents.  I serve on the Resource Committee.  The event is scheduled for April 8, 2017.  This is a community led event open to all Cole County youth and all JCPS middle school students regardless of county of residence. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Candidate Filing continues on days school is in session, contact the Board Secretary at (573)659-3012 for further information  

Thursday, December 22, 6:00 p.m.  Special Board Meeting to approve architectural services, hear the independent auditor’s report and continue facilities discussion.  Public comment regarding facilities will be permitted. 315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

January 17, 2017:  Last day of
Candidate Filingfor April 2017 School Board election.

January 19, 2017:  Special Meeting to
certify the ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.  7:00 a.m. at 315 East Dunklin Street.

April 4, 2017:  Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues. Polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m.


__________________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review December 3 through December 9
Posted December 10, 2016

 
This past week there was a Policy Committee meeting; I met with Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum and Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman regarding high school space issues; and, I visited the two elementary schools using trailers for classrooms.  On Monday, December 12 the school board will hold its regular monthly meeting and discuss learning space concerns and consider asking voters to approve increased taxes to pay for building and operating an additional building and other needs. 

 
Time for a Second High School?

A second high school for Jefferson City Public Schools has been under discussion for decades.  Community support for a second school, as opposed to one very large school, has been consistent although not universal.  JCPS ranks as the largest high school in the state of Missouri when counting grade 9 – 12 student population.  A second school would still mean both schools have over 1,000 students each, actually closer to 1,300 each considering current enrollment numbers.   Boundary lines for these schools would be consistent with the two middle school boundaries.  Using demographic data required to be collected, the middle schools show boundary lines reflecting very similar characteristics regarding achievement, race and poverty in the student populations.  With students continuing on to high school from their middle school groups, they would have increased opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities as well as benefit from being in a smaller less crowded environment than the current 9th Grade Center or the current single high school.  The Simonsen 9th Grade Center could either be re-purposed or taken off line; it is over 100 years old.

 On Monday, December 12th, the school board will further discuss facility needs.  (Please see last week’s posting immediately below regarding the November 28 work session devoted to facility discussion and break out of potential tax increases.)   Earlier this week, on the 7th of December, I met with Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum and Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman to go over high school facility needs in greater detail.  He will present the information at the Monday board meeting and I will report more in next week’s
Week in Review

 Working on the premise that a second high school and complete renovation of the current high will cost $130 million, it would increase property taxes 66 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to pay that debt for the “bricks and mortar” only.   To operate the school, it would take another 25 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.  Operations costs are things like utilities and additional staff.  Most of the second high school staff would come from the existing high school and the Simonsen 9th Grade Center; both high schools would serve students in grades 9 through 12.  Additional staff are needed because more students will be in high school in two years; not all faculty can be evenly split and still provide current course offerings; programs such as music and band will need to be duplicated; stipends for coaching staff for all sports and activities advisors will also require duplication.  (Note that the plan does NOT call for building a duplicate athletic stadium, two schools can share Adkins Stadium and the track & field facility.)

The additional 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for K – 12 resources was broken down in broad terms by Mr. Hoffman.  The approximately $3.75 million generated per year would go towards funding instructional resources; technology (devices); facility improvements for the other buildings in the district; behavior/mental health supports; instructional coaches; expanded pre-school opportunities in the norther portion of the district; and towards maintaining reserve funds at 20% of the budget.  (As the district receives most of its funds in the December/January months as residents pay their property tax bills, reserve accounts are needed to assure there is money available year round for salaries and instructional supports.  The district budget year is July 1 through June 30.)

Asking for an increase in taxes in a community with 58% of students qualifying for free or reduced price meals based on family income presents challenges.  Our community also has many people without students in public schools.  The challenge will be to convince voters that everyone’s stake in a quality public education is great enough to vote for a tax increase that will call for personal sacrifices. 
 
Visits to Elementary Schools:

On Friday December 9th, I visited Pioneer Trails Elementary School and East Elementary School, the two schools with portable classrooms (trailers.)  I made the visits as part of my preparation for deciding on whether to proceed with asking voter to approve the high school request as opposed to another elementary school at this time.  Accompanying me on the visits was Dr. Brian Shindorf, Director of Elementary Education.  At each school the primary person met with was the building principal.

 Pioneer Trails Elementary School has a student population of 559 students in 26 classrooms, two of those in a trailer behind the building.   Class sizes range from 19 to 25 students each, with the average in the 21 to 22 range.   Gathering in common areas presents issues as no area is large enough to accommodate all students and staff and student drop-off and pick-up are each a 30 minute process.  Additionally, getting that many people fed in the allotted lunch time is a well-coordinated feat.   Because of the design of the building with classrooms in three pods, it does not feel crowded when students are in their classrooms.  Each pod houses 8 classrooms with two classrooms in the trailer outside the pod housing other students in that grade level.   Pioneer Trails was designed for 538 students and no trailer. 

 At East Elementary School there are now about 400 students in 20 classrooms; two of those classrooms are outside the building in a trailer.  The student capacity, counting the trailer classes, is 387 students.  As East is 71 years older than Pioneer Trail, the design is more basic: one main hallway on two floors with smaller classrooms and no common areas aside from a small gymnasium and the cafeteria.  Only the classrooms added when the district started all day kindergarten are good sized.   School assemblies are done in two shifts as not all students and staff fit into the gymnasium and stage area at once.  The kitchen is quite small considering the number of students served; breakfast time sometimes runs over into classroom start time. 

Both elementary schools are using every area of their buildings, each adapting to their space challenges.  However, both of these schools are seeing steady enrollment numbers entering school each year.   

 
Annual Independent Auditor’s Report:

On the agenda for the Monday December 12th school board meeting is the annual report from the independent auditor.  Graves and Associates of Jefferson City are the auditors; the firm was selected through an open competitive process.   However, according to emails from the Board Office, there is a desire to move the report to a special meeting on Thursday, December 23 during the day, either at 7:00 a.m. of 12 noon.  The stated reason is that “the auditors are ironing out some last minute items.”  I am seeking further clarification.  The matter has not been resolved.  Anyone interested in viewing the DRAFT auditor’s report may find it by clicking on “December 12, 2016 Board Packet Part 1 and Part 2” at this link:  http://www.jcschools.us/domain/3158

 
Policy Committee Meeting:

On Thursday, December 8th, the committee met.  Board members on the Committee in addition to me are John Ruth and Rich AuBuchon.  Staff members on the Committee are Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum, CFO Jason Hoffman and District Legal Counsel Penney Rector.   Rich AuBuchon participated in the first part of the meeting via telephone. 

 In the last Missouri Legislative session a new anti-bullying law was enacted.  As a result, the existing Hazing and Bullying Policy was divided into two separate policies.   The hazing policy has minor changes.  The Bullying Policy incorporated the new requirements calling for annual notification of policy contents to students and annual training for staff.  Prior to bringing the policy to the Committee, it was reviewed by select staff and a student group representative of the student body, also a requirement of the new law. 

 Forming additional standing committees of the Board was discussed:   the existing Audit Committee is to be turned into a Finance Committee that will meet at least quarterly on a year round basis in addition to being the liaison to the independent auditor; a facilities committee will be formed and work with staff on facility related issues from planning for major repairs and renovations to coordinating facility visits; a safety and security committee will review security plans annually and may also review data reported to the state under the Safe Schools Act.  The purpose of the committees is not to filter information to the full board but rather to delegate tasks to committees comprised of board members and staff to be a working group that makes recommendations to the full board. 

 The Committee reviewed how other school districts go about reviewing their boundary lines for individual schools as JCPS is considering creating such a policy.  Some districts do this on a set schedule; others do it as a new school is built.  The districts designate someone to review the data and then, if changes are thought to be needed, begin a review process that includes stakeholders and affected families before adoption of changes.    

Lastly, the Committee reviewed all personnel policies.  I requested this review following the District’s loss of a law suit involving personnel this past spring.  The review did not result in making recommendations for changes to provisions in policies.     

Recommendations of the committee regarding hazing, bullying, and adding committees will go to the full board for introduction in January 2017 and final change/adoption in February 2017.

 
School Board Election in 2017

Three of seven board seats are up for election in April and candidate filing begins on Tuesday, December 13 and runs through January 17.  Current board members with expiring terms are President John Ruth, Vice President Steve Bruce and Treasurer Ken Theroff.  Neither John Ruth nor Ken Theroff plan to seek re-election.   Candidates seeking to file for office should note that filing only takes place on days that school is in session.  For questions, contact the board secretary at (573)659-3012. 
 

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Tuesday, December 13:  First Day of
Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

Thursday, December 22: Special Board Meeting to approve architectural services and possibly hear the independent auditor’s report.  Time to be determined. 315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

January 17, 2017:  Last day of
Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 19, 2017:  Special Meeting to
certify the ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.  7:00 a.m. at 315 East Dunklin Street.

April 4, 2017:  Municipal
Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues.


_________________________________________________________


Week in Review November 26 through December 2

Posted December 2, 2016

On Monday, December 28th, the school board held a 70 minute work session to further discuss the need for a second high school; rough cost estimates; and additional needs of the district such as “resources” and other facilities.  The finance numbers and “resource” needs presented require much more detail and/or refinement before the board meets again on December 12th. 

Regarding high school needs, the following was part of Superintendent Larry Linthacum’s presentation:  

   
*  Two high schools, both serving grades 9 through 12, would present more opportunities for students to participate in extracurricular activities.
   
*  There are space needs; the Simonsen 9th Grade Center is already above capacity and the current 6th grade is the largest ever grade level with about 800 students.  That number of students will not fit into the current building with a capacity of 632 students, multiple trailers will need to be brought in to accommodate them.
   
*  The current high school needs about $13 million in replacement heat/air conditioning/ventilation needs alone.   Additional renovations and improvements will be needed to make the school equal to a new school. 
   
*  Simonsen is over 100 years old and should be decommissioned or have a less intense use.  Continued use beyond two years will mean that over $6 million in needed repairs must take place.

A
breakdown of the high school project finance information as presented by Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman:

   
*  The rough estimate to construct a new grade 9 through 12 high school on the Route 179 land and make the current high school equivalent is $130 million for the facility alone.
   
*  The cost of operating the new high school would require an additional 25 cent levy.  (This is an increase of nearly 4 cents from the 2104 estimate.)  The operating costs take into account that staff from Simonsen and some from the current high school would move to the new high school along with students.  Some additional staff would be required to reduce the student to teacher ratio and in areas where an even split of staff is not possible.
 
 *  An additional 30 cent levy was presented for the first time to address “K through 12 resources.”  Those resources were said to include some staff and needed text books.  Further details were requested.
 
 *  Taxes as proposed in preliminary form by Mr. Hoffman are:

$3.69      per $100 of assessed valuation is the current levy
 0.66       per $100 of assessed valuation would pay for $130 million of financing
 0.25       per $100 of assessed valuation would pay for operation of 2nd high school
 0.30       per $100 of assessed valuation would be for “K-12 resources”
__________
 $4.90     per $100 of assessed valuation would be the new tax levy

These numbers are to be refined and detailed by the December 12th meeting.

Why undertake the high school projects first:

This is the most immediate need.  In order to have enough classrooms in August of 2019 when our current 6th grade students reach 9th grade, we must commit to building no later than April of 2017.  Even then, the schedule will be tight for creating blueprints, bidding out all aspects of the project and finishing construction.   Renovation of the current high school would likely not take place until after the new high school is at or near completion.  While our elementary schools are crowded – the current 4th grade class is nearly as large as the 6th grade class – those students will have moved out of elementary school before a new elementary school could be constructed.  However, a new elementary school would be ideal to further reduce the number of students in elementary classrooms. 

By having a large bond issue first, as the debt is paid down (along with still outstanding debt from the Pioneer Trail Elementary School 2007 bond) it will be possible to finance additional schools without further raising taxes for bricks and mortar.  (Staffing a new school will always mean more personnel costs and additional buildings mean more heating/cooling and general upkeep costs.)   The voters will always have the final say on any bond issue, even when there is no tax increase.   

My position on the school projects:

I support asking voters for a bond to pay for the high school projects – a 2nd high school and complete renovation of the existing high school – in April of 2017.  I also support requesting an operating levy for the second high school.  My support of these two requests is predicated on having the numbers refined prior to a board vote.  I do not have enough information to support the 30 cent “K – 12 resources” request at this time. 

Clarifying the roles:

School District Administration:  puts together the details of proposals including financial figures, works with our bonding agent and bond attorney regarding ballot language and makes the information available to the public. 

School Board:  makes the decision of when and what to ask the voters if there is sufficient information and approves the ballot.  If the proposal is approved by voters, the board approves contracts that are competitively bid.

Bond Issue Promotion:  a community group is formed to raise funds to pay for promoting the bond issue.  Tax dollars cannot be used on things like pamphlets and signs that say “Vote Yes”.  However, information relating to needs and costs can be made available on the district web site.   

A final note on facilities:

Failure to either put together an acceptable proposal or for the voters to approve a proposal that will raise taxes does not remove the need.

Closed Session:  Following the November 28 work session, the board met in a closed session from 7:30 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. to discuss individually identifiable personnel records and other records that are protected from disclosure by law.  There were no votes pertaining to these matters.

Education news from local and national sources:

This week I want to share three links for those who are interested. 

The first is from KOMU TV 8 and is about the cost many (46%) Missouri college students face when they get to college but find they are not prepared to study at the college level.  Within the KOMU link are links to the state and national data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics.  The Missouri students are paying a total of $27,269,000.
http://www.komu.com/news/remedial-college-courses-cost-missourians-millions

Next is an Associated Press story summarizing new and relaxed rules for struggling schools:
http://bigstory.ap.org/72f5823cf1ff48f093132561ef59570e

Last is the link to the federal Department of Education final rules regarding the new (ESSA) Every Student Succeeds Act that replaces No Child Left Behind.  This release was the basis of the Associated Press story. 
http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-department-releases-final-regulations-promote-high-quality-well-rounded-education-and-support-all-students?utm_content&utm_medium=email&utm_name&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:
Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Tuesday, December 13:  First Day of
Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

January 17, 2017:  Last day of
Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 24, 2017:  Last Day for School Board to
certify ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.

 April 4, 2017:  Municipal
Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues.

____________________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review November 19 through November 25
Posted November 25, 2016


There were no public meetings this past week.  On Monday, November 28th, the School Board will hold a work session to continue the discussion regarding facility needs.  Specifically, the agenda will address:

     
*   “The need for two high schools,
     
*   The cost of two high schools,
     
*   Financing plans to address elementary and middle school needs,
     
*   Value added for two high schools”, and
     
*   “Timeframe”.

Following the work session, the board is scheduled to go into a closed session to discuss individually identifiable personnel records and other records that are protected from disclosure.

With the start of the holiday season with Thanksgiving, there is little else to report this week.   Thus far there are three declared candidates for the April 2017 school board election.  With official filing for office not beginning until December 13, other candidates may be forthcoming for the three available positions.  School board members serve three year terms.  Chief duties are to approve a budget; set district priorities; provide oversight of all district operations; and, supervise the Superintendent of Schools.  The seven member board meets at least once a month to conduct regular business.  Work sessions are scheduled as needed; occasionally a special meeting is called as needed. 

 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, November 28, 6:00 p.m.:  Work Session on Facility Needs and Closed Session; no public comment period although the public is invited to attend the work session. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Tuesday, December 13:  
First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 January 17, 2017
Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

 January 24, 2017:  Last Day for School Board to
certify ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.

April 4, 2017:  Municipal
Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues.


_____________________________________________________________________________


Week in Review November 12 to November 18
Posted November 18, 2016


The school board met for its regular meeting and a closed session on Monday, November 14.  The Board decided (without taking a vote) to pursue asking the community for funds to build and staff a second high school; renovated the existing high school; and decommission the Simonsen 9th Grade Center.  It was also decided, again without a vote, to not pursue building an additional elementary school at this time.  More about each of these facility items:

The High School issue: 
with nearly 2,400 students in grades 9–12, Jefferson City is the largest high school in the State of Missouri.   The community has consistently told professional survey companies from as far back as 2006 that the support for a second high school as opposed to a mega sized high school is overwhelming.  When the District did not listen and put a campus style mega high school issue on the 2013 ballot, the community soundly rejected the request.  This was followed by the defeat of incumbents at every school board election that followed.  Although there are still advocates for a single large high school, that will not be pursued unless voters reject a second high school along with renovations of the current high school so that the facilities have equitable learning spaces.  Building of new sports facilities would not be included in the package to be put before voters; Adkins Stadium and the track complex would be a District facility serving both high schools; other sports would continue to use outside venues.  However, a practice field and gymnasium would be part of both high schools.  Boundary lines would be the same as those used for middle schools. 

Simonsen 9th Grade Center:   
The largest ever kindergarten class, over 850 students, is now in 6th grade.  When they are in 9th Grade, they will not fit at Simonsen and they will not fit at the current high school a year later.   It takes approximately two (2) years to design, bid out, build and furnish a high school.  As recommended by the Long Facility Planning Committee, this building would be decommissioned as soon as the high schools were both online.  Long term use of Simonsen, which is over 100 years old, will likely require about $6 million in major work before the decade is out.  Buildings of this age subject to intensive use require ongoing and expensive support.  It is time to put those kinds of funds into new(er) facilities or classroom supports.

Why not another elementary school? 
The elementary schools are overcrowded, however, the last 4 years the number of students entering the district (those currently in kindergarten through 3rd grade) is smaller as is the 5th grade.  The 4th grade size is large, but not as large as the 6th grade discussed above.  A new school could not be built in time to help this class.  This leads us to believe the crunch in elementary schools is mostly temporary and could be adjusted by re-aligning pockets of elementary school boundaries.  A whole sale redrawing of lines does not seem to be necessary now, but data is still being prepared.   With many of our schools over 50 years old and schools across the district having different sized rooms, an elementary school in the future is still a real possibility.

A note about bond issues: 
The high school projects are expensive due to the size and needs; each building will serve about 1,300 students with some room to grow.  But, as the Pioneer Trail debt is paid off and the high school bonds are paid down, we can then, with voter permission, build additional buildings as needed, without again raising taxes.  Just as many of us take out a car loan and use a portion of earnings to pay off the loan, when the loan is paid we then can make a second car purchase and pay for the second car by continuing to pay the same amount.   

The Board will again meet on Monday, November 28 to continue the discussion.  
A public comment period will not be on the agenda, but I encourage everyone to attend and see first -hand how the discussion progresses.  As always, I welcome your comments via email, phone or in person.

News Tribune Upcoming Story on Sunday
The News Tribune, who has a reporter at every Board meeting, is planning another story and has contacted each board member and the Superintendent for comment.  Their email sated, “We're planning to run a story on Sunday that addresses obstacles the board will need to overcome before passing a bond issue for a second high school, regardless of the timeline.”  Below are the questions they posed and my complete answers.   Due to space concerns, it is unlikely my full responses will appear in print.

Q:   What do you think will be the biggest obstacle(s) for a second high school bond issue?

A: 
This is a very tight time frame to address all the expressed concerns of the community and engage with them. Having put off a decision as long as we have while knowing the needs we have, time is very limited to answer all questions.

We need to assure the community that all aspects of the projects will be competitively bid; Missouri law requires us to bid all construction projects


Q:  What concerns do you have?

A: 
Since the 2008 economic downturn not all members of our community have rebounded. Looking at our Free and Reduced Price lunch numbers compared to the entire State for the last 10 years, our numbers were similar until 2011 when our rates became increasing worse, indicating our students and their parents and families face more challenges. Now we will be asking those same parents and families to shoulder the burden of building costs while at the same time some of our partners are advocating for school tax exemptions for millionaires like the Puri Group here and the Kroenke family elsewhere in the state.  All those exemptions affect our revenue from the both the State and our own local community in Cole and Callaway counties.  

I am also concerned that by not putting an elementary school project on the ballot now people may think that is not a need.  Our enrollment numbers indicate kindergarten classes are getting smaller again.  That could change.  Construction of a new elementary school on the East side of town is not off the table for me, it just is not the greatest need today.  While we do have overcrowding, the benefit would not be seen before those students have moved on to middle school.  We need short term solutions to tide us over until we can put forth a no tax increase bond issue for elementary needs in the future.  That becom
es possible as the Pioneer Trail bond is paid off and new bonds are paid down.

Q:  What are some of the questions you'd like answered moving forward in the planning process?

A: 
We need cost specifics for the new high school as well as for a total renovation of the current high school and that needs to be spelled out in the ballot language. We need to refine the timeline for each project, minimizing disruption for students and staff as much as possible.

Q:  Is there a timeline you prefer?  Would you prefer to see something run in 2017, 2018 or even a date later than that?

A: 
Even with a successful ballot request, both projects will not be done by August of 2019 when the largest single grade of students enters ninth grade.  We cannot put this off any longer, so I favor an April 2017 ballot proposal IF we can be prepared in time to meet statutory requirements and begin to engage the entire community right away.

Additional Answer to an Unasked Question: 

When the school district ran the 2013 bond issue, the school board was different, 6 of 7 members then are not there now and that lone member is not seeking re-election.  The Superintendent then is gone.  By April the entire governance team will be different.  There are three school board seats that will be on the ballot alongside the ballot request.  This is an opportunity for community members to come forward and lead the district forward; to be watchdogs over the future of the district and determine how the students of this community will be educated.

On Friday, November 18th (today) a letter from Milton Garber appeared in the News Tribune asking the school board if we are aware of JCPS test scores and what we are doing about it.  My short answer is, “Yes, we are and we have been taking many actions for over a year.  Many of those actions have been the subject of in-depth news articles written by Shelby Rowe in the very same News Tribune.”  My longer answer is this:

After years of falling student achievement reports from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in July 1 of 2015 Superintendent Larry Linthacum began leading JCPS.  Shortly thereafter the school board approved his recommendation to hire ICLE, the International Center for Leadership in Education, as a consultant to help us change how we are teaching and students are learning.   That is perhaps why our annual performance has actually improved in the most recent grading DESE grading report reflecting spring 2016 performance.

This past summer the school board approved the hiring of additional reading and math teachers as well as behavior specialists.  Last month iReady, a testing system to identify the specifics of what aspects of math and English language arts a student might be struggling with was launched.  The iReady system then prepares a student specific road map of instruction for that student.  JCPS also purchased the accompanying lessons for individualized learning.  Students who are not at grade level in an aspect of math or reading can now take 10 minutes a day or 45 minutes (or more) in a week to focus on their area of need.  The specific plans can also be shared with their family to allow them to partner in their student’s education.

These major supports for teachers and students are, we all hope, going to lead to further improvements to DESE report cards for our district.  I assure Mr. Graber, and every concerned citizen, that the school board is indeed concerned about student achievement and doing something about it.  I would also add that there is a correlation between crowed schools and learning – when there are too many students in the crowd it is hard to focus on just one student and their needs.  Classroom management of behavioral issues becomes job one before learning can take place.  Bond issues for additional facilities are meant to alleviate some of the distractions our students and teachers must deal with before they even get to open a text book or computer program.


My question to Mr. Graber is this: 
You obviously care about our community, have you considered stepping off of the sidelines and running for school Board or asking someone you know who shares your concerns to run?  The community needs people willing to step into leadership roles.

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, November 28, 6:00 p.m.:  Work Session on Facility Needs and Closed Session;
no public comment period although the public is invited to attend the work session. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting,
public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Tuesday, December 13:  
First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  
315 East Dunklin Street.

 Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting,
public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 January 17, 2017: 
Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 24, 2017:  Last Day for School Board to certify ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.

April 4, 2017:  Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues.

________________________________________________________________ 

Week in Review November 6 through November 11
Posted November 11, 2016


 
There were no public meetings this past week.  The school board will hold its regular meeting on Monday, November 14, 2016, with future facility needs as the main topic on the agenda.  For other information about the meeting, see below following discussion of other issues.

Pending Purchase of Land North of the High School:

The pending purchase of a residence and 8 additional lots on Marshall and Roland Streets has been pulled from the agenda by Superintendent Larry Linthacum.  The District Press Release follows:

"JEFFERSON CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
ESTABLISHED IN 1838
315 EAST DUNKLIN STREET
JEFFERSON CITY, MISSOURI 65101

OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS                                                                      

LARRY LINTHACUM, Ed.D.


Press Release


Superintendent Not Pursuing Land Purchase Next to High School

Adequate Space if 2nd High School Passes


Jefferson City, Missouri, November 10, 2016:  Dr. Larry Linthacum, Superintendent of Jefferson City Public Schools informed the Board of Education via e-mail today that he will not recommend purchase of land on Marshall Street and Roland Street north of the High School.  Dr. Linthacum further explained he will present a detailed plan at the November Board of Education meeting to implement the Pre-K through 12 plans of the Long Range Facilities Committee.  Among his recommendations will be to place a second-high school on the ballot for voter’s consideration.  Should voters approve the second-high school, Dr. Linthacum feels that both high schools’ space needs can be addressed without the land acquisition that has been under consideration.  However, if a second-high school is not successful, Dr. Linthacum noted the Board of Education would need to consider all space options.

Dr. Linthacum noted his appreciation to the Board of Education and the community for giving input during the vetting process.  Dr. Linthacum stated, “As we practice good stewardship, the District has a fiduciary responsibility to our stakeholders to consider opportunities to improve our space needs throughout the District. We will work to improve our relationships with the community, our neighborhood schools, and practice “being a good neighbor”. The District will continue to strive to become a premier school district in the state of Missouri by growing our traditions of pride through excellence as we focus on giving every student hope for a better tomorrow."


Future Facility Needs:

As stated in the press release above, Superintendent Linthacum is making a recommendation to the Board, via the media, for a second high school.  There are no details in the packet of information delivered to me on Thursday afternoon (November 10) for the November 14 meeting.  Public comment will be permitted under agenda item, “Potential Bond Issue Update.”  I encourage all with ideas to come forward. 

 Annual Performance Report (APR) from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE):

 Each fall DESE published report cards, the APR for all school districts based on performance standards from the previous school year.  A summary score shows that JCPS has improved overall from the last APR, but is not doing as well as in 2014.  Below is the summary taken from the DESE website (page link below the summary).  DESE’s website has the ability for viewers to make custom reports comparing JCPS to the state; comparing buildings; and creating special reports showing subgroup performance.  Subgroups are defined by DESE as students who are either black, Hispanic, students with disabilities, English language learners, or low income students (eligible for free/reduced price school lunch.  Attendance scores are based on having 90% of students in school 90% of the time, a difficult achievement calling for balancing the need for learning against spreading colds, flu, and other communicable diseases to uninfected students and staff.  Here is the DESE summary and web link:

 
2016 LEA Annual Performance Report (APR) - FINAL
LEA Summary Report
MSIP 5
JEFFERSON CITY (026006)


YEAR           APR Total Points Earned              
2014          109.0/140        77.9%
2015            99.0/140        70.7%
2016           106.5/140       76.1%


MSIP 5 Standards
1. Academic Achievement
      Points Possible       56.0
      Points Earned         38.0
      Percent Earned      67.9%
2. Subgroup Achievement
      Points Possible       14.0
      Points Earned          7.0
      Percent Earned      50.0%
3. College and Career Ready (CCR)
      Points Possible       30.0
      Points Earned         25.5
      Percent Earned      85.0%
4. Attendance
      Points Possible       10.0
      Points Earned          7.5
      Percent Earned      75.0%
5. Graduation Rate
      Points Possible       30.0
      Points Earned         28.5
     Percent Earned       95.0%
Total Points Possible   140.0
Total Points Earned     106.5
Total Percent Earned  76.1%


11th Grade ACT Census REPORTABLE
2015 Participation Rate 91.6%, Average Composite Score 19.2
2016 Participation Rate 94.1%, Average Composite Score 19.4

https://mcds.dese.mo.gov/guidedinquiry/MSIP%205%20%20State%20Accountability/LEA%20Summary%20for%20Annual%20Performance%20Report%20-%20Public.aspx?rp:Year=2016&rp:District=026006

 Demographer Contract:

Last week I wrote about a long term contract the district has with a demographer.  On Tuesday I received a copy of the contract and a cover note.  Here are some points:

  #  In 2010 the demographer was hired through a cooperative agreement with other taxing entities and the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce (JCACC).   Participating entities had the ability to add specific questions to the study.  The total cost was $24,000.00.  I do not know how the cost was divided or what entities ultimately participated.  (In 2010 I was an Alderwoman with the City of Holts Summit and attended a meeting as Mayor Pro Tem.  Holts Summit declined to participate in the project.  No other Callaway County entities were approached.  The other meeting participants present were the City of Jefferson, Cole County and the JCACC, all of whom expressed support for the project.)
  #  The demographer is Business Information Services, LLC located in Blue Springs, Missouri with Preston Smith as principal.
  #  The contract runs from September 1, 2013 through December 31, 2017.
  #  The cost of the contract is $8,750 per report with reports to be completed in the fall of 2013, 2015 and 2017.  I now have copies of the 2013 and 2015 reports. 
  #  The cost includes travel and 12 copies of reports.
  #  The contract can only be terminated for cause.
Still to be learned is if the reports are being used. 

 
Closed Meetings:  Climate of Secrecy v. the Public Right to Know:

The Revised Statutes of the State of Missouri allow public bodies to close certain portions of meetings under very specific criteria as the secrecy in limited circumstances may serve a greater good than public discussion.  The Attorney General’s office, the agency charged with enforcement, takes a narrow view of the circumstances allowing such private meetings of public bodies.  The most common examples of reasons why a school board might meet to hold discussions away from the public are matters relating to a specific student or staff member; to receive legal advice; discussion of pending litigation; contract negotiations; and real estate.  (For a complete list of allowable reasons, Google RSMo 610.021)  While the discussions may be closed, the fact that the meeting is taking place is public information; an agenda must be made public 24 hours in advance of the meeting (except for emergencies).  If a vote is taken, the vote must be made public as defined by either time or circumstance, depending on the type of issue.  However, the actual discussions usually do not get disclosed.  For example, a legal opinion (129-97) from the Attorney General’s office regarding discussion of hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting a particular employee states the information considered prior to a vote could remain private but the actual vote of each member must be made available to the public.

 By custom, the discussions during a closed meeting remain private in almost all circumstances.  So, why did I in the November 5
Week in Review disclose information about why the Board dropped consideration of purchase of land north of the high school in December 2015, a reader has asked.  The reason is two-fold. 

 First, in meetings with members of the public on September 27 (the Long Range Facility Planning Committee) and on October 10 (a meeting with Roland Street community members and later that day the Regular School Board meeting) Superintendent Larry Linthacum stated a reason why the board discontinued discussions.  The reason stated was not the reason I recalled.  My recollection of why we discontinued discussions had significant inferences for not proceeding.  This was described in the November 5, 2016
Week in Review.   

Second, the reason discussion of the sale, purchase or rental of property can be discussed in a closed session is because holding those discussions in public can drive up the price and that is not in the public interest.  When contracts guaranteeing a defined purchase price were in place, their existence and contents were made public at the next meeting of the Board (September 19, 2016) by Superintendent Larry Linthacum.   Did the need to protect key points in the process still exist?   I don’t think so.  However, all I revealed in this space last week regarding the real estate transaction was what was needed to correct information.  Other details of the many board discussions have not been disclosed by me.  I do believe that when the Board is contemplating serious and sometimes contractual matters everyone needs the freedom to speak their mind, ask questions and explore options without having to measure their words. 

 Other Monday, November 14th Board Meeting Agenda Items:

   *   A legislative update from Mike Reid of the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA).
   *    Board member Steve Bruce and I will give reports regarding our attendance at the MSBA October annual meeting.  My report will be a modification of my October 7
HOT TOPIC posting.
  *    Policies introduced in October are slated for final approval.
  *    Bond refinancing of $5.8 million of debt remaining from the 2007 building of Pioneer Trail Elementary School and elementary school additions for full day kindergarten will be discussed.  Financial consultant Lorenzo Boyd of Stifel will summarize his 40 page report.
  *    Filing dates for the April 2017 election will be approved. 
  *    A closed session to discuss personnel matters and other protected records will be held following the regular meeting.

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items including facility needs, Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Tuesday, December 13:  First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

January 17, 2017:  Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 24, 2017:  Last Day for School Board to certify ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.

 April 4, 2017:  Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues.

_________________________________________________________________

Week in Review October 29 through November 5
Posted November 5, 2016

There were no public meetings this past week and none are scheduled next week, so let me share my thinking on how the school board does business.  Public education is not a (for profit) business, but running a school district with a budget of $98 million should draw on sound business practices while adhering to its mission of providing a quality kindergarten through high school education for any and all students living in the district.  It is wise to remember that students, parents, taxpayers and other stakeholders legally have a voice in the operation of schools.  That voice, while limited at Board meetings, has no limitations in the voting booth.  An ignored or angered public is not likely to support school board members who do not reflect their values or vote for bond measures (and increased taxes) if there is a question regarding management practices.

 There are two issues under consideration at present that have garnered some attention; the Roland and Marshall Streets land purchase and long range facility planning.  Let’s explore those issues further and in the context of management practices. 

Land Purchase North of the High School – Marshall and Roland Streets

 
(Please see prior
Week in Review posts dated September 23, 29, October 7, 14, 21 and 28 for a full summary of events as they unfolded.)

One year ago, November 9, 2015, school board members were told in closed session that former board member Alan Mudd was proposing the school district purchase some parcels of land north of the high school.  We were asked if we wanted more information.  It was not clear to me what land was under discussion, this was the first mention to me of anything beyond the vague “leasing, purchase or sale of land” item on the public agenda.  No votes were taken, but there was consensus to have details brought to us, including use for the land if purchased.  At the December 14, 2015 meeting I brought out there was a legal obstacle to pursuing this discussion in closed session.  Missouri Revised Statute 105.454(5) prohibits influencing a decision of a political subdivision – which the school district is – for consideration within one year of leaving office, and Alan Mudd had just left office in April of 2015.  My notes indicate there were a total of 12 lots proposed for a total price of $244,900.00.

The school board next heard about the land issue when it appeared on the July 11, 2016 agenda.  By then, two board seats had changed with Dennis Nickelson and Doug Whitehead leaving and Lorelei Scwhartz and Rich AuBuchon taking their places.  It is not clear if the new members were aware of the December 2015 meeting or its implications.  Again, information was vague.  Now it was 9 lots including a house, down from 12 lots with a house.  The price range was described as $220-$230,000, with an assessed value of $159,000.  No use for the land was identified beyond “future use.”   By August 8, 2016 (again in a closed session) it was clear Administration wanted the land despite lack of a clear use.  A motion was made to “empower the Superintendent to negotiate a lease or purchase land the district may be interested in.”  Voting in favor were Ken Theroff, Steve Bruce, John Ruth, Lorelei Schwartz, and Rich AuBuchon.  Michael Couty abstained because of a lack of identified use.  I voted No for the same reason.  The land purchase was again discussed at every succeeding meeting.

 On September 19, 2016 Superintendent Larry Linthacum announced in an open meeting that two contracts had been entered into to purchase land:  one for $14,500.00 for two lots on Roland Street; and, one for a house and seven lots on Marshall Street for $192,000.00.  Board members received a third contract between the school district (signed by Larry Linthacum) and Realtor Alan Mudd to be exclusive Realtor to the school district until November 16, 2016.  This contract had never been voted on or discussed with the board at a meeting.  I became aware of it only when it was handed to me as part of many pages of contract papers.  The contract allowed Mr. Mudd to represent other parties to the same contracts.

 On September 27 the Long Range Facility Planning Committee met at the request of Superintendent Larry Linthacum who said he wanted the Committee to have a say in the land purchase.  (Only a portion of the meeting was devoted to the land discussion.)  Also in attendance were 6 of 7 board members.  During the meeting, in response to a series of questions, Dr. Linthacum indicated he would canvass the neighbors to obtain their thoughts.

 Sunday, October 9, 2016 the News tribune published a letter indicating neither Dr. Linthacum nor anyone from the school district had discussed the pending sale with the neighborhood.  The final vote by the board was scheduled to take place the next evening.  That afternoon fellow board member Michael Couty and I walked the neighborhood and knocked on doors speaking with everyone we could to inform them of the board meeting the next day.  Some neighbors had been scheduled to speak with Dr. Linthacum the next morning at Thorpe Gordon Elementary School.  Other neighbors knew nothing about either the Thorpe Gordon meeting or the school board meeting or the pending land sale.  (See the October 14
Week in Review for a summary of comments from the residents attending the meetings.  Again, no definitive use for the land was stated.)

At the Thorpe Gordon meeting residents asked many questions of Dr. Linthacum and expressed disappointment that they were only hearing from him hours before the board was scheduled to act.  I was the only board member present and was there at the invitation of the community, not district administration.

 At the October 10 school board meeting a Motion was made to table a decision about the land purchase until November 14, 2016.  That vote passed 5 to 2.   Michael Couty and I voted against the delay; we were ready to vote against the purchase primarily because of the lack of an articulated use for the land despite nearly a year of posing the question.  This made the negative impact on the community unacceptable.   (Note: from letters to the editor and comments on social media, it is not clear to me that everyone understands that, 1. The school board is not acting in unison, and 2. The votes against a postponement represented support of the community.)

 The school board is scheduled to make a decision on the purchase on November 14.  If a definitive use for the land has been determined, it has not been communicated to the board or the community as of today.  As the land purchase will be on the agenda, any and all community members will be able to make comments at the beginning of the meeting. 

 So, getting back to best management practices, where did things go wrong, and what could have gone better?

 
*  Communication.  With property owners, with board members, with the larger community in a timely manner.
 
*  Having a plan and knowing how new opportunities fit in.  Or, more importantly, if they don’t fit in.
 
*  Integrity.  In order to be trusted, a person or an organization must mean what it says and say what it means.  If we say we are going to talk to the community, then we must do so. 
 
*  Transparency.  Along with integrity and communication is sharing vital information – all of it – with the public and especially affected parties.
 
*  Being in control of the budget.  What opportunities, especially those opportunities affecting student achievement, will be forsaken in order to purchase land?  The District is in the second year of deficit spending for operations; classroom teachers (and students) can tell you there are opportunities for spending directly on education.  We should have a needs assessment in writing along with a plan on how to address the priority needs identified in the assessment.
 
*  Knowing where the school district fits in to the community; understanding the community, its heritage, and knowing that people matter more than buildings.  It is people that provide stability in a community, a work force, and a student body.  Not understanding people is a recipe for disaster.   For a brief history of the Roland Street community, here is a link to a story in the News Tribune:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/oct/30/roland-street-neighborhood-steeped-history/646887/
 
*  Becoming entrenched.  In conversations between some officials and community members, there is a perception that if, after discussing something for a year, if the board does not move forward, it will appear weak.  I don’t understand that thinking, but it exists.

 Long Range Facility Planning

 
In the last
Week in Review (posted October 28, 2016), we discussed options for solving current over crowing in many of our schools.  This past week some new information has come to light:  experts predict relatively flat growth for our area in the next 10 years.  Here is a link to that information:
http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/oct/31/new-population-projections-predict-sluggish-growth-jefferson-city-area/646951/

This is somewhat different from the information provided to the school board at the start of the October 24 work session.  The board is scheduled to again discuss facilities at the November 14 school board meeting. 

So, again getting back to best management practices, what could we be doing better?

 
*  Get accurate and up to date data.   The population projects referenced in the News Tribune put a different slant on growth patterns.  Do we have a short term over-crowding issue or a long term problem?   Does it matter?   
 
*  Use verified information.  The outside demographer, who sent a report to school district administration in December 2015, started his report by indicating JCPS is his greatest challenge and the data continues to stump him.  So why do we continue to use him?  It seem previous Superintendent Brian Mitchell entered into a long term contract to have a study done every other year.  No one at the October 24 work session could tell me when that contract was entered into or how long it runs.  Other relevant unanswered questions are, how much does the contract cost?  Who uses the information?  Has a cost benefit analysis been done?  And almost no one seemed to think this is a problem.  Is this any way to run a business?  I still have not received a copy of that contract despite having asked for it on October 24.
 
*  Share data and other relevant information before the meeting.  If reports are available in December, don’t wait until the meeting is called to order 10 months later to share a 119 page report.  The best decisions about multi-million dollar questions come from consideration of all relevant information.  The community is done a disservice when elected officials are spoon fed selective information AND those officials accept it.   Before the community will trust us, our staff must trust the board to be able to handle public information and determine how much weight to give each report.
 
*  Understand the budget and its implications.  We are currently in our second year of deficit spending for operational costs.  While there is no budget “crisis” certain needs are not being met.  The board has been told we need additional technology and text materials.  To me this does not represent being in “sound financial shape.”  The school budget suffers through loss of state revenue when the Legislature gets creative with the State budget; when tax breaks are handed out to developers it affects revenue.  When the district decides to spend in one area – such as land – those dollars are not available in other areas. 
 
*  Communicate effectively with everyone.  This relates to the budget especially.  When we do not have the funds we need, we must either cut back or ask the taxpayers for more money.  When there is not agreement is vocabulary (like what does “sound financial shape” mean) it is confusing. 

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items including the 
pending land purchase and facility needs, Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only.
Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Tuesday, December 13:  
First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

 Monday, January 9, 2017, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting, public may speak to agenda items only.
Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 January 17, 2017: 
Last day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 School Board election.

January 24, 2017: 
Last Day for School Board to certify ballot for candidates and/or issues to be on April 2017 ballot.

 
April 4, 2017:  Municipal Election Day for City and School Board Candidates and/or issues.

_______________________________________

Week in Review October 22 through October 28
Posted October 28, 2016


The School Board met for a work session on Monday, October 24 to discuss facilities.  At the start of the meeting we were handed a 119 page report (dated December 2015) from an outside demographer; a list of the Long Range Facility Planning Committee (LRFPC) recommendations from November 2014; a letter from four members of the LRFPC reminding the Board that the recommendations were specific regarding the location of the next elementary school; a 14 page report of enrollment projections from CFO Jason Hoffman; and a full page document from the Superintendent detailing how the facility discussion would proceed.

So, what do we really know? 

 
#   The largest kindergarten class we have seen (the 821 students who started school in August 2010) is heading to the high school in a few years and there will not be room unless something is done now.
 
#  In surveys going back to 2006, the community has consistently and decisively stated the desire for two high schools as opposed to one very large school.
 
#  We think elementary schools could use more room to reduce class sizes.  Further data is pending.
 
#  The District has bought and sold land on the East side of Jefferson City since the late 1960’s and currently owns a parcel near Lewis and Clark Elementary School that was purchased in 2011 (approximately) for an elementary school.
 
#  Building is expensive and interest rates will eventually rise no matter what the option, no matter what the order of projects.
 
#  Building costs do not include operating costs (additional personnel, utilities, etc.)

How do we know what we know?

Data from Jason Hoffman shows kindergarten enrollment has dropped to 722 students this school year from the 2010-2011 school year high of 821.  This eases the elementary school crunch somewhat and projections show stable elementary school enrollment in the future. The Board requested additional information regarding class sizes in elementary schools.  Currently, even with trailer classrooms, East Elementary remains over capacity.   Based on 2014 cost estimates, it would cost about $18 million to build another elementary school and expand Callaway Hills Elementary School to serve students north of the Missouri River.   At this point, I do not have enough information to say that building more elementary classrooms is a good long term investment. 

The kindergarten class of 2010-2011 is now in sixth grade – that is the largest ever class of 821 students -- creating tighter quarters at the middle school.  Middle schools are projected to remain over capacity until the start of the 2021-2022 school year.  Current data leads me to believe this is a short term “crisis”.  Middle schools have already made accommodations for the increased student enrollment.   

The combined capacities of the high school, Nichols Career Center and the Simonsen 9th Grade Center will be exceeded in August 2019 and remain over capacity until 2026 according to projections.  Building a second high school would cost about $76 million, based on 2014 data and assuming existing property owned by JCPS (Route 179) would be used.  Renovations to the existing high school would cost about $40 million, using the same 2014 estimates.

Capacity of a building or set of buildings does not necessarily mean space is available in the grade level or specific building where seats are needed.  Additionally, more than half our school buildings are over 50 years old; Simonsen is over 100 years old.   Classrooms in older buildings are smaller than in newer buildings.

Given the quantity and quality of information – almost all of it presented for the first time – it should come as no surprise that the six board members present (member Rich AuBuchon was not present) did not reach a conclusion about what to do and when to do it.    Is it fair to speculate about the timing of document presentations?  With data readily available to some in the District and decisions affecting several generations of students and taxpayers, why not give Board members the opportunity to digest materials before the discussion?

A timeline for decisions was not specified, although if a proposal is to go to voters in April 2017, ballot language must be final in mid-January of 2017 so voters know how much money is being requested and for what purpose.  The Board will discuss this further on November 14. 

In conjunction with the facility discussion was a push for Board members to consider putting on the April 2017 ballot an unrelated request for a Proposition C rollback waiver that could increase district revenue by $4 million per year.   Proposition C is a requirement that state sales tax collected be divided up on a per pupil basis around the State.  Due to the Hancock Amendment that requires revenue increases in one area to be offset by decreases in another area, each year JCPS rollbacks the property tax rate by a fraction of a cent (or so) to offset any increase in Proposition C revenue.  All but 7% of Missouri school districts have gotten a waiver from their patrons and are allowed to keep their tax rate the same even if Prop C revenue increases.  JCPS could benefit from a rollback.  However, it would take about 5 years for enough revenue to build up to meet elementary school needs, and over 30 years for enough money to meet high school needs.  I feel further discussion of this issue is unwise when the district has more pressing questions to pose to voters.  That further discussion must include a complete disclosure of how the funds would be used.

That said, the Board is expected to continue the discussion with an eye towards making timing decisions at the November 14, 2016 Board meeting.  Here is a quote to keep in mind:

"A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow."
                                        — George Patton

 
The District has been working to improve student achievement and “get its ducks in a row.”   There will likely never be a perfect time to present a bond request to the public, so the choices we face are really these:

  *  Given enrollment projections should a high school plan go first?  Construction will be easier at a vacant site.  Experts tell us to plan on opening a building 18 to 24 months after a bond issue is approved.  Should renovating the existing high school come after building the second high school?  It will be easier to manage the construction with fewer students on campus.
  *  Should an additional elementary school be delayed until after the high school projects?  The high school plans include taking Simonsen off line (it may be needed until all high school construction is done).  Could Simonsen then serve as a patch for elementary or middle school needs? 
  *  Are trailers a viable short term option for addressing class size at elementary schools?
  *  Should the Proposition C issue be delayed as it really does not solve the major needs and confuses the facility needs issues?

In my mind, these are the questions the Board must decide.  The community has already weighed in on the big picture through multiple surveys and the resounding “NO” vote for the mega high school.    The Long Range Facility Planning Committee has presented their recommendations as well.  Now it is time for the Board to pull together the relevant information with technical help (more about that next week) and present options to voters.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items including the 
pending land purchase and facility needs, Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.


Monday, December 12, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items , Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Tuesday, December 13:  First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

________________________________

Week in Review October 15 through October 21
Posted October 21, 2016

There were no public meetings of the School Board this past week, there will be a work session on Monday, October 24 at 6:00 p.m.  The topic will be a “facilities discussion”.   This is a public meeting but there will not be a public comment period. 

The School Board last held a meeting with facilities as the focus in August of 2015.  Since that time the board has changed with two members cycling off and two new members taking their place.  In 2015 an assessment of district needs and priorities was to take place.  To date, no formal report has been produced; no recommendations, formal or informal, have been made regarding facilities.   Schools at every level (elementary, middle and high school) remain overcrowded. 

On September 27 Superintendent Larry Linthacum led a discussion with members of the Long Range Facility Planning Committee (LRFPC) who stood by their November 2014 recommendations:

  *    Build another elementary school, either on land owned by the District on the east end of Jefferson City (or wherever the School Board feels it is needed).
  *    Add classrooms to Callaway Hills Elementary School to accommodate growth in the Callaway County portion of the District.
  *    Adjust building boundary lines as needed.
  *    Build a second high school and renovate the existing high school.

Six (of seven) Board members were in attendance at the Long Range Facility Planning Committee meeting.   Five of those attending were members of the LRFPC prior to becoming Board members.

 
Land North of the High School:  I continue to hear from residents in opposition to the pending purchase of residential lots.  The School Board is scheduled to vote on the purchase at the November 14, 2016 Board meeting.  Members of the public may make comments regarding this or any other agenda item at the beginning of the meeting.

 
Community Growth: There is currently a proposal from MRE Capital, Kansas City developers, to build a 50 unit apartment building on the 700 block of East McCarty Street.  The developers this past week had their plan discussed at a hearing in Columbia Missouri.  They are hoping for an $8 million grant from the Missouri Housing Development Corporation to cover most of the anticipated $10 million cost of the project.  The funds are federal dollars.  There were a total of 21 Missouri projects discussed at the Columbia meeting.  This project was the only one lacking community support.  In fact, area residents and business owners spoke in opposition of the project.  Among their reasons to oppose it were:

  *    Seven homes, all over 100 years old, would be demolished.
  *   The Community plan for the area is for single family housing when newly constructed.
  *   Preservation of historic homes is preferred.
  *   The impact on East Elementary School, which is already overcrowded, would be detrimental.

A timetable for the decision on the federal grant is unknown.  If it is awarded, the project must still have City approval.   The Developer indicates construction would take place in 2018, if the grant is awarded and approvals follow.

 UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:


Monday, October 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session on Facilities.  Public may attend but there is no public comment period.  315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items including the 
pending land purchase, Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

 Tuesday, December 13:  First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.


________________________________________


​​Week in Review October 8 through October 14
Posted October 14, 2016


 The dominant issue of the week has been the pending land purchase north of the high school.   On Sunday, October 9, a letter published in the News Tribune indicated that no one from the school district had visited with neighbors as had been expected.   (See Week in Review posted October 7) Here is a link to the letter:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/letters/story/2016/oct/09/your-opinion-involve-neighbors-jcps-property-decision/643895/

Sunday afternoon fellow Board member Michael Couty and I walked through the neighborhood for the purpose of informing residents on Marshall, Roland, Roland Court, and Lafayette streets that two meetings would take place on Monday, October 10:  at 10:15 a.m. Superintendent Larry Linthacum would meet with residents at Thorpe Gordon Elementary School and at 6:00 p.m. the Board was scheduled to vote on the land purchase.   We knocked on 26 doors, and met some folks walking.  Not everyone was aware of the pending land purchase or the meetings.    
Superintendent Larry Linthacum met with area residents on Monday morning, October 10.  Several residents were kind enough to invite us to attend this morning meeting (which we had only read about in the newspaper) and I was able to attend.   There were about 20 residents present who listened to Dr. Linthacum’s summary – the school district was first approached about the land in October 2015; it was brought to the Board in November 2015 and by December was no longer under consideration.  Realtor Allan Mudd brought the issue back to the Board this summer where it was discussed in closed session; by a vote of 5 to 2, the Board authorized Dr. Linthacum to negotiate a price on the house and 8 additional lots (two separate owners); on September 19, with a contract pending board approval, the deal was made public; potential uses for the land could be a behavioral setting for students not able to attend traditional classes; office space for the adult education program; or, a parking lot.    

Resident comments and concerns included the following with Dr. Linthacum’s summarized responses in parentheses: 


  *  Had Dr. Linthacum visited the neighborhood?  (No, he had not)

  *  Are you aware of the historic relevance of the neighborhood?  Are you aware how often neighbors in this part of town have been displaced for public works projects that do not benefit us?  Are you aware that many of us built our homes by hand 50 years ago? 
  *  What will happen to property values?  The land is zoned residential, not office space or other use.
  *  Does the $206,500 price come with an estimate of costs to modify the properties?  (No)
  *  Traffic is already difficult at the start and end of the school day; students speed, litter, and some walk through yards.  Don’t make it worse.  The high school has not been a good neighbor.
  *  If the pending purchase has been under discussion for a year, why are we only having this discussion now, today, when the decision is to be made tonight?  It would have been proper to allow us time to meet and form a strategy.
  *  The land does not adjoin high school property, there is a road separating the properties.
  *  What other properties have you considered for these potential uses? (none)
  *  The Zoning of our neighborhood and these lots is R-4; the school is R-2, have you looked into that?  (no)
  *  If you are short on space, why aren’t you using land you already own that does not encroach into an existing residential community?  One area is the practice field on Stadium next to the YMCA.  (no answer)
  *  We know the school is overcrowded, but you own land that is not in a residential area, why don’t you use it?  (no answer)
  *  It is all about use – do not take these potential uses into an existing neighborhood.
  *  Is it too late to change minds?  What impact will we have on the decision?  (The Board has to act in the best interests of the entire district, come and speak)
  *  We have nice homes and nice yards; we want to keep it that way.  This is not an area where anything would be an improvement.  In fact it is an area where anything but single family homes will destroy our neighborhood.
  *  There is only a little residential property left between our original neighborhood boundaries between the high school and Dunklin Street, you are squeezing us out; the East end of town is always being denigrated.  You are doing us an injustice if you move forward.
  *  What would you do if this was your neighborhood?  (probably what you are doing)
  *  Allan Mudd, your Realtor, is a former Board member.  He knows how we feel from when Habitat for Humanity wanted that land.  It was because of that issue that the current owners came to purchase those lots.  With a former school board member in the middle of this deal, it comes across as dirty.
  *  We want all the board members to hear our concerns.

The School Board held its regular meeting at 6:00 p.m. on the 10th and the land issue dominated the open session.  People coming forward to speak made these points: 

  *  Transparency is engaging the community and that did not take place.  Postpone consideration until a use for the property is defined.  Speaking as a member of the Long Range Facility Planning Committee, that group should not have been part of a purchasing decision.
  *  Former City Councilman Randy Hulsey brought forward information from 1964 when a special district was created by Jefferson City.  The boundaries were Marshall, Franklin, Lafayette, Dunklin and Jackson streets.  The purpose was to establish a community to be residential for 50 years and until the zoning was changed.  The creation of the district allowed for FHA financing so African Americans could qualify for home loans.  Up until that time, no area bank would lend money to people of color.  The creation of the district also called for the housing authority to oversee the placement of infrastructure such as roads and utilities.  No changes have been made to the 1964 zoning.
  *  A 25 year resident spoke of the daily trash issue and, for the last two years, speeding through the neighborhood.  She faulted the school board for not asking neighbors how the purchase would affect them.
  *  Ashley Kaufman spoke to the three areas of JCPS emphasis listed on the school website and how the district was demonstrating Partnership, Stewardship or Learning through the land purchase process.  She also presented 107 petition signatures she had gathered in two days.
  *  The purchase is not what neighbors want; the District doesn’t know what it wants either at this site or on the 179 site.  The purchase will forever change the neighborhood dynamic.  We are attempting a short term solution to the long term problem of space.
  *  Use the land you have and leave us alone.
  *  An issue is the short notice.  School board members are elected to look out for the best interests of people; the lack of notice does not demonstrate that.  He is still waiting for someone to make right damage done by a student to Marshall Street properties several years ago.  Exception was taken to the District doing business with a former board member so soon after his service.
  *  Drop this, we want to live in peace, we want the community educated, but not any more disruptions than we already have.

Dr. Linthacum then suggested tabling the purchase and stated he had been in touch with the Realtor and the contract was extended until  one day after the November 14 Board meeting.    After brief discussion, five Board members voted to delay until November 14.  Two members, Michael Couty and I, voted no as we were ready to vote against the land purchase and provide finality.  Michael Couty stated the District had no use for this particular land.  My reasons were that in the summer of 2015 an assessment of needs was to be completed and a recommendation for future growth was to be made.   It has not been made to date.  Because of the lack of an assessment or a defined use for this land and the impact on a community was enough for me to end discussions of purchase.   

In other business at the October 10 Board meeting, these items were addressed:

#   A personnel report summarizing demographics was presented. 
#   Improved attendance for the previous month at Thomas Jefferson Middle School was recognized.  Cedar Hill Elementary School had the highest attendance.
The mentoring program is undergoing further changes.  A part time person to handle just mentoring has been created but not filled.  There are 154 matched mentors and mentees with 100 students on the waiting list for mentors.
#   Dawn Berhorst presented preliminary information about dashboard information that will be available on the district website.  A dash board is a set of key data elements such as test scores, number of students, attendance, etc. depicted in an easy to digest format such as bar graphs.   Currently it can be accessed through the “Departments” and “Student Information” tabs.  Some of the data elements will change or update at the end of each month; others, like attendance, will change daily.
#   Policy changes from the Policy Committee were presented for a first reading.  A preliminary draft of a new nepotism policy for employees was presented. 
#   A budget amendment to take into account additional revenue and technology expenditures was approved.  The line item to pay for property north of the high school was removed as the purchase was not approved. 
#   The Board held a Closed Session to discuss records protected from release and personally identifiable information.  One vote was taken.

A Past (Board) President’s Luncheon was scheduled for October 13th.  Speaking were current Board President John Ruth; former Board member Doug Whitehead; and Superintendent Larry Linthacum.  The event was held at the Miller Performing Arts Center and underwritten by JCPS financial consultants for bond issues Stifel.  I was told their donation was routed through the JCPS Foundation on the advice of their counsel.   I did not attend.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, October 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session on Facilities.  Public may attend but there is no public comment period.

Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items including the
pending land purchase, Board Office, East Dunklin Street



Tuesday, December 13:  First Day of Candidate Filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.


________________________________________

Week in Review October 1 through 7 
Posted October 7, 2016


See Also HOT TOPIC:  MSBA Conference, posted October 7, 2016 for a summary of sessions attended at three days of meeting attendance (September 30 through October 2, 2016)

 There were no public meetings this past week.  The School Board will meet on Monday, October 10, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.  A summary of agenda items is below, after topic discussions.

Purchase of Land north of the high school:  On Monday, October 10 the school board will decide whether or not to proceed with the purchase of land.  The contract between the land owners and the school district will expire on October 11.  This past week the News Tribune published a letter from an affected land owner objecting to the school purchase because of potential impact to their property:   http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/letters/story/2016/oct/05/your-opinion-neighborhood-risk/643374/

Television station KRCG interviewed another resident, also objecting to the purchase; here is a link to their report:
http://krcgtv.com/news/local/jefferson-city-residents-outraged-over-land-proposal

Among neighbor’s objections has been the lack of communication from the school district.  Reported in the media were statements made at the Long Range Facility Planning Committee meeting held on September 28, 2016.  Superintendent Larry Linthacum indicated he would go door to door and talk to the neighbors.  Adding to the lack of communication is the potential use for the house and eight lots has not been well defined.  Several options, including an alternative learning environment as part of a behavior improvement program; offices for adult education; and a parking lot have been mentioned.  My understanding from community members is that Dr. Linthacum will meet with them at Thorpe Gordon Elementary School on Monday, October 10, the same day a decision is scheduled to be made.   As the land purchase is on the agenda, members of the public may address the School Board during Open Forum at the beginning of the meeting. 

Also on the agenda is a budget amendment to allow movement of reserve funds to pay for the land purchase. 

Questioning the School Board:  In a letter to the News Tribune Editor, a local citizen has questioned actions taken by the School Board in recent months:    http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/letters/story/2016/oct/05/your-opinion-jcps-actions-questioned/643375/

Whether it was the failure to start streaming meetings; out of state travel during a time of deficit spending; administrative personnel spending; buying land without a plan for its use; or the totality of these and other things that motivated Mr. Morrissey, I appreciate that he has shared his thoughts.  Our school district, or any level of local government, becomes more responsive when there is dialogue.   The first step in problem solving is identification of the problem.   In government at all levels we have checks and balances built it; the ultimate check (oversight) comes from you, the public. 

Tax Payers and Tax Avoiders:  The multi-year lawsuit over the property assessment of Ameren Missouri land under power lines continues.   Ameren has claimed the assessments are too high, thus far the courts have not agreed with them.  In the meantime, money paid in taxes is not available for use by local governments.  For JCPS this is hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Cole County has acted as lead in the legal filings and they paid the initial legal fees.  As the case has gone through multiple courts, now all affected local governments have started to pay legal fees proportionate to their percentage of revenue at stake.  Below is a link to an article with more details.  Note the attorney John Ruth is NOT the current School Board President, attorney John Ruth is the former School Board member.  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/oct/05/ameren-wants-2013-tax-bill-cut/643276/

Adaptive Assessment:  An exciting new tool being introduced throughout the Jefferson City Public Schools is the adaptive assessment.  This is an individualized test administered to students three times a year.  If a student answers questions correctly, the questions progress.  If the student is incorrect, the questions get easier until the student’s level of knowledge is ascertained.  When the test is complete, an assessment is generating listing what grade level knowledge the student has in the tested subject.  Also provided on the spot is a list of areas that particular student needs to work on providing a road map for the teacher.  These tests do not count towards a grade; their purpose is to find out what specific instruction is needed.  The first test measures a baseline and the next tests, administered later in the year, measure progress. 

Monday, October 10 School Board Meeting:  In addition to the land purchase vote, the Board will also have these items on the agenda:

  *   Renewal of the MSBA (Missouri School Boards Association) Full Service Policy Maintenance Agreement.  The contract includes these major tasks to be performed by MSBA:   monitor federal and state changes in law and update or create policies reflecting those changes; include local policy changes; post all policies on the JCPS website; review JCPS board agendas and minutes for actions that may warrant policy changes.  The cost is $4,547.00 annually;
  *    Approval of the 2016-2017 Bus Routes (5,028 miles traveled daily, 838,824 miles annually);
  *    Hear a staffing report for the 2016-2017 school year;
  *    Hear an update regarding the Mentoring Program;
  *   Consider the 2017 – 2018 school calendar;
  *   Consider a contract for storage of student and other records in the cloud;
  *   Have the first (of two) readings of policy recommendations from the Policy Committee.
  *   Hold a Closed Session involving individually identifiable personnel records and other records protected from disclosure.

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items, including
pending land purchase. Board Office, East Dunklin Street.

Thursday, October 13, 12 noon, Past Presidents Lunch, Miller Performing Arts Center.  This appears to meet the definition of a public meeting. 

Monday, October 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session on Facilities.  Public may attend but there is no public comment period.

Monday, November 14, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items, Board Office, East Dunklin Street

Tuesday, December 13:  First day of candidate filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street
.

________________________________________

Week in Review September 24 through 30
Posted September 29, 2016


 The Long Range Facility Planning  Committee met on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 at the request of Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum.   He began by sharing district priorities and then led discussion of the pending land purchase north of Jefferson City High School and long range plans.  A summary by topic follows:

 The land purchase:  Dr. Linthacum articulated several potential uses for the land including behavior support for students who are out of school due to discipline issues at the secondary level; or offices for adult education (HiSET, the newer GED program; English as a second language, etc.).  Currently adult education offices are in rented space.  Questions and comments raised by Committee members included:

*      Without a specific use, what is the impact to the area residential neighborhoods bordering the land?
*      Is the price comparable to other homes and lots in the neighborhood?
*      If the land is to be used for an alternative learning setting, have you looked at the safety aspects?
*      The lots are very hilly, that is a negative for future uses.
*      How would the purchase fit into a long range plan?
*     The Board and Administration should be commended for keeping the issue under wraps during negotiations and for making it public as soon as there was no longer a need for secrecy.

Here is a link to a very brief video showing the land:  https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_RbfKpxqbsDOHlmd09kS1VOaFU/view?usp=sharing  


The School Board will vote on the purchase during the October 10 Board meeting.  At the beginning of the meeting, before the vote, community members are invited to state their thoughts about the land (or any other agenda item).    

 The Long Range Facility Planning Committee was then asked if their November 2014 recommendations still stood.  Those recommendations were:   build a second high school; renovate the existing high school; build a new elementary school on the East end of Jefferson City; add classrooms to Callaway Hills Elementary School; and redistrict the elementary boundary lines as needed.  The group after discussion agreed the recommendations still stood with the caveat that those with more specific information should determine where schools are built.  Although there was discussion about bond issues, the group did not vote on that or discuss specifics.

 Here is a link to News Tribune coverage of the Long Range Facility Planning Committee meeting:   http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/28/property-purchase-weighed-committee/642277/

 
Before the District asks voters to approve a bond issue, the needs assessment (including but not limited to facility needs) discussed in the summer of 2015 should be completed.  Before voting to increase their taxes voters have a right to know what the district needs are; how approving a bond issue will address those needs; and, how the district will spend the funds.   The School Board will have a work session devoted to facility issues on October 24.  It has been over a year since the Board last held a session on this topic.  The meeting is open to the public but there will not be a public comment period.

 On September 29, 2016, Superintendent Larry Linthacum did a radio interview with listeners calling with questions: 

http://kwos.com/2016/09/jcsd-continues-to-support-behavior-issues/

MAP Test Scores.  Each spring students across Missouri participate in standardized assessment testing.  Usually those tests are used to compare progress from year to year in each building.  However, this past spring the assessment test was completely different in nature from the previous year.   On September 29th the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released test results by district and by building.  Comparisons, if made, are best made with the State totals against a district or building.  Here is a link to raw data for JCPS:  https://mcds.dese.mo.gov/guidedinquiry/Achievement%20Level%20%204%20Levels/Achievement%20Level%204%20Report%20-%20Public.aspx?rp:DistrictCode=026006

This report is 66 pages in length; however, using the drop boxes, the search can be narrowed by building; by grade level; and by subject.   More information about what the raw data means will be forthcoming. 

IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires public school districts to provide “appropriate” education to all students.  What “appropriate” is has been interpreted differently by districts across the nation.  Now the United States Supreme Court has agreed to provide some clarity by taking up a case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1.  The Court will likely decide the case in spring 2017.  You can read more about the issues here:  http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/2016/09/us_supreme_court_to_weigh_leve.html?cmp=eml-enl-eu-news2-RM

This weekend, Friday September 30 through Sunday morning October 2, I will be attending the Missouri School Boards Association annual fall meeting.  The many breakout session put on by other school districts and outside experts provide an opportunity to learn how other districts are successfully meeting some of the same challenges facing JCPS.  In the interests of transparency, next week I will share what I learn and the cost to taxpayers.  

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items, including
pending land purchase. Board Office, East Dunklin Street.

Thursday, October 13, 12 noon, Past Presidents Lunch, Miller Performing Arts Center.  This appears to meet the definition of a public meeting.

Monday, October 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session on Facilities.  Public may attend but there is no public comment period.

Tuesday, December 13:  First day of candidate filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

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Week in Review September 17 through September 23
Posted Sep 23, 2016


 This past week there were three public meetings:  The Jefferson City Council; the regular School Board meeting; and, the School Board Policy Committee.  This week I will try out a different format and summarize events by topic instead of in a chronologic order.

Truman Hotel Tax Increment Financing District (TIF) proposal:  On Monday evening, September 19th, the City Council defeated the request from the Puri Group of Enterprises to divert their future taxes from schools, libraries and other local jurisdictions back to themselves as financing for the project.   Because the TIF Commission rejected the plan, 7 council votes were needed to move it forward.  Five Council members voted in favor of the Puri TIF:  Ken Hussey; Laura Ward; Rein Wiseman; Glen Costales; and Larry Henry.   The five council members voting against the TIF were:  Rick Prather; Jim Branch; Rick Mihalevich; Carlos Graham; and Mark Schreiber.   Eighteen members of the public spoke at the meeting.  I did not attend as the School Board was meeting at the same time.  Here are links to media coverage:

http://www.abc17news.com/news/jefferson-city-council-to-vote-on-former-truman-hotel-tif-proposal/41734358

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/20/council-rejects-truman-tif/640964/

http://www.newstribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/story/2016/sep/21/our-opinion-appropriate-rejection-tif-proposal/641257/

Transparency and Other Tax Abatements in the News:  There are many types of tax abatements other than TIF’s such as abatement of personal property tax on equipment as was in the news again recently.  Several months ago Modern Litho was granted an abatement of a portion of personal property tax on the purchase of a new printing press.   Here is a link to the News Tribune article:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/business/story/2016/sep/18/bizbeat-modern-litho-brings-new-press-new-jobs/640708/

This type of tax abatement does not formally include the school board at any level of the approval process.  However, an earlier News Tribune article details an informal group at the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce that includes personnel from the School District in a process that reviews tax abatement requests and presents the information to the City Council prior to the Council vote on the abatement:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/news/story/2015/aug/06/return-investment-does-abating-local-tax-dollars-b/471849/   

Although the School District in June developed a policy requiring Board discussion and recommendation regarding tax abatements, the Board was NOT part of any discussion of the Modern Litho request.  Whether or not the request turns out to be a good thing, the lack of transparency to the School Board by the staff who are part of the Chamber of Commerce group is very troubling to me. 

Pending Purchase of Land North of the High School:  On Monday evening September 19th, during the regular school board meeting, Superintendent Larry Linthacum announced the school district has entered into a contract, subject to Board approval at the October 10 School Board meeting, to purchase land north of the high school.  These properties were first discussed by the Board in Closed Sessions as allowed by the Sunshine Law, in November 2015, in the August 2016 Closed Session the Board voted to pursue the purchase.  

I voted against pursuing the land sale.  Although the price for land adjacent to the High School seems reasonable I am primarily concerned about the lack of a defined use.  Without knowing how this purchase would fit into either the plan submitted by the Long Range Facility Planning Committee’s 20 year plan that was submitted in 2014, or an alternate proposal I am having difficulty committing to the purchase.

I am hoping that more citizens will express their views through email or buy coming to the October 10 School Board meeting (6:00 p.m. at 315 East Dunklin Street) and express their views.  The contract for the land north of the high school guarantees a purchase price of $206,500 through October 11th and is pending a final Board vote on October 10.  Should the Board vote NO the earnest money deposit IS refundable.

The Long Range Facility Planning Committee is meeting September 27 (7 pm at the Dix Road Center) to consider and advise the Board regarding possible purchase of the land.  Their recommendation along with public input at the October 10 meeting could go a long way towards shaping the Board decision on October 10.  JCPS and the Board need to hear from concerned citizens. 

I do not feel the land provides a back door way to turn the high school into a mega school.  But, as there is no defined use for it I, today, am not convinced it is right for JCPS at this time.    Here is a link to a brief YouTube video from Superintendent Dr. Larry Linthacum discussing the land:  https://youtu.be/7AiciBtIVk4

Here is a link to News Tribune coverage of the potential land purchase:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/20/jcps-eyes-property-high-school/640940/

In recent years there have been two citizens committees making recommendations and one bond proposal addressing facility needs.  As of today, there is no recommendation on the table from the Superintendent and/or Board based on the Superintendent’s assessment of resources and needs.  There will be a School Board Facilities work session on October 24 and I hope there will be a timetable and course of action at the end of the meeting.

2016-2016 Curriculum:  At the September 19th School Board Meeting, curriculum for the current school year was approved.  Director of Curriculum, Dr. Gretchen Guitard, had provided Board Members with electronic access to the curriculum several weeks in advance.  At the meeting, Dr. Guitard again made the curriculum available.  Discussion included aligning subject matter from grade to grade and meeting the new learning standards approved by the State of Missouri in May as well as what instruction is available for students performing below grade level.  The new standards replace Common Core.   

Our district has professional educators developing and overseeing curriculum development and as a lay person I must rely on their expertise, my curriculum questions centered on procedure.  Our policy requires approval of curriculum prior to June 30 of the previous school year in order to assure materials are in place prior to the start of school in August.  With the State delay in adopting standards, this was likely an impossible task.  However, it does make the requirement for the Board to approve a curriculum that is already in place silly.  In the end, four Board members voted to approve the curriculum and two board members joined me in abstaining (Steve Bruce and Michael Couty).

Past Board Presidents Luncheon:  On October 13th a Past Presidents Luncheon will be held at the Miller Performing Arts Center.  The stated purpose is “to celebrate and engage JCPS community leaders with sharing and discussion of the past, present and future.  Speakers include Dr. Larry Linthacum (future), John Ruth (present) and Doug Whitehead (past).”  The event will be entirely underwritten by Stifel, the JCPS financial advisor for bonding.  In response to my question, it was stated the event has come about because, “Doug Whitehead wants to be supportive.”  It was Mr. Whitehead who contacted Stifel for sponsorship.  I still do not have a clear grasp of what this is intended to accomplish.  Since the current board members have been invited and the topic is school related, this would appear to be a public meeting as defined by Missouri Open Meetings law.   

Transparency and Policies:  On Thursday, September 22 the School Board Policy Committee met for two hours.  Attending committee members were John Ruth and me from the Board; Superintendent Larry Linthacum, CFO Jason Hoffman and Legal Counsel Penney Rector.  Board Committee Member Rich AuBuchon was out of town.  Discussed were routine updates; creation of a nepotism policy for staff; formalizing standing committees of the Board to include a Finance Committee (currently the Audit Committee), adding a Safety and Security Committee, and adding a Facilities Committee. 

We also again discussed making changes to the Open Forum portion of Board Meetings to allow any stakeholder to address the Board on any topic relative to education.  Currently speakers must limit remarks to agenda items.  Although I was again unsuccessful in convincing the Committee to endorse a change to the restrictive policy, they were receptive to including how someone might get on the Board agenda to address a topic.  Here is a link to the News Tribune coverage of the meeting:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/23/chance-speak-out/641524/

Missouri State Budget Cuts:  After the Missouri Legislature overrode several of the Governor’s vetoes, he then restricted expenditures to offset resulting revenue losses.  JCPS Chief Financial Officer predicts the District will lose an additional $150,000 in transportation funds which are already underfunded by $1.1 million.  There will also be losses in the State Foundation Formula, but they will have a lesser impact.  Here is a link to the News Tribune article that also includes Blair Oaks information:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/20/school-budget-cuts-mostly-affect-transportation/640941/

UPCOMING MEETINGS and Important Dates:

Tuesday, September 27, 7:00 p.m.: Long Range Facility Planning Committee, Dix Road Center.  Public is invited but may not get a chance to speak.

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting, Public may speak about agenda items, including
pending land purchase. Board Office, East Dunklin Street.

Thursday, October 13, 12 noon, Past Presidents Lunch, Miller Performing Arts Center.  Appears to be a public meeting.

Monday, October 24, 6:00 p.m., Board Work Session on Facilities.  Public may attend but there is no public comment period.

Tuesday, December 13:  First day of candidate filing for April 2017 election of three Board Members.  315 East Dunklin Street.

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Week in Review:   Sep 10 through September 16
Posted September 16, 2016


There were no public meetings involving the School Board or school issues this past week.  Next week, On Monday, September 19 the Jefferson City Council will meet to decide on abating taxes for the Truman Hotel project proposed by the Puri Group of Enterprises and the School Board will hold a work session, regular meeting and closed session, also on September 19th. 

At the Jefferson City Council meeting on Monday, September 19, starting at 6:00 p.m., members will hold a second reading of the Bill that would create a Tax Increment Financing District (TIF).  Such a district would allow some future taxes to be diverted away from schools, libraries and other local government to be used to pay the Puri Group to build two hotels and a restaurant to replace the Truman Hotel on Jefferson Street.  (For details, please see HOT TOPIC pages and previous Week in Review summaries.)  From review of the City Council meeting packet, it appears there was no resolution to the disagreement between the City and the Puri Group on contract details that would govern the details of the tax money diversion.  As reported previously, at the September 6, 2016 City Council meeting it was disclosed the disagreement centered on how the two Puri owned hotels in Apache Flats would be annexed into the City to partially make up for lost tax revenue.  The City wants one all-encompassing agreement and the Puri Group wants two separate contracts; one top govern the TIF details and a different one to handle the annexation terms.  Because of the impasse the City Staff recommendation against approving the TIF appears to stand.  However, last minute changes in language may come into play again, as they did at the September 6 meeting.   Here is a link to the City documents (they appear to be unchanged from the last meeting):

http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/0/doc/401170/Page1.aspx  the TIF documents start on page 227.

Public comment will be permitted and is encouraged at the City Council meeting.   The diversion of future tax dollars will affect your schools, library, city and county services for up to 23 years while the developer is subsidized to own and operate for-profit hotels.

One area I hope the Council considers, if they are thinking of approval, is this:  When the Puri family bought the Truman Hotel it was a functioning, older hotel.  At the TIF Commission meeting it came out the purchase price was $1,075,000.00.  The Puri family closed the hotel, boarded up the property and requested a tax hearing to have the property assessment lowered.  After they succeeded with that, they sold the hotel from one of the many companies they own to anther for over $4 million dollars.  That new, larger amount was part of the original TIF application filed with the City earlier this year.  The larger amount, if allowed, would have increased profit to the Puri Group.  However, a City consultant lowered the allowable costs by $5.2 million, in part to reduce the property value reimbursement to $1,750,000.00 (this is more than the original purchase price.)   So, on one hand they presented one case to the County (assessor) about property value and an entirely different case to the City (TIF staff) regarding cost.  Note: other hotel owners in the area, who build and operate hotels in the same chains the Puri family proposes to build, say the TIF costs are still $15 million too high.  As the City consultant stated at the TIF Commission meeting in June, if costs are lower than presented, the profit is higher.  So why should we care about private profit?  Because it comes at public expense when tax dollars are diverted from schools, libraries and other local governments.

The School Board will also meet on September 19, 2016 starting at 5:00 p.m. on the third floor of the Board Offices with a work session on curriculum.  At 5:30, the Board will go into Closed Session to begin discussion on land, personnel, and other records.  At 6:00 p.m., the Board will move to the usual Board meeting room for its regular meeting.  Following this, the Board will go back to its Closed session to conclude its business.

On Thursday, September 22 at 8:00 am, the Board Policy Committee will meet at 8:00 am for approximately 4 hours at the Board office.  On the Committee are Board members John Ruth, Rich AuBuchon and myself; Superintendent Larry Linthacum, CFO Jason Hoffman and legal counsel Penney Rector.  Recommendations from the Committee will go the Board during two successive meetings.  Public Comment can be made at the full board meetings when the policies are on the agenda.

Some of the most difficult questions I ask myself while preparing for meetings are these:

     Do I have enough information to make the best decision that is in the best interests of students, staff, parent, and taxpayers?  I may not be the only board member who struggles with this question.  During the Board self-evaluation, when board members were asked to respond to the question, “The data the board receives is accurate, applicable and of sufficient quantity in order to make sound decisions”  the results were this:  1 member strongly agreed; 3 agreed; 2 disagreed; and 1 strongly disagreed.

      How do I know if the information given to me is complete, accurate, objective and reliable?  Too often I feel I must rely on faith alone.  I must rely on others to present what I hope are facts in order to best serve the District and all its patrons.  It is incumbent upon me to ask questions (hopefully the right ones); re-ask on occasion and verify information independently whenever possible.  On more than one occasion I discovered that either incomplete or filtered information was provided; on other occasions no information at all was shared.  As a result, I now and then find myself wide awake all too early in the morning wondering if the questions I asked and answers given were correct or what issues are out there that I remain unaware of.  It is a very unsettling feeling, always waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.

Legal news:  As reported her on September 2nd, “In May of this year a jury of 12 impartial Cole County residents heard a civil lawsuit brought by former Jefferson City High School teacher Karen Ray.  Ms. Ray alleged discrimination and a hostile work environment and the jury agreed with her after a trial lasting more than one week.  Following that verdict School Board members were strongly advised not to comment as a  similar law suit from former Jefferson City High School teacher Laura Cooper with many of the same witnesses was due to be heard this month.  This week the News Tribune has reported on the Laura Cooper case and I have again been asked by community members to comment.  Board members have been directed by legal counsel NOT to provide any comment.  Please do not construe a lack of comment on these legal and (former) personnel matters as a lack of concern or a circling of wagons.”   Here is a link to the most recent News Tribune article printed on September 9th:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/09/cooper-settles-450000-jcps/639326/

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street
 
Monday, September 19, (note date change to third Monday) 5:00 p.m. work session on curriculum; 5:30 Closed Session; 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. Closed Session will continue after the Regular meeting.

Monday, September 19, 6:00 p.m., 
City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal Public Hearing.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged; the Council is expected to vote at this meeting.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Thursday, September 22, 8 a.m., School Board Policy Committee meeting.  (All recommendations from this Committee will be presented to the full Board for approval at two Board meetings.)  The public is welcome to attend; there will be no public comment period during the Committee meeting

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.


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Week in Review September 3 through 9
Posted September 9, 2016


 There were no School Board meetings this past week.  The School Board Policy Committee Meeting scheduled for September 8 was cancelled and will be rescheduled for a later date. 

The City Council heard first reading of the latest revision of the Truman Hotel TIF (formation of a Tax Increment Financing district and approving two projects) on Tuesday, September 6.  For my description of the meeting, please visit my
HOT TOPIC web page at www.pammurray.org/hot-topics-.html    updated September 7, 2016.  For the News Tribune description of the meeting, go to: http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/07/no-votes-tif-blight-council/639009/

I challenge you to read both descriptions of the same meeting and ask yourself what conclusions you would reach if reading only one of the descriptions.  Do you take all the reported statements as fact?  This particular issue, the TIF, involves complicated regulations, diversion of collected tax dollars back to a private developer instead of distributing all the tax money to the jurisdictions as is done with other tax dollars.  

Getting back to the two descriptions of the TIF portion of the City Council meeting, in one report a person supporting the TIF is quoted as saying Jefferson City was short about 200 hotel rooms.   That speaker presented no supporting evidence of this and cited no source.  Another speaker, who was completely left out of the News Tribune article, handed in a researched report, including citing his sources of data, showing Jefferson City hotels average occupancy over the last 5 years rate is less than 60%; the highest rate is below 70% and the lowest month was 32.10%.   Is whether or not hotel rooms are needed an important consideration when public tax dollars may be paying for additional rooms?

Another difference between the descriptions of the Tuesday meeting is the discussion about whether or not it is legal to use hotel and lodging tax as proposed in the TIF.  With five attorneys in the room (two for the City, two for the Puri Group, and one for the other hotel operators) and a sixth attorney’s opinion referenced (former City Attorney Drew Hilpert) there was not even agreement on which attorneys thought it was legal.  A councilman sought clarification (for details, see
HOT TOPIC.)  Was the newspaper correct to ignore it?  Did I give it too much significance to include it?  As a lay person who must rely on legal expertise when making decisions at the school board, am I overly concerned when the expert advice depends on who you ask?  Recent events have shown me that when legal disputes involving government go to court, taxpayers often lose valuable tax dollars. 

Few of us have the time or resources to spend months researching the information; most people must rely on the reports of others.   Investigative reporting has become a luxury in the news business.  However, a minimum standard should be to report that there are conflicting views so that readers can know a “fact” may not be an established fact.

We count on our elected officials to get it right.  Some may stream a City Council meeting on the internet or cable TV and Jefferson City long ago chose to allow people to speak at their meetings on any City issue.  Even that will not tell you what is in the materials people speaking give to the City in the hopes the City Council members will take the time to read it and then weigh the validity and reliability of sources and give it due consideration before voting. 

There is a lot of talk about transparency on Facebook (from what people tell me) and on the editorial pages of the newspaper.  But what does it mean?  The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes transparent (in this context) as, “free from pretense or deceit; readily understood; characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.”   During my campaign for school board I called for more transparency and I try to provide that through this website by explaining my votes and positions and also provide some context by also reporting what others stated.  I strive to separate the discussion from my opinion, although you are likely to get both. What are your thoughts?   Do you make decisions based on what you read, see or hear from media or from me? 

Watching the City Council meeting made me wish the School Board was as welcoming regarding comments from the public and that School Board meetings were streamed.

In education news, this week the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released statewide results of student grade-level and end-of-course assessment testing done last spring.  Only 62.6% of students across the state were deemed “proficient” or advanced in the English Language Arts portion, and even worse, 48.6 students met those levels in Math.   These scores cannot be fairly compared to the previous year as the test was not the same; the Missouri Legislature in a move against Common Core standards prohibited use of the Smarter Balanced consortium test.  The spring 2016 test was still based on Common Core curriculum.  Missouri is in the process of developing its own tests.

In the science assessments, where the assessment tests remained the same, high school students tested on biology scored 67%, students in 4th and 8th grade scored in the 40’s.   

For a complete look at statewide results by grade, subject and subgroups (Black; Hispanic; Students with disabilities; English language learners; and, low income students) see the entire 17 page report consisting mostly of bar graphs from DESE:   https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/2016%20MAPRESULTS_SEPTEMBER2016_FINAL.pdf Results by school district and building are scheduled for release on September 29.  

 Score cards (the APR or Annual Performance Report) for school districts and individual buildings based on performance in the 2014 – 2015 school year are scheduled for release on November 7.   The APR encompasses several key benchmarks in addition to the tests discussed above.  They include attendance, graduation rates, improvement and other factors.   When information becomes publically available, I will share it here.  School districts usually receive APR information a few weeks ahead of the public release under the condition it be kept under wraps and allow DESE to make the release.  Last year, my first on the Board, I received the information through the news media.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street
 
Monday, September 19,
(note date change to third Monday) 5:00 p.m. work session on curriculum; 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted.  A Closed Session will follow the Regular meeting.

Monday, September 19, 6:00 p.m.,
 City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal Public Hearing.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged; the Council is expected to vote at this meeting.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting,
public comment regarding agenda items permitted

 *NOTE: 
The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

_____________________________________________

For my summary of the TIF portion of the City Council meeting of September 6, 2016, please visit HOT TOPICS

____________________________________________

​The Policy Committee Meeting originally scheduled for Tuesday, September 8, 2016, has been postponed to a date to be later determined.  posted September 5, 2016

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Week in Review August 28 through September 2
Posted September 2, 2016


There were no public meetings this past week.  There will be two public meetings this coming week:  On Tuesday, September 6, the City Council will hear the Truman Hotel Tax Increment Financing (TIF) proposal; and, on Thursday, September 8 the School Board Policy Committee has a scheduled meeting.

 In the first meeting, The City Council will meet at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday in the City Hall Council Chambers to consider on First (of Two) Readings the proposal to abate taxes and return funds to the Puri Group of Enterprises for the Truman Hotel project.  Part of the existing hotel will be remodeled; most of the buildings will be demolished and rebuilt as two hotels and one restaurant.   The proposal was defeated by the TIF Commission and has been opposed by both the Jefferson City Public Schools and the Library due to the loss of future tax dollars for up to 23 years.  Additionally, it appears the Puri Group and the City have not reached agreement on details of the tax abatement as the Council has before them alternative contracts.  A major area of disagreement appears to be the annexation of the Puri hotels in Apache Flats.  This came about as a compromise to allow for some new taxes generated by the Truman project to be distributed to JCPS, the library and other forms of local government: the new City taxes (sales and lodging taxes) generated by the Apache Flats hotels would offset the true paying Truman taxes.  It appears the City has rolled all TIF contingencies into one contract while the Puri Group wants a separate agreement for the annexation.  Here is a link to the entire City Council agenda and packet: http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/0/doc/398615/Page1.aspx  the entire packet is 374 pages, but not all of it is the TIF, here are the page numbers for the start of each TIF document:

#     Beginning on page 142 is the new Staff and Consultant Report
#     Beginning on page 152 is Bill 2016--48
#     Beginning on page 157 is the Contract the City Staff recommends IF the TIF is passed.  Annexation is part of the contract.
#     Beginning on Page 216 is the Contract for the TIF the Puri's would like passed
#     Beginning on page 275 is the separate annexation agreement the Puri's would like.
#     TIF documents end on page 287. 

For the proposal, either version or a hybrid, there will need to be seven affirmative Council votes at the Second Reading, scheduled for Monday, September 19.  Public comment is encouraged at both meetings and can also be submitted in advance in writing.

If you are considering a public comment, either for or against the TIF, here are some points to consider addressing in addition to your own concerns:

*      Is the Jefferson Street area around the Truman Hotel blighted?  The Puri Group has submitted a blight study and the City seems to agree that the area is blighted.  But, does recent development in the area disprove blight?  The Southwest Animal Hospital built a larger facility on Jefferson Street in the past two years; Big O Tires is building a brick structure adjacent to the Truman property; Sunbelt rentals has taken over the old McKay Buick property and established a new business.  These three developments were done without taxpayer support.  Failure to prove actual blight is a reason to deny the TIF – blight is a legally required element of a TIF area.
*      Has the “But For” determination really been met?  In order to receive TIF tax abatement the developer must prove that the proposed development would not proceed “but for” taxpayer assistance.  Given the highly visible location on Jefferson Street with an unobstructed view from US 54, would this property really sit undeveloped for long?  Yes, the Puri Group has let the property sit idle.  And in return the taxable assessed value was lowered by Cole County.  This new lowered base value is the baseline for the next 23 years or until the allowable developer costs are returned to the Puri Group if the proposal is approved by the City Council.
*      Contracts.  With two sets of contracts on the table, one set drafted by attorneys working for the City and another set drafted by the Puri Group, which set will be approved if the Council approves the TIF?  And which set of documents is likely to afford an acceptable level of protection for taxpayers?  If an annexation agreement is separate from the TIF contract (if) approved, what happens if a party does not live up to both contracts?  Will failure to annex affect tax abatement payments to the developer?
*      Unfairness to taxpayers.  TIF’s, by their very nature rob Peter (particularly the schools and libraries that depend on taxes to meet increasing demand for services) to pay Paul (the developer who is only partially financing his own project.)

Here are links to two St. Louis Post-Dispatch articles regarding the use, or over use, of TIF’s in St. Louis.  The St. Louis Development Corporation is looking to better control tax incentives.  They found that between 2000 and 2014 a total of $709 million in local tax revenue was not collected due to tax abatements and TIF’s.  This is revenue that did not go to schools, libraries, and other local entities.  During that same time, several school districts in St. Louis have declined and been taken over by the State.   While a direct connect between the TIFs and declining schools has not been proven, educating more students with less future income does not bode well for providing updated texts and fair pay for classroom educators.

http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/as-tax-incentive-tab-grows-st-louis-looks-to-better/article_a725a7fc-7023-5338-ab6c-3fb66b85b884.html

http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/the-platform/editorial-demand-transparency-on-property-tax-abatements-in-st-louis/article_4cbb6372-c175-5fca-a7ec-f5e8f1e838f4.html

 In the second public meeting of the week, Thursday, September 8, the School Board Policy Committee is scheduled to meet at 8 a.m.  In addition to policy recommendations from the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) the Committee is scheduled to review all personnel policies.  Committee members from the Board are John Ruth, Rich AuBuchon and me.  Staff members are Superintendent Larry Linthacum, Legal Counsel Penney Rector, and Chief Financial Officer Jason Hoffman.  Public may attend the meeting, but there is no public comment period in Committee meetings.  All recommendations will go to the full School Board for two readings prior to adoption and public comment will be allowed at those times.

Other Matters:

Bullying.  With the start of the new school year comes new legislation requiring additional staff training to identify and deal with in schools.  Having a policy about bullying is also a new requirement, but JCPS has had such a policy in place for years.  This week the Mayo Clinic online newsletter printed an article directed towards parents regarding bullying and how to help your child deal with bullies.  The article may be a helpful starting point for parents.  Here is the link:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/bullying/art-20044918?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=housecall

Last school year I received several emails about an online parent support group with JCPS in its name.  However, the Facebook site actually was developed for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky.  If you find it, it may be a resource but keep in mind that incidents described in schools with the same or similar name as our middle schools in Jefferson City may have occurred in a distant city.  With parents in two states posting last year, it got confusing.  I even received a phone call from a Kentucky parent!  If you have a concern with your child and what is happening at their school, please first contact their school personnel (teacher or principal as appropriate.) 

Legal.  In May of this year a jury of 12 impartial Cole County residents heard a civil lawsuit brought by former Jefferson City High School teacher Karen Ray.  Ms. Ray alleged discrimination and a hostile work environment and the jury agreed with her after a trial lasting more than one week.  Following that verdict School Board members were strongly advised not to comment as a  similar law suit from former Jefferson City High School teacher Laura Cooper with many of the same witnesses was due to be heard this month.  This week the News Tribune has reported on the Laura Cooper case and I have again been asked by community members to comment.  Board members have been directed by legal counsel NOT to provide any comment.  Please do not construe a lack of comment on these legal and (former) personnel matters as a lack of concern or a circling of wagons.  Here is a link to the News Tribune article printed today, September 2, 2016:    http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/sep/02/discrimination-suit-against-jcps-dismissed/638426/   

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street
 
Monday, September 5 is Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 6, 6:00 p.m., City Council* The Truman Hotel TIF proposal is to be introduced.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

CANCELLEDThursday, September 8, 8 am. Board Policy Committee: quarterly meeting to review and recommend policy changes as well as new policies.  Nothing is final until the full School Board acts.

Monday, September 19, (
note date change to third Monday) 5:00 p.m. work session on curriculum; 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted.  A Closed Session will follow the Regular meeting.

TENTATIVE:  Monday, September 19, 6:00 p.m., City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal Public Hearing.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged; the Council is expected to vote at this meeting.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

_______________________________________

TIF ALERT:  posted  August 29,2016

The Jefferson City Council will hear the request to establish a TIF, Tax Increment Financing District, for the demolition, redevelopment and refurbishing of the Truman Hotel Complex on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  The Council will hear first reading of the proposal from the Puri Group of Enterprises.   Documents relating to the proposal are expected to be posted on the City website  www.jeffersoncitymo.gov no later than Friday, September 2, 2016.  


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Week in Review August 20 through August 27
Posted Aug 27, 2016

 
The School Board held a work session on Monday, August 22, 2016.  It was devoted to the Board self-evaluation.  The Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) made a nice presentation, but, the real true evaluation comes from you, the voters.  Every April you choose school board members; who gets re-elected, who is chosen from a field of candidates if there are more candidates than seats available.  Every time I engage by attending meetings with community members or receiving emails through this web site, I get my interim evaluations.  And you, the stakeholders, are not shy about pointing out deficiencies you see in the District as a whole, the Board as a body and areas where I as a member can improve.   Fortunately, you also have good things to say as well.

The value of the self-evaluation exercise, when weighed against the limited amount of time the Board has available to act as a body, left me a little frustrated.  I respect my fellow Board members, their varied backgrounds, success in their fields and commitment to the community as evidenced by the many demands on their time.  My preference would be for us to use the precious time we spend together devoted almost exclusively to assessing and reassessing the needs of students and teachers; determining the resources available to meet those needs; anticipating future resources and needed methods to assure availability of those resources.  All those things are vital to assuring that our students get the best education. 

Once that consensus at the Board/Governance level is reached on what the needs are, we need to involve our entire community and utilize your expertise and see if we can gather consensus with stakeholders.  Ultimately you will evaluate our performance through passage of bond and ballot issues, and through your collective voice in selecting future Board members.   And the primary tools you will use are student achievement and what and how we communicate. 

Going through the self-evaluation exercise took some time individually to complete an 84 question survey.  Then for more than two hours the Board discussed it with the MSBA representatives.   Given that the Board holds 12 regular meetings a year, special meetings as needed, and a smattering of work sessions, maybe 4 a year, that is a significant chunk of Board time.  This does two things:  1.  It detracts from the real issues such as discussing revenue; JCPS current needs; JCPS future needs; how the City is making decisions about our ability to address those needs through the City use of TIFs; etc., and 2.  It deters busy people from running for the Board.  Time is precious.  When I ran we had 5 people for two spots – real issues such as one high school or two; transparency and trust were platforms that you and the community were interested in and voted on accordingly.   However, this year there were only two candidates for the two seats – that tells me people may have lost confidence in the ability of the Board to address their concerns.  Wasting time on talk instead of doing is disheartening.  With the caliber of Board members we have dog-and-pony-show self-evaluations are something we can do without when time is such a precious commodity.  We need to build interest to encourage a steady stream of good people representing a variety of ideas and backgrounds to run for office to continue to inject new ideas and allow the District to flourish.

Following the self-evaluation, the Board held a Closed Session to discuss legal actions and litigation issues; leasing, purchase or sale of land; individually identifiable personnel records; and other records protected from disclosure.  There were no matters voted on, the meeting lasted from 8:35 to 10:25 pm.

This week JCPS Administration rolled out the Behavior Plan.  Administrators are going to every school and with the building principals are discussing the plan with parents.  The goal is to have everyone understand clear expectations and be a partner is reinforcing codes of conduct for all students.  Areas of emphasis for students are language and conduct; being respectful; and appropriate attire.  For parents, open two-way communications with your child’s school is requested.  Parents with internet access are encouraged to sign up for the Parent Portal where they can track their child’s activities and homework.  Attendance was also emphasized as students who are not in school will have trouble learning and become discouraged.  If you could not/cannot attend the session scheduled at your child’s school, I would urge to attend at a different school with the same grade level.  I attended the session at Lewis and Clark Middle School as a grandparent of a 6th grade student.  Handouts specific to middle school were available at that meeting.

 On Friday, August 26 the annual Staff Appreciation BBQ was held at the High School.  Staff and family from throughout the District were invited for burgers, brats, music and games for the kids.  I hope our dedicated staff feels appreciated every day.

 TIF:  No further news since last week:  The City Council of Jefferson City does still not have a confirmed date set for having the Truman Hotel TIF (Tax Increment Financing District) proposal from the Puri Group of Enterprises on their Council meeting agendas.   The City and the Puri Group are still working through the contract that will become effective IF the City Council passes the proposal with seven (7) affirmative votes.  The contract is the document outlining which development and overhead costs can be paid to the Developer (the Puri Group) from new taxes generated from the development (increased property value, new sales tax, etc.)  This crucial document also details payment terms from the abated taxes to the Puri’s for up to 23 years for each of the two project areas.  

 Time to negotiate the contract terms is running out as the State legislation governing TIF’s has specific deadlines for how long the City can take to act.  Based on those deadlines, it is likely (but not certain) the City will introduce the proposal at the Tuesday, September 6, 2016 meeting and act on Monday, September 19.   The City’s website  www.jeffersoncitymo.gov will post meeting agendas and related documents for those meetings by the Friday before each meeting.  I will post links as well here when the documents become available.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street
 
Monday, September 5 is Labor Day.

TENTATIVE:  Tuesday, September 6, 6:00 p.m., City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal to be introduced.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Thursday, September 8, 8 am. (Subject to change)  Board Policy Committee: quarterly meeting to review and recommend policy changes as well as new policies.  Nothing is final until the full School Board acts.

Monday, September 19, (note date change to 
thirdMonday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

TENTATIVEMonday, September 19, 6:00 p.m., City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal (revised again) Public Hearing.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged; the Council is expected to vote at this meeting.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Monday, October 10, 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

________________________________________

Week in Review August 13 to August 19
Posted Aug 19, 2016

 
There were no public meetings this past week.  ALL JCPS schools are now back in session for the start of the 2016 – 2017 school year; let’s all work together to make this a great year for our students, teachers, support staff and community.  

On Monday, August 15, the District held its opening session, a time for the entire JCPS staff to gather and unite for the coming school year.  Welcoming back staff was Superintendent Larry Linthacum; Board President John Ruth; Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin; executives from the United Way, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Public Schools Foundation.  On video were Pete Adkins; Judge Cotton Walker; Ken Enloe; 2016 Teacher of the Year Nikki Carel; and 2016 Outstanding Teacher Linda Tobar.   The event was generally positive and well received; it also brought to light an issue requiring the District’s attention.  Preliminary actions have been taken to address it.     

 There will be a School Board work session on Monday, August 22, 2016 when the Board will discuss their self-evaluation.  The Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) will lead the discussion.  Board members answered an 84 question survey online and aggregate results were sent to each member.  The questions all had 5 possible answers:  Strongly Agree; Agree; Disagree; Strongly Disagree; and, Don’t Know.  The questions fell into these categories:

*   The Board Clarifies the District Purpose
*   The Board Connects with the Community
*   The Board Delegates Authority
*   The Board Employs a Superintendent
*   The Board Monitors Performance
*   The Board Takes Responsibility for Itself.

These categories correspond to an MSBA document breaking down responsibility between the Superintendent and School Board (as a body) and School Board Members for each of these categories.  In short, the Board makes policy and provides oversight; the Superintendent leads all staff in carrying out Policy and provides for the day to day leadership.  While school board members are all elected individually, the power of the school board exists only when the board members act as a body. 

Following the self-evaluation, the Board will hold a Closed Session to discuss legal actions and litigation issues; leasing, purchase or sale of land; individually identifiable personnel records; and other records protected from disclosure.

 The City Council of Jefferson City does not have a confirmed date for having the Truman Hotel TIF (Tax Increment Financing District) proposal from the Puri Group of Enterprises on their agenda.   The City and the Puri Group are still working through the contract that will become effective IF the City Council passes the proposal with seven (7) affirmative votes.  The contract is the document outlining which development and overhead costs can be paid to the Developer (the Puri Group) from new taxes generated from the development (increased property value, new sales tax, etc.)  This crucial document also details payment terms from the abated taxes to the Puri’s for up to 23 years for each of the two project areas.  

 Time to negotiate the contract terms is running out as the State legislation governing TIF’s has specific deadlines for how long the City can take to act.  Based on those deadlines, it is
likely (but not certain) the City will introduce the proposal at the Tuesday, September 6, 2016 meeting and act on Monday, September 19.   The City website www.jeffersoncitymo.gov will post meeting agendas and related documents for those meetings by the Friday before each meeting.  I will post links as well here when the documents become available.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

Monday, September 5 is Labor Day.

TENTATIVE:  Tuesday, September 6, 6:00 p.m., City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal to be introduced.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Monday, September 19, (
note date change to third Monday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

TENTATIVE:  Monday, September 19, 6:00 p.m., City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal (revised again) Public Hearing.  Public Comment is permitted and encouraged; the Council is expected to vote at this meeting.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

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Week in Review August 6 through 12
Posted August 12, 2016


The school board held the regular monthly meeting on Monday, August 8.  Highlights from the meeting were these items:

*      Tax Rate Hearing:  Revised tax documents were handed out to Board members at the start of the meeting.   The overall levy will remain the same for taxpayers.   The operating levy increased by a fraction of a cent (per $100 of assessed valuation) but this was offset by a rollback in the debt service levy.  Last year the District refinanced a portion of the 2007 bonds related to the building of Pioneer Trail Elementary School.  Next year another portion of the same bond will become eligible for refinancing to a lower interest rate.
*     Board member Steve Bruce reported he was one of 12 Missouri school board members going on a Missouri School Boards Association trip to Washington D.C. to meet with the two Missouri U.S. Senators and one Congresswoman.   Each school district paid for the associated expenses.   If you have questions, Mr. Bruce’s contact information can be found at www.jcschools.us  and clicking on the Board Member information tabs. 
*     School Safety and Security Coordinator Kurt Mueller discussed emergency plans updated for each school.  The plans cover all types of emergencies from medical to weather, environmental to safety threat.  Parents may have seen the plan booklets located in every classroom in the district.
*     The contract with Yellow Folder LLC (that is the name of the company) for an electronic record management system was put on hold due to a lack of information.   The contract included as part of the contract Yellow Folder policies and procedures that had not been made available or reviewed by JCPS; there were questions regarding damages in case of a data breach;  handling of data turnover if the contract would be terminated; length of the contract; price of the services; and, whether contract  disputes would be resolved in Texas or Missouri. 
*     The Board adopted the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Compliance Review Standards and Indicators for Special Education.  Approximately 10% of JCPS students are covered by these guidelines.  In Missouri the average is 12%.
*      A Closed Session followed the regular meeting.  Under discussion were legal actions/litigation; leasing, purchase or sale of real estate; individually identifiable personnel records; and records protected from disclosure.   The session lasted just over one hour.  Two votes were taken.

On Monday, August 22 the School Board will conduct a self-evaluation with the Missouri School Boards Association moderating.  Board members completed an 84 question survey and results were sent to all Board members on August 3. 

The City Council of Jefferson City will NOT have the Truman Hotel Tax Increment Financing proposal introduced on Monday, August 15, 2016.  My understanding is the contract between the Puri Group of Enterprises and the City is still being negotiated.  The contract spells out what expenses of the Puri Group are eligible for reimbursement from the abated taxes generated by the Truman Hotel property.  This is the last step in the TIF process, a step that usually comes after the Council approves the TIF. 

In a related matter, the City will consider as part of their consent agenda an item titled "Amend the contract with Lauber Municipal Law LLC dated October 19, 2016 (sic) for services related to the Truman TIF Development Project."   The Lauber Law Firm is the outside counsel hired by the City to represent the City's interests in the TIF matter.  In August of 2015 the City authorized fees totaling up to $25,000.00; to date expenditures total $41,187.50 and are likely to exceed a total of $50,00.00 per the Staff report  (see page 33 of 149 in this link http://documents.jeffcitymo.org/WebLink8/0/doc/396253/Page1.aspx   )  

The Puri Group will have to pay the City for the Lauber bill, BUT this will become a reimbursable cost and abated tax dollars can be used to pay the Puri Group for the Lauber fee if the TIF is approved.  The City Council must have seven affirmative votes to approve the TIF as the TIF Commission voted (seven members to one) against the proposal.  The next possible date for the TIF to be introduced is September 6.  Watch the website (either Jefferson City's or mine) for information as it becomes available.

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, August 15, 6:00 p.m., 
City Council*  Truman Hotel TIF proposal (revised again) will NOT be introduced.  Public Comment is permitted.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Thursday, August 18:
First Day of School, watch for young pedestrians near schools and bus stops. 

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

Monday, September 5 is Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 6, 6:00 p.m., 
City Council* Truman Hotel TIF proposal (revised again) may be introduced.  Public Comment is permitted.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Monday, September 19, (
note date change to third Monday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

______________________________________________________

Week in Review July 31 through August 5
posted August 5, 2016


 There were no public meetings this past week.  The School Board will hold its regular monthly meeting on Monday, August 8, 2016.  Items on the agenda include:

#     A Tax Rate Hearing to set the levy for the 2016-2017 tax rate.  Jefferson City Public Schools are one of a few remaining districts in Missouri that must rollback property tax rates if other revenues such as the Proposition C state tax revenue increases.  It will take voter approval to change this.  The calculations, all eight pages, have been reviewed by the State Auditor’s office and will be explained at the meeting.   The bottom line is that a small rollback in the levy will be required.  This seems counterproductive as the District has many unmet needs, however, until the voters are presented with the choice of changing the District status, and approve that, the District will continue to comply with regulations and rollback the levy some years.  The public comment period of the meeting will immediately follow the tax presentation.
#     Reports will be heard from Board member Steve Bruce regarding his trip to Washington D.C. to visit with Missouri representatives; Superintendent Larry Linthacum; and School Safety and Security Coordinator Kurt Mueller.
#     A contract with Yellow Folder LLC (that is the name of the company, based in Texas) to provide a cloud based electronic records management system will be presented. 
#     Special Education Compliance Review Standards and Indicators will be presented by Dr. Sheila Logan for Board approval.  The 110 page document appears to be from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and be a July 2016 revision.
Following the open meeting, the Board will go into closed session to discuss legal actions; leasing, sale or purchase of land; individually identifiable personnel records; and other protected records.

The complete agenda and open session documents are available online at www.jcschools.us Scroll to the School Board tab and click on the agendas & meeting packets option. In addition to documents referenced above, there will be reports from Central Office Administrators.

This weekend (August 5 through 7) is the Missouri sales tax holiday.  For details of what items will be exempt from Missouri sales tax and which locations may also waive local sales taxes, please see the links in the
July 17 through 22 Week in Review (scroll down.)  The tax holiday brings to mind this question:  Why would a city that has chosen to opt out of waiving sales tax for three days of back to school shopping by parents be seriously considering waiving taxes for 23 years for wealthy developers in the form of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) for hotel rooms?

Jefferson City did NOT introduce the Truman Hotel TIF at their August 1st meeting.  I learned from Mayor Tergin that there are further revisions underway to the Puri Group of Enterprises proposal to have new taxes abated to help finance the demolition of most of the Truman Hotel and construction of two new hotels and restaurant.   The City Council is now scheduled to introduce the proposal at their August 15 meeting and hold a public hearing on Tuesday, September 6.  The Council is expected to vote on September 6.  Because the TIF Commission voted 7 – 1 against the proposal, the City Council must have 7 affirmative votes to approve the TIF.  If approved, the result will be a loss of some future revenue to the School District and other local governments.  Agendas and documents for City meetings can be found at www.jeffersoncitymo.gov

This past week the Kansas City Star published an article, “Kansas City education and political leaders want to discuss incentive reform; petitioners want to force a vote.”  The coalition of community leaders want to restrict the amount of taxes that can be abated for private developers to finance their projects.  They are considering putting their proposal on the ballot.  At the same time, the community leaders are seeking a meeting with the area economic development interests to discuss past tax abatements, their effectiveness (or lack thereof) and the negative effect on school and other budgets.  You can read the article through this link:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/article92500657.html#storylink=cpy

 
Another article I came across this week is from the Missouri Budget Project, whose “about us” statement reads, “Missouri Budget Project improves the quality of life for all Missourians by informing public policy decisions through objective research and analysis of state budget, tax and economic issues.”  On July 31 they published an article titled, “MO May See Additional Budget Shortfalls in FYs 2017 & 2018”.   You can read the short report through this link:


http://www.mobudget.org/slow-growth-jeopardizes-fy17/


If the Missouri Budget Project is correct, declining State revenues and local tax abatements of school taxes could mean even tougher times for our school district.   Rising utility costs, increased technology needs, and a shortage of classroom space are daunting challenges.  Given that 58.4% of the student body qualify for free or reduced cost meals, it seems that many in our community have not recovered from the economic downturn of 2008 and could not support a tax increase.  To even ask for one at the same time that some very successful developers may be granted tax abatements to finance projects that may or may not succeed or improve the local economy, would be a slap in the face. Whether you agree or disagree, please contact your elected officials at the School Board or the City and let them know your thoughts.  Then vote at every opportunity.     

 UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street

August 5, 6 and 7:  Missouri state sales tax holiday on many items.  (See
Week in Review July 17 through 22 for links to specific tax information)

Monday, August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting public comment is permitted on agenda items

Monday, August 15, 6:00 p.m., 
City Council*  Truman Hotel TIF proposal (revised again) to be introduced4.  Public Comment is permitted.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Thursday, August 18: First Day of School, watch for young pedestrians near schools and bus stops. 

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

Monday, September 5 is Labor Day.

Tuesday, September 6, 6:00 p.m., City Council* Public Hearing regarding the Truman Hotel TIF proposal, Council action is expected.  Public Comment is encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Monday, September 19, (
note date change to third Monday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

________________________________________

NOTE:  The City Council will NOT discuss the Truman Hotel TIF from the Puri Group tonight, August 1.  Per Mayor Tergin, the TIF will now be introduced on August 15th and a Public Hearing and vote will take place on Tuesday, September 6, 2016, due to additional changes to the proposal. 

____________________________________________

Week in Review July 23 through 30
Posted July 30, 2016


 There were no public meetings last week, however, there was an action taken by another local government that may have long range implications for our Jefferson City Public Schools.   The Cole County Board of Equalization again significantly lowered the value of the old St. Mary’s property on Missouri Boulevard near the junction of US Highways 50 and 54/63.  The value is now listed as $1 million, down from a high of $2.9 million.  There were two other interim lowering of value to $2.3 million and then $2 million since the Farmer Holding Group (F & F Development) purchased the property from SSM St. Mary’s.   (Note:  The Assessor placed a value on the St. Mary’s property every year – just like it does with all property – but as a religious institution, St. Mary’s has a tax exemption and no property taxes were collected during its ownership of the property.)

The assessed value, the portion that is used to pay taxes, is now $320,000.00.   This is an important number as it could well turn out to be the ceiling on taxes paid even after the property is developed.  It is no secret the Farmer Group has been exploring tax breaks and incentives for the property including Brownfield tax credits and/or grants for asbestos, lead paint, and possible soil cleanup where two gas stations once stood on outparcel parking lots; historic tax credits and/or grants for restoring the original stone portion of the old hospital; a TIF (tax increment financing district) for tearing down non-historic portions of the old hospital and redevelopment of the property; potentially a “super TIF” involving bonding backed by Jefferson City; and a Community Improvement District (CID) that would collect additional sales tax from businesses located on the property after development.  The CID would help pay down the TIF faster.  This is based on a meeting I had June 8, 2016, with a member of the Farmer Group (at their request) last June.   During discussion with the Farmer Group about the asbestos, lead paint and potential gas station pollution, the representative was quick to point out the buildings and grounds were safe, all materials were intact, but that in demolishing the building special precautions would need to be taken to prevent the materials from become airborne and they would require special disposal.  This was the basis of the assessed value of the property being lowered, per media reports:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/jul/27/assessed-value-halved-old-smhc/633317/

http://www.abc17news.com/news/former-st-marys-hospital-property-value-drops-significantly/40920566

As of today, I have not seen a formal proposal from the Farmer Group nor have I heard any specifics about their proposed development.  What I have heard and seen are drawings of what the site may look like; two scenarios were presented based on whether or not an anchor tenant would locate in the middle of the development.  That anchor tenant was the only specific use mentioned and it was clear that at the time of our meeting the tenant had not yet secured funds for their feasibility study, much less offer a commitment to locate there.  The number and size of the central building varied based on the tenant’s decision.  (The potential tenant did receive funds two weeks later to pay for the study.)

The Jefferson City Council will introduce the Truman Hotel TIF at its meeting this Monday, August 1 at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  A Public Hearing is scheduled for August 15, also at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.  I have heard at least one member of the City Council is supporting the Truman Hotel TIF so that they can also support a future St. Mary’s TIF.  I hope this is not true as it flies in the face of voting based on evidence presented; the statement implies the Truman TIF would not otherwise be approved while at the same time using a TIF that has not yet been detailed as the justification.

TIF’s are touted as an economic development tool, as a job creation tool.  Yet, by their very nature, using future taxes to pay a developer for developing property, TIF’s are taking away funds from schools, libraries and other forms of local government.  TIF supporters are saying that hotel and retail jobs are the best we can offer future generations.  During the 23 years (per project) life of a TIF, no new taxes go towards hiring more teachers that are a current need.

Perhaps the City Council is satisfied with our schools.  As an individual member of the Board of Education, I am not.  Our test scores have declined to the point of placing us in the lowest portion of Missouri schools; our annual performance rating received last year placed us within one percentage point of being provisionally accredited.   With new board members (6 of 7 have served fewer than 3 years) and a new Superintendent (entering his second year) the District is trying to turn things around.  However, with less State funding most years, a low tax levy, and continuing erosion of our tax base through special districts like TIF’s, it is an uphill battle to provide the youth of this community with the education they deserve.  JCPS has entered its second year of deficit spending for operational costs.   

In May after the Puri Group of Enterprises presented Truman Hotel TIF information to the School Board I presented Dr. Ramen Puri with a list of written questions and he, in the school board meeting stated he would provide a written response.  I promised to share that response when I received it.  No response has been received.

If you have an opinion about the TIFs, please attend a City Council meeting and/or send the Council a note expressing your thoughts.  Even if you do not live in Jefferson City, this affects you if you live in the Jefferson City Public School District.  When the City votes on tax abatements for the school districts as well as themselves, who do you think will be asked to make up the shortfall?  It will be the patrons and taxpayers of the school district whether they live in Jefferson City, St. Martins, Holts Summit, unincorporated Cole or Callaway counties, or another jurisdiction.  Every JCPS tax payer pays the same amount for schools so this TIF vote by the City Council affects us all. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, August 1, 6:00 p.m.,
City Council* Meeting:  Truman Hotel TIF proposal is to be introduced.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Tuesday, August 2:  Election Day.  Primary election date for State and County offices and ballot issues, polling locations are open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Monday, August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting public comment is permitted on agenda items

Monday, August 15, 6:00 p.m.,
City Council* Public Hearing regarding the Truman Hotel TIF proposal, Council action is expected.  Public Comment is encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

Thursday, August 18: First Day of School, watch for young pedestrians near schools and bus stops. 

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

 Monday, September 19, (
note date change to third Monday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.

______________________________________

Week in Review July 17 through 22

posted July 22, 2016

See also HOT TOPIC: TIF and Different Ways of Thinking, posted July 18, 2016. 

There were no public meetings this past week and none scheduled next week.

The first day of the 2016 – 2017 school year is Thursday, August 18 and attention is turning towards making sure everyone is ready.  Below are some website links that may be helpful.

For a complete list of registration information and Open House dates by building, please follow this link to the official Jefferson City Public Schools JCPS web site:

http://jcschools.schoolwires.net/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=270&ViewID=047E6BE3-6D87-4130-8424-D8E4E9ED6C2A&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=19390&PageID=1

School supply lists for Elementary and Middle Schools have been posted on the official Jefferson City Public Schools web site:

http://jcschools.schoolwires.net/Page/201

The annual Missouri Back-to-School tax holiday will run from Friday, August 5 through Sunday August 7, 2016.  Many back to school items will not require the State portion of sales tax (0.4225%) payment.  Municipalities may choose to waive their portion of the sales tax as well.  For a list of item categories and links to find out about local sales tax where you plan to shop, here is a link to the Missouri Department of Revenue:

http://dor.mo.gov/business/sales/taxholiday/school/

 Late this week school board members received a survey from the Missouri School Boards Association as part of the Board Self Evaluation exercise that will take place on August 22.  Each Board member is to complete the survey online by August 5.  Board members and the Superintendent will then receive aggregate results in advance of the meeting.   The 84 question survey affords the opportunity to answer “strongly agree” “agree” “disagree” “strongly disagree” or “don’t know”.  There is no place for comments and the survey does not permit the skipping of questions.   Look for more about this in upcoming weeks. 

In the meantime, please feel free to use the contact me form  on this website to offer your comments on what the Board is doing well, what areas could be improved, and offer your suggestions.  I will read them and share comments (but no identifying information) on this site prior to the August 22 Board work session and with my fellow Board members at the August 22 meeting.   

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, August 1, 6:00 p.m.,
City Council* Meeting:  Truman Hotel TIF proposal is to be introduced.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Tuesday, August 2:  Election Day.  Primary election date for State and County offices and ballot issues, polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Monday, August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting public comment is permitted on agenda items

 Monday, August 15, 6:00 p.m.,
City Council* Public Hearing regarding the Truman Hotel TIF proposal, Council action is expected.  Public Comment is encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Thursday, August 18: First Day of School, watch for young pedestrians near schools and bus stops. 

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

 Monday, September 19, (
note date change to third Monday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District.  

________________________________________

Note:  See HOT TOPIC:  TIF and Different Ways of Thinking, posted July 18, 2016.  This posting explores differences in opinion over who pays for government and who pays for development.

______________________________________

Week in Review July 10 through 16

posted July 16, 2016


The School Board held its regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 11, 2016.  Items of note are:

#     Superintendent Larry Linthacum, as part of his report to the Board, handed out a strategic plan summary card.  It included a Mission Statement:  “We will give all students hope for a better tomorrow by ensuring every student achieves their potential through a challenging educational system characterized by pride through excellence.”   The District Goals were defined as Increasing the graduation rate, academic achievement and attendance. 
#     The Superintendent and Central Office Administrative team gave their brief summary of attending the Model Schools Conference.  In all 28 JCPS staff members attended.  The conference was put on by the same people JCPS contracts with to “build effective instruction to support a culture of learning”.  Superintendent Linthacum indicated he wanted the entire administrative staff to be on the same page. 
#     The Behavior Task Force has revised codes of conduct for grade levels K-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  They will be holding meetings at each school for parents to introduce the new standards.
#     Jefferson Asphalt was awarded the contract for repair of Jayette Drive at the High School.  Their bid, the lowest of two, was $25,778.25.
#     Rehagen Electric was awarded a contract to replace an electrical panel at the High School gym.  Their bid, $10,914.00, was the lowest complete bid of four.  The lowest bidder ($8,900.00) did not include all required documents and could not be considered.   
#     In the TIF update, the Board was brought up to date on the TIF Commission determination to deny the Truman TIF by a vote of 7 – 1.  The City Council can override the TIF Commission with a super majority (7 of 10) YES votes.  The TIF will be introduced to the City Council at their August 1 meeting; a public hearing and vote will take place on August 15. 
#     Following the regular meeting, the Board went into Closed Session to discuss legal matters; individually identifiable personnel; other protected records; and real estate.   Votes on several routine matters were taken. 
A tentative Board meeting schedule was discussed.  The September regular board meeting will move from the second Monday to the third Monday to allow for some members and administrative staff to play in the Helias Foundation golf tournament.   The June (2017) regular meeting will be pushed to the fourth Monday for budget approval. 

TIF (Tax Increment Financing) in the news.  Below are links to articles regarding TIF Districts in general as I am still receiving several email inquiries about TIF’s on a weekly basis.

http://www.kansascity.com/news/business/development/article87503272.html  “Will KC get a law to rein in development incentives? One Councilman is trying”

http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/gov-nixon-signs-new-restrictions-on-tif-incentives-for-developers/article_f79b26a0-3555-5de9-9fe7-9ef7bca119a8.html   “Governor Nixon signs new restrictions on TIF incentives for developers” 

http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/tax-incentives-hefty-tally/article_b67693db-8601-5fa9-b750-58612926aeee.html  “Tax incentives’ hefty tally” This 2011 article reports on costs to the public for private development over a 20 year period. 

 UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       The School Board Office is located at 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, August 1, 6:00 p.m.,
City Council* MeetingTruman Hotel TIF proposal is to be introducedCity Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Tuesday, August 2:  Election Day.  Primary election date for State and County offices and ballot issues, polling locations open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

Monday, August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting public comment is permitted on agenda items

 Monday, August 15, 6:00 p.m.,
City Council* Public Hearing regarding the Truman Hotel TIF proposal, Council action is expected.  Public Comment is encouraged.  City Hall is located at 320 East McCarty Street.

 Thursday, August 18: First Day of School, watch for young pedestrians near schools and bus stops. 

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

 Monday, September 19, (note date change to third Monday) 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting, public comment regarding agenda items permitted. 

 
*NOTE:  The City Council is a separate from the School District form of local government.  Neither the City nor the Schools report to each other, nor do they have common boundaries.  City Council information is provided when the Council is considering matters having an effect on the School District. 
 

________________________________________

Week in Review July 2 through 9 posted July 9 2016

There were no public meetings this past week.

The regular, monthly meeting of the school board will be held Monday, July 11th at 6:00 p.m.  Public comment on agenda items is permitted.  Notable items on the agenda include:

*     Reports from Superintendent Larry Linthacum and Drs. Sheila Logan and Tammy Ridgeway on the Behavior Task Force.
*     An update on the Truman Hotel TIF from CFO Jason Hoffman.  Although the TIF Commission voted 7 to 1 to deny the TIF (3 members were absent); the TIF proposal will advance to the City Council where it must have a supermajority (7 of 10) votes to be approved.  The City Council is thought to be including this on their July 18 agenda for the first of two readings, but that is not confirmed.   
*     Policy recommendations from the Board Policy Committee will have their second and final reading.  Additionally, a separate procedure governing consent and administration of drug testing for sports and activities is being brought forward.  This was not reviewed by the Policy Committee.
*     A contract for asphalt repair at the high school will be awarded.  Two bids were received and JCPS Staff recommend the low bidder.
*     A contract to replace the electric panel in the high school gymnasium will be awarded.  Four bids were received and JCPS staff recommends the bid be awarded to the lowest bidder with a complete bid package; the low bidder did not include a bid bond, a required part of the bid submission that protects the district in case work is incomplete or faulty.

Following the regular, open meeting, the Board will go into a closed session to discuss legal matters; individually identifiable personnel records; other protected records; and real estate.

Budgeting Concern:   This is the second year the school district is dipping into the reserve account for operation expenses.  Reserves are intended for emergencies and one time expenditures (like building renovations, construction, etc.) and not for ongoing operational expenditures.  The District relies on new construction and increased value of current property to pay for increasing operational costs such as salaries, utilities, fuel, etc. 

The two major areas keeping school revenues from keeping pace with needs are decreasing state aid and tax abatements on commercial properties.  In addition to TIF’s (current ones are O’Donohue’s, the Southside area and the Capital Mall; pending is the Truman Hotel; and, coming soon is another major request) there are other tax abatements on the books (the DoubleTree Hotel and Modern Litho for equipment, for example.)

Just this past week the Governor stated he will withhold approved funding for some programs as State revues are not meeting projections.  One of those programs is school transportation funding.  Our JCPS Chief Financial Officer this week provided details of how transportation funding affects JCPS:  This past School Year State funding covered nearly 20% of costs; in the 2003-2004 school year state funding covered nearly 47% of the cost.  Just last year alone, that meant $2,872,598 of our transportation costs had to come from local property taxes.

With neither State nor local revenue sources stable, JCPS is struggling to make up the difference.   The JCPS tax levy is now $.3926 below the state average.  (In 2003-2004 the JCPS tax levy was $.0146 below the state average.)  According to our CFO, we would need $.1489 more in the property tax levy to make up the transportation deficit alone. 

Something needs to change; either everyone, including commercial property owners, need to pay their full share of property taxes or we will need to raise taxes in order to meet basic needs. 

Transportation is only one example of JCPS facing less revenue for an ongoing expense.   Even with deficit spending JCPS has unmet needs and projects have been deferred.  Teacher salaries are no longer the best in the area; needs for technical equipment are not being fully met; major renovations to Moreau Heights and Thorpe Gordon Elementary Schools have been placed on indefinite hold; planning for new schools has also been put on hold; trailers are at three schools to address urgent space needs; and the legislature has passed additional unfunded mandates.  (Urgent needs, such as roof repairs, electric, etc., are being addressed.)

UPCOMING MEETINGS & Important Dates:       all at the Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, July 11: 6:00 p.m., Regular School Board Meeting public comment is permitted on agenda items

 Tuesday, August 2:  Election Day.  Primary election date for State and County offices and ballot issues.

Monday, August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting  public comment is permitted on agenda items

 Thursday, August 18: First Day of School, watch for young pedestrians near schools and bus stops. 

 Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session;  Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period

___________________________________________

​Week in Review June 25 through July 1            

posted July 1, 2016


There were no public meetings this past week. 

On Sunday, June 26th the News Tribune published an article titled, “Truman Hotel TIF: What happens next?”  The story indicated that despite the TIF Commission soundly rejecting the proposal from the Puri Group to build new hotels and a restaurant using tax dollars diverted from schools and other entities, the City Council could still approve the plan if 7 of the 10 members of the City Council vote “yes.”  The article (link below) included quotes from many of the Jefferson City Councilmen and women:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/jun/26/truman-hotel-tif-what-happens-next/629079/

While several were in favor of granting tax abatements, several had questions, only one stated a willingness to dismiss current concerns of the school district because school representatives on the TIF Commission in 2013 voted in favor of tax abatements for the Capital Mall.   That remark, when coupled with concerns by the Puri Group expressed to the News Tribune in an article published last Thursday, June 23, that the School Board was discriminating against them, led me to write a letter to the Editor.  It was published on June 29 and read as follows:

Your Opinion: School board member speaks out on TIF

June 29th, 2016 by Pam Murray, Holts Summit in Opinion Letters Read Time: 2 mins.

Dear Editor:

It was with dismay that I read comments from Vivek Puri in the paper last Thursday where he suggests the lack of support from JCPS for his tax abatement request was "a purely discriminatory process from the school board against the Puri Group because of who we are." After reflection, I cannot be upset with him as he and the Puri Group have a lot at stake; millions of dollars in tax abatements. The Puri Group likely has not followed issues related to our Jefferson City Public Schools, either.

I am disappointed that one of the Jefferson City councilman has stated to the News Tribune his readiness to dismiss JCPS opposition to the Truman TIF "as the school district didn't have any issues with the TIF at the Capital Mall”

To both the Puri Group and the City Council, I would point out that since the TIF Commission approved the Capital Mall proposal in October 2013, six of the seven school board members serving and the superintendent of schools have been replaced. The school board is in the process of approving a policy regarding TIF Commission service and actions by JCPS representatives. The new policy addresses the need for the entire board to be involved in discussion.

As an individual school board member, I can attest that the current board and superintendent have engaged in active discussion and due diligence regarding the current TIF proposal. I personally have attended many meetings outside of school board meetings, researched legislation, finance, property and corporate records, consulted a charter financial analyst, and listened to all sides. The school board held two special meetings to discuss the TIF in addition to discussions held during regular business meetings.

Much of this was documented contemporaneously on my website, www.pammurray.org starting in late March 2016. JCPS staff have done extensive research as well and from my observation, the board has done due diligence and rendered a decision based on the proposal materials presented and the best interests of the school district.

Different levels of local government have different concerns and needs and each must make decisions accordingly. But please don't base your decision on actions of officials who are now no longer in office. JCPS is entering its second year of deficit spending for operational costs and we have many unmet needs. Getting the JCPS budget under control is made much more difficult when our neighbors at City Hall have sweeping control over property taxes, our principal source of revenue.


The School District has a long way to go in terms of student achievement; keeping up with technology needs; addressing over crowded facilities; and keeping pace with surrounding districts when it comes to teacher pay.  None of that is easy and having another taxing authority, the City, able to abate taxes over JCPS objections, makes the task all that harder. 

The City Council is likely to take up the TIF discussion on July 18 at City Hall, with a final vote on August 1, but the dates are not certain. 

                   Happy Independence Day!

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS and
Dates:       all meetings at the Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, July 11: 6:00 p.m., Regular School Board Meeting public comment is permitted on agenda items

 
Tuesday, August 2:  Election Day.  Primary election date for State and County offices and ballot issues.

Monday August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting  public comment is permitted on agenda items

Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session;  Topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period


 __________________________________________

Week in Review  June 18 through June 24 

posted June 24, 2016


There were two public meetings this week, both related to the Truman Hotel Tax Increment Financing District proposal from the Puri Group of Enterprises to abate future taxes and redirect funds to the Puri Group to pay a portion of their development costs.

On Wednesday morning, June 22, the School Board held a Special Meeting to consider the revised Puri proposal.  The original proposal had JCPS bearing 61% of the burden of lost revenue due to abated taxes.  In the revised proposal, the City of Jefferson would have half of lodging taxes collected from the two new hotels go to the developer to repay his costs.  In exchange, a portion of property tax commensurate to the lodging tax adjustment would be collected and sent to the schools and other entities proportionately.  The Puri’s would then voluntarily annex into the City their two hotels in Apache Flats and the City would keep 100% of the lodging taxes from those hotels. 

Chief Financial Officer for JCPS, Jason Hoffman, gave a brief presentation of financial numbers for the revised Puri proposal.  In order for a TIF to be approved, it must pass a “but for” test showing that but for public financing (in the form of returned tax money) the developer could not undertake the project.  The conclusion was that the project did not pass that test as without public tax abatement (avoidance) financing, the project would still yield over 8% return on investment to the developer.  The CFO recommendation was to not have the two JCPS representatives on the TIF Commission approve the TIF.  The Board was then asked to voice any concerns about the recommendation; no board member did so.

Here is a link to the News Tribune coverage of the School Board meeting, including interviews with School officials and Vivek Puri of the Puri Group of Enterprises: 

http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/jun/23/board-opposes-tif-project-philosophical-reasons/628549/

Following the brief TIF meeting, the Board went into closed session to discuss individually identifiable personnel records and legal actions. 

On Thursday evening, June 23, the City TIF Commission met to consider the Puri proposal for the Truman Hotel.   The TIF Commission is composed of 11 individuals representing taxing entities: six were appointed by Jefferson City; two were appointed by Cole County; two were appointed by Jefferson City Public Schools; and one represents all other taxing authorities and in this case was from the library.  The two JCPS representatives were Superintendent Larry Linthacum and CFO Jason Hoffman.  On Thursday, 8 of the 11 members were present for the public hearing.      

The meeting started with two City consultants presenting information.  Joe Laubber is an attorney who specializes in TIF’s and he went through the proposal.  He presented a slide indicating how much of a burden, by percentage, each taxing entity would bear through lost tax income to pay the developer.  Another slide showed how much each entity would “gain” from increased valuation over the 23+ year life of the TIF.  (The TIF is divided into two projects with each having a life span of up to 23 years of abated taxes.) 

Next, Tom Kaleko of Springsted, the financial advisor to the City, indicated that after review, the cost proposal from the Puri Group was adjusted downward by $5.2 million.  He further indicated that not all buildings on the Truman Hotel property would be demolished; the main building will be renovated, not reconstructed.  In response to a question from TIF Commission Chair Bill Betts, Mr. Kaleko indicated the rate of return without tax abatements, would be 8.61% even with the revised project numbers.  Mr. Kaleko stated that if costs go down then the profit margin goes up.

Mr. Vivek Puri, an attorney and officer of Puri corporations, then presented the Puri proposal.  They own six hotels and several restaurants in Columbia and Jefferson City employing 450 employees.  He presented a slide showing their charitable contributions in the Jefferson City area over the years. 

The hearing was then opened to the public.  Eight members of the public spoke.  Tim Sigmund, an attorney representing several hotel owners, addressed three points:  the proposal does not meet the “but for” test; lodging tax cannot legally be used in the manner proposed; and the annexation of other Puri hotels into Jefferson City should not be considered by the TIF Commission as it is not part of the written proposal.

Four current hotel owners and operators and one former hotel owner came forward and expressed their doubt about the cost figures in the Puri proposal.  Several of them were currently constructing hotels here in the Midwest with the same chains as the Puri Group is proposing.  Their costs are significantly lower.  A trade magazine showing actual costs across the U.S. showed a range lower than the Puri figures.  They further stated the Puri Group was to annex their Apache Flats hotels on two other occasions but did not follow through.  City Attorney Drew Hilpert stated he did not find a contract to that affect, but there was a letter on file.

Lisa McKenzie stated the hotel operators were concerned about competition, and the best predictor of future actions is past behavior.

Last to speak was Marjorie Van Horn, who had done research on TIF’s and their effects when she worked for the Missouri Legislature.  She primarily studied the St. Louis and Kansas City areas.  Many of the TIF’s were for hotels and shopping centers.  When due diligence was not done and the accuracy of figures was not fully verified, the TIF’s were not a boon to the communities, they were a detriment.  The project created by the TIF would result in closing of existing businesses.  Subsequent TIF’s would then put businesses created by previous TIF’s out of business.  Ms. Van Horn said she spoke because allegations were made about the accuracy of information.  She cautioned that when regulations are bent a cascade of business failures can result and urged TIF Commission members to be sure of the facts before they voted; perhaps this is not as good as it seems.

The Commission chair asked questions about the building costs.  There was contention about information presented.  The TIF Commission discussion was limited.  Legal counsel (Mr. Laubber)  instructed them regarding procedure to conform to TIF regulations.  First was a vote on the four page resolution recommending approval.  It failed by a vote of 7 to 1, with Presiding County Commissioner Sam Bushman being the lone vote.  Mr. Laubber then instructed the Commission to entertain a motion in opposition to the proposal, it passed unanimously, 8 to 0.  

The City Council is the next step for the proposal.  Because the Commission voted against approval, there must be a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the proposal to approve it.  I am not aware of the date the Council will take up the issue.

Here is a link to the News Tribune article about the Thursday hearing:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/jun/23/tif-panel-rejects-truman-hotel-proposal/628664/

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS:    all at the Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, July 11: 6:00 p.m., Regular School Board Meeting  public comment is permitted on agenda items

Monday August 8:  6:00 p.m. Regular School Board Meeting  public comment is permitted on agenda items

Monday, August 22:  6:00 p.m. School Board Work Session; topic:  Board self-evaluation.  Public attendance is encouraged but there will be no public comment period


___________________________________________

Week in Review June 11 through 17       

posted June 17 2016

Corrected on June 19 to reflect the start time of the School Board meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 for the TIF discussion is at 7:00 a.m.


There was a school board meeting on Monday, June 13th.   The major item on the agenda was passing of the budget for the school fiscal year that runs from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017.  It projects a nearly $1.1 million deficit, meaning that amount will likely come from reserve funds.  At the end of the year, assuming revenue and expense projections are correct; this will leave the district with an operating fund balance of $18.4 million on June 30, 2017; that represents a 20.8% fund balance.  Since the district relies on property taxes for 48% of all revenue, and property tax money comes in mostly in December and January, reserve funds carried forward are used to meet payroll and other expenses from July through December.  Reserves are also used for unexpected expenses. 

Part of the budget revenue projection is an educated guess about how much new construction and new personal property will be added to the tax rolls.  Using historic data and making assumptions about the economy goes into our CFO projecting that the value in these areas will increase by $10 million in the coming year.  From that the estimate of tax dollars to schools is arrived at.  Usually, those estimates are quite realistic.  When there are tax abatements of any kind keeping  school property tax revenue flat, it becomes difficult to keep up with rising costs and meet ever growing needs.  (See TIF, Tax Increment Financing, discussion below)

The School Board took action on these items at the June 13 meeting:

*    A contract was awarded to KA Berendzen Construction to grade an area at Cedar Hill Elementary School and install playground equipment.  The parent and teachers organization at Cedar Hill raised the funds to purchase the equipment.
*    A contract was awarded to Stokes Electric Company to bring electricity to a trailer at Pioneer Hills Elementary School.  Included in the work is wiring for alarms and communications.  Pioneer Trails joins the High School and East Elementary School as facilities with trailers for classrooms.
*    A contract with Weeks Orientation & Mobility Services was renewed for special education services on an as needed basis.
*     A contract with the SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital was awarded for speech, physical and occupational therapy services to students on an as needed basis.
Policy revisions were approved on the first of two reads; the Board will take final action at the July 11 meeting.
*     A closed session for legal and personnel issues was held from 9:05 to 10:40 p.m. following the regular open meeting.

During the Public Comment section of the Board meeting, Trey Propes, Director of Operations for Ehrhardt Hotels, operators of Candlewood Inn & suites, presented Board members with a copy of a letter he and Mark Randolph, President of Premier Management, Inc., operator of Baymont Inn & Suites and Fairfield Inn & Suites, had written and presented to City elected officials.  The letter made several arguments against approving the Puri TIF application.   They questioned figures in the original Puri proposal:  they suggested purchase price of the Truman Hotel had been inflated from $1,075,000 to $4,250,000 by selling the property from one Puri owned company to another; building costs for the two new hotels were far above the norm; and soft costs of managing the development and legal fees.  They questioned if the City “independent” consultant accepted the developer’s numbers without independently verification.   They additionally put forth questions regarding the City’s determination that the Truman property would only be developed with taxpayer aid.  They pointed out that no other hotel in the area utilized a TIF to build.  (Note:  The Puri owned DoubleTree Hotel has used another type of tax abatement to avoid taxes for a total ten years on the increased value of the property due to the Puri led improvements.)  The letter is not available for reproducing here.  As it is a public record, a copy may be requested of the City or School District.

On Thursday, June 16th I attended a meeting of community leaders representing economic, government, education, religious and other interests and presented information about the Truman Hotel TIF proposal from my perspective as an individually elected Board member.  Also speaking to the group was City Administrator Steve Crowley.

On Thursday morning, June 16, I received a copy of the amended TIF proposal by the Puri Group for the Truman Hotel property.  (The school district received a copy on the 15th.)  The entire proposal is now well over 200 pages.  The Board will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, June 22 at 7:00 a.m. to review the school district position.  The TIF Commission meets Thursday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall to conduct a public hearing.   The timing of this document is very interesting.  On May 31 the TIF Commission meeting was adjourned as the City was awaiting the revised proposal and had nothing in writing.  The proposal is dated May 23, 2016; I do not know when the City actually received it.   A revised consultant report regarding the “but for public financing this project would not be under taken” report is dated June 3, 2016.  A City Staff and Consultant report is undated.  I wonder why documents were not shared with the school district earlier in June.  Perhaps this would have avoided the need for JCPS to hold a special meeting at an hour few members of the public will be available to observe the discussion.

My comments about the new proposal are limited, I have neither read it yet, nor do I have the expertise to assure this modification will be fair to JCPS taxpayers.   I do have a number of unanswered questions; I never heard back from the Puri Group and until I am convinced this proposal will benefit our district, I will not support it.  The original proposal called for $8.9 million in abatements that would have the school district bear 61% of the abatement burden, totaling over $11.6 million to the schools alone, over the life of the TIF. 

On June 16th school board members received an email from our CFO that included an email from the City regarding the new proposal.  Below are the contents (I have deleted email addresses and disclaimers about email communication, etc.) to this public document:

 Fwd: TIF Commission Plan
June 16, 2016 6:50 AM
From:  Jason Hoffman   
To:  John Ruth   Steve Bruce  Ken Theroff  pammurray@centurylink.net  Michael Couty  Lorelei Schwartz  Rich AuBuchon 

Cc:Larry Linthacum  Stephanie Sappenfield 

We received paper copies of the TIF proposal late yesterday afternoon.  I have asked for an electronic copy and have been promised to receive it today.  All TIF commissioners received this email today.  I wanted to pass along as I feel #6 is probably the biggest concern the school district has. 

I will forward the electronic copy as soon as we get it.  Let me know if you have any questions.

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Hilpert, Drew 
Date: Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 4:40 PM
Subject: TIF Commission Plan
To: "jonathonschnitzler" dwinegar "  "Reichard, Tom , "betts  LARRY BENZ < Jason Hoffman < "larry.linthacum  < "hagenhoffb "  "sbushman >
Cc: "Powell, Phyllis" , "Crowell, Steve" >, "jlauber  Council Mayor <

TIF Commission Members,

You either have received or will receive tomorrow the revised TIF plan.  Please review for next week’s meeting.

A short description of the project is that the developer plans to tear down the existing hotels and build two new hotels.  They will remodel the existing conference space.

 The difference between the original plan and the current plan is that we have infused sales tax into the project.  The school district, in particular, expressed a concern that the project was funded too heavily by the property tax.  Therefore the City Staff and Developer are putting forward a plan whereby ½ of the lodging tax (a sales tax only collected by the City) generated from the new hotels will be put back into the project and a corresponding amount of property tax will be taken out of the project.  As a result, a majority of the funding for this project will come from sales tax and not property tax.  In order assure a healthy lodging tax increase results from this project, the Developer has agreed to annex into the city their two hotels which are currently outside the city.  The City will receive 100% of the lodging tax from this project.  This is a considerable increase in collections for the Lodging tax. 
For those of you appointed to represent the City you should know that this is an excellent proposal for the city.  (Emphasis mine, Pam)

 I also want to address concerns expressed by local hoteliers.  I am aware they are lobbying people to oppose the TIF and at least want you to know the other side of the story. 

 Their concerns are primarily:

1. The acquisition cost is not accurate.  In the original submission the developer included the cost of purchasing the property and the cost operation since purchase.  This was not dishonest in any way it was simply an accounting method.  I think it worthy of note that the Developer has NOT included the cost of acquisition as part of their reimbursement from the TIF.  It did however go to the BUT-FOR test.  After hearing that concern we discussed the issue with the developer and ultimately the BUT-FOR test we was redone with only the acquisition costs of ~$1.1. million.  That has been taken into account and the issue resolved as requested by the hoteliers.  I assume when they learn this they will drop this concern.

 2.  The Developer and Legal fees are too high.  The City employs experts who handle such matters statewide and they confirm these fees are reasonable.  Certainly if the hoteliers employ experts of their own you can feel free to listen to them.

 3. The Construction costs are too high.  The Developers will explain their costs.  Staff and its experts believe the costs are reasonable.  The cost of a hotel varies wildly on quality.  It is important to note that the Developer ONLY recovers actual costs and not estimated costs.  If the costs come in low they will NOT benefit.

4. If you put #1,2,&3 above together they would fail the BUT FOR test.  That is not true.  As you will note, the BUT-FOR test includes a sensitivity analysis.  The costs or expected revenue must vary by 14% before the Developer would not quality.  It is important to note that if the profit becomes too high the Developer will have to start immediately paying back the tax payer support.  So in other words if costs come in low and profit comes in high they will NOT receive all the tax payer support they have requested.

 5.  They believe the hotel will be built regardless of the TIF support.  Ask the Developers this question.  Staff is comfortable it will NOT develop without taxpayer assistance.

 6.  It is not fair for the City to support this hotel and not others (interfering in the market).  This is probably the real root of the objection.  They have a concern that someone else is getting an advantage that they do not have.  This process is available to any hotelier or developer willing to make a substantial investment in the community.  City staff stands ready to look at any TIF proposal any other hotelier wishes to make.  I will note this argument is not an appropriate one for this Commission as that is a policy call for the Council. 

 Thank you and I look forward to next week’s meeting.

 Drew W. Hilpert
City Counselor
320 E. McCarty
Jefferson City, MO 6510
1

At the community leaders meeting on June 16th I was asked what the school district concern was with #6, above; is it our role to be concerned about fairness between hotel operators?  My response was that, for me the fairness issue is for all school property tax payers; if we abate taxes for some when taxes are how we pay the bills and we have unmet needs as we do now, the school district may have to go to all taxpayers to ask for more funds to operate.  How is that fair?   Unmet needs as noted in JCPS budget discussions on June 13 include keeping up with technology; hiring more classroom teachers; and facilities that continue to be over crowded.

During the community leaders June 16 meeting, an email from Darrel Gordon sharing his thoughts about the TIF was passed out.  Mr. Gordon has bought, sold, and been party to more land deals than any elected or appointed official I know of.  He is an expert.   His thoughts are below and shared by permission:

From: Gordon
Subject: TIF
Date: June 8, 2016 at 2:43:40 PM CDT
To: ph.

Paul:

My thoughts on TIF:

1. Should be used only on projects that are not otherwise viable.  (see the "but for" TIF clause)

2.  The Truman Hotel Property is PRIME development property that needs NO TIF. It will develop nicely without taking our City,County and School tax revenues.  (see how much prime development land you can find on Highway 54 West within the Jefferson City limits, very little).
 
3. After normal development WE can receive the tax increased revenues instead of giving them away to the developer's for 23 years. ( I understand they even have a 10 or 11% development fee back to them in their proposal).

4.Also they were "late to the table " with their Convention Center Proposal. Now they can retain the 24,000+ sq ft meeting space at their present site, add to it and compete with the City's plan for a Center.  They will have Convention space with TWO NEW HOTELS with  THE CITY,COUNTY AND SCHOOL,DIST. PAYING FOR MUCH OF IT.
 
5. I was on the City Council when we brought Capitol Plaza Hotel to town. We knew so little about hotel's and John Q Hammond new so much.  We gave him a 25 year tax abatement on the property. He was to place a Holiday Inn Flag on the property.  The deal was so good and the location so great he did not even have to use the franchise name.  Looking back that was a DISSERVICE to all the other hotelier's in town who had to compete and pay their taxes.  I would not do that again!

 6. Who has to make up for the taxes the developer's take for 23 years.  (your are right the Citizens)

7. Also how do you tell the next hotel developer that wants an unnecessary TIF No?

 8.The Truman Developer's I predict will tell the City "we will let you annex our two hotels that are outside the City if you will do this etc.  Don't fall for it. Again, this is PRIME DEVELOPMENT PROPERTY WITH NO NEED FOR TIF GIFT.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Darrel Gordon


 A final thought about the TIF process:  School Board members, like other elected officials, come from a variety of backgrounds.  Most school boards and city councils do not have members expert in land use, tax abatement, blight determinations and so on.  Even the City of Jefferson that has an entire staff that works on land use issues and a legal staff hired outside counsel to guide the TIF process and a financial consultant to review the developer proposal.  If they require outside help, so does the school board.  Missouri regulations call for the City experts to be paid for by the Developer.  If the proposal is approved, those costs become recoverable under the TIF.  Other taxing entities should also be able to not only hire outside experts to protect their interests, but to have those costs covered the same way.  Our JCPS CFO has spent many hours working on these documents and learning about hotel development.  I, and others, have also spent many hours on these proposals, however, school board members are not eligible for compensation. 

I urge everyone to become familiar with the issues and attend public meetings.  After the TIF Commission votes, the City Council will take up the proposal.  The TIF Commission vote will determine how many yes votes on the council are needed for approval.  (A yes vote from the TIF Commission means a simple majority of the council must agree; a no vote equates to a super majority, 7 instead of 6 council votes.)   If the Council approves, then a contract between the City and the Developer is written.  No other party is involved at this crucial stage that will determine all details, allowable costs, etc.  This will affect taxes for up to 23 years.  As there are two project areas in this TIF (one for each new hotel) there will be two different 23 year clocks that start ticking after the contract is signed.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Wednesday, June 22 at
7:00 a.m., Special School Board meeting to consider the school position on the TIF.  This is a public meeting, but no public comment period is planned.  A Closed session for legal and personnel matters will follow.  Board Offices on East Dunklin.

Thursday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m., TIF Commission Meeting and Public Hearing on the Puri proposal for the Truman Hotel property.  Public Comment encouraged.  City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.

Monday, July 11 at 6:00 p.m., Regular School Board Meeting, public comment on agenda items permitted.


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Week in Review June 4 through June 10    

posted June 10, 2016

There were no public meetings this past week. 

The School Board will hold its Regular Meeting on Monday, June 13th.   Items on the agenda include:

*      The 2015 – 2016 Valedictorian and 20 Co-Salutatorians will be recognized by the Board.
*      The annual Activities report reflects both athletic and non-athletic activities under the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) rules; with a total of 1,294 student participants.  (Note: some students participate in more than one activity.)
*     The JCPS budget for 2016 – 2017 is set for approval.  It was provided to Board members on June 8.  The basic numbers, excluding student activity moneys, the anticipated beginning balance on July 1, 2016 will be $46,808,396.00; anticipated revenue from all sources will $93,954,247.00; anticipated expenditures will be $94,431,873.00, leaving a balance on June 30, 2017 of about $46,330,770.00, however, all those funds are not available for use.   The District has debt remaining from the 2007 bonding for Pioneer Trail and full day kindergarten renovations and lease purchase through the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for energy loans.  The bond will be paid off in the 2026 – 2027 school year.  The DNR loans financed energy efficient heat and air systems to replace aging systems when building have undergone major renovations.  The loan taken out in 2001 will be paid off in the 2017 – 2018 budget year.  The DNR loan taken out in 2006 will be paid off in the 2022 – 2023 budget year.  In keeping with standard practices, the district must keep in reserve adequate funds to meet several annual payments.  In operating funds, the District will again be using reserve funds.  Generally, use of reserves is ideally limited to one-time expenditures such as a building renovation or major purchase that will not be recurring.  This is the second year we are using some reserve funds for operational uses.  While the amount is relatively small and the operational reserves will remain in the 20% range, this is not a good trend.  If you have questions, please contact me and I will do my best to get an answer to you. 
*     There will be a TIF discussion regarding the Puri Group’s plan for the Truman Hotel property.  At the City TIF Commission meeting on May 31st, it was announced the Puri Group was submitting an amended proposal and the documents would be at the City on or before June 9.  To date, no new documents or finalized proposal has been shared with the JCPS School Board.  The TIF Commission is scheduled to meet again to consider this revised proposal on June 23.  (See Upcoming Meeting information below.)  The proposals will call for abating (avoiding) payment of taxes.  While, all assessed taxes for the property are collected by the Cole County Collector, the proposal if approved would see new property and sales taxes diverted back to the Puri Group for “re-payment” of their development costs for up to 23 years.  The proposal originally submitted would have diverted tax dollars from the schools accounting for over 60% of abated (avoided) taxes totaling over $11 million from JCPS alone.
*     There are multiple contracts set for approval: A playground addition at Cedar Hill Elementary School with KA Berendzen Construction being the low bidder; Electric connection to a classroom trailer at Pioneer Trail Elementary School with Stokes Electric Company being the low bidder; Orientation and Mobility assessments and services from Weeks Orientation & Mobility (a service contract renewal); and an amended and restated contract with SSM St. Mary’s Hospital for physical/occupation/speech therapy.
*     Approval of a professional development plan for the 2016 – 2017 school year.
*      The first reading of policies as recommended by the Policy Committee.  A second reading will take place in July.  There was interest in the student drug testing policy; I received a call from KBIA radio regarding possible changes to the testing protocol proposed by the Activities staff. 

Following the public regular meeting, the Board will go into a Closed Session to discuss legal actions, individually identifiable personnel records and records protected from disclosure.

This past week I attended the Delegate Assembly of the Missouri School Boards Association on June 4th.  I was an alternate delegate; Steve Bruce is the delegate representing JCPS.  The Assembly votes on MSBA Officers and governing documents.  This had more to do with MSBA business than JCPS business.

On June 8 I met with a developer regarding another project in the area that will be seeking tax abatement for their project in the near future.  When that plan is finalized and submitted, I will share that information.

While developer projects may be a boon to the community, the market will determine that, I am deeply concerned about the trend of having tax dollars that would ordinarily go towards schools (and libraries, parks and so on) go back into these private enterprises.  As more and more dollars are chipped away from our schools, it becomes harder and harder to keep our heads above water.  My responsibility is to the school district; we owe our students a safe place to receive an education that will prepare them for life; our teachers and staff a good work environment and competitive wages; and respect for our taxpayers, who don’t have the option of asking to be exempt them from property taxes to use for their needs.  Our district has 58.4% of students who qualify for free or reduced cost meals at school.  That tells me that even though our JCPS taxes are among the lowest in the area, it is a struggle for many in our community to pay taxes or other bills. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS:
Monday, June 13 at 6:00 p.m., School Board regular meeting and closed session.  Public comment on agenda items permitted.  Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.

Thursday, June 25 at 5:30 p.m., TIF Commission Public Hearing regarding the Puri Truman Hotel project.  Public Comments are permitted.  City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.

Monday July 11 and Monday August 8, 6:00 p.m. Regular School Board meetings, Board Office.  Public Comment on agenda items permitted.

Monday, August 22, 6:00 p.m. School Board Self-Assessment meeting.  The public may attend, but there will be no public comment period.  Board Offices.

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​Week in Review May 28 through June 3   posted June 3, 2016 

There were two public meetings this week; the City of Jefferson TIF Commission met briefly on May 31 and the School District Policy Committee met on June 2. 

The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission met on May 31 at 5:30 p.m. regarding the Truman Hotel request for tax abatement (avoidance) in order to demolish existing buildings and construct a Holiday Inn and restaurant and, in a second phase, a Marriott Hotel on the Jefferson Street parcel.  The meeting was brief and consisted of City Attorney Drew Hilpert explaining that the developer, the Puri Group, was revising their proposal in order to address concerns and there was no written proposal to cover the revision.  The written proposal should be available to TIF Commission members no later than June 9.  The TIF Commission will meet again on Thursday, June 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall.   According to media accounts, in addition to the school district expressing concerns as the vast majority of abated (avoided) taxes will impact schools, a group of hotel owners is now also expressing concerns. 

Had the hearing proceeded and public comment been given, this is what I was prepared to say:


TIF Commission members and City Staff, my name is Pam Murray and I am an individual taxpayer to the Jefferson City Public Schools.  As Commission members, you were all appointed by a government body and represent the interests of that body.  Most of you are taxpayers to one or more entity represented at the table, but you are here tonight to protect and serve the interests of your appointing body.  I come here tonight as a taxpayer only.

Dr. Ramen Puri made a presentation earlier this month to the JCPS Board of Education and then gave media interviews afterwards.  One of the selling points of the TIF proposal that Dr. Puri stated was that it will raise property values around the Truman area and increase the taxes of others.  He is absolutely correct in his premise that when the taxes of one party are abated, the shortfall must be made up elsewhere by other taxpayers OR by reducing expenses.   

How much more tax liability are voters of your taxing authorities likely to approve when they realize they are shouldering not just their fair share, but also the share of businesses who want to expand or modernize?  A $1.5 million school construction project scheduled for this summer was cancelled and another million dollars plus project scheduled for 2017 is not likely to proceed. 

The Puri Group has in its proposal talked about jobs their project will create.  That must be measured against jobs lost by those entities who are losing tax dollars for up to 23 years as a result of this and perhaps future TIF’s.   One of the largest expenses of the school district is personnel.  With over 1,200 employees the school district is the second largest employer in Cole County and the jobs pay competitive salaries.  However, with diminishing revenues, the district is not likely to keep creating jobs.  In the summer of 2015 the school district had construction going on at many of its buildings.  Local companies like Architects Alliance, WAVCO, GBH Builders, Five Oaks, Steel-Nett, Fence Pro, to name a few, along with their employees benefitted from JCPS’ ability to proceed with projects on its buildings. 

Attached is a list (See
HOT TOPIC posted on May 15 for the list ) of some needs of our school district and issues affecting revenue.  Those of you who read the newspaper know the district faces additional liabilities and challenges.  You will see, that even with a very large budget, school districts face ever increasing needs in educating our youth.  In economic development meetings I have attended, and sometimes chaired, again and again the point was made that good schools are the backbone of a community and at the top of the list in attracting industry to a community.  I urge you not to place the burden of this project upon the school district and all their taxpayers who are also your taxpayers.

In conclusion, as a tax payer I understand the need to pay my fair share to support local government, schools, libraries and other entities.  I wish others would do the same. 

Thank you for your time, attention and service to the community.  Pam Murray


When I receive more information about the modified proposal, I will report it here.

On Thursday, June 2, the School Board Policy Committee met.  Board members on the Committee are John Ruth, Rich AuBuchon and me.  Administrative representatives are Superintendent Larry Linthacum, CFO Jason Hoffman and Human resources Director and Legal Counselor Penney Rector.  Committee recommendations will be presented to the full school board at the June 13 meeting for action.  The Board may accept, reject, or modify any or all policies presented.  


Of the policies presented, one has a new provision offering professional staff monetary compensation if they notify the District by December 1 of their intention to either retire or resign at the end of the school year.  Staff must remain in good standing.  Professional staff members do not have to notify staff until near the end of the school year, early notification would allow for a larger pool of applicants to replace them.  Mid Missouri is currently experiencing a teacher shortage in some fields.

A revision to the studentdrug testing policy spurred discussion.  The proposed change was clarifying language to indicate the testing program is not a series of random tests, but rather all students participating in Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHSAA) sanctioned sports and activities are tested in bulk in either the Fall, Winter or Spring depending on their sport or activity.  Students then are subject to additional random tests for each activity in which they are a participant.   Currently the district uses a four panel test that looks for opiates, amphetamines, cocaine and marijuana.  The tests are stated in the policy to be for deterrent purposes and that students have a right to a drug free environment. The Activities department has asked to expand the drug test to either a 10 or 12 panel test looking for additional drugs.  This would raise the annual costs from about $25,000 to about $40,000.  Board President John Ruth asked some excellent questions regarding the accuracy of testing if students are not observed providing the urine sample.  A question that came up was in regards to drug testing for students who present to school appearing to be under the influence.  There is currently no written policy to cover that.  One has been requested.

The discussion prompted me to go back to the written report from the activities department for the 2014 – 2015 school year.   There were 1,257 tests administered in bulk (the scheduled tests at the beginning of a season) and 1,173 random (surprise) drug tests.  The bulk tests were done for Fall activities (864), Winter (124), and Spring (269).   Of all the samples, 59 were deemed to be “non-negative” and were sent for confirmation; 17 came back negative; 19 were “authorized positives” meaning the student had a valid prescription for the drug causing the positive result; 23 were confirmed positives for a drug the student was not prescribed; and 1 was an “administrative positive” meaning student chose to opt out of activities instead of being tested.  In total, of all 2,430 tests, there were 24 students who, as a result of testing were not permitted to participate in their activity for a period of time.   In addition, a total of 3 students chose to opt out of their activity before taking a drug test.  There is a counseling program available to students and their parents, although there is not a written policy to cover that program.

I think we need more data and discussion about the drug testing program before it is expanded and we need to develop a written policy that covers consequences and help, both for students in activities and those not.

In light of recent events, I requested we review all Personnel policies and associated procedures.  Future Policy Committee meetings were scheduled for September 8, 2016, March 8 and June 6, 2017.  All three meetings will begin at 8:00 a.m. and last approximately two hours. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, June 13, 2016, 6:00 p.m.  Regular School Board Meeting.   
Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Major items under discussion (as of today) are the 2016 – 2017 budget approval; TIF proposal update; policy discussion.  Public comment will be permitted on agenda items.

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 5:30 p.m., TIF Commission Public Hearing
regarding the Truman Hotel.  Council Chambers, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Comment permitted (and encouraged)

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Week in Review May 21 through 27                     posted May 27, 2016                 

Monday, May 23rd the Jefferson City School Board met for a work session on the 2016 – 2017 budget; a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) update regarding the Truman Hotel property; and to discuss the JCPS strategic Plan.  Following that, the Board went into a Closed Session to discuss legal and individual personnel records.  Here are some highlights:

*     CFO Jason Hoffman presented a Preliminary Budget document that contained general information about anticipated revenue, new expenditures and overall personnel costs.  In the operating budget, projected revenue from all sources is anticipated to be $87,182,798.00; projected expenses are anticipated to be $88,095,436.00.   Personnel costs reflect an average 1.8% raise.  Health insurance costs will remain the same.
*     CFO Hoffman and Superintendent Larry Linthacum met twice with the Puri Group and had a scheduled meeting on May 24.  (No update from that meeting has been received.)  The Puri Group are the developers seeking tax abatement (avoidance) to help fund their costs to demolish the Truman Hotel and construct new hotels and a restaurant.
At the School Board meeting, we were informed the 200+ page proposal previously presented by the Puri Group will be withdrawn and a new proposal presented at the May 31 meeting of the TIF Commission.  No vote is expected to be taken at the May 31 meeting as there have been no documents to describe the new plan. 
*     Superintendent Linthacum presented a Strategic Plan outline.  Among the slides were one presenting vision and mission:  “Our vision is to be a premier school district by giving all students hope for a better tomorrow.  Our mission is to ensure all students learn on a daily basis by building upon traditions of excellence.”   Mr. Linthacum also spoke of the recent court case, culture and climate.
*     The Closed session lasted about 90 minutes.   One vote was taken on a routine matter in the first few minutes of the session.     

JCPS related events I attended this past week:

*     Support Staff luncheon on Tuesday, May 24th for all the staff who help make our schools and offices run smoothly.
*     Thursday, May 26th, the dedication of Habitat for Humanity’s 95th home in Jefferson City.  Students from the Nichols Career Center building trades classes worked on all aspects of the three bed room home.  Several of the students were there for the ceremony and got to see the new home owner receive his keys.  Nichols and Habitat for Humanity have partnered for several years; students learn and give back to the community at the same time.
*     Thursday, May 26th was the High School Equivalency Student Recognition Program through the JCPS Adult Education and Literacy Program.   Fifty one students received their diplomas, and two students met milestone requirements:  one became a U.S. citizen and one can now pursue her Master’s degree at a U.S. University.  All the students overcame obstacles in order to complete their high school or other adult education.  Some overcame health issues, some decided to drop out of high school and work, and two left their native country.  All had to reach the decision to go back, seek out education, and work towards their future.   Hearing the stories of determination, family support, and their future plans is inspiring.  Most are pursuing further education.  All the students spoke of the support from teachers and staff.   As the students received their diplomas, staff received hugs. 

On Thursday, June 2nd, the School Board Policy Committee will meet to review 19 specific policies and several policy topics.  Some proposed revisions are recommended by the Missouri School Boards Association and some proposed changes have originated at the District level.  After the Policy Committee meets and makes recommendations to the entire Board, the Board will then place the recommendations on an agenda for full Board consideration.  A simple majority of the full Board is needed to change an existing policy or adopt a new one.  

This week the Missouri State Auditor released an audit of the Fox School C-6 School District located in the St. Louis area.  That school district fired their superintendent last year following turmoil, allegations of mismanagement, retribution against district critics and inappropriate expenditures.  At the time the Superintendent was among the highest paid in all of Missouri with a salary of $267,468.  Her husband also worked for the district and was paid about $89,000 more than he was entitled to under the pay scale in place.  There were additional findings regarding credit card use, travel, and gift cards.  The audit report has been forwarded to the county prosecutor.  The State Auditor stepped in at the request of the Board and some residents.  The Board was cited in the audit for failure to provide adequate oversight of the Superintendent and district financial resources.  Here are links to the State Auditor’s findings:

http://app.auditor.mo.gov/AuditReports/CitzSummary.aspx?id=473   3 page citizen summary

http://app.auditor.mo.gov/Repository/Press/2016031684913.pdf    109 page complete report

Last month the Kansas City newspaper had a series of articles about the embattled Lee’s Summit School District governance team.  That Superintendent is the highest paid in all of Missouri with an annual base salary of $304,300 and deferred compensation of $60,857.  One of the areas of dispute was that the Superintendent is dating the District legal counsel, Shellie Guin of Guin Mundorf.  (You may recall JCPS hired her to conduct the Behavior Audit in the 2014-2015 school year.)   Ms. Guin’s law firm (but not Ms. Guin herself) negotiated the Superintendent’s compensation package on behalf of the District.  After several contentious meetings, the Superintendent is on leave, the Guin Mundorf firm has ceased being the District law firm, and the school board President has resigned the leadership position but remains on the board.  Here is a link to the most recent Kansas City Star article:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article78644417.html

I mention these school districts because they have in common very high paid Administrators and at least some Board members who were not fully engaged thus allowing precious district resources intended for classroom learning to be diverted.  In one case it may be a criminal diversion, and in the other, perhaps just a quest for increasing affluence.  In both cases, a more fully engaged Board that asks questions and provides true oversight could have prevented a lot of community turmoil.  

For more information about other audits of school districts by the State, you can follow this link:

www.auditor.mo.gov Click on “Audit Reports”, then on “Schools” for a list of school district audits.

 UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016, 5:30 pm.  TIF Commission, City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  Public Comment regarding the Truman Hotel proposal will be taken, this is a public hearing.

Thursday, June 2, 2016, 9 am.  The School Board Policy Committee will meet.  The public may attend, but no public comment will be taken.

Monday, June 13, 2016, 6:00 pm.  School Board regular meeting.  Public comment on agenda items will be permitted.

Monday, July 11, 6:00 pm. School Board regular meeting.  Public comment on agenda items will be permitted.

Monday, July 25, date and time tentative, School Board work session for “self-evaluation”
 


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Week in Review May 14 through May 20                 posted May 20, 2016

There were no public meetings this week.  The School Board will hold a work session on Monday, May 23rd at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the budget for next year, the TIF proposal for the Truman Hotel property and the Strategic Plan.  (See below for more information)  Following public discussion, the Board will hold a closed session to discuss legal matters and individually identifiable personnel records. 

On Sunday, May 15th, the 142nd Jefferson City High School Commencement was held with 578 students graduating.  Sixteen and one half pages of the program were devoted to listing individual honors and recognitions the students received above and beyond their diplomas.  Adkins Stadium was standing room only; filled with parents, relatives, friends, teachers and other well-wishers wanting to mark a milestone in the lives of the graduates.  It was an honor to be there.

On Thursday, May 19th I attended the Fifth Grade Promotion Ceremony at Cedar Hill Elementary School where my youngest granddaughter has attended school.  There too students were recognized for academic achievement, attendance, volunteering, citizenship, courtesy, and leadership.   The ceremony included recognition of Cedar Hill staff as well as all 61 fifth graders. 

Friday May 20th, a presentation was made to the winners of the cleanest JCPS buildings contest.  Each school year Director of Facilities Bob Weber invites people who are not JCPS employees to walk through all 20 JCPS buildings twice and grade the building on cleanliness.  An average score for each building is determined and the Facility Management (custodial) staff of buildings with a score greater than 86% receives a cash award.  Staff of the winning building receives a larger award and a trophy.  This year the Simonsen 9th Grade Center was judged to be cleanest, quite a feat for the staff of an over 100 year old building.  All buildings scored 86% or better, next year the threshold will be 90%, a level 19 of the 20 buildings achieved.      

A reception for Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kathy Foster who is retiring after 35 years of service to elementary education with the Jefferson City Public Schools was held on Tuesday, May 17.  Attending were many current and former JCPS employees.   

May 23 school board work session:  Budget.  The budget for the 2016 – 2017 school year must by law be passed no later than June 30, 2016.  A budget will be presented to the Board at the work session; budget approval will be on the agenda for the June 13 regular Board meeting.  Items of concern for me are these:

#     The District is in a deficit spending mode.  For the first time we are dipping into reserve funds for ongoing expenses.  While the amount is not large and the reserves are at a healthy 20%, this is not good if it becomes a trend.  Either other sources of revenue must be found or expenses cut.
#     State funding has declined and the Legislature “fixed” their funding formula by declaring a lower cap to reach “full funding.”  This word play does nothing for education.
#     The U.S. Congress is discussing making changes to the school lunch program that, if passed, will result in less children being fed.  In 1946 President Harry Truman signed into law the National School Lunch Act saying, “In the long view, no nation is any healthier than its children or more prosperous than its farmers.”  Childhood hunger was a major problem, as it is again now and then the United States Congress agreed, determining it was a matter of national security to protect our children, (who became our parents and grandparents) and support our farmers.  Today, according to Missourians to End Poverty, Missouri ranks 7th highest among states for food insecurity defined as “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.”  Over 50% of JCPS students qualify for free or reduced charge meals.  Five of our elementary schools qualify for 100% of students to receive free breakfast and lunch each school day.  Federal money accounts to nearly 10% of JCPS revenue.
#     The school district this past week lost a lawsuit filed by a former high school teacher.  At this time, I do not know the full financial impact of that decision.  Here is a link to the News Tribune article about the decision:  http://www.newstribune.com/news/local/story/2016/may/19/jcps-pay-235000-damages-lawsuit/623543/

 May 23 school board work session:  TIF (Tax Increment Financing District.)  JCPS Administration has continued to meet with the Puri Group and the City of Jefferson (separate meetings) and they are seeking to tweak the Puri proposal.  At this time I still have not received answers to my questions presented to Dr. Ramen Puri at the May 9 school board meeting despite his promise to provide written answers.  (For the list of questions please see HOT TOPIC Truman Hotel TIF Proposal Update.)  The TIF affects JCPS revenue as the purpose is to abate (avoid) paying taxes.  In the Puri proposal, the District stands to lose $11.6 million over 23 years. 

Before the Legislature adjourned, they changed the TIF laws, but ONLY for St. Louis and St. Charles counties.  The new law will limit tax abatement (avoidance) in those counties to demolition and land clearing expenses and not allow building expenses. 

May 23 school board work session:  strategic plan.   Superintendent Larry Linthacum will expand on information presented during his Board report May 9.  A strategic plan is meant to guide the Board in its operations and is a key document the Board should be using in its operations.  The other key documents are the Budget and the Policies.  These three documents should be reflective of the Board goals, plans for the future, and clearly address how the District addresses student achievement, facilities and staff effectiveness.  To quote the Missouri School Boards Association:  “The (strategic plan) provides guidance for a budget that supports what you want to accomplish.”

UPCOMING PUBLIC MEETINGS:

Monday, May 23, 2016 at
5:30 p.m. (Note time) School Board Work Session, Board Office, 315 Dunklin Street.  A Closed Session for Legal and Personnel will follow the work session.  Public comment will not be allowed, the public is welcome to attend the work session.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. TIF Commission Meeting, City Hall 320 East McCarty.  Public Comment regarding the Truman Hotel TIF will be taken, this is a public hearing.

Monday, June 13, 2016 at 6:00 p.m., Regular School Board Meeting, Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment on agenda items will be allowed.

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Week in Review May 8 through 13   posted May 13, 2016

The regular monthly meeting of the school board was held on Monday, May 9.  A presentation regarding the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) tax avoidance proposal for the Truman Hotel was made by Dr. Raman Puri, Vice President and CFO of the Puri Group of Enterprises.  For information about this, news accounts, my questions handed out at the meeting, please see my post on the Hot Topic page of this website:  HOT TOPIC:  Truman Hotel TIF Proposal Update posted May 13, 2016.

Meeting items of note are:

*     A contract with Weathercraft, Inc. was approved for partial replacement of roofs at West Elementary School ($111,842.00) and the High School ($65,571.00).  Weathercraft was the low bidder.
*     A contract with Verslues Construction Company, Inc. was approved for work at Lewis and Clark Middle School and the High School.  The majority of the cost is for work on the track and field that heaved last year.  That portion of the work is $706,830.00.  An additional $71,262.00 is for cafeteria floor slab replacement where the floor is cracked.  An additional $3,273.00 was awarded to resurface the javelin throw area at the High School track.   Verslues was low bid on the Lewis and Clark work; when all three projects are added together, Verslues is still the low bid.
*     Under New Business an agenda item was added:  discussion regarding the District developing a plan for recruiting a work force that resembles the community and school population.  Currently there is not a plan.  Obstacles to recruitment were recounted by the Human Resources Director.  Further information regarding percentages of groups applying for positions versus those hired was asked to be included in the Human Resources report to the Board in September.  Adding this discussion item to the agenda was approved by a vote of 6 to 1, with Board President John Ruth voting against the discussion.

As the school year comes to a close, groups of employees come together to honor outstanding service and to say good-bye to those retiring.  This week I attended a staff BBQ at Nichols Career Center and the Food Service Appreciation banquet.  These invitations were much appreciated. 

Jefferson City High School graduation is Sunday, May 15 at 5:00 p.m.  578 seniors are scheduled to receive their diplomas.  Graduation ceremonies will take place at Adkins Stadium if weather permits, and in Fleming Fieldhouse with seating by invitation only in the event of adverse conditions.  This year the graduation ceremonies, a major milestone for the entire family,  will be livestreamed via the District YouTube channel.   Relatives and friends who lack tickets or are physically unable to attend may view the graduation from wherever they are.  This use of modern technology is fitting as JCPS continues to embrace technology in the school setting.  In the 21st century remote learning and communication has become routine for many in business and personal communication.  You may recall that fellow Board member Michael Couty  proposed livestreaming Board meetings; I hope that someday it happens.   

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, May 23, 2016:  School Board Work Session, 6:00 p.m. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street. Topics include budget and TIF discussions.  Public invited but there will be no comment period.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016:  TIF Commission Hearing, 5:30 p.m., City Hall, 320 East McCarty.  Public comment permitted regarding TIF application.

Monday, June 13, 2016: Regular School Board Meeting, 6:00 p.m. Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public comment permitted regarding agenda items.
 ____________________________________

Week in Review May 1 through 7   posted May 6, 2016

There was a hastily called Board Meeting on Wednesday May 4, 2016 at the request of legal counsel to discuss time sensitive legal and personnel issues.  The Closed Session meeting lasted about one hour.   Six Board members were in attendance, Michael Couty was out of town and unable to participate.   

The regular meeting of the School Board will take place on Monday, May 9 at 6:00 p.m. at the Board Office on East Dunklin Street.   Public comment on agenda items will be permitted. 

Major Items on the agenda are:

*     A presentation by Dr. Raman Puri regarding his corporation’s request to have property taxes abated to demolish the Truman Hotel, build two new hotels and a restaurant.  If the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, request is granted by the City, property taxes would be frozen at the current very low level and any increase in property value would go towards the Developer to pay for their costs.  This abatement of taxes could go on for 23 years for each of the two project areas (one hotel in each area).   The ultimate estimated cost to the school district will be in excess of $11 million dollars, based on figures in the proposal from the Puri Group.  The Developer and the District Administration have held meetings to discuss possible ways to lessen the impact on the school district.   Further information should be forthcoming Monday night.  (Please scroll back to previous Week In Review and Hot Topic posts for more details.)
*     Drs. Sheila Logan and Tammy Ridgeway will make a presentation on the Behavior Task Force.
*      Ms. Dawn Berhorst will make a presentation on the APR Predictor Model.  The APR stands for Annual Performance Report, the report from the State that combines state assessment scores, graduation and attendance rates (to name a few benchmarks) that determines whether or not a school district receives a “passing grade.”
*     Board President John Ruth and Vice President Steve Bruce will present information about “Board Self- Assessment.”   The last self-assessment was done in late 2014.  Only three members of the Board now were also on the Board then.
*     Contracts for partial roof replacements at the High School and West Elementary School are to be awarded.
*     Contracts for work to be done to the cafeteria floor (part of it is cracked) and the track and field (part of it has heaved and sunken back, rendering part of the track unusable) at Lewis and Clark Middle School.
*     Following the Open meeting, the Board has a Closed Session scheduled to discuss legal matters and individually identifiable personnel records.

Funding Public Education:  Who Pays

This week I am sharing four news links about education funding.  Jefferson City Public Schools get more than 48% of our funding from property taxes, usually the most reliable part of revenue.  About 23% of the revenue is usually anticipated to come from the State; less than 10% from Prop C state sales tax; less than 10% from other local and county funds; and about 10% from federal funds.  Property tax money depends on the assessed value of land within the District.  There are several properties within the JCPS boundary area that have been granted permission to re-allocate tax dollars back to their redevelopment costs for periods of time ranging from 10 years to up to 23 years.  Those developments have used several methods to avoid paying taxes on the current assessed value of their properties.  They all have an affect (some large, some small) on school revenue.

#          The Missouri Legislature made major changes to State funding of Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 educations.  They passed legislation, the Governor vetoed it, and then the Legislature overrode the veto.  Votes were along political party lines as there are philosophical differences between parties about education and taxes. I hope to be able to bring you specifics of how the legislation will affect JCPS in the near future.  Here is a link to the Associated Press article that appeared in the News Tribune describing the final version of funding:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/2016/may/05/missouri-lawmakers-undo-veto-enact-school-funding-/

#          below is a link to an editorial from the St. Louis Post Dispatch describing the legislation: 

http://www.stltoday.com/news/opinion/columns/the-platform/editorial-legislature-solves-school-funding-crisis-with-voodoo-economics/article_cb79332b-826a-5e83-a1b5-769261525852.html

#          Property taxes paid by the Callaway (nuclear) Plant in Reform are a major source of revenue for the South Callaway School District.  Recently Callaway County lowered the assessed value of the plant from $333 million to approximately $289 million which significantly lowers South Callaway’s revenue.  The News tribune article (link below) states, “Last year, their revenue came in at $11.7 million, and by the end of this year, South Callaway’s revenue will be around $10.2 million.”  (As a relatively new JCPS school board member, I wonder if their school board had advance notice of the revision to the new lower assessment or the reason for the adjustment.)  The Callaway nuclear plant is under the same ownership as Ameren Missouri, the major electric and gas provider in our area.  Ameren Missouri is currently involved in litigation with cities, counties, and school districts over the assessed value of land along their transmission lines.  There are hundreds of thousands of dollars held in escrow pending final disposition of that case.  Ameren has a presence at the Legislature and lobbies regarding rates, taxing, and special needs.   The News Tribune article about South Callaway is below:

http://www.newstribune.com/news/2016/may/06/south-callaway-school-district-ok-drop-revenue/

#          The St. Louis Post Dispatch on May 1 had  an article about states and cities dramatically scaling back tax payer financed subsidies to lure development due to “a resistance to public debt” and analysis of whether or not there is a net benefit to those subsidies available to private entities.  In light of the pending Truman Hotel TIF application to pay Developer costs over a period of decades, this article was very timely and validates some of my concerns:

http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/taxpayer-subsidies-to-companies-fall-percent-as-states-cities-pull/article_5e87b06a-8288-5e72-8e36-0cc782779607.htm

 UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, May 9, 2016:  Regular School Board Meeting at 6:00 p.m., School Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment is permitted regarding agenda items.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016:  TIF Commission Hearing, 5:30 p.m., City Hall, 320 East McCarty.  Public comment permitted regarding TIF application


_________________________________________________________

Week in Review  April 23 through 30     posted April 30, 2016

There were no public meetings this week.

On Thursday, April 28, the 24th annual Teacher Appreciation Banquet was held.  This yearly gathering is held to honor teachers, celebrate the Teacher of the Year nominees, recognized those who have served JCPS for a long time and those retiring from teaching.   The 2016 Eisinger Teacher of the Year is Nikki Carel who teaches at Pioneer Trail Elementary School and the Outstanding Educator is Linda Tobar of Lewis and Clark Middle School.  Former JCPS and Missouri Teacher of the Year Linda Eisinger and her husband were on hand.  They have donated to the Teacher of the Year and Outstanding Educator program $1,000 for each award for 15 years starting this year. 

Nominated for Teacher of the Year by a student, parent, peer or supervisor were a total of 74 JCPS teachers.  The nominees represent just over 10% of all JCPS teachers.  To me, this speaks to the dedication of our teaching professionals who choose to teach our youth; we need to do everything we can to retain them.

Jefferson City High School’s journalism students recently published the April issue of the Red & Black student newspaper.  “The Red and Black Editorial: One high school vs two high schools,” was a look at an issue the School Board has been grappling with for several years.  In the editorial students make the case that students and staff “have felt the squeeze of a high school that may be too small to accommodate its entire facility.”   The editorial discusses large class sizes, less personalized relationships with teachers and fellow students, the physical state of the building, and resulting logistical issues such as five overlapping lunch periods, mess in bathrooms, unreliable Wi-Fi and trailers.  The editorial concludes with “it’s in the best interest of the JCHS community to allow for more room for students to prosper.”  

The students concerns are the same concerns and conclusion expressed by the Long Range Facility Planning Committee in its report to the Board made in November 2014.  The Board is not currently addressing those concerns although the Board did awarded a contract to increase the bandwidth available at school buildings throughout the District and that improvement should be ready for the start of classes in August.  With the increasing reliance on technology for both course work and standardized testing required by the State, upgrading technology infrastructure is being addressed. 

My hope is that the Board will soon address other needs, both staffing and facility, soon.  Last month the Board was informed that in order to have all classes at the recommended teacher to student ratio, the District would need to hire an additional 49 teachers at a cost of $2.7 million annually.  Even if the District had the $2.7 million to address staffing levels, we do not have 49 classrooms available in the District.  Although our student enrollment did not grow this past year (it was less by over 100 students) most of our schools feel the pinch of overcrowded classrooms, cafeterias and common areas.   To recap, the Long Range Facility Planning Committee recommended in 2014 that the District build another elementary school, add 10 classrooms to Callaway Hills Elementary School, and build a second high school right away; build another (smaller) middle school in 2019; and address security concerns right away.  The most urgent security concerns were addressed in the summer of 2015.  The other recommendations generated Board discussion for several months, then was dropped with the plan to take them up again at a future but unspecified time.

It is with these needs in mind that we as a Board must scrutinize our sources of revenue.  Of particular concern is State funding and requests for relief from paying property tax.   State funding has not been reliable as our Legislature has not honored their legislation setting out a formula to equalize per student financial resources across the state.  In fact, sometimes the education budget, in my opinion, is a shell game; revenue from the lottery and gambling is NOT used to supplement education, it becomes a primary source of funding allowing the Legislature to use general funds in other areas.   And, when the numbers don’t add up, they inflate expected lottery revenue to make the numbers work. 

It has become common practice for businesses to ask public entities, such as the school district and municipal governments, to help finance their building projects by excusing them from paying a portion of their taxes.  Subsequent profits are not shared although eventually, if the project is successful, the taxes may increase.  This may take decades.  Currently, one such project is pending; the plan is abate property taxes to help finance the tearing down of the Truman Hotel and replacing it with two major hotels and a restaurant.  Taxes could be abated for 23 years after the project is approved.  The cost to school district in lost taxes is roughly equivalent to the cost of building an elementary school.   The Board is scheduled to discuss this on May 9 at the regular Board meeting.  (Please see previous Week in Review and Hot Topic postings for details.)

Several years ago the Board decided to spend down some funds held in reserve and much of that spending went towards renovating some of the older buildings in the District.  However, this year the Board stopped the renovations (Moreau Heights Elementary school was in the design phase of a $1.5 million renovation originally scheduled for this summer) and diverted the funds towards classroom support in the areas of math, language arts and behavioral support.   This represents the first time that reserve funds will be used for expenses that will be recurring unless the Board and Staff can find other areas of the budget to cut.   It is not sustainable to use reserve funds (savings) for ongoing expenses and the Board must develop a plan to reverse this course while there are still adequate reserve funds to act as a cushion to meet expenses while awaiting the once a year infusion of property tax payments.  Property taxes used to be the most reliable of funding sources, but when school districts are expected to forgo these payments to subsidize businesses, the revenue will need to come from someone else – usually residential taxpayers.   

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, May 9, 2016:  Regular School Board Meeting at 6:00 p.m., School Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment is permitted regarding agenda items.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016:  TIF Commission Hearing, 5:30 p.m., City Hall, 320 East McCarty.  Public comment permitted regarding TIF application.

____________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review April 16 through April 22       posted April 22, 2016

There were no public meetings last week.

April marks one year since I took office as your representative on the Board of Education.  This is a good time to reflect on the promises I made when running for office and the progress, and lack of progress, towards accomplishing the goals set out in campaign materials, news articles and my statements at candidate forums.

Retain Experienced Teachers.  By the time I took office teachers were well into the process of deciding whether or not to return for another year.  JCPS hired 86 new teachers (some with experience in other districts) for the 2015 -2016 school year.    With a total teaching staff of about 700, this was a significant number.  The turnover for next year will not be fully known until this summer.  This academic year saw the District get a new Superintendent who is getting acclimated to the District.   Although he has been working to rebuild trust with JCPS staff and the community, we are not there yet.  One of my goals was to have District and building administrators working as a team to improve the educational climate in every building.  One of my promises was to visit every building within 60 days of taking office.  Board leadership was able to block those visits for six months and then limit their scope when they were finally permitted in October.  Since that time, I have been invited to visit and sit in during classes at the Simonsen 9th grade center and the High School, and visit with staff at West Elementary School.  I still have a long way to go in getting access to our facilities and in seeing how we as a district function at the student/teacher level. 

Build Trust Through Transparency.  It is still my belief that rebuilding trust must start with the Board; input from the public must be encouraged; public business must be conducted in public; and, both the public and our teachers must have a say in curriculum and other major changes.   My proposal to make public input easier at School Board meetings was blocked in the Policy Committee.  As the composition of that committee will change now that new Board members have taken office this month, I will again ask for consideration of policy changes.  A proposal to stream Board meetings, either live or on tape delay, was defeated by a 5 to 2 vote of the Board  during the March 2016 meeting.  It is sad to say it took 11 months to get it on the Board agenda.   The Board leadership has continued to try to conduct business from time to time out of the view of the public.  Earlier this month I was successful in getting the Board to call a Special meeting to discuss the TIF proposal that may undermine property tax collection for decades.  There is a reluctance to discuss some topics in public if that may affect other entities.  This web site is sometimes the only avenue available to bring transparency to you.

Manage Finances Wisely.  Last spring the Board leadership would not grant a work session to go over the District budget of $98 million.  It was passed during the same meeting where it was first presented.  This year we have had one work session to go over preliminary numbers and I expect to have a work session to review and discuss the full budget before votes are taken.   Close to half of the JCPS operating funds come from property taxes paid by residents, businesses and farms within the District.  Those funds are usually stable and predictable.  (However, Missouri law allows businesses to make a proposal to local governments to abate or divert property taxes to a private development project if it meets certain criteria.  Those proposals can be approved over the objection of school districts.  I operate on the premise that property taxes assessed for schools should go to schools.) About 10% of operating funds come from the federal government.  About 9% of funds come from other local sources.  Over 30% comes from the State and has been unpredictable despite having a State formula that was intended to provide a predictable and even source of per pupil funding across the state.  That formula is off by about $5 million dollars many years for JCPS.  Because funding is not completely predictable  it is vital that spending be careful, cautious, and always with an eye towards students’ needs and taxpayer sacrifices in mind.  There is more work to be done in this area.

Bring Sound Business Practices to Board Decision Making.  Another area where there has been some success is with contracts.  Early on I found that a contract listed on the agenda for approval was not available and had yet to be negotiated.  Contracts continue to pose problems.  Our in house facility contracts have been great but contracts brought to us from some vendors contain outrageous sections that could possibly cost the District large sums.  They are not reviewed by an attorney unless I ask questions before a meeting.  We have a long way to go in this area.   Through asking questions, at least one outside contract for professional services had been cut in half each month.  Too often we are not asking enough questions or the right questions.  I am happy that the Board has listened to my questions and acted in the best interests of the District after hearing me out.

Facility Plans.  After the failed bond issue in 2013, the Long Range Facility Planning Committee was formed and a plan was presented to the Board in November 2014.  When I took office in April 2015, the discussion centered on when to go to voters for a bond issue and whether to ask for elementary and high school needs separately or together.  Since that time the Board has decided to put off going to voters in part because of Jefferson City and Cole County tax issues on the April and August 2016 ballots.  Board leadership has given no timetable for when a decision might be made about facility needs.  The District also decided not to continue with major renovations already in the design phase for Moreau Heights Elementary School because the money, coming out of the reserve budget, is more urgently needed for classroom support.  The $1.5 million will instead go towards reading, math and behavior teachers/professionals.

Turning Around Declining Test Scores.  Test Scores from the April/May 2015 testing cycle were released this past fall and showed further decline.  An outside consulting (ICLE, the International Center for Leadership in Education) firm was hired to work with our curriculum and teaching staff to better align curriculum.  Although I am generally opposed to contracting out for work that should be done in house by existing staff, it was clear something had to be done differently.  The month to month contract will be reviewed following testing being done now.  Hopefully the State will provide results in a more timely manner. 

Leadership.  The hiring of Larry Linthacum as Superintendent was a step in the right direction for JCPS.  However, I am disappointed in Board Leadership.  It has been difficult (at times impossible) to get items on the agenda.  One example is a Board self-assessment.  Although the Board unanimously approved a Policy calling for self-assessment on an annual basis, at least two of us were unsuccessful in getting it on the agenda.  This may not sound important, but it is the foundation for defining how the Board will improve, how new Board members are oriented to the District, and allow for the setting of goals.  Every Leadership team should do this if it expects to make progress from one year to the next.  Sadly, this was not done last year and I doubt it will be done any time soon.  It is the obligation of the Board, the seven elected leaders, to set the direction of the District.  It is the responsibility of the Administrative team, led by the Superintendent, to carry out that direction.  As a Board we are selling the Superintendent and the District short by not meeting our obligations.

Starting the Discussion.  During candidate forums I was asked, as were all the candidates, how we would accomplish what we were proposing.  My answer then, as now, is that I am one person.  In 2015 two new Board members were elected from a field of five candidates.  This year two candidates were elected without opposition.  As one person I can start a discussion, I can bring up a topic, and I can vote in accord with my beliefs, but I cannot outvote the other Board members.   This past year I was the lone vote once and on the losing vote by a 5 to 2 margin when it came to issues of transparency and Board leadership. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, May 9, 2016:  Regular School Board Meeting at 6:00 p.m., School Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment is permitted regarding agenda items.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016:  TIF Commission Hearing, 5:30 p.m., City Hall, 320 East McCarty.  Public comment permitted regarding TIF application.

____________________________________________________________________________

​​Week in Review April 8 through April 15     posted April 15, 2016

The School Board held its regular meeting on April 11, 2016.

The meeting began on a high note as several members of the JCPS “Family” were recognized:

*      Tiesha Donner, an employee of First Student Transportation, was recognized for her courage, quick thinking and dedication to her students from East Elementary School when their bus was hit by gun fire.   Ms. Donner had the students get down while she drove to a safe location.  When another bus came to finish the route, she chose to stay with the students.  When First Student made a presentation last year while seeking a contract renewal, they spoke about training drivers go through each year.   That training and Ms. Donner being a strong person kept our students safe.
*     Chad Rizner, social studies teacher and faculty advisor to the Student Council was honored by the Missouri Association of Student Councils Northeast District who named Mr. Rizner High School Advisor of the Year for 2015-2016.   This honor speaks to the dedication of Mr. Rizner and the positive impression our Student Council members give at every event they are associated with, whether the Community Leaders Breakfast each Spring or events for fellow students.  For example, this past year the Council was instrumental in putting together a touching and comforting memorial service at the high school when three students were killed in an automobile accident.  
*     Tammy Weddington was named 2016 Missouri School Nutrition Association Manager of the Year.  Ms. Weddington is the manager at Lewis and Clark Middle School.

Present to witness the School Board acknowledging the outstanding work of these individuals were school principals, JCPS and First Student staff, and family members.    Ms. Donner, Mr. Rizner and Ms. Weddington each exemplified Jay Pride through their actions and it is always a pleasure to honor those who seek no honors, but so freely give of themselves every day.

Retiring School Board members Doug Whitehead and Dennis Nickelson were honored with a reception before the School Board meeting.  At the conclusion of Old Business new Board Members Lorelei Schwartz and Rich AuBuchon were sworn in.  The Board then elected officers:  By a vote of 5 to 2, John Ruth will remain President for another year and Steve Bruce was named Vice President.  On a 7 to 0 vote, Ken Theroff was named Treasurer.  (School Board Members who will be serving through April 2017 are:  John Ruth, Ken Theroff and Steve Bruce.  Serving through April 2018 are Michael Couty and me.  Lorelei Schwartz and Rich AuBuchon’s terms run through April 2019.)

A parcel of land on Hickory Street was transferred to the City.  The land is currently being used by the City as a Neighborhood Park.  JCPS recently found that a land transfer to the City was done in 1914 but not properly recorded.  By voting again to convey the land to the City JCPS will, hopefully, no longer be listed as property owner.

TIF update:  The TIF (Tax Increment Financing) Commission met on April 11 prior to the School Board meeting.  City Attorney Drew Hilpert announced that the City had missed giving a 10 day notice and therefore the scheduled hearing could not take place.  The TIF Commission elected Bill Betts as their Chair and JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthacum as Vice Chair.  The TIF Public Hearing was re-scheduled for Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at City Hall.

I still have concerns regarding TIF’s in general and their impact on school districts as well as concerns specific to this TIF application to abate taxes on the Truman Hotel property.  JCPS is inviting the developer and TIF applicant, the Puri Group, to make a presentation to the School Board during the May 9, 2016, School Board meeting.

On Thursday, April 14th I attended the Student Council Leadership breakfast.  Each spring the Student Council invites leaders from across the community to attend, have breakfast and hear about the projects the Council has worked on during the previous year.  This year the Nichols Career Center Culinary Arts students cooked omelets to order.  This was a fantastic treat.  However, the highlight for me was talking to the student council members seated at the table.  I left feeling very hopeful for the future.   

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, May 9, 2016:  Regular School Board Meeting at 6:00 p.m., School Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment is permitted regarding agenda items.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016:  TIF Commission Hearing, 5:30 p.m., City Hall, 320 East McCarty.  Public comment permitted regarding the TIF application.

____________________________________________________________________________

Week in Review:  April 3 through 8, posted April 8, 2016 

On Tuesday, April 5, 2016, the School Board held Special Meeting to go over TIF (Tax Increment Financing) information regarding a proposal to abate taxes for the demolition and rebuilding of hotels and a restaurant on the Truman Hotel property on Jefferson Street.  This meeting came about after a series of emails I initiated between the Superintendent and the Board after the TIF proposal came to light through media coverage.

There were several main areas of concern to me:  Communication concerning information essential to the elected officials of the School District; procedural as to how the School District chooses representatives to the TIF Commission; and, the actual TIF proposal.  Let me speak to these issues separately. 

But first, a quick recap of the TIF process:  A TIF Commission is appointed.  The City of Jefferson has 6 seats, Cole County 2, the Schools 2, and all other taxing authorities, 1 in this case the Library.  The TIF Commission hears testimony, reviews reports and makes a recommendation.  If negative, the next step, the City Council, needs a 2/3 majority vote to approve.  If the TIF Commission is in favor of the proposal, then the City Council just requires a simple majority vote.  If approved then the City prepares a contract between the City and the Developer to include details of how and what monies are collected and how the City will funnel property and sales tax money back to the Developer for his ongoing costs. 

Communication:  It is generally recognized that the first duty of an elected official is a fiduciary duty; that is the elected official must first and foremost protect the assets, financial and otherwise, of the public body they have been elected to serve.   Much like the unwritten rule of medicine is to “do no harm,” elected officials should protect what is currently there and then build on improving things.  I take this very seriously.  Like you I pay taxes and I am invested in having an educated community, a thriving community.  However, my ability to do this is severely limited if information is withheld.  And that was the case with this TIF.  By law Jefferson City was required to notify all the affected taxing Districts by February 25 and Jefferson City states it did so.  The School Board had a regular meeting (and closed session) on March 14th with no mention of a pending TIF application.  Jefferson City then held an informational meeting about TIF’s in general on March 22.  I attended that meeting (I learned about it from the newspaper) as did two senior Administrative employees of the District.  The first information sent to all School Board members was not sent until March 23. 

On March 26 three emails were sent to the entire Board, two from me and one response to my first email from the Superintendent.  Based on those emails, the Special Meeting was called.  Based on information in those emails, I have reason to believe that at least some Board members had been made aware of the TIF and might be reluctant to have a public discussion regarding its impact on JCPS.  However, at the meeting our Board President denied being aware of the TIF prior to the emails.  He did not seem to think that was problematic.   I do.

Procedural:  The very nature of a TIF is that it takes property tax money intended for the School District and diverts it for up to 23 years to pay a developer to build a private project.  That is information the public has a right to know about, just as they have a right to know if School Board members are complicit in the arrangement or if the TIF is approved over the their objections.  Further, the law, Revised Statutes of Missouri 99.820.1 says in part, ‘In all municipalities two members shall be appointed by the school districts are included within the redevelopment plan or redevelopment area.  Such members shall be appointed in any manner agreed upon by the affected districts;”   (NOTE:  In some areas, the TIF can cover portions of more than one school district.  That is not the case here. )

At the start of the meeting Board President John Ruth stated he had contacted an attorney at the Missouri School Boards Association who told him the Board did not have to appoint the TIF Commission members, it could rely on custom to have the Superintendent and CFO be the standing members.  The last TIF Commission meeting was help in October 2013 to consider the Capital Mall TIF – despite having asked I have not seen how (or if) the School Board appointed its members.  Of sitting Board members at that time, only three of seven remain with two of them leaving the Board next week. 

I made a motion to have the entire school board appoint TIF Commission members every time there is a pending TIF as our Board has no Policy to cover the appointments.  I further stated that the entire board should hold discussion of every TIF prior to the appointed members voting.  My motion was seconded by Michael Couty who expanded on the need for Board discussion and for the JCPS TIF Commission members to act on behalf of the Board and not independently and that can only happen after Board discussion.  Very few Board members participated in discussion.  However, the longest serving Board Member indicated the Superintendent and CFO act on major decision for the District every day and we should continue that.  Ultimately, it was decided by a 7 – 0 vote that the Board shall make the appointments for each TIF Commission until such time as we have a Policy in place; the Superintendent and CFO shall be the representatives from the school on this TIF Commission; and the JCPS representatives shall represent the will of the Board. 

TIF discussion:  Present at the meeting were the seven sitting Board members, members elect Lorelei Schwartz and Rich AuBuchon; City Attorney Drew Hilpert; City Administrator Steven Crowell; JCPS Superintendent Larry Linthicum; CFO Jason Hoffman; attorney Penney Rector; Board Secretary Stephanie Sappenfield; and from Community Relations Amy Berendzen.  From the media were representatives from KMIZ television and the News Tribune.  There were no members of the public present.

After a few words from Superintendent Larry Linthacum, JCPS CFO Jason Hoffman made a presentation that included these points:

#      In 2012 the News tribune reported the appraised value of the Truman Hotel property as $4 million.  The 2015 appraised value is now $1.75 million.
#      If the TIF is approved, the School District will be shouldering the bulk of lost taxes redirected to the Developer – about 69%. 
#      Although the proposal is billed as being a request for $8.9 million total in abated taxes, the loss to the school district will be $11,693,992.00.  These figures were calculated from the TIF proposal information sent over by the City of Jefferson.

Then I asked some questions:

#      An essential part of a TIF is the “but for…”component; in order for any TIF to be approved there must be a reasonable assumption that “but for” the approval of the TIF the property would not be developed.  However, in just the past year or so, to the north of the Truman Hotel the Southwest Animal Hospital project was completed; at no cost to taxpayers Southwest moved from Ellis Boulevard to Jefferson Street and built an expanded animal hospital, boarding and grooming facility.  Immediately to the south of the Truman Hotel, the old theater was purchased, demolished and a Big O Tire store will be constructed, also at no cost to the taxpayer.  The Truman property on Jefferson Street has US Highway 54 visibility to all the Lake of the Ozarks traffic, in other words a prime location for business.  I doubt that the property would remain vacant for the next 23 years if the TIF is denied.
#      The finance numbers in the TIF documents do not contain the raw numbers that allow for verification.  I shared the TIF packet with a certified financial analyst who reviews, analyzes and makes recommendations about private corporations’ data for a living.  The analyst was unable to render an opinion about the TIF data because he was unable to see the underlying assumptions.  Without knowing those assumptions, the numbers may or may not reflect reasonable assumptions.  City Attorney Drew Hilpert stated the numbers had been reviewed by City consultant Springstead. 
#      The numbers indicate that the developer is willing to accept a lower rate of return with the TIF for the second phase of the project than without the TIF for the first phase of the project.  Perhaps knowing more about the numbers and underlying assumptions would explain this.
#     The TIF information included two tables showing the number of jobs to be generated by the projects.  The school district decided to hold off on renovation of Moreau Heights Elementary School this summer because the money for that project ($1.5 million) is needed in the classrooms of JCPS.  How many jobs were generated last summer when JCPS had construction going on at most of the schools in the District?  How many jobs were generated when Pioneer Trail Elementary School was constructed?  How many permanent jobs are generated from a new school?  How many jobs would be generated if the District could afford to go ahead with its construction of a new elementary school and a second high school? 
#     And, speaking of new schools that cannot be paid for without a bond issue passed by the voters, who will pay for that new construction (at some point in the future)?  The largest employer in the area is State government.  Missouri State employees are the lowest paid in the entire nation, yet they are being asked to shoulder the deficits being created by private development.  The second largest employer in the area is JCPS.  And just two weeks ago we were told it would take 49 more teachers to bring all class sizes to the state recommended size.  Those 49 teachers would cost the District $2.7 million per year.  Currently we do not have the classrooms for 49 teachers.
#      The Long Range Facility Planning Committee in 2014 was given the estimated cost of a new elementary school:  $12 million.  The school portion of the TTIF would be (estimated to be) $11,693,992.00 taken from school property taxes over the next 23 years. 
#     The Missouri Legislature is currently considering a bill to limit TIFS to reimburse developers only for costs of demolition and debris removal in approved project areas.  This is a potential compromise if the City and County outvote the School District on the TIF Commission. 
#     With other tax entities having the ability to pass the TIF over school district objections, it is important to also consider mitigating damage.  To that end, another compromise would be to have the developer divert $5 per rented hotel room per night and send it to the school district for the life of the TIF, thus mitigating the impact to the schools.  If the TIF passes, the last step is for the City Council to enter into a contract with the Developer.  If the parties choose to, they can include mitigating items.

In the end, the TIF project is terrible for the school district and the open presentation of the proposal and discussion made this evident.  JCPS is not in favor of the proposal.  The TIF Commission meets on Monday, April 11 at 5:30.  TIF Commission members were contacted by JCPS Administration to ask them to consider postponing a vote IF the School District representatives need to bring information back to the School Board for further discussion.  It was reported the TIF Commission members were generally supportive of this. 

In my opinion, the elected leadership of JCPS must become more involved in community decisions affecting JCPS.  While we strive to have strong relationships in the community, we cannot shy away from frank and open discussion out of fear of offending.  If we, the elected school board members, do not put JCPS first, who will?  And if we do not share our concerns, can we expect others to know what those concerns are?  Are not partnerships mutual sharing?

Other news:  At the April 11, 2016 School Board meeting the retiring school board members will be leaving and new members will be sworn in.  The first order of business is to elect new Board leadership.  Also on the agenda is a request to transfer several lots in the Adams / Hickory area from the School District to the City of Jefferson.  The purpose is unknown to me at the present time.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, April 11, 2016, 5:30 p.m. TIF Commission Meeting.  City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  “At the Public Hearing any interested person or affected taxing district may file with the Commission written objections to, or comments on, and may be heard orally in respect to, any issues embodied within the notice.”  (RSMO section 99.825.1)

Monday, April 11, 2016,
7:00 p.m (Note Time Change to accommodate TIF meeting) Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization as new Board members assume office.  Public Comment will be permitted on agenda items.  Prior to the meeting, at 4:00 p.m. here will be a public reception at the Miller Center for departing Board members Doug Whitehead and Dr. Dennis Nickelson. 
 


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Week in Review March 27 through April 2  posted April 2, 2016

There will be a Special Meeting of the School Board on Tuesday, April 5, 2016 at noon to discuss the pending TIF at the Truman Hotel property.

 In summary, A TIF or Tax Increment Financing District is a way to divert tax dollars to a private developer to construct a project in a “blighted” area.  The way it is structured, property taxes are “frozen” at the blighted level. The property continues to be assessed and the increased value tax dollars are funneled back to the developer as the project increases in value.  The tax abatement can go on for 23 years or until the agreed amount of diverted tax dollars has been paid to the developer.  City, County and other local sales tax collected during those years is split 50/50 between the developer and the local government.  Special taxes, like a lodging tax in this case, will continue to go to local government.   (
For more detail, please the Week in Review and Hot Topic posted on March 26.)

This tax abatement tool, the TIF, is harder on taxing entities like schools that rely on property tax.  In fact, according to the report released by Jefferson City just yesterday regarding the Truman Hotel TIF, of the $8.9 million in diverted tax dollars requested for this project, $4,654,288 will come from the school district tax base.  That same report states that over 23 years the School District is estimated to see $668,117 of tax revenue from the property – that is the cumulative total of the “frozen” property tax that will be collected. 

The 210 page report on the TIF proposal was forwarded to School Board members yesterday and I have been reviewing the information.  Like with many things involving money, it involves peeling away at layers of information in order to establish a basis of an informed opinion.  I have questions and look to find answers in the coming week.

At the Tuesday School Board meeting we will hear presentations from Superintendent Larry Linthacum and CFO Jason Hoffman.  The Board will have the opportunity to fulfill its obligation to appoint two representatives to the TIF Commission that meets April 11.  In the past the Superintendent and CFO have attended those Commission meetings, the last one being in October 2013 where the Mall TIF was unanimously approved.

There are some Board members who are comfortable having District employees cast those votes, perhaps as a way of avoiding accountability to the voters.  In my opinion, any vote to abate taxes needs to be made by elected officials.  Those who in effect take money collected under the pretense of funding education and give it to someone to build a profitable private business need to stand up, directly face the voters, and be accountable for their decision.  If we as elected officials are ashamed of our votes, then maybe we should be voting differently.

In the coming days as this matter crystallizes I promise to share all that I learn about the process and the details.  I have made a request regarding other current TIF Districts (The Capital Mall; O’Donohue’s; and the Southside District) to see exactly how many tax dollars intended for JCPS actually were diverted to developers.  I will share what I learn on these pages.

 Also yesterday, I received the Missouri School Boards Association e-news, the MSBA LEGISLATIVE VOICE with this story:

"House wants to limit tax-increment financing

On a vote of 145-12, the House passed and sent to the SenateHB1434, which would rein in development subsidies given out through tax-increment financing. In St. Charles, Jefferson, and St. Louis counties, tie votes of TIF commissions would be considered recommendations in opposition to projects. Cities could override negative recommendations only if the money was used for demolition of buildings and clearing of land. The bill also would increase transparency of TIFs. Rep. Andrew Koenig, R- St. Louis County, said the proposal had drawn support across the political spectrum. "It's time to stop funneling millions of dollars to private corporations and actually use those taxpayer monies on public services."

                                                                          --   MSBA Legislative Voice"


UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016, 12 Noon.  Special School Board Meeting, TIF Issues.  315 East Dunklin Street.

Monday, April 11, 2016, 5:30 p.m. TIF Commission Meeting.  City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  “At the Public Hearing any interested person or affected taxing district may file with the Commission written objections to, or comments on, and may be heard orally in respect to, any issues embodied within the notice.”  (RSMO section 99.825.1)

Monday, April 11, 2016,
7:00 p.m.  (Note Time Change to accommodate TIF meeting) Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization as new Board members assume office.  Public Comment will be permitted on agenda items.  Prior to the meeting, at 4:00 p.m. here will be a public reception at the Miller Center for departing Board members Doug Whitehead and Dr. Dennis Nickelson.  

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Week in Review March 19 to March 26           posted March 26 2016

See also
HOT TOPIC:  Special Taxing Districts posted March 26, 2016

This past week I learned from the News Tribune that the owners of the Truman Hotel property, the Pruri Group, requested a Tax Increment Financing District to utilize abated tax payments to pay for redeveloping their property.  This TIF, if approved, could result in JCPS not getting a full allotment of property taxes for decades as the tax money, over and above the assessed valuation today, would be diverted to the developer to pay off costs of development.  The requested assistance amount is about $8.89 million. 

On Tuesday, March 22, 2016 I attended a public informational meeting at City Hall on East McCarty Street.  Presenting information about TIF’s was Joe Lauber of Lauber Municipal Law, LLC, the outside counsel hired by Jefferson City to oversee the TIF request.  (The developer will pay the cost of these legal services as well as for an independent financial analyst.  If the project is approved, these costs are reimbursable.)

The project has a public hearing scheduled for April 11, 2016 at 5:30 pm (the same night as the school board meeting that starts at 6.)

Missouri law requires that all TIF Commissions, the group that conducts the public hearings, have two representatives from school districts affected and appointed by the school board(s), so I was a little surprised to first be learning about this from the newspaper.  Missouri law also requires that all affected parties (JCPS is an affected party) be given notice 45 days in advance of the hearing so I was surprised this had not been discussed at the March 14, 2016 school board meeting.   As a Board member, I consider it to be a core responsibility to protect revenue sources.   I have requested a full board discussion on April 11.    

The School Board is directly responsible to the voters and tax payers.  In my opinion, all matters directly impacting/limiting our ability to receive tax revenue are matters that must lie with the elected office holders of that taxing entity so that the voters can hold their elected officials accountable.  Although the entire Board makes the decision, each Board member is responsible to the voting public for their individual vote whether in the majority or minority. 

Please see HOT TOPIC: Special Taxing Districts for more information about TIF’s and their impact.  As more information becomes available, I will bring it via this website.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:
Monday, April 11, 2016, 5:30 p.m. TIF Commission Meeting. 
City Hall, 320 East McCarty Street.  “At the Public Hearing any interested person or affected taxing district may file with the Commission written objections to, or comments on, and may be heard orally in respect to, any issues embodied within the notice.”  (RSMO section 99.825.1)

Monday, April 11, 2016, 6:00 p.m.  Monday, April 11, 2016:  Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization as new Board members assume office.  Public Comment will be permitted on agenda items.  Prior to the meeting, at 4:00 p.m. here will be a public reception at the Miller Center for departing Board members Doug Whitehead and Dr. Dennis Nickelson.  

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Week in Review March 13 to 19           posted March 18, 2016

See also, HOT TOPIC:  Streaming of Board Meetings Voted Down – Reasons or Excuses?  Posted March 15, 2016

There was a Regular School Board meeting on Monday, March 14, 2016.  I will not recount the 3.5 hour regular meeting but instead focus on several areas.

Shifting funds from facilities to classroom supports.  Central Office staff from the academic and budget sides presented a plan for next year that will see $1.5 million shifted from the facilities/capital improvements side to classroom support for literacy, behavior and eventually math support.  The funds will be used to increase professional behavior staff (psychologists, behaviorists, etc.) and literacy teaching staff in all schools.  This will begin in August.  The following year extra math support staff will be added. 

Contracts.  Contracts continue to be problematic in one way or another.  We now receive a summary sheet when a service is bid showing what each vendor bid for each aspect of the job at hand.  At this meeting we were asked to approve four contracts, three of them resulted from the competitive bidding process.  In those cases staff recommended the low bidder. The fourth contract involved professional service and was with a firm the district had previously worked with.  In one of those contracts, our Facilities staff prepared the contract and it presented no problem what so ever.  However, when the vendor was allowed to prepare a contract, things got problematic.

Two contracts had terms very unfavorable to the District and one of these had potential to have cost JCPS a great deal of money if the vendor invoked all clauses.  A third contract needed slight modifications that also had the potential to be costly.  On Sunday prior to the meeting I emailed my concerns and as a result in house legal counsel reviewed the contracts Monday and found several more problems than I did.  After discussion, the Board approved the low bids with contracts to be rewritten under the supervision of JCPS legal counsel. 

The contracts were for repairs to the hydraulics of the elevator at South Elementary School; managing the preparation and bid process for roof repairs at west Elementary and the High School; Voice over Internet for the district telephone system; and fencing around the Moreau Heights Elementary School.  The fencing work will go to a local contractor.  (Note:  Thanks to visiting Moreau Heights last October, I was familiar with the request for fencing.)

Streaming of meetings.  Videotaping or live broadcast over the internet of Board meetings was defeated by a vote of 5 to 2.  For more information, please visit the HOT TOPIC page March 15 entry. 

Following the Open Session, the Board went into Closed Session to discuss personnel matters involving individually identifiable personnel.  That session lasted until 11:00 p.m.

 UPCOMING MEETING:     Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, April 11, 2016:  Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization as new Board members assume office.  6:00 p.m.  Public Comment will be permitted on agenda items.

Prior to the April 11 meeting, there will be a public reception at the Miller Center for departing Board members Doug Whitehead and Dr. Dennis Nickelson.  When details become available, they will be included in future Week in Review postings.


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Week in Review March 6 through 12      posted March 12, 2016

There were no public meetings this past week; the March Regular School Board meeting will take place on Monday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m.  Here is a link to the complete March 14, 2016 Board of Education agenda:

http://www.jcschools.us/cms/lib03/MO01909951/Centricity/Domain/3158/Mar%2014%202016.pdf

The last item on the regular agenda concerns whether or not the Board of Education meetings should be live streamed on a platform such as YouTube and stored there as a reference.  The total cost to the school district to set things up is expected to be between $2,000 and $3,000, storage on YouTube is free unless a threshold is reached, per a staff report.

While running for School Board in 2015, issues of transparency, openness, accountability and the need for the District to rebuild trust with the community were paramount.  Each of the five candidates had different views as to how to go about this.  One of the candidates, Michael Couty, brought up streaming of meetings.  (My ideas included making the “Open Forum” truly open and making meeting minutes more complete and not just limited to the legal minimum standards.  The minutes are improving.  The “Open Forum” changes were blocked in committee.) 

The Board has been reluctantly discussing live streaming since April.  Board leadership has, from my vantage point, done everything possible to prevent streaming while at the same time talking about rebuilding trust and not seeing the connection between openness and trust.

Other school districts in Missouri (and around the country) stream their meetings and have done so for many years.  I do not think it is a coincidence that some of those communities have been very supportive of their district’s bond issues.  It is my personal belief that if the community has the opportunity to see the Board discussion and understand exactly what the Board and District Leadership are trying to achieve, they will engage.  An engaged community will help drive the Board in a positive direction.  Open, transparent government will ultimately lead to better governance in my opinion. 

So, if you have an opinion about whether or not your Board of Education should live stream meetings, please plan to attend the Board meeting Monday evening and present your opinion in the allotted 3 minutes.  While the Board discussion is the last item on the agenda, the opportunity to speak comes very quickly after the meeting is called to order at 6:00 p.m.

Also on the agenda are elevator repairs for South School, fencing for Moreau Heights, roof replacements at West and the High School, a Voice over Internet proposal and a budget amendment. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS:    Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, March 14, 2016 at 6:00 p.m., Regular Board Meeting:  Public Comment allowed (and encouraged) on agenda items

Monday, April 11, 2016 at 6:00 p.m., Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization:  New Board members take office; officers are elected for the coming year.  Public comment allowed on agenda items
 

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Week in Review February 28 through March 5    posted March 5, 2016

A brief school board meeting was held on Wednesday, March 2 to introduce Dr. Brian Shindorf to the Board and Central Office staff.  Dr. Shindorf will begin his duties as Director of Elementary Education on July 1 replacing Dr. Kathy Foster who is retiring.  There was no further discussion or action as the meeting was intended to welcome Dr. Shindorf.

Dr. Shindorf shared his inspirational story.  His original plan was not to go into education, however circumstances brought him into the field first as a bus driver and then as a janitor in an elementary school in St. Joseph, Missouri.  Over the course of conversations with a kindergarten teacher, he was challenged to further his education.  He became a fourth grade teacher at the same elementary school and later principal there.  His current position in the St. Joseph schools is as Director of K – 5.  He still keeps in regular contact with the kindergarten teacher who changed his life.

On Friday, March 4, Superintendent Larry Linthacum was the guest speaker at the Cole County Retired Teachers meeting.  He spent 75 minutes with the group talking about the District and taking questions.   Many of the retired teachers still work as substitutes for Kelly Services (the JCPS contractor substitute teachers) and they have a unique perspective of having a full teaching career behind them and still being in several schools intermittently.   Hearing their concerns, both professionally and as taxpayers, is always helpful.  From discussions I had with members after Larry’s presentation they were in unanimous agreement that he is a breath of fresh air and presented a positive approach to improving the District.

This past week I attended two events at a week-long symposium held at William Woods University in Fulton.   Free and open to the community, this first of its kind event at William Woods sparked conversations and offered the opportunity to hear and learn about the perspectives of others who have a different set of experiences that have shaped their views.    

UPCOMING MEETINGS:               Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, March 14:  Regular Board Meeting, 6:00 p.m.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.  (Agenda items will include adopting a preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1; and discussion of video streaming of school board meetings)

Monday, April 11: Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization, 6:00 p.m.  Public comment permitted on agenda items.  Outgoing Board members will start the meeting until incoming Board members take the oath of office and elect new officers of the Board.

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Week in Review February 21 to February 27    posted February 27, 2016

A School Board work session was held on Monday, February 22 to discuss preliminary operating budget information for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016.  It is projected that total revenues will be $86,976,397.00 with total expenditures of $88,323,728.00, requiring the use of $1,347,331.00 in funds from the reserve account.  If these projections are correct, at the end of the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the reserve account would hold $18,201,738.00 or 20.3% of a year’s expenses.  It is essential to have money in reserve as JCPS income arrives primarily in December and January, halfway through the fiscal year.  Revenues will be down and expenses up in 2016-2017 if projections are correct.  (Not under discussion were debt service funds.  JCPS has outstanding debt from the 2007 bond issue that resulted in building Pioneer Trail Elementary School and adding space for full day kindergarten and upgrading libraries at all elementary schools; and energy efficiency loans from the Department of Natural Resources for schools renovated in recent years.  When all funds are added together, including student activity accounts, the entire budget is about $98 million.)  In the current fiscal year JCPS received $300,000 less than anticipated from the State due to a slight dip in enrollment.  (If the State funding formula were fully implemented by the Legislature, JCPS would receive $5 million more each year.  However, the formula that was to provide equity in spending across the state for all students has never been fully funded, JCPS has never seen all the money, and it is not counted on in the budget although the calculation is made annually.)

Going back in time, in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, the district had a reserve balance of 27.3% and had started on spending that reserve down.  Most of the deficit spending was for one-time renovations of some of the older school buildings.  The last of the major renovations was done this past summer and is reflected in the 2015-2016 budget expenditures.  To dip into reserves for one time expenditures is a generally acceptable way to reduce reserves.  It is not good practice to use reserves for ongoing expenses such as salary or operating costs.  There comes a time in every budget when a sharp pencil must be taken to the expenditure side unless new sources of revenue can be identified.   The trimming of discretionary expenditures is a task I think we must always be willing to consider.   

Looking beyond the numbers, budget revenue projections are based on assumptions about how much money the State will allocate for education; new construction growth within the JCPS boundaries that will result in additional local property taxes; increased attendance during summer school; and grants.  Expenditure projections include salary increases; energy cost increases; transportation cost increase; summer school and expenditures for instructional support staff and materials.    Our Chief Financial Officer is not overly concerned about deficit spending in the coming year as the deficit will only reduce our reserve fund from 22.1% to 20.3%.  The State of Missouri only requires school districts to maintain a 3% reserve fund, but JCPS has long felt a 20% fund allows for meeting expenses from July 1 until all revenues come in around January as well as allow for a “cushion” for the unforeseen.  I am concerned with deficit spending because I want to see balanced budgets and have the possibility of expanding successful programs.   It has not been a practice of the Board to hold budget work sessions and I am glad this one was scheduled.  The core mission of JCPS is educating the youth of our community and student achievement must be the driving force before everything we do. 

A question I frequently hear is related to Lottery (and casino) money that goes towards education.  Specifically, why aren’t schools doing better financially since part of every Lottery ticket’s price goes towards education?  Like most people, I thought the Lottery money was to be over and above the education line item the Legislature allocated out of the total state budget.  That is not the case.  The Legislature has instead used the Lottery money for the underlying, basic funding – essentially taking money out of the education budget to use for other things and letting Lottery dollars fill the gap when sales are good.  (You may recall a few years ago when the budget numbers didn’t add up, the Legislature just added $30 million to Lottery income projections.  That amounted to an education cut when those rosy projections of Lottery sales did not materialize.)  Lottery money does go to education but as, in my opinion, a shell game that allows for manipulation of State general revenue tax money.  Instead of the Lottery being a boon to education, it has become a prime source of basic funding.  And because of the manipulation, I don’t buy Lottery tickets.  Instead I support schools through the JCPS Foundation and other fundraising efforts.   

Following the budget session the Board went into closed session to discuss personnel matters.  The following day JCPS announced the hiring of Dr. Brian Shindorf to head up Elementary Education beginning July 1.  Dr. Shindorf is replacing Dr. Kathy Foster who is retiring June 30.  Dr. Shindorf currently holds a similar position in the St. Joseph public schools where he began as a janitor.  On his own time, he furthered his education and became an elementary teacher in the same school.  Not content to stop there, he went on to become principal and eventually in charge of elementary education in St. Joseph.  His story of hard work, dedication and success is inspirational.  Those very same qualities should serve him well at JCPS.

On Tuesday, February 23 the Nichols Career Center held an Open House and ribbon cutting for the new Culinary Arts kitchen and program.  The students and their teachers worked for days to prepare food for tasting by the dignitaries, school officials, parents and others attending.  The new kitchen is state of the art and occupies what used to be two classrooms on the first floor.   The food that was served was restaurant quality and the students serving were poised and ready to discuss their food items.  Parents I spoke with stated their sons/daughters were enthused about the Culinary Arts program and at least one was thinking about changing their career direction as a result of the program.

On Thursday morning, February 25, I attended an FFA (Future Farmers of America) appreciation breakfast.  These students prepared and served a balanced breakfast as a way to say “Thank you” to those who play a part in their education.  The students put long hours into the event and it was appreciated. 

UPCOMING MEETINGS:                    

Tentative (pending scheduling with Board, to be finalized on Feb 29th):  Wednesday, March 2, 2016: 12 noon: Special work session to meet new K-5 Administrator Dr. Brian Shindorf.

Monday, March 14, 2016: 6:00 p.m. Regular Meeting.  Public comment on agenda items permitted       Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, April 11, 2016: 6:00 p.m. Regular Meeting and Organizational meeting (new members take office.)  Public comment on agenda items permitted          Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street

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Week in Review Feb 14 to 20 posted Feb 20 2016
See also HOT TOPIC: Budget and MSBA, posted February 15, 2016

There were no public meetings this past week.

On Tuesday, February 22nd, Superintendent Larry Linthacum and I met with my State Representative, Travis Fitzwater at the Capitol.  Representative Fitzwater is concerned with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and expressed interest in visiting Project Lead the Way classes at JCHS in the future.  Representative Fitzwater has cosponsored legislation for STEM programs and employer partnerships (HB 1640, www.house.mo.gov  and follow the page to “bill information”)

Also discussed were several bills that would add to curriculum requirements for all Missouri students and professional development requirements for teachers and certified staff.  While the proposed bills (some that are not likely to pass) may be worthwhile and well intentioned, time taken away from academic learning is getting out of hand.  For example, Missouri now requires observance of six (6) specific dates (Bird Appreciation Day; Prisoner of War Remembrance Day; Patriots Day; Constitution and Citizenship Day; Missouri Day; and Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day) and recommends observance of nine (9) additional days or months Missouri Lifelong Learning Month; Math, Engineering Technology and Science Week; Arbor Day; Jefferson Day; Emancipation Day; Emergency Services Day; POW/MIA Recognition Day; Disability History and Awareness Month; and Bill of Rights Day.  Other requirements regarding Veterans Day were added last fall.  Pending bills would add requirements for students to learn Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the Heimlich maneuver for recognizing and treating emergencies (HB 1643).  If these topics can be integrated into curriculum that is grounded in the subject matter our students need to succeed and become productive citizens they may be appropriate.  However, there are a finite number of days and hours students are in the classroom.  They are already struggling to get through the curriculum within those hours. 

Bills affecting teachers would require becoming certified in CPR ((HB 1734) and two hours of annual training for suicide awareness and prevention (HB 1583).  These bills do not cite evidence of the scope of problems, nor do they provide funding for specialists needing to provide the training, pay for teacher time to take the training, or address liability for bad outcomes.  In addition to days teachers are in the classroom, JCPS pays teachers to participate in four days of professional development each year.  The four days are spent on training for new or changed curriculum, standards required by changing legislation and in response to identified needs.  The CPR and suicide awareness bills, if both passed, would require nearly a full day of professional development.  What I could support is the suicide awareness and prevention training for school counselors and CPR training for coaches when a certified trainer is not at games.   Since the bills do not indicate the extent of problems the bills seek to address, it is hard to justify taking away from the core mission of education.

Another topic discussed was state funding for education which may increase this year although it will remain well below targets set by the Legislature years ago.  If those targets – the State Foundation Funding Formula – were met, JCPS would have received $5.6 million more this school year.  Information about TIF and other special taxing districts and their impact to school districts was left as part of a packet prepared for the meeting.

Representative Fitzwater invited Superintendent Linthacum to join meetings he holds with Callaway County Superintendents every few months.  All in all it was a successful meeting in that we all left better understanding positions and solidifying communications channels. 

This week DESE, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, released proposed standards to meet the new federal education legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).   The proposed standards will be taken up by the State Board of Education on March 15.  For more information, click on the link below:

Missouri Learning Standards Update Presentation for State Board of Education February 16, 2016

http://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/ProposedStandardsFeb2016.pdf    (253 pages)

On Monday, February 22 the School Board will hold a budget work session to review preliminary data for the 2016-2017 budget that will take effect July 1st.  At the March regular meeting we must decide teacher pay as the state requirement is that teacher contracts must go out by April 15.  Personnel is the largest single category of the budget, with salaries and benefits taking up about 80% of the $98 million budget.   A closed session for legal issues and personnel will follow the work session.

I hope that there will be an opportunity to fully review everything that is optional in the budget and weigh those items against wish lists that will directly impact student achievement.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:    Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, February 22, 2016: 6:00 p.m., open work session focusing on budget projections from 2016-2017, No public comment permitted.  A Closed session will follow.

Monday, March 14, 2016: 6:00 p.m. Regular Meeting.  Public comment on agenda items permitted

Monday, April 11, 2016: 6:00 p.m. Regular Meeting and Organizational meeting (new members take office.)  Public comment on agenda items permitted

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Week in Review February 6 to February 13  posted February 13, 2016

The School Board held its regular February meeting on Monday the 8th of February. 

As expected, the budget amendment reflecting updated information about revenues and expenditures was approved.  The District will have $122,596 less in revenue.  The biggest changes are in a reduction of    State aid through the Foundation Funding Formula that continues to be underfunded.   Due to the decision to not go ahead with renovating Moreau Heights Elementary School this summer, there will be over $1 million less in expenditures.  The net result is that the 2015 – 2016 budget change is a $917,878 more in the operating budget.  There were also changes to the debt service fund due to the refinancing of a portion of the debt still owed for the Pioneer Trail construction and district wide elementary additions in 2007.

Decisions to award several contracts were made:

*    The Low bidder for the new audit firm is Graves and Associates of Jefferson City.
*     The Wide Area Network firm selected was Mediacom, the low bidder, to increase bandwidth at every school.  As curriculum relies more and more on computers and iPads and with the Missouri Assessment tests requiring students to take the tests online, increased bandwidth has become a necessity. 
*     Architects Alliance was given the go-ahead to prepare design, construction, and bidding documents for repairs to the Lewis and Clark track and cafeteria floor.  They will also handle construction phase work through certifying substantial completion and warranty reviews.  Their fee will be $57,240.

Superintendent Larry Linthacum presented a chart showing consolidation of Academies for the coming school year.  The Academies will be as follows:

*     Agriculture, Engineering, Trade and Industrial Academy  (AETI)
*     Health, Consumer and Public Services Academy (S3)
*     Communication, Arts and Business Academy (CAB)
*     Traditional Path

Students will be able to take courses outside of their chosen academy or traditional path.  At the end of each year students may change their choice.  Work on a new schedule is still underway. 

All in all, the focus on of the School Board meeting was on student achievement, as it should be.  A presentation by the teachers and students in the Project Lead the Way program (an advanced science, technology, engineering and math curriculum) was an opportunity to hear from one end of the spectrum.  At the other end, reports focused on improving reading skills at all levels.

During Open Forum a high school teacher who is the Jefferson City MNEA (Missouri National Education Association) representative, came forward to speak about Academies and the 10 block schedule.  Because those subjects were not on the agenda, he was not allowed to speak.  Ironically, both areas were the subject of Central Office staff reports.   To deny a representative of the largest group of district employees the opportunity to convey staff thoughts and comments was, in my opinion, a mistake.  It denies me as a Board member, the opportunity to hear, to learn and possibly discuss important items of interest; it does not foster good relationships with the community and has a tendency to shut off communication.  There are few opportunities for citizens or employee representatives to address all members of the Board at once about concerns or to offer suggestions. 

You may recall that when I was elected I proposed changing the Open Forum Policy to allow comment on any education matter and found no support from most of the Board or administration.  Hopefully, in time, there will be support for the free exchange of thoughts and ideas.  I will bring it up again when the Board composition changes.  This is a subject that I feel strongly about and will continue to pursue as long as I am on the Board.  During the candidate forums in 2015 I felt it was also an issue important to the community. 

As a Board member I realize I don’t know everything or have the same vantage point as all parents, teachers, students, or taxpayers.  That is why I welcome comments and input from everyone.  That is also why I am reaching out to the JC MNEA representative to find out what he wanted to share with us.  I hope other Board members will as well although individual conversations are not as good as all Board members hearing the same information and holding an open discussion.  However, given current Board attitudes, it is all that is available at this time.   We, the Board, are truly missing opportunities to learn, to improve, and to act in the best interest of all stakeholders.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:    Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street

Monday, February 22, 2016: 6:00 p.m., work session focusing on budget projections from 2016-2017.  No public comment permitted

Monday, March 14, 2016: 6:00 p.m. Regular Meeting.  Public comment on agenda items permitted

Monday, April 11, 2016: 6:00 p.m. Regular Meeting and Organizational meeting (new members take office.)  Public comment on agenda items permitted


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Week in Review January 31 to February 5    posted February 5, 2016

There were no meetings open to the public this past week.   There was one email vote called for by the Board President and Vice President on Tuesday, February 2nd for the purpose of nominating a third Board member to the   Missouri School Boards Association Board of Directors – Region 6.  The stated urgency was because paperwork was due on Thursday, February 4.   The JCPS Board was asked to respond with a vote of “yes” or “no”.   While having a JCPS Board member serve on the MSBA Board seems like a good thing, and the willingness to serve is to be commended, I had questions.

Because the questions strove to determine fiscal impact (if any) and possible benefits to JCPS and went unanswered, I did not vote.   It is not my practice to vote for anything, be it a contract or something that appears benign on its face, without appropriate information.  That the vote was being requested in a manner that expressly stated discussion would come AFTER the vote was neither satisfactory or the standard I expect.   I did state my preference for Board business to be conducted in open meetings in accord with professional standards.   

The regular school board meeting will be held on Monday, February 8 with routine business and these items on the agenda:

#    A Presentation from the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum.   Speaking will be the PLTW administrator, teachers and students.   If you have any interest in these topics or just want to see an inspirational example of a program that JCPS is doing well, I urge you to come for the presentation.


#   An amendment to the 2015-2016 budget.  Several times a year, as new information becomes available, the budget is amended to reflect changes in revenues and expenditures.  When the budget is approved each June, it contains projections about anticipated revenues from property taxes, the State of Missouri and other sources.   Those estimates reflect a best approximation of what will happen.  On the expenditure side, the District may decide to spend more or less in certain areas to reflect needs.  The Chief Financial Officer will present specific information prior to the Board adopting changes.


#   Selection of an Audit firm for the coming year.  The financial audit firm the District has used in the past will no longer be doing school district audit firms in the future.   A request for proposals went out and six firms responded.  Two were interviewed on February 5th by the Audit Committee.  Board members on the Committee are Steve Bruce, Ken Theroff and Michael Couty.  Their recommendation will be presented to the Board Monday evening.  No additional information is available to me at this time.


#   A contract to upgrade WAN (wide area network) bandwidth will be awarded.  There are 20 building sites, the 18 schools plus the Dix Road center and Board Office.  Four companies bid on the project.  One bid was incomplete regarding costs for some sites, one bid was very high.  Detailed comparisons of the other two bids by building location along with a staff recommendation to accept the lowest bid was supplied to Board members.  The value of the first year of this contract is about $162,000.00.  If renewed, the third year cost would rise to $184,800.00.


#   A contract with Architects Alliance to handle professional services for repairs to the Lewis and Clark Middle School track and cafeteria floor.  Last summer there was upheaval of part of the track making its full use impossible.  Architects Alliance indicates that a portion of the track granular sub-base was not installed in 1993 as a cost savings measure and this omission “increased the risk of water retention by allowing some vertical displacement of the track”.   In the cafeteria there is “visible slab cracking, floor heave, broken tile, and a limited area of general deterioration to the floor finish, concrete slab and subgrade conditions.”  During the tour of facilities in October, there was a moveable positioned over the worst part of the floor to prevent tripping.  Architects Alliance proposes to handle preliminary design; prepare construction documents; handle competitive bidding and construction phase services.  They will work with Central Missouri Professional Services and Allstate Consultants (engineering).    The value of the contract is $57,240.00. 


Following the regular meeting a closed session for personnel reasons is scheduled.


This past week Superintendent Larry Linthicum sent this message: 

                “Principles + People + Process + Patience + Sustainable Impact”

All too often it is easy to take shortcuts – it is usually the Process that gets left by the wayside, soon to be followed by Patience.    Or was it impatience that led to skipping Process?   Either way, this hit home to me.  When working in healthcare, there is a great emphasis on following tried and true Process as it more often than not leads to the desired outcome.  (For those of you in other fields, substitute Policy for Process.)  Having followed a Process leads to Outcome model for decades, I am a believer and get uncomfortable when expected to abandon process.

 
UPCOMING MEETINGS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC:             315 East Dunklin, Board Office

Monday, February 8 at 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, public comment period limited to agenda items.

Monday, February 22, 6:00 p.m.:  Work Session, no public comment period. 

Monday, March 14 at 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting

Monday, April 11 at 6:00 p.m.:  Regular Board Meeting and Reorganization (New Board Members take office)


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Week in Review January 23 through 30    posted January 30, 2016

There were no public meetings this past week as there was no need to certify a ballot for the April election.  Missouri law does not require school districts to hold elections for board of education members if the number of candidates equals the number of positions up for election.  The two candidates who filed for office, Lorelei Schwartz and Rich AuBuchon will take office on April 11, 2016, the same date Doug Whitehead and Dennis Nickelson leave the school board.

On Monday, January 25th I attended an AP Statistics class at the High School by invitation.  The students worked on using random sampling to determine percentages and confidence intervals.  Rather than relying on just word problems, the class took their own random samples.  For one problem they worked as a class, for the second they broke into groups of 3 or 4. True to the random sample theme, the groups were assigned through receipt of shuffled cards dealt to the class face down.   The teacher’s methods made the problems come to life and were far more interesting than my memory of statistics class.

On Wednesday, January 27th West Elementary School invited school board members to meet and snack with staff prior to their monthly meeting.  I accepted the invitation to stay and attend a presentation and exercise put on by the Reading Recovery teachers.  The focus was on pre-reading strategies for student discussion of a topic and then using evidence found in either text or other media to either prove or disprove preconceived notions about a topic. 

On Thursday, January 28th I attended a performance by the Jefferson City High School Symphonic Band at Tan Tar A as part of the Missouri Music Educators Association annual conference.  It was a high honor for the JCHS Symphonic Band to be invited to perform.  The four pieces of music were enchanting and the time seemed to go by much too quickly.   The hard work by the students and their teachers was evident.  

Whenever I meet with parents, teachers and/or students I am told about problems with the 10 block schedule implemented for the 2015-2016 school year.   Parents complain that their high school children are struggling to keep up, often doing homework very late into the night and with grades slipping.  Students feel overwhelmed from taking so many courses and having them meet only every other day.  While college students who take five academic courses at once are considered full time, we have high school students taking 8 or 9 academic courses at once with classes meeting every other day.  Teachers have told me they are repeating things from the previous time the class met as a refresher.  In the case of some science classes, experiments are not able to be completed.  For example, when working with a reagent or chemical, if a class cannot complete the experiment one day, that chemical is usually still viable 24 hours later.  But if the class does not meet for 48 hours, the experiment is a loss and there is never time to complete the exercise.  The 10 block schedule has also resulted in less total hours spent in a class when compared to total hours before the 10 block schedule was implemented.   Discussions are underway about different scheduling for next year.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:           315 East Dunklin Street, Board Office
Monday, February 8, 6:00 p.m., Regular School Board Meeting.  Public comment will be permitted on agenda items.  A presentation by teachers and students about the Project Lead the Way science, technology, engineering and math program is scheduled.
   

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Week in Review January 15 through 22  posted January 22, 2016

There were no public meetings this week and there will be none next week.

On Tuesday, January 19th I visited an introduction to engineering class at the High School/Nichols.  Part of the Project Lead the Way curriculum, this class was involved in a boat building project.  Working in small groups of 3 to 5 students, they tackled their challenges, decided how to overcome obstacles such as drag, designed a vessel, and then put it to the test by racing each other.  Boats had motors powered by rechargeable hydrogen fuel cells.

Student groups mostly used foam as the main building material, some supplementing this with empty water bottles.  One group used a boat built in the 3-D printer.  All students had access to an array of supplies.  To overcome the problem of boats turning while in motion some groups added wood to the sides to keep their boats within their lane.  Students were able to make adjustments to their vessels prior to their second race in the double elimination tournament.  A foam boat was the overall race winner in the morning class.  While flashy, the 3-D plastic boat was slowed by its weight.  The student group winning in the morning was to face off against the group winning in the afternoon class.

Students were required to maintain individual books where they documented their efforts during the steps along the way to the race.  Using a combination of pictures and words they described the challenges they anticipated how they overcame them decided upon a design and constructed it.  Adjustments, if any, were also documented as was the actual floatation and completion of the race course. 

The Project Lead the Way curriculum specializes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  To learn more, visit the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website:

https://dese.mo.gov/college-career-readiness/career-education/technology-engineering-education/project-lead-way

JCPS Project Lead the Way faculty and students will be presenting an annual update to the Board of Education meeting February 8, 2016.  I urge everyone to attend and hear from actual program participants.

Prior to visiting the Introduction to Engineering class, I was shown a biology class where students had just completed dissecting a cow eyeball.  Working in groups they had separated the components of the eye and labeled them.  I was impressed by the equipment our high school students have as part of their classroom.  In my early days in the public health field I frequently had to go to another facility to use equipment of the type these students now have in their class.  While it took about $60,000.00 to initially equip the class, it takes only about $2,000 to $3,000 annually to maintain the class.  To me, this is a good use of taxpayer money.

On Thursday, January 21 I attended a staff appreciation breakfast.  Six times a year JCPS hosts a breakfast for staff who have been nominated by their peers, administration or parents as having gone that “extra mile” to help students and co-workers.  Once again I left feeling very good about JCPS staff.

As only two candidates filed for the two school board seats opening up in April, there will be no election.  Lorelei Schwartz and Rich AuBuchon will take office on Monday, April 11, 2016 at the regular Board meeting.  That same night Dennis Nickelson and Doug Whitehead will finish their last terms.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:    held at Board Office, 315 East Dunklin


CANCELLED: Tuesday, January 26 at 7:30 a.m. Special Board Meeting to certify the ballot for the April 5, 2016 election.  As there is no need for an election, the district has cancelled this meeting; there is no ballot to certify.

Monday, February 8, 2016: 6:00 pm., Regular Board Meeting.  Public Comment on agenda items will be permitted.  A Project Lead the Way presentation is scheduled.

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Week in Review January 8 through 15  posted January 15, 2016

The School Board held its regular meeting on Monday, January 11, 2016.  The agenda was light, and consisted of approval of previous minutes, disbursements and personnel actions as well as reports from the Wellness program and central office staff.  A closed session to discuss land and personnel matters was held.  (Objecting to the land portion of the closed session, I voted against the session.  See also HOT TOPIC: Closed Sessions, posted on January 12, 2016.)

Superintendent Larry Linthacum reported on area he will be focusing on:  learning, partnerships and stewardship.  His goals are to provide effective instructional programs, lead personnel, and respond to community interests and needs.    Mr. Linthacum elaborated on the goals; they are to “ensure kids learn on a daily basis …build a culture within JCPS in which all JCPS folks are motivated to be difference makers in the lives of students and the JC community” and “to provide students and JC hope for a better tomorrow through a college/career/life ready education.”

On January 4th Mr. Linthacum surveyed staff with an eye towards better understanding needs and concerns.  1,016 staff members (83.2% of JCPS staff) responded.  The survey had 70 questions with many offering the opportunity to add a comment in addition to providing a numerical or yes/no answer.   He is still compiling data and will report further next month.   However, he did say that concerns relating to trust, student accountability, curriculum and assessments were mentioned by many.

Problems with completing the policy change process were previously identified.  Policies approved by the Board in October 2015 were not all process correctly.  Some were missed at the Dunklin Street Office, some at the Missouri School Boards Association, who handle putting our policies on line and prepare the print copies for paper manuals.  A staff report indicated corrective action is in progress.

On Wednesday, January 13th I attended the annual Taste of Jefferson City at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.  This event is a reception for Legislators and is hosted by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, Jefferson City, Cole County and JCPS.  During the event attendees get to sample foods from area restaurants and caterers, beer and wine are available as is water and soda.  During two hours there I spoke with my representative, officials from MODOT, Jefferson City and Cole County as well as Chamber members.  Given my vote last spring against sponsoring events of this type you may wonder why I attended.  Having never attended before, I wanted to see first-hand how the event unfolds.  While the food was delicious, I do think there are better ways for a school district to spend tax dollars.

Following the Taste of Jefferson City, I went to the Capitol for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration hosted by the Legislative Black Caucus.   Reverend Adrian Hendricks II, of Jefferson City gave a moving key note address recounting Missouri history and hope for the future.  There were performances from poet Sheri Hall, Ralph “Little Ralph” Beck, Jr. from St. Louis and Flo ‘N Soul from Kansas City.   There is a saying that you cannot truly understand someone until you walk a mile in their shoes.   That is not always possible but one way for me to gain insight is to listen to friends and neighbors and start a conversation to share experiences we do not have in common.   I left the Capitol Rotunda full of thought.  It was time well spent.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:   Board Offices, 315 East Dunklin Street
Tuesday, January 26, 2016.  7:30 a.m. Special School Board meeting to certify the ballot for the April 5, 2016 election.  Note that if the number of candidates equals the number of terms expiring, no election will be held.  There will be no public comment.
  

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Week in Review January 1 through 7   posted January 8*, 2016

Corrected January 12th to note the January 26th Special Board Meeting will take place on Tuesday morning

* posting delayed due to technical difficulties.

There were no public meetings this week.  There will be a regular School Board meeting on Monday, January 11, 2016 with public business starting at approximately 6:00 p.m.  Immediately preceding the public business, the Board will open the meeting and is scheduled to go into closed session to discuss land and personnel issues.  

The regular business meeting will consist of reports from Central Office Staff in the areas of Student Wellness, Staff Services, Elementary and Secondary Education, Student Information, Planning and Assessment and the Superintendent Report.   There will also be an update about the partnership between the District and the International Center for Leadership in Education, the group working to help align our curriculum and teaching in all grades.

Of particular interest to me is an update on Policies.  Since joining the Board I was made part of the Policy Committee and have had the opportunity to request policy changes and track policies through the Committee and then onto having the entire Board act on recommended changes.  From there the policies go to our policy service, the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA).  They handle keeping policies up to date on the JCPS web site and provide changes for the Policy books maintained in the District.  Over the holiday break I took the opportunity to review changes to the nearly 50 policies and found not all went as expected.   Monday evening we will hear a report from JCPS staff who has been working with MSBA.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:   Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street

Tuesday, January 11, 2016:  5:30 p.m. closed session with open session to start about 6:00 p.m.  Public comment will be permitted on agenda items.

Monday, January 26, 2016. 7:30 a.m. special meeting to certify the ballot for the April 5, 2016 school board election (NOTE:  Missouri Law allows for the cancellation of the election if the number of candidates equals the number of positions open.  IF that is the case, the ballot must still be certified, but those candidates would take office in April without appearing on the ballot.) 

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Week in Review December 13 through 18  posted December 18, 2015

At the School Board meeting December 14th, Superintendent Larry Linthicum announced a shift in strategy for the district.  Instead of spending from $2 to $7 million annually renovating existing facilities, we will now direct funds directly towards learning.  In the past 10 years JCPS has spent $20 million dollars refurbishing schools and other facilities without increasing total square footage.  While some renovations were essential (such as repair of a separating exterior wall; removal of asbestos; and securing all school building entry ways) such urgent repairs are not on the list of schools that were to be renovated in the next two years.  

This is not an easy decision as many of our elementary schools have class sizes larger than recommended by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and some of our buildings have more students than intended when the structures were built.   In the case of the Simonsen 9th grade center, originally opened 100 years ago, and currently well beyond student capacity, it will need to continue to serve our students for the time being.  Square footage per student varies widely between rooms in older and newer buildings.  For example, a classroom at one end of the district with 22 students may feel more crowded than a classroom of 22 students at the opposite end of the district as the rooms are of different size.

In an editorial the Jefferson City News Tribune called this shift a “bold move” and it is.  They went on to remind readers that the core mission of the public school district is to educate the children of the community.  Education must be the number one priority.  What goes on inside the classroom is more important than the room itself. 

As reported in October, the JCPS District received an overall Annual Performance Report (APR) score of 70.7%, a new low following several years of steady decline.  This has served as a wake-up call.  A breakdown of the score, by component and buildings, tells us that we are falling short when it comes to math and English at early levels.  If students are not able to perform at a proficient level in these areas by the time they reach 3rd grade, it becomes almost impossible for them to succeed later.  Reasons for the decline in test scores are debatable, but the path out must have us prioritize our resources on academics.   

Improving the APR score next year will take extra effort on the part of everyone in the District:  our students, teachers, staff, administrators and Board all have a role to play.  The leadership team of the Superintendent and Board took a first step by placing allocation of resources for academics over new construction.  But that is only one of many steps we need to take.  I am pleased that other Board members are now looking at the reallocation of resources.  A budget work session has been scheduled for March.  This is several months in advance of the approval deadline of June 30.  Holding budget discussions is another step in the right direction.  

Another change coming in the 2016 – 2017 academic year will be shift from the seven academies at the high school to three:  Health/Human Services; Agriculture/Industrial Engineering and Technology; Communication, Arts & Business and Global Studies.  This represents a consolidation of existing academies.  There will be a fourth general track (to be better named at a later date) for those students not ready to commit to a specific area of concentration.  Students will be able to switch academies at the end of each year.  For current 8th grade students who may have already made a choice, they will have the opportunity to reconsider in light of the upcoming changes.   Small learning environments will continue. 

It should be noted that the Academy model began with the freshman class in August 2014 and are only in their second year.   Alignment of the curriculum to State standardized tests is an unknown as Academy students were not tested in their freshman year, the first test data will come in 2016 from tests yet to be administered.   From the freshman and sophomore classes in the Health academy that I have visited I can say there is innovation and learning going on.  Whether it is what the State wants, we will find out next summer. 

In the short time Larry Linthicum has been JCPS’s Superintendent, he has assessed our District and begun making changes in priorities that will pay dividends for our students, in my opinion.  I feel we are on a positive path.

There are no meetings scheduled until the next regular Board meeting on January 11th.  School will be closed for the Winter Break from December 23, 2015 through January 4, 2016, inclusive, for students.  Teachers and some staff will have a professional development day on January 4, 2016.

I wish everyone a peaceful, safe and joyous holiday season.   As some time off is healthy for everyone, I will not be posting again until after the New Year.  Please feel free to call or email.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:
Monday, January 11, 2016, 6:00 p.m., Regular Board Meeting.  Public comment permitted on agenda items. 

Monday, January 25, 2016, 6:00 p.m., Special Board Meeting to certify the ballot for the April 5, 2016, School Board Election.   Other agenda items may be added and a work session may also be held.

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Week in Review December 7 through December 12                       posted December 12, 2015

There were no public meetings this past week.  This past week I had the opportunity to attend Capitol Caroling, the 78th performance by Jefferson City students in the Capitol rotunda.  Twenty pieces were performed by students from Simonsen 9th Grade Center and the High School.  They and their teachers did a wonderful job and fully utilized the unique acoustic possibilities in our Capitol building.

There will be a regular School Board meeting on Monday, December 14th at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Office on East Dunklin Street.  On the agenda are routine approvals of disbursements; Central Office reports from Staff Services; Elementary Education; Special Services; and the Superintendent.  We have received written reports from other Central Office areas.  There will be presentations in the areas of Instructional and Facility Resources; Student Attendance; and Streaming of Board Meetings.

The Board will consider for final approval policies presented last month and the 2016-2017 school calendar.  The financial audit for 2014-2015 will be presented by the outside auditing firm.  The agenda does not include further discussion of Superintendent Evaluation criteria.  However, this discussion will be taking place, in an open session, in the near future.

The Superintendent Evaluation tool being used is a 97 page document from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).  The document outlines seven major areas to evaluate a Superintendent and advises school districts to focus on three areas each year, selecting specific metrics to judge performance.  The complete document can be accessed here:

http://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/00-SuptEvaluation-CompleteDoc.pdf

The Board opted to use this tool as a related tool from DESE is currently being used.   JCPS last year used the DESE Teacher Evaluation tool for the first time.  This decision was made prior to my election to the Board.  The DESE tools are big on demonstrating continuous growth.   However, my understanding is it resulted in teachers receiving lower evaluations last year, in part so as to form a baseline to allow for demonstrations of growth and improvement in future years, a practice I would not have endorsed.  It is fair to say, from my perspective the tool was not universally felt to be an improvement over the previous evaluation system.  Like other new initiatives it should be assessed on a regular basis.  The entire 415 page tool can be accessed here:

https://dese.mo.gov/sites/default/files/00-TeacherEvaluation-CompleteDoc.pdf

The Board, also on Monday evening, will have a closed session pertaining to personnel records, other protected records and real estate. 

Perhaps the biggest news in education is the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor legislation to No Child Left Behind.  All of these education acts are based on federal legislation from 1965 and generally updated/changed under every President.  This is the only comprehensive change under the current Administration.  In previous years they instead opted to grant “exceptions” to No Child Left Behind.  The new Act is being touted as finally returning a measure of control to local schools.  Whether that turns out to be the Missouri legislature, DESE, or your local school board, is something we will see as the law filters down.  In the meantime, here are some links to information, you can find more online by searching ‘Every Student Succeeds.”  

The full 1,061 page federal act is here:

http://edworkforce.house.gov/uploadedfiles/every_student_succeeds_act_-_conference_report.pdf

The White House Report, an official summary of the Actis here:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/documents/ESSA_Progress_Report.pdf

During my time campaigning I heard from many people concerned about Common Core, both standards and testing, but mostly the testing.  Like most people, the anti-Common Core folks are interested in local control of education.  I am most interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts about the Every Student Succeeds Act and how you think it will affect education for your children, grandchildren and the community.

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

Monday, December 14, 2015, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment regarding agenda items permitted.

Monday, January 11, 2016, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board Meeting, East Dunklin Street.  Public Comment regarding agenda items permitted.

Monday, January 25, 2016, 6:00 p.m.:  Special Board Meeting to Certify Ballot for April 5, 2016 Election.  The location of meeting is to be determined.  (Note: Two school board member positions will be on the ballot IF more than two people file to run.  Filing dates are December 15, 2015 through January 19, 2016.  Contact the School Board Office for more information.)

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Week in Review November 29 through December 6                       posted December 6, 2015

There were no JCPS meetings this past week and none scheduled in the coming week.

On Friday, December 4th, I attended the Cole County Retired Teachers meeting.  Getting the opportunity to network with and learn from retired professionals who have taught in the JCPS or other districts is something I look forward to and attend whenever scheduling allows.  This month we received an update on bills pre-filed by Legislators who will soon be coming to town.  The bills to watch fell into several categories; dictating curriculum, attempting to alter the teachers’ pensions, and altering the Missouri tax structure which will affect education funding as well as other operations of the State.  They are of concern as they affect the ability to determine curriculum at the truly local level; attract and retain teachers with an excellent benefit package; and, have the revenue to assure a steady revenue stream to provide quality education.

With another School Board election coming up April 5, 2016, and candidate filing running from December 15, 2015 through January 19, 2016, I have had conversations with two people contemplating becoming a candidate.  There are likely others in the community considering the matter as well.  (Two positions are coming open, Dr. Dennis Nickelson has stated he will not run for re-election, Doug Whitehead has not announced his plans; one candidate, Ms. Lorelei Schwartz, has announced she is running.)  Others have asked me what about a candidate would improve our district. 

There has been a study undertaken to define characteristics of a school board that affect student achievement in either a positive or negative manner.  This study, known as the Lighthouse Study, was published in 2001 by the Iowa Association of School Boards.  You can read about the study through this link to the Center for Public Education report: 

  http://www.centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Public-education/Eight-characteristics-of-effective-school-boards/Eight-characteristics-of-effective-school-boards.html

The report outlines eight characteristics of effective school boards in depth, a dozen danger signs, and ways to convert research to action based on follow-up work from 2002 to 2007 with five pilot districts.  Here are the bullet points for effective boards:

 
“Eight Characteristics of an Effective School Board*

"1. Effective school boards commit to a vision of high expectations for student achievement and quality instruction and define clear goals toward that vision
2. Effective school boards have strong shared beliefs and values about what is possible for students and their ability to learn, and of the system and its ability to teach all children at high levels.
3. Effective school boards are accountability driven, spending less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies to improve student achievement.
4. Effective school boards have a collaborative relationship with staff and the community and establish a strong communications structure to inform and engage both internal and external stakeholders in setting and achieving district goals.
5. Effective boards are data savvy; they embrace and monitor data, even when the information is negative, and use it to drive continuous improvement.
6. Effective school boards align and sustain resources, such as professional development, to meet district goals.
7. Effective school boards lead as a united team with the superintendent, each from their respective roles, with strong collaboration and mutual trust.
8. Effective school boards take part in team development and training, sometimes with their superintendents, to build shared knowledge, values and commitments for their improvement efforts.”
Source: Center for Public Education report on ISBA’s Lighthouse Study


In reading the fuller information it is clear to me that there is work to be done, that there is much more we can do to positively affect student achievement at JCPS; this is not the sole province of the Superintendent.  The Board of Education must not only support him; they must actively participate in student achievement as well as district governance.  The caveat is that it takes more than one, two, or three members of a seven person board to accomplish any directional change.  I would urge anyone considering running for school board (or any interested community member) to read the report, consider the eight characteristics of effective school boards and to be willing to have discussion about these types of matters. 

At the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) conference I attended this past October I attended several presentations focused just on the Board’s role in student achievement and it was obvious the districts had adopted practices in line with those described in the Iowa studies.  Those Missouri districts had positively impacted student achievement. 

For further information:

https://wssda.org/Portals/0/Resources/Publications/satfpospaper.pdf  This four page document outlines how the Washington State School Directors’ Association adapted the Lighthouse Study data to their needs.

http://www.nsba.org/sites/default/files/How%20School%20Boards%20Influence%20Student%20Achievement.pdf  This is a three page summary of how school boards should be spending their time.  It references the Washington State data.

UPCOMING MEETING:
Monday, December 14, 2015, 6:00 p.m.:  Regular School Board meeting at Board Office, East Dunklin Street.  Public comment on agenda items permitted.  (Further discussion of Superintendent’s evaluation criteria is expected.)
 

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Week in Review November 22 to November 28  posted November 28, 2015

This was Thanksgiving week and there was just one thing on my calendar; attending the Fight for Your Rights Museum event at the Simonsen 9th grade center.  The Museum was a project of the students in the Perspectives of Citizenship classes.  The course combines Business Management, English and Social Studies.  I had been invited by two students: The first student worked on the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing rights of the accused; the second student focused on the 13th Amendment, the abolition of slavery.  I very much wanted to attend, but illness kept me home.  None the less, I am impressed with how the three subject areas combined and was intrigued as soon as I received the invitations.

Thanksgiving week was for me more a time of reflection than activity.  What am I thankful for and why?  Like most, family tops my list; they give comfort in times of need, joy, and represent both the past and the future.  Friends because they are both fun and an anchor that steadies by telling us the things we need to know and not what we might prefer to hear. 

I am thankful for a community that is engaged and caring.  Concern and desire for something better is the common ground and it can be a powerful force.  I am thankful for all the employees of JCPS who work hard and dedicate their hours, both on and off the job, to contributing to the success of future generations.  I am thankful for the students who take challenges and look at them in new ways; they work hard and seem to have fun also.  

I am thankful for the readers of this website who offer me suggestions, ask questions, lend support and keep me on my toes.

I hope you all had the holiday of your expectations. 


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Week in Review November 15 to November 22                               posted November 22, 2015

     Could you, working with a few of your neighbors, co-workers or friends, identify a health issue from around the world and demonstrate how culture, geography, history and other factors affect that issue?   That is the task that was assigned to our JCPS 9th graders in the Simonsen Health Academy Perspectives of Citizenship/English classes.  Students in the three classes each created a Global Health Museum.  Working in groups of four students, they identified an issue, created a two dimension display, an interactive display, a website and a presentation to show how culture, conditions or other factors affected a broad range of issues from obesity related to fast food, obesity from feasting in Tonga, lack of clean drinking water, drug use in pregnancy, food borne illnesses, blindness, vitamin deficiencies, and even brain damage from sports.

     This past Friday, November 20, I was invited to the Global Health Museum and was afforded to opportunity to see the student presentations and see how the students are learning in the Academy.  The collaborative learning and imbedding of credits – where more than one subject area is taught in one class is now in its second year at JCPS.  In this class they combined more than just citizenship and English through their use of technology (iPads) to both research and tell a story; art in their displays; communication in telling about their projects; history of the area; sociology in the culture; and creativity in looking at solutions.  For problems with very limited answers, such as Alzheimer’s disease or blindness, the students created an interactive set of challenges to demonstrate the obstacles faced by those directly affected.  For other issues, like a lack of drinking water, two separate groups demonstrated different ways water can be made safe.

     What the students are doing is very impressive and a reflection of their teachers adaptation of a different way of educating their students.  What is unknown at this time is how the Academies will align with standardized testing required by Missouri at the end of the 10th grade as the spring of 2016 will be the first time students in the Academy model will be assessed. 

     Belair Elementary School held their Kindergarten Thanksgiving play on November 20th   and I attended by invitation.  The kindergarten teachers did a superb job of telling the tale of the first Thanksgiving in a manner that let our youngest JCPS students shine.  This was followed up with the students performing songs they learned in Music class along the same theme. The students, parents and grandparents then followed up with a feast in the cafeteria.

     On November 19th there was a monthly Staff Appreciation breakfast.  Every month during the school year employees may nominate someone as being exceptional and the District then honors employees for something positive they have done in either a special circumstance or as an ongoing expression of going above or beyond.  Our Food Service department fixes a breakfast and the nominations are read by our Community Relations Department who also coordinate the event each month. 

     Also on November 19th I had the privilege of accompanying Superintendent Larry Linthicum to Fulton for an introductory meeting with the Callaway County Commissioners.  During my time as a Holts Summit Alderwoman (councilwoman) I worked closely with the County Commissioners on many projects including getting funding for sidewalks by North Elementary School in Holts Summit.  Fifteen per cent of the JCPS student body resides in Callaway County.

     The Long Range Facility Planning Committee, who made a 20 year facility plan that was presented to the School Board in November 2014, met again on November 19th.  Superintendent Larry Linthicum, who started at JCPS this past July 1, wanted to meet with the Committee.  After reviewing results of his meetings with each school building and all other staff, he opened the floor for discussion.  Larry wanted to know if the Committee still stood by its recommendation to build a second high school, refurbish the current high school, build a new elementary school on the East end of Jefferson City, and renovate and add classrooms at Callaway Hills (the immediate recommendations made in 2014).

     Following discussion, the group still felt there should be two high schools.  The Committee members further expressed they felt the District needs to focus on rebuilding trust in 2016 and not rush into putting a financing issue before the public.   Committee members further expressed they identified our needs; it is up to the school board to make final decisions.

     I keep hearing from students, parents and teachers that the 10 block schedule in the high school grades is not working to their satisfaction.  I have asked some specific questions of our Board President and Superintendent in an attempt to define the scope of the issue.  On the 19th I had a conversation with our Superintendent that left me hopeful there will be further discussions that will lead to an understanding of whether or not the schedule is working. 

    On a final note, all of this weeks’ activities have reinforced my belief that everyone at JCPS, including all Board members, are part of a team.  To be fully participating Board members we must interact with all team members and not seclude ourselves in our “ivory towers.”  How can we appreciate our successes, challenges, obstacles and resources if we never see them first-hand?

    While the Board should focus on the Big Picture, that picture is made by our students, teachers and staff.  It is limited by our resources, facilities and choices. I choose to see those things for myself and not to rely solely on the reports or vantage points of others.  I am grateful to finally have that opportunity.

UPCOMING MEETING:  (Board Office, 315 East Dunklin Street)
Monday, December 14, 2015, 6:00 p.m.  School Board Regular Meeting, public comment permit on agenda items only.  Agenda is to include further discussion of Superintendent evaluation criteria.  


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Week in Review November 8 through November 14                       posted Nov 15, 2015

The highlights of my week have been getting to interact with students, freshmen and sophomores in the Health Services Academy.  The very topic of Academies has divided our community and contributed to election discussions for three years.   Academies were implemented just over a year ago and thus far those stu