LITTLETON — It’s been two years since the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) and its allies started the recall process of three Jefferson County School District Board of Education members.
Some of those affected by the hiring of Jason Glass to replace Dan McMinimee at the helm of the state’s second largest school district with about 85,000 students say it appears to be more evidence that the recall was about the desired political philosophy of the district’s chief administrator.
Among a list of complaints during the recall, JCEA and its supporters cited their biggest issues as charter schools, teacher salaries, and the superintendent’s salary.
The new board seems to have reinforced their points by hiring Glass, who is likely to ensure a rocky road for school choice advocates and lobby for increased taxes.
Glass’s appointment appears to be a signal that reform is out and the preferred educational approach of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, is in.
In an open letter to new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that appeared in the Vail Daily newspaper, Glass inferred public charter schools get special privileges not afforded to traditional district-run schools.
“If we are to expand school choice options with public funds, then let us also make sure the playing field is really level and fair. Any institution (public, charter, or private) or other learning opportunity should welcome and be obligated to serve every child in our community, just as our current public schools do,” Glass wrote. “Cherry-picking enrollment policies, where schools choose the right ‘fit’ for who can enroll and ‘counsel out’ or even outright remove students or families that are too much trouble, should not be acceptable. These other school options will also need to provide services to create access for all families (such as transportation supports, mental health, nutrition, language development and disability services). It should also mean an end to practices where admission is based on the ability to pay tuition, donations or any other fees.”
However, Colorado charter schools must adhere to all the same reporting requirements and testing as traditional district-run schools. They cannot use testing to grant entrance, and there is no tuition for charter schools. Charter schools are public schools. The waivers many say are available only to charters are also available to school districts by requesting them through the State Board of Education.
Jeffco parent Kim Gilmartin, whose children are in charter schools in the district, said she is very concerned about positions Glass has taken, including another opinion piece also in the Vail Daily that again took DeVos to task for her support for school choice.
“Betsy DeVos is an ideological one-trick-pony who trots out test data to blame and shame schools and then asserts her “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach to school privatization as the shining-silver-bullet solution,” Glass said.
Gilmartin said his statements sound all too familiar.
“They sound eerily similar to the misleading and false statements put out by the teachers’ union when denouncing charter schools and equitable funding,” Gilmartin said. “Does Dr. Glass understand that charter schools are bound by federal and state public school laws? Does he know that charter schools are not allowed to discriminate in their enrollment policies and that they adhere to the same testing standards as district-run schools? Does he realize that charter schools accept students with disabilities and/or special needs?”
Also angering some in the district is the cost of Glass’s contract.
However, after bonuses and other contractual items, McMinimee and Stephenson had nearly identical contracts.
They aren’t even close to what Glass will be hauling in.
His base contract of $265,000 a year is the highest in the state, almost $4,000 more than Boulder Valley RE 2 School District — at least for now, as that district is also in the search process for a new superintendent.
In addition to his base salary, Glass will get 25 days a year vacation above the usual district vacation days, of which up to 10 unused days each year can be paid at the per diem rate; sick leave and personal leave; and full health, dental and vision insurance for him and his family.
The district will also take out a life insurance policy equal to $795,000; purchase a smart phone, tablet, and laptop for Glass; and pay all associated costs. Additionally, Glass gets $750 a month in auto expenses.
Glass will also receive all moving expenses as well as temporary living expenses up to 6 months.
What most frustrates Jeffco parent Laura Boggs, however, is Glass’s retirement package. In addition to the 20.15 percent of required district match into the Public Employees Retirement Account, the district will pay Glass’s 8 percent share and then deposit an additional 7 percent into a separate annuity. The result is $93,147 in retirement benefits.
“Who is screaming that it is a 20 percent increase in base over the previous Superintendent?” Boggs asked. “His total annual compensation seems in excess of $370,000.00 and somehow he can’t afford his own car so there is another $9,000. His PERA alone is higher than the median Jeffco income and the average Jeffco teacher pay.”
Boggs is also concerned the board did not tie performance goals to compensation, something that has been in previous contracts.
“It seems a huge change in philosophy that warranted a public conversation,” Boggs said. “We now have a superintendent whose rewards will be disconnected from student success. How does that happen without a public conversation? And they added a poison pill. Jason’s duties can’t be taken away from him and can’t be reassigned to other staff. With a three-year contract this does make Mr. Glass a million-dollar superintendent and this board has to put that money in reserves.”
Even a Tweet by Glass after the board approved his hiring fell in line with the recall group, using #jeffcounited to announce his excitement.
“Seems to me Jeffco voters are seeing the true colors of the recall supporters; they are again displaying a huge lack of transparency and integrity,” Boggs said. “Last time it was the judge that found that Jeffco United had broken the laws in not disclosing donors, now Jeffco residents are finding the hypocrisy of those that put the adults before the students.”