Education, Featured, Jeffco, Sherrie Peif

New Jeffco superintendent disrupts charter relationships in first 60 days on the job

GOLDEN – Just weeks into his first year as the new superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools, Jason Glass, the highest paid superintendent in Colorado, may find himself in front of the state board of education for contract violations.

Golden View Classical Academy founder and Board Chairman Derec Shuler said the school filed a complaint with the Colorado State Board of Education over Jeffco withholding student funding, but that’s only the start.

Jeffco has since reversed its decision, but Shuler isn’t sure if his board will do the same, as he still has concerns with how Jeffco handled the contract dispute.

In fact, in just a matter of days, Glass and his administrators not only withheld per pupil funding to the tune of about $500,000, but also arbitrarily changed the amount the school pays in administrative fees from 2.2 percent to 3.77 percent of its total revenue.

“We’re fortunate that we have had sound financial policies, so we (would have been) able to pay our teachers,” Shuler said. “But that is money that goes to our kids.”

More importantly now, Shuler said, is fixing the other issue with the administrative fees.

Golden View’s contract calls for 2.2 percent of the school’s revenue (about $6 million) to be withheld by the district for operational costs. However, the district has started withholding 3.77 percent, about a $95,000 difference.

When the district was notified of the mistake, the district’s attorney notified Shuler they were not going not comply with the contract, Shuler said.

Emails exchanged between attorneys for both Golden View and the school district express a desire by the school district to begin dispute resolution on the matter.

Shuler said in addition to not being able to change the amount, the district is out of compliance on the issue. A state law requires all charter authorizers to supply yearly to the charter schools they authorize a detailed report showing where the overhead money is spent, including payees, how much, when and on what.

The deadline for the report to Golden View from Jeffco was Sept. 29. They received the report but it was not complete Shuler said.

Glass’s willingness to quickly move against charters in Jeffco validate the concerns of those opposed to his hiring. They felt that charter schools would not receive equal treatment as other public schools in the district under Glass. Charter schools are public schools; they are tuition free.

“It’s clear to me in the way he talks and the way he responded to our parents,” said Kim Gilmartin, a parent and vice-chairwoman of the Board of Directors for the school. “I worry about his view of the true autonomous nature that a charter school has because what he is doing is unprecedented.”

Gilmartin said Glass undermined the Golden View leadership by going around it to send out letters to it parents telling them the district was not withholding funding.

“He took it upon himself to (disregard) the sacred trust and rapport the charter school has with its families,” she said. “He’s also made the decision that he is not going to honor our contract language. That has never happened before. It concerns me as a parent that I’m seeing an immediate shift by the district in its relationships with its charter schools.”

Glass’s positions may have far-reaching implications. An anti-charter group in Douglas County took to social media after he pulled funding and used the controversy to campaign for a slate of school board candidates there.

“We should just look north at Jeffco,” a post on the Facebook page SPEAK for DCSD reads in part. “They voted in a new board, and their new superintendent is taking a bold move to start withholding funds from charter schools like Golden View. Just think, that could be us in just a few short months.”

At issue with the funding was a change to a required reporting deadline. Golden View is the district’s only charter school that manages its own finances. Its contract with the district requires that an annual draft of its audit is due to the district no later than Oct. 15.

However, the district notified the school that they needed the draft by Sept. 15 to ensure the district’s audit could be completed on time.  Shuler said the change was requested within the scope of the contract and acknowledges receipt, but he said somewhere along the way the notice didn’t make its way to Golden View’s auditor.

On Sept. 26th the school was notified by Stephanie Corbo, the district’s director of finance that they planned to withhold funding because the audit wasn’t received. In her email Corbo said: “The district is withholding funding until the draft audit is received.”

Shuler said the district doesn’t have the authority to do either.

Shuler said the contract is clear about how failure to meet deadlines are handled.

“GVCA’s legal counsel contacted Jeffco’s counsel and brought to her attention that the district was in violation of the contract by withholding funds and not following due process,” Shuler said.

Although the district sent out emails to Golden View parents that it was within its rights, the district did an about face one day after the complaint was filed and fully funded the school.

“As a charter parent I want to believe he cares about our students,” Gilmartin said. “But I can’t because his actions speak louder than his words.”

Shuler said he is not sure how his board will proceed on the funding issue because he still has concerns that the district so easily breached contract agreements.

“A complete draft audit is unnecessary,” Shuler said. “Last year they interfered in our audit and directly questioned the decisions of our auditors. I don’t know if maybe they were trying to interfere again and undermine our auditor. We will have to discuss it as a board.

“I still have some concerns how the dispute played out and the way they handled things. They just put a punishment in place before we were out of compliance. I am glad that the school was funded. Now we can focus on educating our kids rather than this extraneous stuff.”

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