June 1, 2005 Minutes

Longmont Area Democrats

Minutes of the Meeting June 1, 2005

7:00 pm at 375 Airport Road

Submitted by Kathy Simon, Secretary

The meeting was called to order by Co-President Lee Springer at 7:05 pm. A short business meeting was held first, followed by an education forum featuring three guest speakers: Jared Polis, Kathy Hall, and Sandi Searls.

Treasurer David Ahrens reported that due to excellent fundraising efforts our account holds $1,302.81. Most of that total is a result of Eileen Penner’s California Theater event in May.

Pat Davis will host the next fundraising event, a yard sale to be held in late July. Price your own items with sticky tape, get them cleaned and ready, but wait to hear from her about delivering it to her house (1709 Harvard) in July.

Co-President Bev Springer passed around two clipboards for everyone to sign up to volunteer at Rhythm on the River July 9, 2005 and at the Yard Sale/Bake Sale in late July. If you want to volunteer please contact Bev at (303) 774-1953 or springrb@comcast.net

Thanks went out to Marilyn Hughes for her donation of wine at the theater event in May.

Linda Feist, Chair of the Fourth Congressional District Committee {4CDC}, gave a brief report on their efforts to elect a Democrat to Congress from Colorado’s Fourth District in 2006. (Marilyn Musgrave currently claims that seat.) The committee has divided the Fourth Congressional District (4th CD) into four geographic areas and Longmont is in the “western” part. At least one potential candidate has surfaced so far. This committee will not be endorsing anyone but will be raising funds and planning activities and publicity.

Contact them at http://www.4cdc.org/cms or 303-485-1132 or lfeist@comcast.net or Mark Shaffer, Treasurer 303-887-5716 and mrshaffer@comcast.net

The Education Forum was kicked off by Jared Polis of the State Board of Education. He mentioned that one possible candidate for the 4th CD is Sen. Angie Paccione of Senate District 53 (Ft. Collins) and that she would be an excellent candidate. She is a former teacher and a Democrat.

JARED POLIS began by giving the background and history of the State Board of Education. One buzz word now is “ACCOUNTABILITY.” The state and each school district has contracts which cover twelve areas, but schools tend to focus on four: math, reading, writing, and science. This is due to the federal standards (No Child Left Behind) which are very high while their sanctions are not very severe. Contrasting this the State (Sen. Bill 186) has lower standards but SEVERE sanctions in that a failing (Unsatisfactory) school will be converted to a charter school.

FINANCE is another major concern. We have experienced a great year with the Democratic legislature. Sen. Brandon Shaffer received the award of “Legislator of the Year” and we can congratulate him by sending him e-mail at brandon.shaffer.senate@state.co.us Our Rep. Jack Pommer carried the School Finance bill and now we have ESL (English as a Second Language) students counting as “At Risk” students, thus getting more assistance. Voters have limited our finances two ways: Tabor and Amendment 23. Passing the ballot issue in November would fix the Tabor problems.

HIGH SCHOOL REFORM is important because this is where we are losing kids. Denver has about a 40% dropout rate while statewide the dropout rate is in the 30% range. It is advisable to create smaller, more individualized high schools. Mapleton School District has changed one large high school into four smaller ones based on these areas: math & science, the arts, college prep, VoTech. There are grants available, especially one from Bill Gates but it is managed by the National Governor’s organization, therefore we must work with Gov. Owens.

Before the St. Vrain Valley School District Board representatives began their presentation one man asked how to keep up with the ever-changing fads in education. Sandi Searls recommended reading “Head First” or go to www.headfirst.org

KATHY HALL, a member of the SVVSD Board, began by giving an overview of the district. The largest employer in our area, it includes 411 square miles, 40 schools, and 4 charter schools in 4 counties. Geographically it extends from the Continental Divide out the the Tri-Town area, and from Larimer County to Broomfield. Minority numbers have increased by 50% since 1997. Achievement is good in that our students outperform the state averages. In grade 3 Reading tests 80% of our white students are proficient while only 58% of our minority students are proficient. However, two years ago the minority proficient figure was only 49%. The more individualization we can implement, the better the results. As far as Total Performance goes we have 43% of our schools rating as “High” or “Excellent” while 58% of them are still rated as “Average” or below.

HIGH SCHOOL REFORM in our district is at an advantage already in that we do not have extra large high schools. We define a ‘large’ high school as having 1,250 students, not 2,700. Skyline groups about 300 kids into a freshman academy (a school within a school) to help improve reading and achievement all year. They have added twelve mentors (adults in the community) who meet weekly with individual students. They try to personalize the school experience, keep attendance up, and have possibly even prevented suicides.

DIFFERENT SCHEDULES have been proposed for high schools. Continuous learning in the main subjects would be better without a big break, say taking math in Quarter 1 and later in Quarter 3, but skipping it in Quarter 2. English is a four year requirement. Other areas are not as yet four year requirements, but will be due to higher education requirements coming along in the future.

FOUR YEAR PLANS will be starting this year for each high school student. A counselor will sit down with each student and set goals for post-high school and then help make each year count toward that goal. We have increased math requirements due to state colleges raising the standards. We have added Honors Classes in each high school to ensure that we aren’t losing kids due to boredom; classes need to be rigorous enough. We also have added AP (Advance Placement) classes for any students willing to be challenged.

STARTING TIMES: We will continue to evaluate the morning starting times at high schools. We now have different times across the district, but we may be moving to a common starting time district wide to help CDC (Career Development Center) students blend their two-school schedules better. The school board has asked principals to network with parents and students to see what is needed in each school.

FINANCES: SVVSD is in a much-improved position since being $13.8 million deficient as we possibly have that reduced to 0 (zero) this month! The employees have sacrificed greatly to make this possible, and it is hard to add new programs without funds. One new program that looks good is “Avid” with mentors and college prep.

SANDI SEARLS began a discussion of the potential MILL LEVY OVERRIDE. It is actually a tax, and it lost in the last election by a very close vote–127 votes shy. It will be necessary for adding new programs and catching up with others. A citizens group has been meeting regularly (including tonight) and will decide whether to recommend asking the voters to approve a mill levy override and the board will decide at the next SVVSD Board Meeting whether to proceed with putting it on the ballot. (Note: the citizens committee did decide to recommend asking for a mill levy increase.) This committee has defined FOUR goals for SVVSD:

(1) Recruit and Retain Highly Qualified Teachers.

(2) Buy Adequate Texts, Supplies, Materials.

(3) Fund the Opening of New Schools to Relieve Crowded Schools.

(4) Reduce Teacher/Student Ratios, especially at the K-3 levels.

ACCOUNTABILITY by Contract: a State Rep comes out to review our district, not the North Central Accreditiation. Jack Pommer stayed a whole day when SVVSD had their review. We can watch him on Channel 3 at 7 pm on June 8.

RESERVES: We must build reserves for such programs as Pre-16 or Pre-20. We need seamless education programs from pre-school through age 20. We are discussing this plan with reps from the State Board, Metro State, CU, CSU, and UNC, for example.

KATHY HALL passed out some handouts. One is a list of all the schools by feeder systems. The other is called “Navigating Our Course,” and it is an updated plan that charts our course. Two years ago a community group spent three days designing this plan.

SANDI SEARLS mentioned that citizens committees have openings and thanked Longmont Area Democrats member Sue Bridgemann for serving so well and so long. Speakers are available by calling 303-776-6200.


One woman voiced her concern about late morning starting times: many students will not go on to college, but will immediately report to jobs where they will have to start early in the mornings, and they may not have learned how to get up early while attending our schools. Kathy Hall replied that no matter what time schools start students need to be on time and that schools will work on tardiness. Skyline has implemented a “Tardy Sweep” program which scours the halls after the bells and sends any tardy student to a holding room for that whole hour and the parents are called, etc.

Jared Polis said staggered starting times would be best for students and for the use of facilities and the commuting times.

One man questioned the need for any charter schools at all. He especially questioned the quality of teachers hired there. He is not sure it is good to let charter schools compete with public education. Jared Polis replied that charter schools are public schools, but that they have more autonomy. They are “site-based schools” and there are some good ones and some bad ones. Sandi Searls explained that charter schools are started by a group of parents or citizens who have a creative idea and present it to a school board for approval. They will then have their own Board of Directors and may opt out of some requirements (as any district can do, Jared added) and they should offer something different not found at any other schools.

One man from out of state asked how long our school year is. Jared mentioned that it differs from district to district and that some districts have 3 day weeks or 4 day weeks. Our district has 176 days per school year. The man wonders why we don’t have more, like European schools with 200 days or Asian schools with 240 days. Jared reminded us to watch for the quality time (how each hour is spent) and for the number of hours per day.

Sandi discussed how calendars need not be agrarian anymore, and that we could avoid that big gap in the summers by having 2 week breaks and Intersession Classes to help At-Risk students catch up. This would allow for Enrichment Classes for those creative units, too. Kathy reminded us of the alternative calendar employed at Columbine Elementary where they start 2 weeks early every August, take a 5 week break in December (when most of their population visits in Mexico), and continue school a month longer into June. They were a “low” school, but are now rated as “Average.”

One woman commended the board for making a good decision on the new Trail Ridge Middle School boundaries. She also asked about the rumors of converting Longmont High into a charter school, which she really opposes. Kathy replied that there has been no formal proposal come to the board.

A man asked how charter schools pay teachers, or how they decide what to pay. The answer: Their may set the pay however they want. They operate with almost the same “per pupil” funding as other schools.

A man from New York City asked two questions: What do we demand from the students as far as accountability for their own education and what about that Kindergarten girl in another state who destroyed a classroom and had to be restrained by law officers? Jared replied that we do need to have buy-in from students to improve our CSAP scores. However grades are still the only way to hold kids accountable, and anyone 16 and over is not even required to attend school.

The meeting was adjourned at about 8:00 pm. A Town Hall Meeting will be held in this same location Tuesday, June 7 at 7 pm. Jack Pommer, Brandon Shaffer, and Paul Weissmann will discuss the legislative year.

The next monthly meeting of LAD (always the first Wednesday of the month) will be July 6, 2005 at 7 pm at 375 Airport Road, Longmont. The guest speaker will be Boulder County Commissioner Ben Pearlman.

We will be voting on this resolution at the July 6 meeting:

Be It Resolved:

Longmont Area Democrats support the Economic Recovery Act of 2005.

The Longmont Area Democrats do hereby resolve to support and actively solicit fellow citizens of the Longmont Area to vote in favor of the Economic Recovery Act, a ballot initiative, in November, 2005.

The Economic Recovery Act was approved by a bipartisan vote of the Colorado General Assembly, which placed it on the ballot for voter approval. The State of Colorado has a financial crisis as an unintended consequence of the 1992 voter approved constitutional amendment, “The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights” (TABOR).

The Economic Recovery Act will remove a legal restriction from “TABOR” causing this financial crisis.

The Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights will remain otherwise unaffected and in full force.

This resolution was approved by the Executive Board to be put before the general membership at the meeting on July 6, 2005.

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