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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Greeley Colorado School District 6 Mill Levy Tax Requires Trust

Greeley Colorado School District 6 is getting closer to cutting a deal with taxpayers to increase funding for education this fall to help the under performing district get our community back up to par. There are a few more fine tuning points, on my agenda, before voters should sign on to supporting this initiative in hard times.

In regards to open disclosure to the readers of Greeleyville I have met with administration and District 6 teachers since my last postings (some are listed at the bottom of this post) and have heard good, promising, plans for improving past performance problems. Not all my concerns have been alleviated as I explain in the following critique. Although, specifically, I have been reassured that better math performance is on its way. I have also been reassured that the local school board has a foundational governance plan. Additionally, it is simply logical, to conclude that it is going to take a bit of time to pull District 6 out of the rut that previous poor administration and restrictive citizen-driven anti-education legislation has arguably placed it into. I personally, still, strongly prefer, that local tax increases be used to fund performance pay for top level teachers but without reforming basic school performance and statewide legislative issues first--that really is not a reasonable expectation. I'd like to keep that on a back burner though. It is doable and it can work to polish a school district's performance quickly.
Onto the Jane critique.

Apparently the district has issued new statements that contain certain specific goals for the new funding revenue to be spent on. They have also, if the Tribune has it right, generated specific threats for what will happen if the Mill Levy doesn't pass. Most the threats fall on the shoulders of middle class students but then again most the benefits are aimed at middle class students.

Hence one of my continued beefs is with the administration of District 6's lack of dealing with the core educational problems it faces. Low performing students need to be targeted for additional support and it is still unclear exactly what this District is willing to commit to for this sector of its educational community.

It is clear that there will be an emphasis on maintaining programs that service the high-end performing kids. Magnate programs and advanced placement courses will be continued if the Mill Levy passes. These programs "might not" be continued if it doesn't pass. Certainly high-end programs are important as high tech industry relying on science and math skills will be watching. Of course middle-class parents, often prone to thinking their own Johnny and Susie are brilliant super-stars in the making regardless of the facts, will also be interested in seeing these maintained.

These high-achiever programs however should not be promoted at the expense of the those students under performing in the district. According to the Greeley Tribune article the only bone being thrown to the current under performers is a bone called "adequate" academic instruction.

Hello? Would you care to define what "adequate" means.

Does it mean "just enough"? Does it mean the same under achieving low test mark performance that has been plaguing this district in the first place is acceptable again next year? Does it mean that this District is willing to do whatever it takes to bring these low performers up to adequate? Does it mean that the Greeley Tribune has misstated the press release?

One would hope it is more based on the latter than the former. The evidence doesn't point in that direction though. The statement says that non-English students will learn English. Of course they will. The question is whether or not they will become literate in the use of English. Without being literate in their first language it makes it very unlikely they will become literate in their second-language. Without appropriate and directed bilingual instruction the goal the District is setting is just a bone being thrown out to the lower performers. One that lacks any "meat" and "integrity" in change.

There is also a vague statement that math instruction will be maintained if the Mill Levy passes. Yipes! Does that mean it could get worse? Will they pull the new math series being introduced if it doesn't pass? Will they pull out the much needed math training for existing teachers? Does it mean fewer math majors hired (who tend to draw higher salaries--because they are also in demand in the private sectors)?

Just maintaining the status quo isn't okay. Threatening citizens that these staples will go away if they don't pass the tax measure isn't okay either unless that truly is what the administration means--just to maintain current levels of education. If other local districts are performing there is little reason that District 6 can't perform at least as well. Clarity please on this latest round of objectives. And where did the transportation issues and new technology spending ideas go? Don't confuse the voters more--help them to understand the need to support education.

Of course a lot of what is being seen is political posturing. Personally I am more for transparency then posturing. But I understand posturing. It is not a very powerful political position to stake out in this northern Colorado town that people, likely to be of color or of impoverished backgrounds, are going to get the taxpayer's dollars. Poverty doesn't make for low performers it just means there is not a lot of private funds to buy the tutors to help the student round out the education they are not getting from their local schools. But targeting the lower performing students is a position that is realistic and one that needs to be understood by the citizens calling for improvement in local schools. Remember a "C" student is the average.

So let's be clear, few would envy this administration the political task of making this argument to Greeley's taxpayers. However it should be expected the administration will also pursue what is best for the education of all the students. Whatever it takes to get those test scores up needs to be done or all taxpayers, job-seekers, and citizens will continue to suffer from the poor image of Greeley schools. It takes backbone in the face of local politics to be transparent. It also takes taxpayers willing to see beyond the end of their own backyard.

It takes a community to make good education happen.

So far most of what the District is promising, in this new press piece*, is "fluff" to get voters on board and voters are promising defeat without hearing any realities of what that defeat will do to the community well-being come tomorrow. The sides are entrenching which basically means little will be accomplished. Fine, I get the need behind entrenchment, but how about we step out of the business as usual box and get down into what really counts to make this happen--measuring the administration's performance. Yes, measurement for administrators, just like we want to measure teaching performance.

What is fair for the goose is fair for the gander. Let's put some numbers to it.

Here is what I'd like to see come from the District 6 administrators or their public image arm. Give the citizens of Greeley exacting and measurable performance standards. It will help voters have confidence that this administration is serious about helping all students--not just those that fall in the politically elite classes. Citizens of Greeley need to have it proven to them that their image of Greeley schools can change because change is happening. If the community waits until this administration gets to the ultimate finish line to reestablish trust in performance another entire generation could go wanting educationally.

Give us a reason to start trusting now.

If the District is saying that poor performing students will be given adequate instruction then is it fair to say that the citizens of Greeley will see a 5% gain in math scores every year for the next three years? Is it fair to say that low performing students in literacy will see a 3% gain every year for the next three years if voters pass the tax increase? Throw us a bone with some meat on it please.

If the District is saying that graduation rates will increase--give us a figure. A percentage or any figure. Something tangible to expect. Something, anything, so once this town gets serious about supporting local education voters have something tangible to measure the true worth of their financial commitments. Meet this goal and the next round will be a bit easier. Give the administrators a little public incentive to help the students who need it the most not just the politically expedient needy ones.

Get a backbone Greeley District 6. It is time to face the public and educate the voters with reality if you want to get your Mill Levy passed.

Greeley District 6 Mill Levy
Review of Greeley School Performance
Greeley Should Not Abandon the Arts

*I looked for a news release on this new set of "promises" cited by the Greeley Tribune at the District 6 School Board site under press releases but did not come up with any confirming information. It is my assumption that Tribune has obtained this information from a qualified source.

Comments :

2 comments to “Greeley Colorado School District 6 Mill Levy Tax Requires Trust”

Loretta said...

You have a really good blog and I really liked this article.

I am a mom in the bizymoms Greeley community. You should network with them.

Jane Paudaux said...

Thank you Loretta! I'm headed south for a couple of weeks but will check into when I return. I hope they take Moms with adult children :)

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