(For reference documents, click on links in red. Scroll below for more information.)
UPDATE (October 5, 2015): The $4.2 Million Liability to State could have been avoided!! Douglas County School District was aware of potential problems with loss of instructional time under 6 of 8 schedule as early as August of 2012.
In his June 23, 2015 letter to Superintendent Fagen from Douglas County School District, Commissioner Hammond stated, “The evidence that we have received indicate the district was aware of the potential shortage in the scheduled time; however did not correct the problem until the 2014-15 school year.”
Under the Colorado Open Records Act, Strong Schools Coalition put in a request to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) for the evidenced cited by Commissioner Hammond. What we received shows that on August 29, 2012, a few weeks into the first year that the 6 of 8 schedule was implemented, district leadership was aware that students taking 5 classes were potentially short of instructional time.
Furthermore, the district leadership voiced a concern that if more than 2 snow days were taken, students with 5 classes would become part time students, causing the district to lose ½ of their per pupil revenue for those students.
Before the 2012-13 school year, hIgh school principals submitted their proposed schedules to district leadership, who in turn were responsible for checking and approving the new schedule. District leaders misinformed the public by stating that instructional time had increased under the 6 of 8 schedule, even though they clearly knew that many students were on the brink of being considered part time, causing a further loss of funding. Douglas County School District is currently using taxpayer dollars to fight the ruling issued by the CDE.
We have updated our High School Scheduling timeline to show this new turn of events. The following documents were also received as part of our open records request to the CDE:
Two key mistakes by district leadership that have shortchanged Douglas County students $4.2 million could have been avoided had the concerns of district parents and community members been taken seriously by the Board of Education.
At the May 15, 2012 Board of Education meeting, Strong Schools Coalition presented their concerns regarding the proposed reduction of instructional time for the 2012-13 school year. It is the responsibility of district leadership to ensure that students receive appropriate instructional time, yet an audit by the Colorado Department of Education shows that “errors were made in the calculations for the determination of full-time funding as high school schedules were set.” CDE Commissioner Hammond’s letter to Superintendent Fagen states, “The evidence that we have received indicates the district was aware of the potential shortage in the scheduled time, however did not correct the problem until the 2014-15 school year.”
In 2012, district leadership recommended, and the Board of Education approved, a $3.6 million cut to high schools and a $.5 million cut to middle schools.. That same year, the Douglas County School District posted a $17 million operating surplus, so the cuts that forced high school students onto a 6 of 8 schedule with less instructional time were not necessary. In fact, when confronted about this mistake in February of 2013, Assistant Superintendent Dan McMinimee stated “OK, so it was unnecessary now that we know the full scope of what happened….but I didn’t have a crystal ball.” Unfortunately, the Board of Education never questioned why Chief Financial Officer, Bonnie Betz, had mistakenly recommended the cuts to the high schools when the district had a large and unplanned for operating surplus.
Questionable decisions by district leadership and the failure to listen to and work collaboratively with parent and community groups have contributed to the ruling by the CDE to hold Douglas liable for the repayment of $4.2 million. Furthermore, Strong Schools Coalition is concerned that this failure by the district may jeopardize the passage of any future bond initiatives set forth by the Board of Education to address the district’s $275 million in capital needs.
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