gazette logo rev 500

School Crossing

Chapter One: We Head Back To Class

By Guy Nahmiach

The Carnation Festival parade just ended a few hours ago and I'm still feeling great about a community that gets together once a year to celebrate its heritage. Families and friends came out on floats, in cars and on foot. There were amazing decorations, loud cheers, singing and dancing as far down 38th Avenue as you can see, showing us how communities can gather to celebrate education, classrooms and school spirit. As a parade judge this year, I had a front seat to an amazing show. I was so impressed with how the new principals in town came out swinging with Stevens stepping up their decor and Wilmore Davis showing up with more students than anyone else. It was also great to see Pennington with a renewed level of energy.

The parade, of course, was peppered with political aspirations, from local politicians to county and state representatives. It's a gentle reminder of the politics that live in and out of our classrooms. I constantly hear from parents that while they support our teachers, their biggest wish is to eliminate the rhetoric from the hallways and classrooms and, perhaps, focus our energy on moving first day of school back to where it belongs, after Labor Day weekend.

As we head back to class in the next couple of weeks, it will be business as usual for most families. But parents enrolling their kids for the first time will have much to learn: How to check on your student’s grades, homework due, long-term projects and attendance. If you are waiting for a call asking the whereabouts of that book review your son worked on, that is probably still at the bottom of his backpack, don't. It's on you to make sure that all assignments have been handed in. When your cellphone rings and shows a caller with a 982 prefix number, you should probably finish your dinner first before listening to that message. I am kidding, of course, but please realize that technology has taken over almost all forms of communication between parents and schools.

I urge you to get to know your child’s teacher and develop an ongoing line of communication. Don't wait for parent-teacher conferences or a school function when their time is limited. Your teacher will appreciate that and your student will benefit from it. While you're at it, why not volunteer for a position on the PTA or Accountability boards? When a principal or staff see parents working hard for the benefit of the school, you can almost feel them match your efforts with theirs. Although you could encounter a push back from your own kids, who consider school grounds as their own territory and don't want you anywhere near it.

Adding to the “Ask the Super” column, where our superintendent answers questions from the community, a new section has been added by the name “School Visitor Pass,” where guest writers will include principals, school board members, etc. This issue features Ali Lasalle and Amanda Stevens, both school board members with the Edgewater and Wheat Ridge articulation areas. If you would like to hear from specific members of our education community, please write or call me.

There are so many topics coming up in the next few months, like the growing debate over homework – we’ll hear from educators on both sides and all levels of the issue. Updates on school closures: Will they or not? Is it too late? Holding back students, and who is responsible for those who arrive at high school still reading at an elementary school level? The age-old conversation about charter and neighborhood schools and, of course, what list wouldn't be complete without GT funding?

I’ll leave you this month with a question I've been asking educators: Does a teacher’s job include not only teaching the curriculum, but also to excite the student about the subject matter? You'd be surprised at the answers I've been getting. Call me with your thoughts.

As always, thanks for reading.

Contact Guy Nahmiach at 303-999-5789 or Guy@NostalgicHomes.com.

Questions For Jeffco Education Superintendent Dr. Jason Glass

As the new superintendent for Jeffco Public Schools, I’ve made an intentional effort over this past month to crisscross the county, meeting with people and making as many connections as possible. I’ve had the chance to visit with parents, students, employees, community and business leaders, and elected officials across Jeffco. Thank you for sharing so many valuable insights and perspectives about your schools.

Jeffco Public Schools is a well-run organization that has a tradition of quality and service to its students and the community. We also have many talented and passionate educators and support employees working on behalf of kids and families.

While we begin from a solid foundation, there are also areas to improve. The community is hungry for leadership, a compelling vision for where our schools will go in the future, and information about the direction of its schools. You want to know more about the decisions that shape our way forward.

While I’ve been in a listening and “seeking to understand” stance for these past few weeks, I am pivoting to put forth such a shared vision. My goal is to set a course that unifies and inspires our community – and sets our students up to lead successful lives. Be on the lookout for this refocused direction sometime in September.

While shaping community input into a collective way forward, it’s important to acknowledge the political situation in Jeffco and how that impacts our schools. For the past few years, Jeffco Public Schools has been a national example of drama, partisan politics, and a flood of outside money working to influence our schools. One of the reasons I chose to come to Jeffco is that I believe we also have the opportunity to be the best example in the nation of what can happen when people in a community come forward and put their children above the fray of the “us versus them” politics and outside money that is attempting to direct and control our community schools.

We must flip that story and become the best example of what can happen when people in a community come forward and put their children above the local, state, and national political fray. This is our community, our schools, and our kids – and the people who live in Jeffco need to determine the future and direction we want – not any outside entity. What’s best for Jeffco’s kids should be a nonpartisan issue. We should love our kids and community enough to put them above outside influences. Schools come from the community; the community comes from its schools.

Looking ahead, your participation is an important part of transforming our schools into a new, dynamic learning environment for today’s students and future generations. I plan on keeping up the listening and relationship building across Jeffco. Plus, we’ll increase our communications effort, and have more community workshops as we move forward. Together, we’ll put the “unity” back into community schools.

Thank you!

Jason E. Glass, Ed.D.

Superintendent & Chief Learner

Jeffco Public Schools

If you have a question for our new Superintendent or member of the Board of Education, please submit it to guy@NostalgicHomes.com or call it in to 303 999-5789.

Jeffco Schools 101: The Essential Guide For New Parents

By Guy Nahmiach

So you've just enrolled your child into a Jeffco School. Now what?

Jeffco has created a network of websites that will facilitate paying bills, ordering services and even checking on attendance. This eliminates the need to take any time off from work and stand in line. Simply log on and navigate to the service you need from the comfort of your living room, kitchen or even your desk at work.

One link will get you started for all your needs: JeffcoPublicSchools.org

Once there you can click on the orange “Families” tab which will take you to the “Family Portal.”

This is the starting line for paying school fees on “JeffcoConnect.” Grades, homework and attendance can be checked using “InfiniteCampus.” Visit the “Nutrislice” to see the menu at your school’s cafeteria. You might also want a direct link for emergencies and school closures. “Schoology” is one of my favorites. Training tutorials to help students with their classes. Also a venue for parents to ask questions on specific issues. This is a new but really great resource.

I know it's a departure from the face-to-face interactions. This does not eliminate the options you have in going to the school office and asking your questions in person. Principals usually pride themselves on having a great front office staff. After all, they are the first people you meet at every school. But when you start to have multiple kids in more than one school at a time, all the driving, parking and walking becomes a little old.

“Jeffco SchoolMessenger” allows you to sign up for how you want to be communicated with: text, home or cellphone and even email. This, by the way, is offered in multiple languages.

MyPaymentsPlus” is a service that allows parents to pay for school meal fees online. “InfoFinder” is a fun one. Type in your address and school and get the bus route that is designated for your student. Or on a more serious note, we have “Safe2Tell,” a way for you to anonymously report issues or incidents that concern or pose harm to you, your friends or your community. No, it doesn't mean that you can report your parents for bad lunches – I had to endure 10 years of making disgusting peanut butter lunches.

The district has done a great job in making these important services available online. They are breaking down language barriers, technology preferences and just making the overall process user-friendly. Take a deep breath, let it go and smile, it's going to be an awesome year!

Please Sign In At Office

By Ali Lasalle

The new school year is here! I hope your summer included the sounds of children playing, laughing, and having fun! As our teachers, principals, and staff prepare for another enriching academic year, I hope they all enjoyed a wonderful, restful, relaxing summer break.

I am as excited as I’ve ever been for a new school year and honored to serve as your District 3 School Board director. Our new superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass, is equally enthusiastic. Since July 1, Dr. Glass has visited several Jeffco schools, held an eight-stop district-wide community meeting tour, talked with community leaders and groups, and engages regularly with all stakeholders through his AdvanceJeffco.blog. My fellow board members and I have heard from many leaders, educators, and community members who are excited about Jeffco’s next chapter. Again and again, people tell us they feel heard, valued and inspired. As Dr. Glass implements his entry plan, we see his deep commitment to our district, the benefit his experience brings, and the opportunities Jeffco now has with him at the helm.

Recently, our board and Dr. Glass gathered at our annual board retreat where we discussed strategies and goals for the coming year. By prioritizing the successful, strategic, implementation of the Jeffco 2020 Vision, we’re committed to ensuring Jeffco grads are strong communicators, think creatively and critically, value and contribute to their communities, explore leadership and take charge of and responsibility for their lives and futures, while mastering the content from their coursework. Dr. Glass is creating a shared culture of reflective, constructive feedback to help all of us - board members, educators, students, parents, and community members - foster these competencies in each student in Jeffco. I assure, everyone will feel his strong vision and leadership, from our buses and kitchens, to our classrooms and communities.

Last year our students, staff, and schools brought Jeffco many points of pride; from first place finishes in debates and hydrogen fuel car races, to distinction as John Irwin Schools of Excellence, state championships and more than $80 million in earned college scholarships. This year brings new faces to the Jeffco leadership team. Here in the Wheat Ridge Articulation area, join me in welcoming new principals Josh Cooley - Wheat Ridge HS, Jeena Williams - The Manning School, Michael Heffernan - Mountain Phoenix Community School, Trina McManus - Stevens Elementary, and Janace Fischer - Wilmore-Davis Elementary.

Jeffco’s future and success will be bigger the more we work together. Please take any opportunity to engage, provide constructive feedback, and work with us toward an even better, stronger Jeffco! As a board, we look forward to the challenges and opportunities ahead. And we always welcome your thoughts. Email us anytime at board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

Ali Lasell is 1st Vice President of the Jefferson County School Board.

Questions for this guest writer should be sent in to Guy@NostalgicHomes.com.

Eagerly Anticipating This School Year

By Amanda Stevens

As a parent and school board member, I am eagerly anticipating the 2017-18 Jeffco school year. Jeffco students are the reason. Our dedicated educators, leaders and support staff aim to prepare all students to achieve a life of learning, connection and success.

The Jeffco graduating senior class we celebrated last spring has earned more than $80 million in scholarships, including 80 percent of the graduating class of Jefferson Junior/Senior High Saints receiving scholarships to realize their dreams. The growth of a “community schools” model will coordinate excellence in learning with strong support services, so that students and families in Edgewater and surrounding neighborhoods may overcome barriers to their best futures.

Beyond Edgewater, Jeffco’s 2020 Vision has provided an inspired future direction based on equipping students with strong knowledge levels and opportunities to learn skills they will need to be successful adults. These skills include entrepreneurialism, creative and critical thinking, and communication to complement a strong academic foundation.

I am excited to welcome Jeffco’s superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass, who is already laying a foundation of professionalism, innovation and community partnerships so that all students – and as a result our entire community – may thrive now and into the future.

As our pursuit of educational excellence continues, Jeffco faces real challenges. More and more working- and middle-class families are facing competing expenses that stretch already tight budgets. Jeffco is firmly focused on making sure all students come to school ready to learn, while creating opportunities for students to customize learning around their passions and pursuits.

Jeffco’s school facilities and budgets are stretched tightly as well. Through careful, difficult work, our board supported the reallocation of $10 million to competitively compensate teachers. As our state faces a teacher shortage crisis, it is imperative that the best teachers choose to come and stay in Jeffco, so that students in every classroom learn and grow. Finally, as buildings age, technology advances and learning opportunities must diversify, Jeffco school facilities need an investment. In the days and years ahead, this will be an issue our community will need to address.

I will continue to share the story of the great things happening every day in our schools, and the great next steps our students deserve to build bright futures. Our community is critically important in that effort. Thank you for considering what your place in that effort might be.

Amanda Stevens is the District 4 Director of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Questions for this guest writer should be sent in to Guy@NostalgicHomes.com