October 22, 2020
Below is the text of the statement I gave this morning at the Jefferson County Board Meeting calling for a performance audit of the District's $705 million capital program.
"Mr. Calahan, thank you for joining us this morning.
Back in November 2018, we asked the community to support a $567 million dollar bond ~ 5B, to upgrade aging buildings, provide new furniture, new labs, and new schools throughout the district. We promised our community and our bond investors that the Citizens Capital Asset Advisory Committee [CAAC] would faithfully oversee the capital program, including financial oversight as well as the on-budget delivery of all the projects that were promised to our voters.
Last January, you and the other members of the Capital Asset Advisory Committee joined us and you said “it is very important for us to make sure that each facility gets what it is promised. We cannot make changes to what was promised. Those items that are on the bond have to be followed exactly the way they are, and come in under budget.”” Speaking for many Jeffco voters, I could not agree more.
When we sold the bonds in December of 2018, we benefited from a very strong market and secured an additional $50 million in bond premium, which is basically an unexpected windfall, a bonus so to speak, that could be spent on additional projects. In Denver, Poudre and Thornton, which also benefited from a strong market, those districts had their bond oversight committees make recommendations to their school boards about how best to use the extra money they received from the sale of their bonds. And those boards voted to allocate the extra money to additional projects that were high priorities for their communities.
The Jeffco community, has been denied the chance to have that discussion. We didn't have the chance to ask the community where it wanted to address equity challenges. We never had the opportunity to fund new labs for Jefferson High School, nor new schools to replace the old ones in the areas of Jeffco facing the greatest challenges, nor address overcrowding issues at Ralston Valley, nor consider upgrades for Outdoor Lab. Those discussions never happened. I asked for them, and I was dismissed.
But the committee [CAAC] did raise the issue of the extra $50 million dollars realized in the sale of the first round of bonds. On May 7th 2020, the committee asked Tim Reed, in front of our CFO, Kathy Askelson, our COO, Steve Bell, and other members of our Finance Team (Stephanie Corbo and Nicole Stewart) who was responsible for allocation of the bond premium? According to the meeting notes, Mr Reed stated, and I quote, “THE USE OF PREMIUM AND ANY DISTRIBUTION IS A BOE DECISION NOT THIS DEPARTMENT.” Mr. Reed also promised to raise this issue with this Board.
Twelve hours later, that SAME day, as we discussed the 77% cost overrun at Alameda High School, I asked Mr. Reed if any of the $50 million bond premium had been spent. Initially Mr. Reed denied the unauthorized use of the bond premium, but then admitted that it “had not been spent in its entirety.” At no time did he bring forward what he told the committee [CAAC] just twelve hours earlier, that how to spend that extra $50 million, that bonus money, was a board of education decision. But then Kathy Askelson, Stephanie Carbo, and Nicole Stewart, nor Steve Bell didn’t say anything to the board either.
That’s a very big problem for me and for this district. As board members we have a fiduciary duty of care. We promised our taxpayers and bond investors the greatest level of transparency and oversight of the $705 million dollar capital plan, that included 5b approved by the voters. It is painfully clear we have not kept that promise.
Therefore I ask that we abide by the resolution language the previous board approved on September 6, 2018. The resolution stated “..the spending of the proceeds of such debt to be monitored by the Citizen’s Capital Asset Committee and subject to an independent annual audit.” I ask this board to call on the audit committee to secure an independent performance audit, as other large schools districts have done across the country, for their capital programs. We must be completely transparent with the citizens of Jefferson County and our bond investors about the implementation of this capital program, to do any less would be a betrayal of their trust."
COVID -19 is posing unparalleled challenges to school districts and their governing boards.
I shared my thoughts on how school boards can meet these challenges in a recent column published via the Thomas Fordham Foundation’s website.
You can read my opinion piece below or on the Fordham Institute's web site at https://fordhaminstitute.org/national/commentary/covid-19s-governance-challenges-school-boards.
Susan's Article Published by Fordham - Click here.
Subject: CASB, 26 Tactics, 12/12/19 Board Meeting
My term on the board has gotten off to a fast start. Last week I attended the Colorado Association of School Boards convention where I took their new board member training. My experience is in corporate governance, so it was interesting to learn more about the “policy governance” approach used by school boards.
Key Takeaway: Policy governance gives more power to superintendents relative to corporate CEOs, and the flow of information to board members is less fluid.
26 Tactics of Jeffco Strategic Plan
On Friday, the board met with Dr. Glass and Dr. McDermott (Jeffco’s Chief Strategy Officer) to review the Jeffco Generations strategy and the 26 initiatives the district has been undertaking to implement Generations. It was a frank and, I believe, productive discussion, that included questions about whether the district’s goals are ambitious enough, given the challenges our children will face in the 21st century economy, and the varying rates of progress on the 26 initiatives. The board will continue this critical strategy discussion in January.
Board Meeting, Thursday, December 12th
This week’s board meeting, on Thursday the 12th of December, will begin with a performance by the Wheat Ridge High School Advanced Orchestra. I can’t wait to hear the Farmers! Elsewhere on the agenda are three topics related to my priorities.
The first is a progress report (“stocktake”) on the district’s social-emotional learning initiative, which focuses on teaching and learning techniques that the district believes will reduce the rate at which students experience behavioral and mental health issues in the future.
The second is a discussion of the results of the 2019/2020 budget allocation to various initiatives, like a theater coordinator, Innovation Fund, and CTE pathways. I will be asking for evidence that taxpayers have received a positive return on these investments.
The third topic is a preliminary discussion regarding next year’s budget. As I said during my campaign, Jeffco taxpayers want us to focus not just on the allocation of incremental revenues, but also on whether the entire $1.2 billion dollar budget is being spent as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Thanks for Your Support
Date: 11/30/19 8:18 AM (GMT-07:00)
Subject: Thanksgiving and December 2nd @5pm
It's been a very busy three weeks since the election on November 5th. Travel for work didn't stop and deadlines still needed to be met. Meetings for coffee or lunch started to fill my already crazy calendar, as most of ours are at this time of year.
So on this quiet morning of November 30th, there is a pause in the hectic pace that seems to consume us between Thanksgiving and the Christmas / New Year holidays.
In this time of quiet, I want to say, Thank you.
Thank you for your words of support.
Thank you for your text messages.
Thank you for joining me at public forums and on social media.
Thank you for letters to newspapers and social media forums.
Thank you for inviting me and the candidates to your PTA meetings.
AND, thank you for all of your financial support. We were out spent by more than 10:1 and yet we prevailed. (Please see the attached article to see how amazing all of our efforts changed one race that didn't follow the norm.)
Your time, talent and treasure made this a successful campaign, for me and more importantly for the children of Jeffco, and for that I am eternally grateful.
If you have time, please join me on Monday December 2nd as I take the Oath of Office. I'd love to see you there. The information is as follows:
Date: December 2, 2019
Time: 5:00pm - 6:00pm (at the most)
Location: 5th floor, Board Room, 1829 Denver West Drive, Building 27, Golden, CO
Best wishes to all of you and your families for a very peaceful holiday season.
WELCOME MESSAGE - HOME PAGE
My name is Susan Miller. I am a mom of four Jeffco students, a professional with 20 years of experience in the financial services sector, and I am running for Jeffco School Board this November.
Throughout my career, I have worked with many individuals and organizations to improve the education system at all levels, from local schools to the district and state level. My children received a great education at five different Jeffco schools. I believe all kids, regardless of circumstances or where they live, deserve the same quality of education my children received, and I will strive to make this a reality for all families across Jeffco.
Our families need an independent thinker on the board. I will advocate for academic achievement, financial clarity, and the expansion of learning opportunities - for students, teachers and staff. I will look out for students' best interests and ensure that they are empowered to thrive in today's competitive world.
Please join me. Let's make sure our community has an ally serving on the school board.
Miller to participate in Ballots & Breakfast event 10/18 @ 7:30 a.m., at the Arvada Center for Performing Arts
Denver Post Candidate Information
ELECTION - SURVEY RESPONSES