Thankful For Our Volunteers!

Getting involved in our schools makes all the difference when it comes to being more informed about the challenges facing our students and educators along with the numerous achievements they still manage to accomplish every day.  

Volunteering in our classrooms as parents, grandparents, business leaders, or community volunteers is how each and every one of us that is United for Thompson have become advocates for our children.  We take pride in supporting our community and continue to be an integral part of the regular group of over 3,500 volunteers that dedicate over 100,000 hours in our schools and on various district efforts throughout the school year.  At an equivalent of about $1 million in paid paraprofessional help and over $500,000 raised annually to supplement programs for our students - our volunteers are INVALUABLE!

Your help as a volunteer offers more benefits than you can know to our students and our schools, not to mention for yourself. Studies have shown that students thrive, achieve increased grades and graduation rates as well as growing levels of confidence when volunteers are able to provide individualized help. Volunteering helps schools to provide stronger ties to the community through improved student behavior and the ability to better serve a more diverse range of student needs. As a volunteer, you'll find yourself meeting new people, increasing your own self-confidence, gaining a better understanding of our schools, and inspiring our students as positive adult role models.

To volunteer or learn more, contact Frances Schuyler at frances.schuyler@thompsonschools.org or 613.5073.  You can also visit the Thompson School District VITAL webpage to get started.  Don't have kids in our schools?  Community volunteers are welcome and needed as well!

Then, as a new volunteer, or as a reminder, we encourage you to visit the TSD VITAL Volunteer Handbook and see more information on how you can "EMPOWER TO LEARN - CHALLENGE TO ACHIEVE - INSPIRE TO EXCEL"

"Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can."  THANK YOU volunteers!

Poverty and education - our Thompson students need continued community support

In 2014-15, Thompson School District assisted nearly 600 homeless students.  It's important to understand what determines whether a student is considered homeless - assuming the living situation is reported - and how this ultimately affects their ability to learn.  According to the McKinney-Vendo Homeless Assistance Act of 2001, the term "homeless children and youth":

  • means individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence
  • includes children and youths that are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer (RV) parks, or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; are abandoned in hospitals; or are awaiting foster care placement
  • includes children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings
  • includes children and youths who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or similar settings
  • includes migratory children who qualify as homeless for the purposes of this subtitle because the children are living in circumstances described above

Learning more about this troubling escalation in children without a proper home in our community at this week's TSD Stakeholder's meeting made it even more evident why United for Thompson will continue to encourage our community to become more informed and engaged with our schools.  According to the homelessness presentation "Each year, one in three homeless students in Colorado switches schools at least once, according to state Department of Education data.  It takes a child four to six months to regain the academic ground lost by one move."

All of our students deserve community support to ensure the very best education.  But, our children and youth experiencing homelessness often have insurmountable hurdles to face, leading to poor performance in class, increased dropout rates, and decreasing graduation rates due to many factors.  Perhaps they don't have adequate transportation, clothing, school supplies, or health care allowing them to focus on being successful in the classroom.  They're likely hungry without proper meals and nourishment, or they may suffer from unaddressed mental health or academic needs.  Their needs are even more critical if we want to ensure every child deserves the opportunity to be successful.

According to an article by David Sirota called Teachers Were Never the Problem - Poverty still lies at the root of U.S. 'education crisis', "Social science research over the last few decades has shown that two thirds of student achivement is a product of out-of-school factors - and among the most powerful of those is economic status.  That's hardly shocking: kids who experience destitution and all the problems that come with it have enough trouble just surviving, much less succeeding in school."  

TWO-THIRDS of a student's "achievement"...that's not something to be ignored when our community is demanding budget austerity unless test scores and graduation rates improve without considering the variables potentially affecting those numbers district-wide. 

So, how can we continue to help our Thompson students, especially those living in poverty who will be most affected by inadequate local investment in funding for our schools?  Learn more about TSD's Student Support Services, along with "Thompson Cares", the "collaboration of district and community resources for the overall health and well being of all Thompson students and families.  The CARES group is a supportive, preventative, and empowering resource for all Thompson Schools."  Through these community partnerships and district programs, most of which Thompson School District stakeholders can participate in, our homeless students have access to more wrap-around services and resources necessary to help provide them with more opportunities to be successful.  Visit the links below to see how you can help and thank you for your continued dedication to our students:

 

 

TSD Early College Credit/Concurrent Enrollment - offering opportunities to our students

Let's clear up the confusion.  There have been calls into the Loveland RH Line complaining about TSD graduation rates and claiming they voted "NO" on the mill and bond because " according to district statistics for 2015, almost one-quarter of high school students do not graduate within four years."

If there is a question about how our district serves our students, it's easy to either call and ask the questions or visit the Thompson School District web page.  Here, the caller might find that through the Thompson2Life Academic Initiative of "Ensuring College, Career and Community Readiness for Early Childhood Through 12th Grade", some students can concurrently take college courses at Front Range Community College or AIMS Community College among just a few, giving students "an opportunity to graduate from high school with college credits and accelerate their progress toward earning advanced degrees and the working world."

Students can earn these early college credits concurrently with their high school credits over 4 or 5 years, which ultimately leads to "FREE and low-cost college tuition options."  If a student decides to stay with TSD for their 5th year of high school to participate in the Concurrent Enrollment program, they essentially graduate and are ready to start college a year or two ahead.

This, admittedly, affects the data reflecting 4-year graduation rates.  But, when you look at the advantage these opportunities offer our students from college preparedness to cost savings for their family, it's a win-win - not a reason to deny local investment in our schools.  

Facts are important.  

Senator Kevin Lundberg chosen to become a member of the Joint Budget Committee

Concerned about decreased state funding for Thompson schools?  According to the Loveland RH Front Range In-Brief, Senator Kevin Lundberg, who supports Tax Credits for Nonpublic Education and railed against the mill and bond for our Thompson schools, has been chosen to become a member of the Joint Budget Committee:

Become more informed about public education funding at the state level by visiting a few very informative web pages, then contact our legislators to let them know you support restoring adequate funding to our pubilc schools:

Want To Become More Informed - Subscribe To Your Local Newspaper

Our local newspapers are struggling and without them we will continue to become less informed.

WHY LOCAL NEWSPAPERS ARE SO IMPORTANT: "A subscription to your local paper was once as necessary an expense as gas, water and electricity.  Everyone paid for their journalism, which meant the journalism industry was doing well.  Then, shortly after 1993, the internet arrived and with it came a never-ending stream of "journalism" and "stories" and "cat videos" that rendered ink-and-paper dailies pretty damn boring.  So bountiful was the content that the consumer became the curator as well, and when cat videos are an option, local court reporting is going to slowly but surely fall by the wayside.

When people aren't as interested in local newspaper reporting, local newspapers are going to be less interested in paying for it, which means there will be less reporting, which is a huge problem."

Please join us in our effort to help our community become more informed by subscribing to one of our local newspapers.  Many offer digital copies, in addition to print copies, that you can access on your computer, tablet or phone.  The small investment will have a big effect on your knowledge about local events and matters such as Board of Education budget reports, district events for community members and volunteers, in addition to articles about statewide initiatives such as school finance.  Visit one of the links below to make a small contribution towards saving our local newspapers in addition to becoming more informed.  FACTS ARE IMPORTANT!

Return to Ethics

Since our friends in Jeffco find themselves in a very similar situation to Thompson after last week's election, we thought it would be helpful to share their call to a "Return to Ethics" from the Support Jeffco Kids webpage.

United for Thompson took very seriously our commitment to providing the community with an abundance of reliable resources and factual information to help voters better understand the needs and challenges facing our schools - and how 3D & 3E would address these. Yet the opposition to 3D & 3E shamelessly distorted the numbers and background information - publically posting signs illegally - while attacking the integrity and intentions of our volunteers and supporters.

Based on the similarities, we thank Support Jeffco Kids for letting us share and paraphrase - we suggest you read their post and share it on your own page. We are all still UNITED FOR THOMPSON!

-Bottom line, it IS about our kids!

-Falsely accusing staff members of voting for their own gain. This is absolutely ridiculous and so very unethical. The fact that they donated to help out the volunteers of the campaign is generous and appreciated - at least from those of us who care about our kids getting the best education possible.

-None of the organizations (who supported U4T) took money from the district.

-What does everyone else (volunteers and supporters) get for volunteering for the campaign? NOTHING! There's no profit to be made. Maybe some good karma and a positive feeling from participating in volunteer work that benefits others.

-Accusing people/businesses of unethical behavior simply for donating assumes that all individuals only do things because they receive something in return and not because supporting children and education is a good thing to do.

-United for Thompson are volunteers and community members. Our neighbors.

MOST POIGNANTLY - Volunteering to lead a campaign of volunteers is hard work. It often means giving up all of your personal time and not seeing your family much, if at all. It’s tough and intense. No matter the outcome, (U4T), and everyone else who helped should be thanked, hugged, and appreciated.  THANK YOU!

Thompson School District Exemplifies Financial Transparency - See For Yourself

If you look, you'll find it.  

It's not in the comment section of our local newspaper and it's not something you'll find in a bullet point blog, both which relies on recycled opposition talking points.

Thompson School District has continuously been recognized for its excellent financial reporting over the past few decades, including most recently the Certificate of Achievement for Excellent in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association.

Simply visit the TSD Financial Services page where you'll find that our district "values open and honest communication with its many stakeholders: staff, students, parents, and taxpayers." while also meeting the requirements of Colorado Revised Statutes 22-44-304 of The Public School Financial Transparency Act.  In addition to Budget Presentations for the previous 5 school years, here's what else you'll find:

Thompson School District committed to acting as fiscally responsible guardians of the public's money

Just as TSD has done before, it often seeks avenues to save millions by refinancing/refunding existing bonds while interest is at some of the lowest rates we've seen in the last 4 decades.  The same can logically be said about 3E, the bond measure for Thompson schools - current rates are unlikely to be lower than they are right now.

For instance,  as noted by the Loveland Reporter-Herald in February of 2012, "The 2005 bonds carry an interest rate of 5 percent.  Brokers with George K. Baum & Co. believe they could sell the bonds to investors in coming weeks at a lower rate of 2.4 percent." essentially saving the district $5 million.  The Board of Education approved refinancing/refunding of the 2005 bonds in March of 2012 to lower interest rates that were estimated to actually "save taxpayers approximately $6.7 million over the remaining life of the bonds."

Thanks to ongoing fiscal practices on our behalf, Thompson School District was able to realize savings that "far exceeds the 3 percent benchmark of an economic refunding, as recommended by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).  This practice was an option due to "The district's recent credit rating affirmation of Aa2 from Moody's Investor Service and the strong financial condition of the District.  Investors who have ben wary of other district's less solid tax bases and lower rated bonds were very interested in Thompson School District's highly rated general obligation bonds.  They were also impressed with the strong financial management of the district, its strong level of fund balance, and the administrative team's plan to deal with near-term funding challenges from the State of Colorado's general fund.  Despite the recent economic challenges, the Moody's rating report affirms that the Board of Education and the district administration are committed to acting as fiscally responsible guardians of the public's money."

 

 

Become more informed about local issues 3D & 3E

  • Of all the races and issues on the ballot, 3D & 3E will have the most direct effect on the lives of students, families, and business owners of Loveland and Berthoud.
  • These measures exemplify local control.  Local voters make the choice to support schools in our community.  Thompson School District stakeholders are the only ones who have a say in how money is spent, which is dictated by the ballot language.  The mill & bond proceeds are not shared with the rest of the state, as is the case with school finance dollars raised through base property taxes.
  • These measures have accountability built in.  Oversight committees comprised of local taxpayers will ensure that the proceeds are spent as promised by the ballot language.  For major projects, such as a new school or the pool addition at Berthoud High School, review committees made up of individuals from those neighborhoods will have input into the design of the projects, as was done with the new High Plains School.
  • Since businesspeople understand the importance of strong schools in creating strong communities with thriving economies, it is vital for them to take the lead in having these discussions within our community.
  • Thompson School District provides a safe learning environment, excellence in teachers by caring adults, a wide variety of extracurricular opportunities and much more for $49 per student per day.
  • The school district has received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting, awarded by the Government Finance Officers Association, as well as the Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Assocication of School Business Officials International for 2014, the year of the most recently completed financial audit.
  • Mill levy rates are currently set at 38.393 in Thompson School District, compared to 52.630 in Poudre and 53.887 in St. Vrain.
  • Thompson School District is not requesting a bailout due to poor management.  State funding to the District has been cut by approximately $100 million since the beginning of the Great Recession.  This amounts to nearly a full year's worth of revenue.  This shortage has been backfilled from reserves, which cannot continue as reserves have been significantly depleted.

Just the facts...sorting through the voter's handbook

  • The district's general fund budget is $136 million. In the face of massive budget cuts and a total elimination of state funding for facility maintenance, the district has been left with no choice but to prioritize keeping money in the classroom with students. Approximately 85% of TSD’s overall budget is dedicated to salaries and benefits, and another 7% to fixed costs like utilities. That leaves very little funding to go toward facility maintenance and repairs, so only the most urgent facility repair needs are met.

  • The MLO will be spent on teacher salaries, updated curriculum, and buses, not building maintenance and repairs. Thompson salaries are, on average, 14% lower than salaries in surrounding districts, which makes it difficult to compete for employees. A modest annual increase of 1% each year over three years won’t close this gap but will prevent TSD from falling even farther behind. Curricula must be updated to ensure the district is teaching the material students will be tested on. Current curricula, for example, covers material that has been taught at one grade level, but students are now tested on that material at another grade level. Therefore, curricula in use today has been rendered obsolete. Lastly, the district’s aging bus fleet must be addressed. Currently, there are 36 buses in the district’s fleet that are over 20 years old and due for replacement.

  • The argument that statewide assessment test scores have decreased does not take into consideration the mitigating circumstances that contributed to these figures, nor does it celebrate where scores have increased. A high percentage of TSD’s highest performing students opted out of state mandated testing - at a significantly higher rate than the state average. Furthermore, TSD is home to a larger percentage of special education and low socioeconomic students than our neighbors, which also contributes.  

  • Telling our students that we will refuse to fund their education properly until their test scores improve is like deciding not to fix your roof until it stops leaking.

  • The strategy of merit salary increases based on students' assessment performance applies analogs of free-market principles to education and relies on the fact that teachers are not already giving 100%.  Currently, 96% of America's school employ the single-salary schedule.  It's important to note that teachers can still boost their pay with the single-salary schedule through advanced degrees and certification, allowing for more flexibility than the number of years served.  Standardized testing does not apply to educators who teach PE, art, music, and special education teachers, among others.  This application of merit pay also creates competition among teachers by identifying the "best", thereby undermining the cooperative culture of schools.  Also, rating teachers performance is difficult, subjective, and is often not clearly defined.  Funding has also been a limiting factor in the continuation of merit pay models.

  • People who have not spent time in our classrooms prefer to use the "too much political correctness and too little teaching" excuse for withholding funding from our students because of unfounded rumors.

  • Employees in Thompson School District earn, on average, 14% less than employees in surrounding districts. This makes it impossible to compete for qualified, much less highly qualified, employees. Seniors can apply for the Homestead Exemption for tax relief, and they can also apply for work exchange programs to pay a portion of their tax bill.

  • The average assessor's actual value of homes in Loveland, the factor that our taxes are based on, is $247,100.

  • The claim that the Centerra urban renewal authority prevents the school district from collecting it's fair share of any approved mill levy fails to take into account the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) that is in place in the Centerra district, which has generated money to build High Plains School as well as the auditorium at Mountain View High School.  This amount equals more than $20 million.

  • Thompson School District is required by law to state what the funds will be used for.  The accusation of earmarking is incorrect - the district is simply complying with the law.

  • The quality of the teachers is the #1 in-school factor in improving student performance.  More competitive salaries will aid in the attraction and retention of the best teachers.

  • Seniors are able to apply for the Homestead Exemption for tax relief, and they can apply for work exchange programs by volunteering in our schools to help pay a portion of their property tax bill

  • Property taxes within Thompson School District will remain lower than surrounding areas following voter approval of both the mill and bond.

  • The construction projects and increased local spending power of nearly 2,000 district employees will have an overall positive effect on the local economy following voter approval of both the mill and bond.

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