Friday Churn: DPS delay

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Bids by three new schools to be approved for innovation status stalled Thursday night when Denver Public Schools board members voted for a delay while more information on the proposals is gathered.

Board member Andrea Merida proposed a delay of one year; approved instead by a 4-3 vote was a delay of just one business day.

The board will meet at 7 a.m. Monday to reconsider proposals by Noel Community Arts School, the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford and the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello.

Board member Jeannie Kaplan led the push for more details from the applicants, such as more budgetary data from Noel Community Arts School. It was unclear whether questions she and others have could be resolved in a day.

The trio of schools before the board Thursday were included in the controversial Far Northeast turnaround plan, passed last November. Board members were told Thursday night by district staff there is a narrow window of time for approval, in order to pass the proposals on to the State Board of Education for its consideration of the plans at that board’s meeting May 11 and 12.

Some DPS board members Thursday night were clearly uncomfortable making a decision on three new innovation schools in what they considered to be a rushed fashion.

“A school should show a history and track record in growth and student achievement, before they apply for innovation status,” said board member Arturo Jimenez. “New schools don’t have that yet. There are a number of reasons I don’t feel comfortable going through with this.”

At the heart of some board members’ unease is the provision, under the Innovation Schools Act of 2008, that 60 percent of the schools’ staff must have voted for its innovation plan, and more than 50 percent have to have agreed to waive union rules and regulations.

Because the schools before the board Thursday night do not have full staffs yet in place, such votes have not taken place. Instead, potential staff members are being asked during their interviews about whether they want to be part of the innovation plan.

DPS legal counsel John Kechriotis has assured the board that precedence for this situation was set a year ago with approval of the Denver Green School, and that his judgment was enforced this week in conversations with the office of the Colorado Attorney General.

The motion for the one-day delay was made by Jimenez and seconded by Merida. Voting with them for the majority were Kaplan and Mary Seawell.

Seawell said at the meeting’s conclusion she will “absolutely” vote to approve the applications, but felt it would be “unnecessarily combative” to deny her colleagues an opportunity for further discussion.

What’s on tap:

Jefferson County Public Schools continue their Saturday budget forums at Arvada and Evergreen high schools tomorrow. Details.

Denver Public Schools hosts a free summit Saturday on how schools can help the environment. Details.

Good reads from elsewhere:

In case you missed it: Terry Gross of Fresh Air talked with Diane Ravitch and Andrew Rotherham about education reform. National Public Radio.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.