Colo. Board of Education seeks to take control away from Denver-area school district
Author: Yesinia Robles, Chalkbeat Colorado - November 16, 2018 - Updated: November 16, 2018
In Colorado’s first-ever attempt to give away management of a school district, state officials Thursday provided a preview of what the final order requiring Adams 14 to give up district management could include.
The State Board of Education is expected to approve its final directives to the district later this month.
Thursday, after expressing a lack of trust in district officials who pleaded their case, the state board asked the Attorney General’s office for advice and help in drafting a final order detailing how the district is to cede authority, and in what areas.
Colorado has never ordered an external organization to take over full management of an entire district.
Among details discussed Thursday, Adams 14 will be required to hire an external manager for at least four years. The district will have 90 days to finalize a contract with an external manager. If it doesn’t, or if the contract doesn’t meet the state’s guidelines, the state may pull the district’s accreditation, which would trigger dissolution of Adams 14.
State board chair Angelika Schroeder said no one wants to have to resort to that measure.
But districts should know, the state board does have “a few more tools in our toolbox,” she said.
In addition, if they get legal clearance, state board members would like to explicitly require the district:
- To give up hiring and firing authority, at least for at-will employees who are administrators, but not teachers, to the external manager.
When State Board member Steve Durham questioned the Adams 14 school board President Connie Quintana about this point on Wednesday, she made it clear she was not interested in giving up this authority.
- To give up instructional, curricular, and teacher training decisions to the external manager.
- To allow the new external manager to decide if there is value in continuing the existing work with nonprofit Beyond Textbooks.
District officials have proposed they continue this work and are expanding Beyond Textbooks resources to more schools this year. The state review panel also suggested keeping the Beyond Textbooks partnership, mostly to give teachers continuity instead of switching strategies again.
- To require Adams 14 to seek an outside manager that uses research-based strategies and has experience working in that role and with similar students.
- To task the external manager with helping the district improve community engagement.
- To be more open about their progress.
The state board wants to be able to keep track of how things are going. State board member Rebecca McClellan said she would like the state board and the department’s progress monitor to be able to do unannounced site visits. Board member Jane Goff asked for brief weekly reports.
- To allow the external manager to decide if the high school requires additional management or other support.
- To allow state education officials, and/or the state board, to review the final contract between the district and its selected manager, to review for compliance with the final order.
Facing the potential for losing near total control over his district, Superintendent Javier Abrego Thursday afternoon thanked the state board for “honoring our request.”
The district had accepted the recommendation of external management and brought forward its own proposal — but with the district retaining more authority.
Asked about the ways in which the state board went above and beyond the district’s proposal, such as giving the outside manager the authority to hire and fire administrative staff, Abrego did not seem concerned.
“That has not been determined yet,” he said. “That will all be negotiated.”
The state board asked that the final order include clear instructions about next steps if the district failed to comply with the state’s order.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.