shock to the system

New documents show appointed Denver school board member Holmes left kids alone for hours

DPS parent MiDian Holmes spoke at a Thursday rally supporting the district's reform proposals.

Newly appointed Denver school board member MiDian Holmes pleaded guilty to child abuse in 2006 after police found she left her three children home alone for more than eight hours while she was at work, according to court documents obtained by Chalkbeat.

The kids were 7, 6 and 2 years old at the time, according to the documents.

The account spelled out in a police report is different from the story Holmes relayed to district officials and to the media — that she pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child abuse after her two-year-old daughter wandered out the front door while she was getting ready for work.

Board members, district officials and allies rallied to Holmes’ defense after her criminal record first came to light Wednesday, citing Holmes’ story of her child going missing and saying any parent could relate to such a terrifying turn of events.

Holmes said that any child abuse charges stemmed entirely from that incident. But court records, provided by the Denver District Attorney’s Office, make clear that wasn’t the case.

Chalkbeat reached Holmes by text on Thursday, but she said she was not immediately available for an interview.

The Denver school board met Thursday afternoon behind closed doors to discuss the matter with an attorney. After the meeting, Board President Anne Rowe told Chalkbeat the board would hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Friday to discuss Holmes’s appointment. She declined to comment further.

Holmes, now 35, was charged with misdemeanor child abuse resulting in “any injury other than serious bodily injury,” the newly released records show. She ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor child abuse resulting in no injury, according to court documents.

She was sentenced to a year of probation and ordered to take parenting classes, documents show. But according to court records, her probation officer requested her probation be revoked for failure to complete the classes, pay her fines and because she was “considered high risk.”

The court imposed an additional six months of probation, records show.

Court records indicate that in March 2006, police received a 911 hangup call from Holmes’s home. When an officer showed up shortly after 3 p.m., he found her three children “hiding upstairs,” records say. The officer reported the kids had been home alone since 7 a.m.

Holmes “was called and her response time home was 35 minutes,” court documents say.

Initially, Holmes told the police that the children’s father had been at the house since 6:45 a.m. to watch them, according to the records. But when the kids told police they hadn’t seen their father in two years, Holmes “came clean and stated that she lied because she thought they would take her children away,” court documents show.

Holmes and her children were subsequently interviewed by the Denver Department of Human Services, according to court records. One of her children said Holmes had left them alone before, usually when she was at work or cheerleading, the documents show.

When asked what she did for discipline, Holmes “related that she does ‘whoop’ them, usually with her hand and not a belt,” according to the documents.

A records search also turned up a court case from November 2005 in which Holmes was charged with “wrongs to minors” in violation of the Denver municipal code. Court records indicate she was ordered to take parenting classes and sentenced to a year of probation. The charge was eventually dismissed, according to documents.

It is unclear how much the board knew about Holmes’s past before they voted.

Holmes was appointed Tuesday to replace Landri Taylor, who resigned in February, to represent the city’s northeast corner.

Holmes is a parent activist who has been active on DPS committees and was a longstanding volunteer leader for Stand for Children, a pro-education reform advocacy group.

Jeani Frickey Saito, executive director of Stand for Children Colorado, said Thursday that the organization was not aware of the circumstances of Holmes’ conviction described in the newly disclosed records, and that she had not spoken with Holmes since they came to light.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Frickey Saito said, “and we are just waiting to see what the next steps are from the board or from MiDian.”

Eric Gorski and Nic Garcia of Chalkbeat Colorado contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: DPS board president Anne Rowe is married to Frank Rowe, Chalkbeat’s director of sponsorships. Frank Rowe’s position is not part of Chalkbeat’s news operation.

new plan

Lawmakers want to allow appeals before low-rated private schools lose vouchers

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
Rep. Bob Behning, chairman of the House Education Committee, authored HB 1384, in which voucher language was added late last week.

Indiana House lawmakers signaled support today for a plan to loosen restrictions for private schools accepting state voucher dollars.

Two proposal were amended into the existing House Bill 1384, which is mostly aimed at clarifying how high school graduation rate is calculated. One would allow private schools to appeal to the Indiana State Board of Education to keep receiving vouchers even if they are repeatedly graded an F. The other would allow new “freeway” private schools the chance to begin receiving vouchers more quickly.

Indiana, already a state with one of the most robust taxpayer-funded voucher programs in the country, has made small steps toward broadening the program since the original voucher law passed in 2011 — and today’s amendments could represent two more if they become law. Vouchers shift state money from public schools to pay private school tuition for poor and middle class children.

Under current state law, private schools cannot accept new voucher students for one year after the school is graded a D or F for two straight years. If a school reaches a third year with low grades, it can’t accept new voucher students until it raises its grade to a C or higher for two consecutive years.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, the bill’s author, said private schools should have the right to appeal those consequences to the state board.

Right now, he said, they “have no redress.”  But public schools, he said, can appeal to the state board.

Behning said the innovation schools and transformation zones in Indianapolis Public Schools were a “perfect example” for why schools need an appeal process because schools that otherwise would face state takeover or other sanctions can instead get a reprieve to start over with a new management approach.

In the case of troubled private schools receiving vouchers, Behning said, there should be an equal opportunity for the state board to allow them time to improve.

”There are tools already available for traditional public schools and for charters that are not available for vouchers,” he said.

But Democrats on the House Education Committee opposed both proposals, arguing they provided more leeway to private schools than traditional public schools have.

“Vouchers are supposed to be the answer, the cure-all, the panacea for what’s going on in traditional schools,” said Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary. “If you gave an amendment that said this would be possible for both of them, leveling the playing field, then I would support it.”

The second measure would allow the Indiana State Board of Education to consider a private school accredited and allow it to immediately begin receiving vouchers once it has entered into a contract to become a “freeway school” — a type of state accreditation that has few regulations and requirements compared to full accreditation.Typically, it might take a year or so to become officially accredited.

Indiana’s voucher program is projected to grow over the next two years to more than 38,000 students, at an anticipated cost — according to a House budget draft — of about $160 million in 2019. Currently in Indiana, there are 316 private schools that can accept vouchers.

The voucher amendments passed along party lines last week, and the entire bill passed out of committee today, 8-4. It next heads to the full House for a vote, likely later this week.

Betsy DeVos

‘Receive mode’? The D.C. school DeVos visited responded to her criticism with a withering tweetstorm

PHOTO: U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at Howard University.

Washington D.C.’s Jefferson Middle School Academy is standing up for its teachers after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said they are “waiting to be told what they have to do.”

DeVos made the comments in one of her first interviews since being confirmed last week. She said teachers at the school — the first one she visited on the job — were “sincere” but seemed to be in “receive mode,” which she said “is not going to bring success to an individual child.”

The school took to Twitter late Friday to make its case. In 11 messages, the school described several teachers who creating new programs and tailoring their teaching to meet students’ considerable needs.

“JA teachers are not in a ‘receive mode,'” read the final message. “Unless you mean we ‘receive’ students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level.”

The former and current D.C. schools chiefs have also weighed in. Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who accompanied DeVos on her school visit, issued a statement praising the teaching at Jefferson Academy. And his predecessor, Kaya Henderson, tweeted her withering take on DeVos’s comments:

Here’s the full tweetstorm from Jefferson Academy, which D.C. Public Schools considered a “rising school” because of its good -but-not-great test scores.