Membership set for new online task force

Fifteen members have been selected for a state task force that’s supposed to come up with recommendations for oversight of multi-district online schools, a somewhat touchy issue that the 2014 legislative session couldn’t decide on.

Instead, legislators choosing the time-honored option of ordering a study, to be overseen by the Online Task Force. It was appointed by education Commissioner Robert Hammond, will convene in August and is supposed to finish its work in time to send a report to the State Board of Education and the legislature’s two education committees by next Jan. 1.

Multi-district online schools have been a concern for some policymakers over several years because of low achievement, student turnover and other problems in some schools. But there have been no significant legislative or regulatory changes made in recent years affecting such schools.

A bipartisan group of four lawmakers took up the issue during the 2014 session, appointing their own seven-member panel to develop recommendations on several online-related issues (see what the group recommended here).

The most controversial suggestion was that the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) sets standards for districts that authorize multi-district schools, rather than certify such programs, as is the case now. Critics were concerned the timing of such a switch could create problems for such schools. (See this story for background on the disagreements.)

A watered-down online measure, House Bill 14-1382, ultimately did pass (see text of law). It created the new task force to, among other things, “review best practices and policies for authorizing and administering multi-district on-line schools, to recommend to the state board quality standards and practices for authorizers, and to recommend to the state board and the General Assembly the regulatory and statutory changes that are necessary to certify authorizers of multi-district on-line schools.”

The group also is supposed to advise CDE on creation of possible pilot programs to study different ways of calculating online school accountability, measuring student competency, supporting students and improving student responsibility for their education.

As is the typical pattern with task forces created by the legislature, this group had “one-of-each” membership requirements intended to include a wide variety of professional backgrounds and interest groups.

Here are the group’s members:

  • Judy Bauernschmidt – A parent, representing Jeffco’s 21st Century Virtual Academy
  • Brian Bissell – A parent from Colorado Virtual Academy
  • Scott Campbell – Superintendent of the Widefield School District
  • Joe Dinnetz – A teacher in the LPS Voyager program of the Littleton Public Schools
  • Leanne Emm – Associate commissioner for finance at CDE
  • Diana Gamboa – Director of online learning for the Boulder Valley School District and head of school for the Boulder Universal program
  • Ethan Hemming – Executive director of the Colorado Charter Institute
  • Chaille Hymes – Principal for Colorado Connections Academy
  • Renee Martinez – Online and blended learning specialist at CDE
  • Dale McCall – Executive director of the Colorado BOCES Association
  • Kim McClelland – Executive director of the Colorado Digital BOCES and a zone superintendent for the Falcon schools
  • Gretchen Morgan – Executive director of CDE’s Choice and Innovation Unit (even though there are three CDE members, they have only one vote)
  • Dan Morris – Executive director of eNet Colorado
  • Amy Valentine – Executive director, Insight School of Colorado and Colorado Preparatory Academy
  • Linda Van Matre – School board president of Academy School District

Hammond will select a chair from among the group after all members have accepted their appointments. The department also is expected to hire a facilitator for the panel; the legislature appropriated $47,659 for the project.