Adams 14 and Colorado Charter School Institute come to agreement

The Adams 14 school district’s board has rescinded a resolution that attempted to reassert its authority over a local charter school run by the state Charter School Institute.

The reversal comes after several months of discussion between Adams 14, the Institute, and leaders of Community Leadership Academy, the charter school in question. Adams 14, in Commerce City, had relinquished control of the school to the state Charter School Institute in 2011.

The K-8 school recently expanded to a new high school campus known as Victory Prep. The school’s leader also sent a letter to his school’s parents announcing plans to increase enrollment significantly, from 890 to about 4,000, and criticizing Adams 14’s academic performance as well as a mill levy request that was on November’s ballot. (Read more here.)

That pair of events triggered the concerns of Adams 14 leaders and board members and reignited an already contentious dynamic between the charter school and district. Adams 14 leaders said they weren’t sure the charter school had the authority to add schools and expand so dramatically.

Community Leadership Academy and Victory Prep are currently the only charter schools within Adams 14’s boundaries.

As part of a compromise, the district and the Charter School Institute created a Memorandum of Understanding under which the Institute will consult with the district on developing charter school procedures and materials, and clarifies how the Institute will communicate to the district any changes to its schools’ charters. The Adams 14 board voted to approve that agreement on Tuesday.

The board also voted to officially rescind a resolution it passed in late 2014 asserting its authority over the charter, and requiring the school to reapply for a charter or close its doors altogether. State officials had said that resolution was illegal.

“They were in no man’s land, and once the Chalkbeat article came out, there was a lot more attention on the fact that they could not do what they were trying to do,” said Ron Jajdelski, the director of the charter schools.

Jajdelski said that he still has plans to expand enrollment at Community Leadership Academy and Victory Prep to 4,000 students. That’s more than half of Adams 14’s current enrollment, and more than quadruple the schools’ current enrollment.

“I think we’re obligated morally, ethically to expand and do all we can to get kids out of failing classrooms,” he said.

Pat Sanchez, the superintendent of Adams 14, said “that MOU sets the stage for renewed cooperation and future partnership between both of our organizations [the district and the Charter School Institute].”

He said the district has begun discussions with the Institute about potentially creating a dual language charter school in Adams 14. “With the MOU, we now have the opening to actually utilize CSI’s resources and capabilities in the charter community to partner with us on that endeavor.”

Ethan Hemming, the director of the Charter School Institute, said his organization has agreements with several Colorado districts. He said he hoped that in the case of Adams 14, “if we can have communication directly between the district, CSI, and the school on any issues that arrive that cause conflict and strife, that we can avoid unnecessary appeals or actions in the future.