External manager MGT leaving Adams 14 school district

Students study in the Eagles Nest at Adams City High School Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.

MGT Consulting, the company that has overseen most day-to-day operations in the Adams 14 school district under a state order, is ending its work in the district effective Friday, Feb. 11.

The Adams 14 school board had already voted to terminate the relationship, but that termination wouldn’t have taken effect until April. In a special meeting late last month, the State Board of Education declined to take any action that would have forced the district to keep working with MGT.

District officials said MGT informed them on Friday that the company’s last day would be Feb. 11.

MGT’s announcement means the company is no longer fighting to maintain a relationship that has been intensely strained since Superintendent Karla Loria took over last summer.

In a press release, MGT officials said they made the decision with the goal of “protecting the safety, well-being, and reputation of our employees.”

“Given the current circumstances, it’s clear that we have accomplished as much as we can,” said Eric Parish, MGT’s executive vice president. “We leave with our heads held high, grateful for the support we received from the Adams 14 community and the partnerships we created to increase opportunities for students and families.”

In their own press release, Adams 14 officials said MGT’s decision “temporarily restore[s] all day-to-day decision-making authority to run the district to the duly elected Adams 14 Board of Education and its superintendent.”

“It is the shared commitment of the Adams 14 Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Karla Loria, and the district’s senior leadership to minimize any disruption throughout this transition,” the district said. “Teaching and learning will continue as normal in every Adams 14 school, and faculty and staff can count on continued support.”

In 2018, Adams 14 became the first school district to be placed under external management under Colorado’s school accountability system, which rates schools and districts based on student performance on standardized tests and authorizes intervention in schools with persistent low test scores. MGT Consulting received generally favorable reports the first two years it was working in the district, and company officials list rising graduation rates and increased services for English language learners among their accomplishments.

When Loria was hired as the district’s first superintendent since MGT took over, she quickly raised concerns about MGT, including whether the company essentially had charged the district twice for services being performed by subcontractors. MGT has denied any wrongdoing. The district has not publicly released the results of a forensic audit it conducted last year.

The dispute has tested the accountability system, and it’s not clear what will happen next. The State Board of Education may issue new orders for the district, and some members have even raised the possibility of dissolving and reorganizing the district, the most drastic option available under state law.

The State Board could also order the district to work with a new external manager. Adams 14 officials say they want any new outside consultants to answer to the superintendent.

District officials said they will hold community meetings in the coming weeks to describe next steps and hear feedback from parents and teachers.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to get an update on Adams 14 at its regular meeting Thursday but is not expected to consider new orders until April.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Education confirmed Monday that the superintendent has authority to manage the district until the State Board approves new orders.

Officials with the education department will continue to monitor progress in the district, he said. An independent panel of experts is scheduled to present a report to the State Board in March, and the State Board will hold a hearing on next steps in April.

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