Who Is In Charge

Higher ed strategic plan has a name

A day after a prominent legislator questioned the need for a new higher education strategic plan, members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education got a look at what that process might look like.

Rico Munn, new director of the Department of Higher Education, gave commissioners a three-page “concept paper” for what he’s calling the Colorado P.E.A.K Plan. The document was to be circulated to college presidents around the state later in the day.

The newest entry in the thick lexicon of education acronyms stands for:

  • P – Purpose
  • E – Excellence
  • A – Access
  • K – K-12 transition

According to Munn’s brief memo, the strategic plan is designed to address what the state needs from its higher ed system, the current funding crisis, other challenges and its relationship to the K-12 system.

And, the memo says, the plan “must provide for clear accountability measures.” (Accountability, including such ideas as tying funding to students graduated, not just students enrolled, is a hot topic in higher ed nationally.)

Munn plans to meet with college presidents about the plan next week, “with an eye toward doing some sort of launch event on Dec. 15.” According to the document, “the strategic planning process should be launched by a clear articulation of goals by the governor.”

The memo said the goals “could include some mix of” doubling the number of postsecondary degrees and certificates awarded (Gov. Bill Ritter’s Colorado Promise), increase in overall postsecondary participation, a larger role for community colleges, “targeted” improvements in remediation and retention, developing “some measure” for affordability and accessibility and “a standard for efficiency and sustainability” of the state system.

What’s envisioned is a steering committee, with two co-chairs, that would supervise the work of subcommittees. The memo says the steering committee would focus on developing accountability measures while the subcommittees would be organized by the P.E.A.K. acronym, to wit:

  • Purpose – Would examine changing demographics and projected needs for higher ed, institutional roles and relationships with business.
  • Excellence – In charge of examining governance and regulation, construction and data gathering.
  • Accessibility – Responsible for working on budget issues, financial aid and system efficiencies.
  • K-12 Transition – Assigned to work on admissions, remediation and retention.

The memo ends with this cryptic sentence; “Adequate project funding has been identified in the budgets of the governor’s office and the Department of Higher Education.”

Munn told the commissioners, meeting at Community College of Aurora, that the steering committee would periodically report back to them, and the final report would be done by the fall of 2010.

Commissioner Greg Stevinson, noting the group had received the memo only three hours before the meeting, said, “We need time as a group to sit down and look at this.”

Commissioner Happy Haynes, noting the governor’s role in the plan, said she “would hope we can have a dialogue with him.”

But, the commission had no further discussion of the matter Thursday.

On Wednesday, Munn and CCHE Chair Jim Polsfut met with the Joint Budget Committee for the panel’s annual higher ed briefing.

JBC Chair Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, questioned the need for a strategic plan, noting that Ritter’s first term will be ending and that many are calling for action now to deal with higher ed’s financial crisis (see story about that meeting).

Munn gave the commission a cursory rundown on that JBC meeting, noting facetiously “that was as pleasant as root canals can be.”


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”