Who Is In Charge

State board endorses teacher evaluation bill

The State Board of Education Wednesday unanimously endorsed Senate Bill 10-191, the bipartisan proposal to reform teacher and principal evaluation and teacher tenure.

Senate Bill 10-191 sponsors
PHOTO: Submitted
Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and other prime sponsors pitched Senate Bil 10-191 to the State Board of Education on April 14, 2010. From left: Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock; Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon.

The vote came after a chummy one-hour meeting between the board and the four prime sponsors of the measure, which was introduced Monday and will have its first legislative hearing next Wednesday.

Two of the prime sponsors, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, told the board that they’re willing to negotiate the timelines in the bill.

The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has come out publicly against the bill, complaining that it derails the process and timeline for studying educator evaluation and tenure established in an executive order issued by Gov. Bill Ritter in January.

Three top CEA officials and two lobbyists were in the audience as the board and Johnston, Scanlan, Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, discussed the bill.

Johnston and Scanlan seemed to go out of their way to be conciliatory.

“We’re open to discussing reasonable changes in the timeline,” Johnston said.

“We are still open, particularly with the teachers’ union, about the specifics of the time line,” Scanlan told the board. “We can’t make this happen without our teachers, so we still are continuing that discussion.”

The CEA, however, seemed less conciliatory with a letter it sent to education Commissioner Dwight Jones on Wednesday, saying it won’t sign on to the state’s bid for round two of Race to the Top because of a newspaper commentary Jones wrote supporting SB 10-191. (See this article for details and links to the CEA letter and Jones’ column.)

Board members comments about the bill were generally positive and, in some cases, glowing.

  • “I want to thank you a lot for bringing this forward. … It’s so exciting.” – Marcia Neal, R-3rd District.
  • “This bill, as we all know, has been a long time coming.” – Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District.
  • “I want to thank you for the courage it’s taken to do the right thing for kids in Colorado.” – Peggy Littleton, R-5th District.
  • “We have been talking about this for years and years and years. … We can keep talking about it [but] if we can’t take a step like this now, frankly I don’t think we ever will.” – Randy DeHoff, R-6th District.
  • “Thank you for the leadership.” – Jane Goff, D-7th District.

“We feel like there is a lot of momentum building … this is an important opportunity for us,” Johnston said.

The two other big mainline education interest groups, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives, haven’t taken formal positions on SB 10-191, although leaders of both groups have spoken favorably about parts of the bill.

Each group’s legislative committee reportedly is meeting Friday to discuss the bill.

Johnston has gathered endorsements from a variety of civic and education groups around the state.

See this story for more details on SB 10-191.

Online charter loses appeal

The board voted 6-0 Wednesday to deny an appeal by the Colorado Distance and Electronic Learning Academy. In January the Charter School Institute voted to not renew the academy’s charter for financial and achievement deficiencies. The state board’s decision is final. The case was the first appeal of a CSI action. (Charter appeals of school board decisions are fairly common.)

The four-year-old school has about 400 students. It has a local board based in Adams County but is operated by White Hat Management, an Ohio-based, for-profit charter management company.

The school’s lawyer, Barry Arrington, argued that “The plain fact of the matter is that CSI is massively mistaken” in its analysis of the school’s financial condition. The school overestimated enrollment in the past and had to pay back money to the state.

“This is a school that is just not performing,” said Tony Dyl, the state lawyer who represented the institute.

The board seemed to need little convincing. Even Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, after emphasizing his general support for school choice, said he felt compelled to support the institute’s decision.

Go here for links to documents filed by both sides in the case.

Hearing on notification rules goes smoothly

The board Wednesday took testimony on a proposed regulation that would require school officials to notify parents when a school employee is arrested.

Representatives of CEA, CASB and CASE all testified and raised concerns about the proposal, including questions about whether the board has the authority to issue such a rule and how police agencies and school districts could implement such a policy. They also expressed worries about possible unfair stigmatization of employees who were arrested but never charged or convicted.

The rule would require that parents be notified if a school employee is arrested or charged for any felony, misdemeanor offenses involving children, sexual behavior or indecent exposure or for drunken driving. Notice would have to be made regardless of whether the alleged offense was committed while the person was working.

The proposed rule has been pushed by Schaffer and was sparked by incidents in the Poudre School District.

A former paraprofessional at a Poudre middle school was arrested last November in a sexual crime involving a student. The district didn’t inform parents of the arrest until after administrators learned the case was about to be reported in the local media. And, the district never gave notice of the September arrest of a Poudre High School teacher for providing liquor to two students.

Schaffer said Wednesday he appreciated the comments made on the proposal. “I’m willing to entertain reasonable suggestions by anyone,” he said.

The board won’t vote on the proposed rule until its May 12 meeting and will accept further written comments before then.

Click here for the text of the proposed rule and comments filed on the issue.

Also: State board receives first CAP4K cost estimate

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.