Who Is In Charge

Jones: I’m still on the job

Colorado Department of Education
Colorado Department of Education

Cautioning that “This is certainly not any kind of goodbye speech,” education Commissioner Dwight Jones Wednesday did talk with the State Board of Education about the possibility, the likelihood – whatever you want to call it – that he will soon leave to become superintendent of the Clark County Schools in Las Vegas, Nev.

“Nothing official has happened to date … the process is still ongoing,” Jones said of his contract negotiations with Clark County. Jones thanked the board, CDE staff and educators around the state for their support and kind words and said, “I am still giving my full-time attention to being the commissioner … until the final contract is agreed to.”

Board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, said, “I anticipated at some point today we’d touch on process” and stressed that the board isn’t going to rush into a search until it’s certain of Jones’ future.

If Jones does leave, “the second thing we need to consider highly is the commissioner’s recommendations.” Schaffer said. “I assume that would involve an interim commissioner.” The chair said he also expects the hunt for a replacement would involve “a national search.”

Two board members, Republicans Randy DeHoff of the 6th District and Peggy Littleton of the 5th, are leaving the board after the election. Both stressed they have no interest in helping choose a successor. “The new board is the one that has to deal with that,”DeHoff said. “Absolutely,” said Littleton.

Schaffer and member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District, praised Jones. Schaffer said, “We believe it’s in the state’s best interest for him to stay.”

Berman said, “If he decides to depart … I for one make a firm commitment to keep to the reforms” started under Jones.

Meeting notes

Aid for six districts approved

The board voted to spend $3.3 million in emergency funds to aid six districts with cash flow problems because of the suspension of a state loan program. The districts are Gunnison, Eagle, South Routt, Cripple Creek-Victor, East Grand and Westcliffe. See this story for background on this issue.

Funding change for gifted and talented in the works

The board issued formal notice of a hearing on a proposed rule change that the would eliminate the current requirement that school districts match state aid they receive for gifted and talented education programs.

The proposal has raised fears among G&T advocates that it will lead to cuts in local districts spending, giving the overall budget cuts districts are wrestling with these days. The Department of Education, relying on advice from the attorney general, feels the current requirement isn’t legally supported.

Read more about this issue in this post on our companion website, EdNews Parent. And you can read the text of the proposed rule change here.

Board clears Adams 14 board

The board formally ratified the findings of a CDE staff report, which concluded that the Adams 14 school district didn’t owe money to the Community Leadership Academy charter school.

The district and the charter have long had a rocky relationship, and the school both filed an appeal with the board asking the district’s exclusive chartering authority be revoked and asked for a review of various financial issues. The board month rejected the appeal on chartering authority (see story). As a procedural matter, the board had to act separately on the review, and that’s what it did Wednesday.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”