Who Is In Charge

Election 2010: SBE, Regents, legislature

Colorado Department of Education
Colorado Department of Education

Democratic incumbent Angelika Schroeder was headed to victory for the State Board of Education Tuesday, as was incumbent University of Colorado regent Steve Bosley.

Republican newcomers were leading in two other SBE races, while in two other regent races a Democratic incumbent was ahead in one race while the Republican was leading in another.

Statewide, Democrat John Hickenlooper was elected governor, bringing into office with him  Joe Garcia, president of CSU-Pueblo, as lieutenant governor. Education advocate Cary Kennedy lost her bid for re-election as state treasurer. And Democrat Michael Bennet, former Denver schools superintendent, was locked in a tight race for U.S. Senate with Republican Ken Buck.

In late-evening returns for legislative contests of interest to education, Rep. Debbie Benefield, D-Arvada, was in a tight race with Republican Robert Ramirez, but Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillion, beat Republican Debra Irvine.

In House District 47 in Pueblo and Fremont counties, Democrat Carole Partin was trailing construction company executive Keith Swerdfeger. Partin is past president of the Pueblo Education Association. A Swerdfeger win would be a gain for Republicans.

Another former teacher, Democrat Laura Huerta, was behind Republican Rep. Kevin Priola in Adams County’s District 30. Priola is a member of the House Education Committee. Incumbent Democratic representatives Sue Schafer, Judy Solano, Cherilyn Peniston and Nancy Todd were leading in their races in suburban Denver districts. All are members of the House Education Committee.

In Colorado Springs’ Senate District 11, Democratic Senate Majority Leader John Morse was clinging to a slim lead over Republican Owen Hill. Education groups of all stripes had backed Morse. (In an El Paso county commissioner race pitting two education figures against each other, outgoing Republican SBE member Peggy Littleton was leading Mike Merrifield, outgoing chair of the House Education Committee. But, candidate Pete Lee appeared on his way to holding Merrifield’s seat for the Democrats.)

In Senate District 6 in the Four Corners, Republican Rep. Ellen Roberts of Durango looked headed for a win over Democratic Sen. Bruce Whitehead of Hesperus. The Colorado Education Association supported Whitehead, while the reform group Stand for Children backed Roberts.

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, appeared headed for reelection.

In Denver Senate districts, Democratic incumbents Pat Steadman, Lucia Guzman, Chris Romer and Michael Johnston were heading to easy victories in heavily Democratic districts. (See bottom of this story for current legislative results.)

In the 2nd District for the state board, Schroeder was well ahead of Republican businesswoman Kaye Ferry of Vail.

In the 5th District, Republican investment advisor Paul Lundeen of Monument was leading Democrat Karl Beck in the heavily Republican district.

And in the suburban 6th District, Republican educator Debora Scheffel had a comfortable lead on Democrat and retired medical researcher William Townend of Aurora.

The state board has four Republicans and three Democrats now. The body faces major tasks in the next year, including the hiring of a new commissioner, implementation of the educator effectiveness law and selection of a new testing system.

And the new board will face a changed political landscape, with a new governor and possible changes in party control at the legislature. (See this story for background on the board candidates.)

In the high-spending race for a statewide seat on the Board of Regents, Democrat and CU law professor Melissa Hart was trailing incumbent Republican Bosley, a retired Boulder banker.

In the 1st Congressional District, incumbent Democrat Michael Carrigan was well ahead of Republican Alex Maller.

And in northern Colorado’s 4th District, Republican Sue Sharkey of Windsor was leading Democrat Michael Bishop-Cotner, also of Windsor.

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Election results courtesy of our partner, 9News.com. Check full Colorado election results there.

pushing back

State’s most drastic school intervention plans won’t work, say Memphis board members

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Shelby County Schools board member Stephanie Love

School board members in Memphis are pushing back on the state’s plan to intervene in two low-performing schools.

In their first public discussion of an intervention plan outlined this month by the Tennessee Department of Education, members of Shelby County’s board of education said they aren’t convinced the most drastic recommendations will work for Hawkins Mill Elementary and American Way Middle schools.

The state has recommended closing Hawkins Mill because of its low enrollment and poor academic performance. American Way is on the state’s track either for takeover by Tennessee’s Achievement School District or transfer to a charter organization chosen by Shelby County Schools beginning in the fall of 2019.

But school board members said they’d rather move both schools to the Innovation Zone, a turnaround program run by the local district which has had some success since launching in 2012.

And Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said he wants to keep Hawkins Mill open because the Frayser school is in its first year under his “critical focus” plan to invest in struggling schools instead of just closing them.

“I would prefer to stay the course,” he told board members Tuesday evening. “I don’t think the board should be forced to close something by the state.”

Whether local school leaders can make that call is up for debate, though.

The intervention plan is the first rolled out under Tennessee’s new tiered school improvement model created in response to a 2015 federal education law. State officials say it’s designed for more collaboration between state and local leaders in making school improvement decisions, with the state education commissioner ultimately making the call.

But Rodney Moore, the district’s chief lawyer, said the state does not have the authority to close a school if the board votes to keep it open.

Both Hawkins Mill and American Way are on the state’s most intensive track for intervention. The state’s plan includes 19 other Memphis schools, too, with varying levels of state involvement, but only Hawkins Mill and American Way sparked discussion during the board’s work session.

Until this year, Hawkins Mill was one of the few schools in the Frayser community that hadn’t been under a major improvement plan in the last decade — unlike the state-run, charter, and iZone schools that surround it. But last year, Hopson’s “critical focus” plan set aside additional resources for Hawkins Mill and 18 other struggling schools and set a three-year deadline to turn themselves around or face possible closure.

School board members Stephanie Love, whose district includes Hawkins Mill, said that timeline needs to play out. “I am in no support of closing down Hawkins Mill Elementary,” she said. “We have what it takes to fully educate our children.”

PHOTO: Tajuana Cheshier
Protests over the state takeover of American Way Middle School in 2014, which is in Rep. Raumesh Akbari’s district in Memphis, motivated her to file legislation designed to limit the power of the state’s Achievement School District.

American Way Middle has been on the radar of local and state officials for some time. In 2014, the state explored moving it to the ASD, but that didn’t happen because the southeast Memphis school had higher-than-average growth on student test scores. American Way has not kept up that high growth, however, and Chief of Schools Sharon Griffin considered it last year for the iZone.

Board member Miska Clay Bibbs, whose district includes American Way, was opposed to both of the state’s intervention options.

“What you’re suggesting is something that’s not working,” Bibbs said of the ASD’s track record of school turnaround based on its charter-driven model.

Bibbs added that any improvement plan for American Way must be comprehensive and offered up a resolution for consideration next week to move the school into the iZone next school year.

“We can no longer be: change a principal, tack on an extra hour. It has to be a holistic approach,” she said, adding that feeder patterns of schools should be part of the process.

Turnaround 2.0

McQueen outlines state intervention plans for 21 Memphis schools

PHOTO: TN.gov
Candice McQueen has been Tennessee's education commissioner since 2015 and oversaw the restructure of its school improvement model in 2017.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has identified 21 Memphis schools in need of state intervention after months of school visits and talks with top leaders in Shelby County Schools.

In its first intervention plan under the state’s new school improvement model, the Department of Education has placed American Way Middle School on track either for state takeover by the Achievement School District or conversion to a charter school by Shelby County Schools.

The state also is recommending closure of Hawkins Mill Elementary School.

And 19 other low-performing schools would stay under local control, with the state actively monitoring their progress or collaborating with the district to design improvement plans. Fourteen are already part of the Innovation Zone, the Memphis district’s highly regarded turnaround program now in its sixth year.

McQueen outlined the “intervention tracks” for all 21 Memphis schools in a Feb. 5 letter to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson that was obtained by Chalkbeat.

Almost all of the schools are expected to make this fall’s “priority list” of Tennessee’s 5 percent of lowest-performing schools. McQueen said the intervention tracks will be reassessed at that time.

McQueen’s letter offers the first look at how the state is pursuing turnaround plans under its new tiered model of school improvement, which is launching this year in response to a new federal education law.

The commissioner also sent letters outlining intervention tracks to superintendents in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Jackson, all of which are home to priority schools.

Under its new model, Tennessee is seeking to collaborate more with local districts to develop improvement plans, instead of just taking over struggling schools and assigning them to charter operators under the oversight of the state-run Achievement School District. However, the ASD, which now oversees 29 Memphis schools, remains an intervention of last resort.

McQueen identified the following eight schools to undergo a “rigorous school improvement planning process,” in collaboration between the state and Shelby County Schools. Any resulting interventions will be led by the local district.

  • A.B. Hill Elementary
  • A. Maceo Walker Middle
  • Douglass High
  • Georgian Hills Middle
  • Grandview Heights Middle
  • Holmes Road Elementary
  • LaRose Elementary
  • Sheffield Elementary
  • Wooddale High

These next six iZone schools must work with the state “to ensure that (their) plan for intervention is appropriate based on identified need and level of evidence.”

  • Sheffield Elementary
  • Raleigh-Egypt High
  • Lucie E. Campbell Elementary
  • Melrose High
  • Sherwood Middle
  • Westwood High

The five schools below will continue their current intervention plan within the iZone and must provide progress reports to the state:

  • Hamilton High
  • Riverview Middle
  • Geeter Middle
  • Magnolia Elementary
  • Trezevant High

The school board is expected to discuss the state’s plan during its work session next Tuesday. And if early reaction from board member Stephanie Love is any indication, the discussion will be robust.

“We have what it takes to improve our schools,” Love told Chalkbeat on Friday. “I think what they need to do is let our educators do the work and not put them in the situation where they don’t know what will happen from year to year.”

Among questions expected to be raised is whether McQueen’s recommendation to close Hawkins Mill can be carried out without school board approval, since her letter says that schools on the most rigorous intervention track “will implement a specific intervention as determined by the Commissioner.”

Another question is why the state’s plan includes three schools — Douglass High, Sherwood Middle, and Lucie E. Campbell Elementary — that improved enough last year to move off of the state’s warning list of the 10 percent of lowest-performing schools.

You can read McQueen’s letter to Hopson below: