Colorado

Denver union announces endorsements

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association on Tuesday announced its endorsements in two of three races for the Denver school board, but declined to back any candidate for the citywide at-large seat.

Logo for Denver Public SchoolsIn southeast Denver or District 1, the DCTA is backing Emily Sirota over Anne Rowe. And in northwest Denver or District 5, the union is supporting Arturo Jimenez, the lone incumbent on the Nov. 1 ballot, over Jennifer Draper Carson.

The five candidates for the at-large seat are John Daniel, Frank Deserino, Happy Haynes, Roger Kilgore and Jacqui Shumway. Haynes, a former Denver City Council president and DPS administrator, was endorsed Monday by Mayor Michael Hancock.

“In the at-large race, DCTA would likely develop a strong, collaborative relationship with most of the five candidates,” said DCTA President Henry Roman. “During our interviews, we came away with a positive feeling that more than one of them share our core values and beliefs. That’s why we decided to give our members information about all of the candidates we interviewed without giving any of them our endorsement.

Key Denver election dates

  • Oct. 3 – Last day to register to vote
  • Oct. 12 – Ballots go out in the mail
  • Oct. 24 – Eight drop-off locations for ballots are open
  • Nov. 1 – Ballots must be returned by 7 p.m.

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“By contrast, in the District 1 and 5 races, we saw a much sharper contrast between candidates. In terms of our three main priorities — student success, educator excellence, and shared accountability — Emily Sirota and Arturo Jimenez clearly demonstrate a deeper understanding of the issues that affect those priorities, and a greater willingness to partner with teachers to achieve these goals.”

Every union-backed candidate won in the 2005 election, but all three lost in 2007. In 2009, the union was two-for-three, supporting winners Andrea Merida in southwest Denver and Nate Easley in northeast Denver but endorsing Christopher Scott in the at-large race won by Mary Seawell.

The DCTA endorsement carries with it the promise of a significant financial boost. Five labor unions – the DCTA, its statewide affiliate the Colorado Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, and the United Food and Commercial Workers – pitched in a total of $103,450 to support its three candidates in 2009.

Candidates file their first financial disclosure reports on Oct. 11.

Tuesday’s endorsements differ from those of two school reform groups, which announced their picks earlier in the campaign season. The Denver chapter of Stand for Children endorsed Rowe in southeast Denver and Draper Carson in the northwest, as well as Haynes for the citywide seat. The same trio was endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform-Colorado.

The DCTA endorsements are one more indication that the DPS board races are likely to start generating more attention, with mail-in ballots going out to voters in little more than three weeks.

With roughly a dozen candidate forums scheduled in coming weeks, the candidates will have ample opportunity to set themselves apart. Wednesday, the at-large candidates will participate in a 7 p.m. forum hosted by the Bear Valley Neighborhood Improvement Association and the Southwest Denver Coalition for Education at Traylor Academy, 2900 S. Ivan Way.

Hancock is expected to make endorsements in the southeast and northwest district races, although it is not certain when those will come.

Hancock’s predecessor, Gov. John Hickenlooper, endorsed in just two races in the 2009 election, backing Seawell in the at-large race and Ismael Garcia in the southwest Denver race, which was won by Merida.

Denver school board candidates and links to their websites

    At-large/citywide:
  • John Daniel, 54, is a computer systems administrator and resident of the Baker neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Frank Deserino, 49, is a social studies teacher at South High School. Campaign website.
  • Happy Haynes, 58, is director of civic and community engagement for CRL Associates, Inc. and a resident of the Park Hill neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Roger Kilgore, 54, is a water resources engineer and consultant, and a resident of Park Hill. Campaign website.
  • Jacqui Shumway, 52, is a health educator and resident of Park Hill. Campaign website.
    District 1, Southeast Denver:
  • Anne Rowe, 51, a small business owner who lives in the Cherry Hills Heights neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Emily Sirota, 32, is a social worker who lives in Virginia Village. Campaign website.
    District 5, Northwest Denver:
  • Jennifer Draper Carson, 42, is an education activist and full-time mom, living in the West Highlands neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Arturo Jimenez, 39, is an immigration attorney who lives in the Highlands neighborhood. He was first elected to the northwest Denver seat in 2007. Campaign website.

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Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.