Who Is In Charge

$325,000 for district tax elections

Updated 4 p.m. Oct. 29 – Contributions in district tax proposal campaigns have exceeded $325,000, according to campaign finance reports filed by a Friday deadline.

LogoA bit less than a third of that total is accounted for by the Douglas County Citizens for Education Reform, which is backing Issue 3A, a $20 million tax increase for operating expenses, and 3B, a $200 million bond issue. The committee has raised $83,470 and carried over $20,921 from a prior campaign.

The largest recent individual contribution is $5,000 from ICS, a Wyoming-based technology company. (See this article for information on other Dougco contributions.)

The committee has spent $79,156, including $35,530 in the most recent reporting period, which covers activity from Oct. 7 to Oct. 23. The bulk of the recent spending, $32,285, was with Wizbang Solutions, a Commerce City direct mail company.

Spending by committees in other districts is similarly focused on printing and direct mail.

After Douglas County, the next largest amount of money has been raised in Mesa County, where District 51 is asking voters to approve a $12.8 million override, a six-year increase in property taxes to compensate for the effects of recent budget cuts.

The Friends of District 51 has raised $48,975 and spent $43,886. The committee has had substantial support from corporate donors and the local affiliate of the Colorado Education Association. A large recent contributor was George K. Baum Co., the Denver bond firm, which gave $5,000. Baum is one of the small number of firms that work with Colorado school districts on bond issues and financing.

Other top districts

Here are snapshots of fundraising in other districts where committees have raised at least $10,000:

Roaring Fork ($4.2 million override) – A group named Children First has raised $29,432 and spent $15,059. The Roaring Fork Public Education Foundation donated $3,925 during the most recent reporting period.

Cheyenne Mountain ($1.7 million override) – Friends of Cheyenne Mountain Schools has raised $26,625 and spent $22,529.

Englewood ($50 million bond, $1.5 million override) – Citizens for Englewood Schools has raised $21,666 and spent $19,700. The most recent reporting period included a $1,000 contribution from JVA Inc., a Boulder engineering firm. (Like bond houses and teachers unions, architects, engineers and construction companies are frequent contributors in district tax elections.)

Eagle County ($6 million override) – Citizens for Eagle County Schools has raised $19,550, $17,550 in the latest reporting period. Spending totals $19,352, most of that also in the latest period. Major recent contributors include East End Partners of Avon $5,000; G.E. Johnson Construction of Grand Junction, $2,500, and Vail Resorts, $5,000.

Brighton ($4.8 million override) – Parents for 27J Students has raised $13,807 and spent $11,098.

Thompson ($12.8 million override) – Community Coalition for Local schools has raised $10,807 and spent $5,648. In the latest reporting period Loveland Surgical Associates gave $1,000.

Alamosa ($6 million bond) – Alamosans for Great Schools has raised $10,641 and spent $10,150.

Garfield RE-2 ($4.8 million override) – Friends of Garfield RE-2 has raised $10,632 and spent $2,864.

The Falcon district is proposing an $85 million bond and a $5 million override. Two committees, Investment in Our Kids and Commitment for Kids, are registered as active with the Department of State, but neither has filed any reports this year.

Building D70 Communities, a committee that’s supporting the Pueblo County proposals for a $35 million bond and a $3.4 million override, reported fundraising of $7,900 and spending of $7,714.

Education News Colorado reviewed Oct. 28 filings by 26 committees in 24 districts. The total raised was $325,722. More than $570 million worth of bond issues and overrides is being sought by 35 Colorado school districts this year. Four districts, Douglas County, Englewood, Falcon and Pueblo County, are seeking both.

This story was updated to include reports that weren’t available on Oct. 28.


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.