Who Is In Charge

Englewood, Ignacio get lucky

The state Capital Construction Assistance Board on Thursday awarded Building Excellent Schools Today grants to the Englewood and Ignacio school districts, giving them funds left on the table after other districts failed to pass the bond issues necessary to provide matching money.

Members of Capital Construction Assistance Board
Norwood Robb, Adele Willson and Lyndon Burnett, members of the Capital Construction Board / File photo

Englewood and Ignacio were designated as alternates when the board made its 2011-12 BEST awards last June. Eleven projects originally were awarded grants. Five raised their local matches at the ballot box Tuesday, two failed and four didn’t require bond issues.

Three other alternates also failed to pass bond issues, clearing the way for Englewood and Ignacio.

But the money’s not completely in the bank for Ignacio, a low-income, 750-student district that straddles the La Plata-Archuleta County line southeast of Durango. That’s because the vote tally on the district’s proposed $4.7 million bond issue is tied 523 yes to 523 note.

If the tie isn’t broken after review of ballots that lacked signatures and overseas ballots, a recount will be conducted on Nov. 14, construction division director Ted Hughes told the board.

That could present a problem, because Nov. 17 is the date for sale of the certificates of participation – a form of lease-purchase agreement – that are used to finance larger BEST projects. State funds and district matches are used to pay off the certificates.

Still, the board decided to elevate Ignacio to the finalist list. It can be pulled out later and the money used next year if the district bond issue ultimately fails. (In the event of a tie, a ballot measure fails.)

Ignacio’s project, a total of $14.9 million in state and local funds, would renovate an existing middle school into a K-5 facility.

Englewood’s BEST project is a $17.4 million renovation and conversion of a middle school into an alternative high school. Englewood voters narrowly passed a $50 million bond issue, $8.1 million of it for the BEST match and the remainder for other projects.

Other BEST finalists that passed their matches are the Big Sandy, Ellicott, Idalia, Prairie and Sanford districts. Elbert 200 and Montezuma-Cortez were the two districts whose voters failed to pass matches.

Three other BEST winners are charter schools, the Rocky Mountain Deaf Academy, Eagle County Charter Academy and Horizons K-8 Alternative Charter, which provided their matches in other ways. A fourth charter, Ross Montessori, declined its award because it couldn’t raise its match. The board decided to go ahead with Rocky Mountain Deaf even though the Jefferson County school hasn’t yet obtained land for a new building. If the school can’t get land, the money will be used for other projects next year.

The three alternates whose voters defeated bond issues were Lake County, Peyton and Sheridan.

More information on the BEST program


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”