Colorado

Monday Churn: One vote does matter

Updated 4:30 p.m. – Thanks to a recount today that showed its bond issue passing by one vote, the Ignacio schools have landed a state construction grant.

The final tally showed the measure passing 524 yes to 523 no, courtesy of an additional yes vote found in La Plata County. Ignacio is a low-income, 750-student district that straddles the La Plata-Archuleta County line southeast of Durango.

The La Plata vote was 462 to 419, while the Archuleta vote of 62 yes and 104 no was unchanged in the recount.

Ignacio and Englewood were alternates for Building Excellent Schools Today funding when awards were made last June. Because two BEST finalists and three other alternatives lost their tax elections, the state Capital Construction Assistance Board voted Nov. 3 to make Ignacio and Englewood finalists, even though the Ignacio vote was tied at that point.

Ignacio’s project, a total of $14.9 million in state and local funds, will renovate an existing middle school into a K-5 facility. The district’s bond issue will raise $4.7 million of the total. The recount comes just in time for the Thursday sale of the certificates of participation (a form of lease-purchase agreement) that the state uses to finance BEST projects.

Of the 43 bond issues and mill levy overrides proposed by 36 districts this year, only 12 were approved by voters, a rate of rejection not seen since the oil bust years of the late 1980s. List of all proposals, compiled by the Colorado School Finance Project.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Jefferson County school board members have voted in a new president, Lesley Dahlkemper, who was elected Nov. 1. Dahlkemper replaces outgoing president Dave Thomas, who opted not to seek a second four-year term on the board governing the state’s largest school district.

Dahlkemper spoke frequently on the campaign trail about her ability to bring together different viewpoints and it’s a skill she’ll need. Jeffco, like nearly every other school district, is poised for another round of budget cuts, with an estimated $70 million needed in trims over the next two years. The district already has closed two schools, chopped two days off the school calendar and reduced all employees’ pay by 3 percent.

Other Jeffco board officers are Paula Noonan as first vice-president, Laura Boggs as second vice-president, Jill Fellman as secretary and Robin Johnson as treasurer. Fellman was also elected Nov. 1.

Denver Public Schools board members are expected to elect officers Friday at a special meeting where newly elected members Happy Haynes and Anne Rowe will be sworn in for their first four-year term. Board member Arturo Jimenez, who was re-elected by 144 votes, will be sworn in for his second term.

School boards in Adams 12 Five Star and in Adams 50 Westminster also are scheduled to swear in new members and elect officers on Thursday. Douglas County’s newest school board members – Kevin Larsen, Craig Richardson and Justin Williams – are expected to be sworn in after Thanksgiving.

Aurora‘s school board elected a new president, Mary Lewis, last week. Lewis also was sworn in for her second term and two new board members, Dan Jorgensen and Cathy Wildman, took the oath of office for their first terms. Aurora canceled board elections because the candidates were unopposed.

What’s on tap:

TODAY

The Cherry Creek School Board meets at Sagebrush Elementary School, 14700 E. Temple Place, in Aurora beginning at 7 p.m. The agenda includes the election of officers.

The Roaring Fork School District, based in Glenwood Springs and serving about 5,500 students, scheduled a special meeting and executive session this morning at 11 a.m. to consider the contract of superintendent Judy Haptonstall. School board president Matt Hamilton told the Post-Independent newspaper that the quick meeting was needed, following elections earlier this month, because “it’s not fair to anyone involved to create an unsettling environment” within the district. The question of Haptonstall’s contract immediately came up when Hamilton and two other new board members were sworn in. Haptonstall’s current contract expires in May 2013. Brief agenda here.

TUESDAY

The Aurora Public Schools Board of Education has a 6 p.m. meeting scheduled. No agenda has yet been posted.

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 Board of Education will consider a four-day school week when it holds a work session at 6 p.m. and a regular board meeting at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the district administration building, 400 E. Elm St. in Cortez. Agenda.

WEDNESDAY

The Joint Budget Committee will be briefed by staff on K-12 spending for 2012-13. The session runs from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the committee hearing room on the third floor of the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave.

The Educational Success Task Force meets starting at 1 p.m. at the Colorado Community College System offices, 9101 E. Lowry Blvd. Agenda

The St. Vrain School District Board of Education has a 6 p.m. study session scheduled, but no agenda has yet been posted. The meeting will be held at Mead High School, 12750 County Rd. #7, in Longmont.

THURSDAY

Gov. John Hickenlooper discusses his proposed 2012-13 budget with the JBC from 11 a.m. to noon in the ground floor hearing room of the Legislative Services Building.

The Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee meets from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Lowry Conference Center, 1061 Akron Way, Building 697 in Denver. This is a state-level committee mandated by federal and state law. Members are interested in the quality of education received by children/youth with disabilities. More detail here.

defensor escolar

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.