Tuesday Churn: No change in RE-1

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Roaring Fork Superintendent Judy Haptonstall remains on the job following a special board meeting Monday in Glenwood Springs. The meeting included an hour of public comment and a closed-door “executive session.”

The board intends to issue a formal public statement about “next steps” today but Re-1 Board President Matt Hamilton told the Post-Independent newspaper that the conversation with Haptonstall was “productive.” Hamilton and two other new board members had been critical of how Haptonstall handled a principal dismissal last spring. One Colorado Department of Education official spoke positively about Haptonstall’s work. More.

The Walton Family Foundation this morning will announce a $25 million grant to the KIPP Foundation with the goal of doubling the number of students who attend KIPP charter schools around the country over the next four years.

Denver is home to three KIPP schools: KIPP Denver Collegiate High School at 451 S. Tejon St., KIPP Montbello College Prep at 5290 Kittredge St. and KIPP Sunshine Peak at 375 S. Tejon St.

KIPP’s national network of 109 public charter schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia serves 32,000 students. Watch the Walton Family Foundation website for more details. And check the KIPP site for a complete list of schools around the country.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan held a “Twitter Town Hall” Monday afternoon, taking questions from PBS NewsHour reporter John Merrow about a range of topics including No Child Left Behind waivers, early childhood education, teacher evaluation, upcoming Race to the Top process for preschools, the innovation fund, test cheating scandals, teacher pay and recruitment, and comparisons with educational approaches in other countries. Duncan cited South Korea, Singapore and Finland. The video is archived here.

Stand for Colorado’s Kayla McGannon posted a national commentary on the Education Week web site this week, focusing on the Denver school board elections. The piece, “Reform Is Not a Dirty Word,” is due in this week’s print edition. “If the impact of Denver’s school board elections was a litmus test of any sort, it showed that reform is no longer a dirty word, whether that label comes by word or deed,” writes McGannon. Full column.

The National Council on Teacher Quality released a study yesterday reporting that a survey of 74 large urban school districts laid off far fewer teachers than expected this school year. The NCTQ study showed districts “took measures other than laying off teachers to reduce budget gaps.” Still, the council found, 9,545 teachers were laid off, approximately 2.5 percent of the teaching force. Half of the districts reported no layoffs. Full report here.

In case you missed it: Thanks to a recount Monday 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

What’s on tap:

The Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 Board of Education will consider a four-day school week when it meets tonight at 6 p.m. in a work session, followed by a regular board meeting at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the district administration building, 400 E. Elm St. in Cortez. An increasing number of smaller Colorado districts have moved to four-day weeks in response to budget cuts. Agenda.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”