Monday Churn: Honoring top performers

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Colorado Department of Education will hold an awards ceremony to recognize the 18 districts Accredited with Distinction under the state’s accountability system. The event starts at 10 a.m. in the CDE lobby at 201 E. Colfax Ave., Denver. Full list of winners:

Academy School District 20, Agate School District 300, Aspen School District 1, Buffalo School District RE-4, Cheyenne Mountain School District 12, Dolores School District RE-4A, Frenchman School District RE-3, Hinsdale County School District RE-1, Kiowa County School District C-2, Lewis-Palmer School District 38, Littleton Public Schools 6, Moffat School District 2, North Park School District R-1, Ouray School District R-1, Plateau School District RE-5, Ridgway School District R-2, Steamboat Springs School District RE-2 and Telluride School District R-1

The ceremony will also recognize the recipients of the 2011 Centers of Excellence award. Established by the Colorado legislature, the Centers of Excellence Award recognizes schools that demonstrate the highest rates of student longitudinal growth as measured by the Colorado Growth Model among those that have at least 75 percent at-risk students. For a list of the 2011 winners, click here.

The department will also recognize, but not distribute, two additional awards at the event: the Governor’s Distinguished Improvement Award and John Irwin Schools of Excellence Award. More on those here and here.

Also, the CDE also announced the formation of a Rural Education Council to “oversee, support, conduct research and advocate for the needs, concerns and particular problems of rural education districts.” Colorado Education Commissioner Robert Hammond made the announcement late last week, following up on a study that was conducted earlier this year. The council is comprised of one rural superintendent from each of eight regions in the state and representatives from local school boards, teachers, principals and business/community members. For a list of all members, go here.

The council will hold its first meeting on Thursday, Dec. 15 in Denver. Future quarterly meetings will be held around the state in rural locations so hosts can highlight the unique needs of their communities.

The Denver Education Compact, the centerpiece of Mayor Michael Hancock’s public education initiative, is set for its first meeting today under executive director Theresa Peña.  The compact, a committee of 25 community, business and education leaders selected by Hancock, is charged with making specific commitments to improve Denver education from cradle to career.

The committee has met twice before under interim director Janet Lopez. Today marks the first session for the group since Peña assumed her post as the executive director. Peña last month concluded her second and final term as an at-large member of the Denver school board. Co-chairs of the group are Hancock, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Donna Lynne, president of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.

Today’s public meeting runs from 2 to 3:30 p.m., in the Parr-Widener Community Room on the third floor of the Denver City & County Building, 1437 Bannock St. More info

What’s on tap:


The Legislative Audit Committee will receive the annual financial and compliance audit of the University of Colorado starting at 1:30 p.m. The committee meets in its first-floor hearing room in the Legislative Services Building, 200 E. 14th Ave. Agenda

Denver school board members meet today in their regular monthly work session prior to Thursday’s meeting. The board will hear from the Start Date Task Force, including its analysis on whether the district should consider a later start to the school year. Background story. Other agenda items include updates on the district’s unified SchoolChoice enrollment system and the Northwest Community Committee. It begins at 4:30 p.m. at 900 Grant St. Agenda. Remember you can watch the meetings live here.

Prior to the DPS work session, the board’s finance and audit committee meets at 3 p.m. , also at 900 Grant St.  The agenda includes a discussion of the district’s financial status, with a presentation noting Gov. Hickenlooper’s proposed budget could mean a reduction of $175 per student or about $14 million for DPS. Other provisions of the governor’s budget could cut another $125 per student. Financial presentation, full agenda

The Cherry Creek school board meets at High Plains Elementary, 6100 S. Fulton St., beginning at 7 p.m. No agenda is yet posted.


The Legislative Audit Committee will be briefed about audits of the Colorado School of Mines and of federal stimulus spending in Colorado, including on education, starting at 9 a.m. Same location and agenda as above.

The Aurora school board meets at 6:00 p.m. at 1085 Peoria St.; no agenda is yet posted.

The Boulder school board meets at 5:00 p.m. at 6500 Arapahoe St. The agenda includes the legislative agenda, improvement planning and budget preparation.


The Colorado Springs District 11 board meets at 6:30 p.m. at 1115 N. El Paso St. Agenda

The St. Vrain Valley School District board is scheduled to meet at 395 S. Pratt Parkway in Longmont at 7 p.m. No agenda is yet posted.


Denver school board members meet at 5 p.m. at 900 Grant St. The agenda includes an enrollment update, a financial presentation and approval of new charter contracts. Agenda


Leaders of the Department of Education and the State Board of Education are on the hot seat for their annual hearing with the Joint Budget Committee. Among the 48 written questions the department is supposed to answer are more than a dozen related to the cost of a new state testing system. The fun starts at 9 a.m. and runs until noon in the large hearing room on the first floor of the Legislative Services Building. Read a background story here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Public school advocate and parent Julie Woestehoff writes in The Huffington Post about what she calls the “churn rate” in Chicago Public Schools after the latest wave of interventions was announced there. “Who wants to go to school or work for a school system that is in constant upheaval, where people never know from one year to the next where they will be or what they will be doing? Where life-altering decisions appear to be based on ever-changing and murky rationales?” she asks. More

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.