Teachers at four Aurora schools this week will voice their support — or opposition — for dramatic plans to redesign their academically struggling schools.
The up-or-down votes at Paris and Crawford elementary schools, Boston K8, and Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, are a crucial juncture for Superintendent Rico Munn’s strategy to boost student achievement in a school district that has lagged behind the state in recent years.
The plans call for the four schools to be free from district and state rules in an effort to try new strategies around instruction, hiring and firing teachers, and community outreach.
For the plans to move forward, 60 percent of teachers must approve the plans. Plans that earn the teacher seal of approval will move on to the Aurora school board next month.
The Colorado Department of Education’s school improvement office is conducting its own review of the plans. And ultimately, the State Board of Education must sign off.
Not holding a teacher vote this week is a fifth school with similar intentions: Aurora Central High School. The vote has been delayed to give officials more time to fine-tune specifics and shore up support from teachers.
“Central’s plan is much larger,” said Amy Nichols, president of the Aurora teachers union. “There were a number of concerns from teachers. They needed more time to ask questions.”
Unlike at the other four schools, Aurora Central’s plan calls for teachers to work under one-year contracts with no job protections or rights to transfer to another school.
“I think teachers are anxious,” Nichols said. “ And I think that is perfectly reasonable.”
Nichols said the union has crafted language that it believes could satisfy the state and comfort teachers.
“If these plans are going to work, then everyone in those buildings has to believe it’s going to work,” Nichols said.
Superintendent Munn previously said drastic changes in personnel policies at Aurora Central would be needed in order to win approval from the department of education.
When asked if he believed a compromise would fly with the state, Munn did not go into specifics but said through a spokeswoman, “I believe APS needs to demonstrate a commitment to having effective teachers in all of our schools.”
Aurora Central has been dubbed a failing school by the state for the last five years. The plan to revitalize that school before the state issues sanctions has been the driving force behind Munn’s plans.
If the district fails to improve student learning at Aurora Central with this last effort, the school could be turned over to an independent third party such as a charter school. The district is also in jeopardy of losing its accreditation from the state.
“This is work Aurora has never done before,” Munn said. “It’s never engaged at this level of change, of attacking our challenges. And there are plenty of things that could go wrong in this process that we just have to manage.”
A vote at Central will likely be scheduled for early March.
The district will release the results of the votes held this week on Friday.