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Many parents praise — and some criticize — Jeffco superintendent’s statement on Charlottesville

PHOTO: Bob Mical/Creative Commons

Dozens of Jeffco public school parents praised the superintendent’s recent statement on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Others criticized it, with some voicing concern that teachers might express political opinions in the classroom.

In the Aug. 16 statement, Superintendent Jason Glass said resources would be provided to teachers interested in talking about Charlottesville and that the district will not tolerate threats or harassment. He also invited feedback from members of the community.

In response to a request from Chalkbeat, Jeffco officials provided 63 messages sent to the district after Glass’s statement was posted on the district’s website and sent home as a letter to parents. The district redacted the senders’ names and email addresses. (See all responses below.)

About two-thirds of respondents thanked or otherwise lauded Glass for his statement.

One wrote, “Thank you so much for proactively sending out such an appropriate message. I think it’s fair to say many families with children of all ages have been struggling with this conversation.”

A district staff member, one of three who responded, wrote, “I am so glad we have a superintendent who is willing to address this issue directly!”

But not everyone was complimentary.

One parent wrote, “I’ll continue to teach my kids values. Please place your focus on Math and English. Once you’ve done that well, you can become concerned with civics and ethics. Stop doing a poor job at many things and focus on doing a few things well.”

Another wrote, “This should be a very easy lesson to teach. On racist drove his car into another group of opposing racists. Thats what my kids were taught. No need for you to worry about it.”

But some criticized Glass, who took the district’s top job this summer, for not going further.

One respondent wrote, “Is there a problem with calling Trump out by name? How can this be treated as a learning opportunity without the willingness to approach it with complete honesty? And please don’t tell me that you want to keep politics out of it.”

A couple parents asked for details about what Charlottesville resources district officials planned to share with teachers or students.

Others voiced concern about racist displays or incidents their kids had witnessed at Jeffco schools.

One parent wrote, “There is more than one student over at Arvada West that displays the Confederate Flag out of the backs of their pickup trucks. They are referred to as the “Concrete Cowboys”. My student was upset by their racist behaviors. Why was this type of display tolerated on school grounds last year? Will it continue this year? I hope no.”

Another parent wrote, “My son mentioned many times last year of students using the n word and making anti Semitic statements. I think they need to be told this is not ok or allowed.”

District spokeswoman Diana Wilson said in an email message that the district’s achievement director or school principals have followed up on any specific incidents mentioned in the emails to Glass. In cases where complaints were vague, she said school leaders were informed and asked to be alert for any violations of district policy.

Wilson said district officials have heard the complaint about Confederate flags being displayed in vehicles at Arvada West High School previously. This time, officials discovered the vehicle displaying the flag belonged to a graduate who spends time near the school but not on school property. She said the school’s principal is tracking the situation.

performance based

Aurora superintendent is getting a bonus following the district’s improved state ratings

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

Aurora’s school superintendent will receive a 5 percent bonus amounting to $11,820, in a move the board did not announce.

Instead, the one-time bonus was slipped into a routine document on staff transitions.

Tuesday, the school board voted on the routine document approving all the staff changes, and the superintendent bonus, without discussion.

The document, which usually lists staff transfers, resignations, and new hires, included a brief note at the end that explained the additional compensation by stating it was being provided because of the district’s rise in state ratings.

“Pursuant to the superintendent’s contract, the superintendent is entitled to a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of his base salary as the result of the Colorado Department of Education raising APS’ district performance framework rating,” the note states.

The superintendent’s contract, which was renewed earlier this year, states the superintendent can receive up to a 10 percent bonus per year for improvements in state ratings. The same bonus offer was in Munn’s previous contract with the district.

The most recent state ratings, which were released in the fall, showed the state had noted improvements in Aurora Public Schools — enough for the district to be off the state’s watchlist for low performance. Aurora would have been close to the five years of low-performance ratings that would have triggered possible state action.

“I am appreciative of the Board’s recognition of APS’ overall improvement,” Superintendent Munn said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to recognize that this improvement has been thanks to a team effort and as such I am donating the bonus to the APS Foundation and to support various classroom projects throughout APS.”

This is the only bonus that Munn has received in Aurora, according to a district spokesman.

In addition to the bonus, and consistent with his contract and the raises other district employees will receive, Munn will also get a 2.93 percent salary increase on July 1. This will bring his annual salary to $243,317.25.

At the end of the board meeting, Bruce Wilcox, president of the teachers union questioned the way the vote was handled, asking why the compensation changes for teachers and compensation changes for other staff were placed as separate items on the meeting’s agenda, but the bonus was simply included at the bottom of a routine report, without its own notice.

“It is clear that the association will unfortunately have to become a greater, louder voice,” Wilcox said. “It is not where we want to be.”

Movers & shakers

Memphis native named superintendent of Aspire network’s local schools

PHOTO: Aspire Public Schools
Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job. Previously, Manning was a Memphis City Schools principal.

Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job.

Manning will replace Allison Leslie, the founding superintendent of the charter network’s Memphis schools. She is leaving for Instruction Partners, an education consulting firm that works with school districts in Tennessee, Florida, and Indiana.

“I look forward to serving children and families in my hometown,” said Manning, who was previously Aspire’s associate superintendent, director of curriculum and instruction, outreach coordinator, and principal of its Aspire Hanley Elementary.

Aspire runs three elementary schools and one middle school in Memphis.

Manning said he hopes to focus on Aspire’s role in supporting students outside the classroom and to launch a community advisory board, composed of parents and neighborhood residents, to “make sure that the community has a voice.”

“We know that we need to support our children in more than just academics,” he told Chalkbeat.

In Memphis, most students who attend Aspire schools come from low-income neighborhoods. At its four local schools, the charter group serves about 1,600 Memphis students.

Manning, who holds a doctorate in education, is a graduate of Memphis’ Melrose High School, which sits less than two miles from two Aspire schools. Before joining the network, he worked as a teacher and administrator in the Memphis City Schools and served as principal of Lanier Middle School, which closed in 2014 due to low enrollment.

In a statement, Leslie praised Manning’s commitment to the network’s students, saying,“I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Manning continue the great work we started together and make it even better.”

Aspire was founded in California in 1998 and runs 36 schools there. The charter network was recruited to Memphis to join the state-run district in 2013 — the organization’s only expansion outside of California.

In Memphis, Aspire opened two schools in 2013 and grew to three schools the following year. That’s when it opened Coleman Elementary under the state-run district, before switching course in 2016 and opening Aspire East Academy, a K-3 elementary school under the local Shelby County Schools.

This year, the charter network applied with Shelby County Schools to open its second a middle school, in Raleigh, in 2019. Though the application was initially rejected, Manning it would be resubmitted in the coming weeks, before the district’s final vote in August.

The proposed middle school harkens back to a dispute between Shelby County Schools and the state Department of Education over the charter’s legal ability to add grades to its state turnaround school. If approved, the state could create a new school that would be under local oversight.

“We are deeply committed to our children and families,”  Manning said. “We’ve heard from our families that they want continuity in K–8th-grade in their child’s time in schools. We’re committed to that end.”