A focus on leadership, and a search for what’s working are part of one Adams 14 management proposal

In applying to manage the troubled Adams 14 school district, one large national consultant says it is planning to find out what already is working in the district.

“We are here to support great work that’s happening, and basically to build it so that it’s happening more often,” said Simmie Raiford, school transformation lead for MGT. “We don’t approach it as everything’s broken and we’re here to fix it.”

MGT Consulting Group, based in Florida, but with offices in Centennial, is one of the four finalists to become the external manager of Adams 14, ordered by the state to turn to outside help for oversight in improving student achievement. A community group will provide its final recommendation from among the four on Monday, following a day of interviews on Saturday. The district’s school board will pick a manager from the finalists on Tuesday.

“We know people are really giving their best effort, but need support so they do more things that are effective, and phase out things they are doing that are not supporting their schools,” Raiford said.

MGT’s proposal details more about the group’s experience and the beginning evaluation of the schools than what their management might look like.

A couple of things are certain. The group will focus on leadership, hosting workshops for school leaders and for district administration early on. It’s also enlisted the help of a popular group from the University of Virginia to help train principals and design systems to keep improving leadership.

Several local districts, including the Aurora school district, have sent principals through the university’s leadership program and recorded good results.

MGT’s proposal also discusses identifying gaps in Adams 14’s curriculum resources, gaps in the achievement of students of different groups, and setting up regular meetings to update the community, including at least one per semester in the first year.

First, MGT proposes identifying the schools that need the most help and a group of schools that will serve as a “learning lab” for intensive work with the university.

After an initial assessment, MGT will decide what changes need to happen in Adams 14.

“Obviously we can see what the data says, but until you’re there, you don’t see the why behind the numbers,” Raiford said.

And to do the work, MGT will hire a point person that can locally manage all of the work, with help from MGT staff who will travel in regularly.

MGT has managed several schools, using a similar process, and also a couple of districts. Most recently, the group managed two school districts in Florida, and last year was named the emergency manager for one school district in Indiana.

Locally, the school board in Aurora voted this week to allow MGT to help turn around North Middle School there. The State Board of Education must still approve that plan.

MGT leaders said Colorado’s local control laws, which will allow the local school board to remain in place overseeing outside managers’ work, are not so different from what they’ve encountered in other states. It can even be an advantage, they said.

“It means when you go away, the infrastructure is still there to carry on long after you’re gone, so that’s definitely a plus,” Raiford said.

The challenge, instead, said Trey Traviesa, the chief executive officer of MGT, is in the nature of the work: balancing the needs of various affected groups such as teachers, community members, state lawmakers, and students.

But it’s the complexity of situations, like in Adams 14, that attracted MGT to take on the work, Traviesa said.

“We pursue the most meaningful work we can find,” Traviesa said. “Adams 14 certainly qualifies.”