A year ago next month, parent leaders from multiple districts testified in support of HB18-1355, a bill that aimed to hold school districts accountable for chronic underperformance. The parents were desperate for solution, after many failed organizing attempts to convince the district school boards to initiate needed changes and build systems of accountability. Parents had hope that the State Board could finally provide the interventions needed in order for their children to have a better school system to thrive in.
After the passing of 1355, Adams 14 parents and community members organized to demand that the State take action and intervene in Adams 14-Parents were insistent upon urgency, because everyday, their children are the ones stuck in the schools that we are having philosophical debates about improving.
Our team hosted a protest outside of the State Board of Education, testified asking for intervention and submitted over 70 testimonies from community about the failures of the current system. We were proud of the State Board’s leadership as they set a precedent around district’s being accountable for student outcomes moving forward.
The State Board ordered the selection of an External Management Organization for full management of the district. Adams 14 hosted a community selection process that was incredibly thorough and despite citing concerns about Mapleton's low graduation and matriculation rates and overall capacity, the committee ranked Mapleton as #1 because of their similar demographics, understanding of the local context, and experience with board governance.
Last week, the Colorado Department of Education testified in front of the local board citing concerns that Mapleton Public Schools does not meet the State Order and does not have the performance consistency or capacity to take on the massive turnaround required in Adams 14.
TEN asked the District Board to delay the selection of the EMO until we could reconcile the CDE advise with the community process. The Adams 14 District Board proceeded with a vote that night to select Mapleton Public Schools as the EMO, risking additional state intervention for knowingly choosing an application without requiring additional steps to meet the State Order.
Ultimately, the board voted 3-2 to select Mapleton Public Schools as the EMO. The two no votes came from Board President Connie Quintana and Board Member Harvest Thomas. President Quintana gave an impassioned speech about why she agrees with CDE and was voting no. Quintana said her doubts about Mapleton’s low performance outweighed the benefit of having similar demographics. “I find it hard to have someone who’s almost equivalent to our academics come in and help us. I have a hard time understanding where they are going to take our children, and they’ll only be here a few times a week…. I’m more concerned about our children. I want to make sure all our kids can read and can do math.”
Director Dominick Moreno, as he cast the deciding vote in selecting Mapleton, said he read through all four applications and acknowledged the concern that Mapleton is not a performance district. “Show me a district of our similar size, demographic, and need that is a performance [district]. It doesn’t exist.”
It is now up to the State Board of Education. Adams 14 School District will present to the State Board of Education at the regular state board meeting on March 13 on the selected external management organization. The State Board is required to determine if the selected external management organization meets the requirements of the order, and if so, approve the selection.
If the state board approves the selection, then Adams 14 school district has 30 days to enter into a contract with the selected management organization. If the state board determines that the selected EMO does not meet the requirements in the order, they will provide information about the factors that were not satisfied; the district will then have 14 days to select another provider that was identified in its selection process, to present to the state board.
We anxiously await the support system that we hope that an EMO will provide Adams 14.
We know that we need a system of accountability, stronger professional development and coaching and a need for deeper innovation and community ownership.