These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.


A-town on the Rise?

By Landon Mascareñaz

The Aurora school board race was its most expensive in history.  A+ Colorado extends congratulations to everyone who participated in the race. It was hard fought and raised big questions about the future of Aurora schools.  

Chalkbeat Colorado has reported on the dynamics at play in Aurora immediately following the election of new school board members.  The piece suggests that all sides are hoping for compromise and progress. In a previous article, we expressed hope that “Big Mo” is possible in Aurora and positive momentum continues to build in the community.

Here are the big questions we need to wrestle with to find out if A-town is indeed on the rise:

Will the new Board members bring a new vision or will they just adjust the current strategy? This is the essential question of the moment.  The new Board members ran together as a slate. Will they come together to revise the vision or will they change directions completely? Early indicators suggest the former but advocates for change should watch closely.  

Will DSST build a community design and steering committee to oversee placement?

We’ve heard through the grapevine that DSST is building a community design process for it’s new Denver placement.  This is an important innovation that warrants applause.  Charter schools utilizing a community design process could be a powerful synthesis between their school design expertise and community expertise.  Will DSST pursue the same path in their new community placement in Aurora?

Will the district learn the positive lessons from their successful Rocky Mountain Prep and Fletcher transition?  It’s a powerful example of partnership and learning the right lessons. APS staff deserves support for ensuring it’s success and RMP deserves credit for bringing a partnership orientation to Fletcher.  The district should learn from this and continue this process.  

Can Aurora have a new school strategy AND a school turnaround strategy? Aurora’s current new school strategy using charters to build new models deserves applause and continued push.  Can Aurora build the internal capacity to take turnaround seriously?

Innovation Zone – Doubling down for expanded Impact? Dr. Browne’s leadership in the Innovation Zone has pushed the school system’s constraints. Can Aurora double-down on this innovation and transformation? An expanded zone, alignment on the senior leadership team around this strategy, and giving the zone “clear-the-way” decision-making would be a way to signal Aurora’s willingness to take on sacred cows within the district while building district capacity to improve.  

Will Aurora get ahead of the long-term demographic shifts at play? Recent reports suggest that Aurora’s enrollment is declining considerably.  This will represent significant challenges or opportunity for the Board.  Aurora could seize this moment to lead a conversation around how to “seize the demographic moment” and build a long-term plan to integrate schools.  

Will Aurora commit to real and transparent conversations with parents and families about the current performance of schools, challenges related to achieving excellence and the plans to get there? High expectations are the root of wanting something better in life and Aurora should work to share a powerful vision of excellence and help parents build what is possible.  In DPS, schools must host community meetings to let parents know about School Performance Framework rating.  Aurora could make big changes by asking schools to have these conversations.  

How will other family and community organizations (like RISE CO and YAASPA) be able to partner with the new Board to build a stronger ecosystem within Aurora demanding excellence for all students?  What role will the Resident Leadership Council play in generating parent leaders to push the district to act with urgency? The Resident Leadership Council is an exciting new development and could play a big role in the next few months helping to set the stage for the district conversation.  

Will charters mobilize their parents to advocate for their schools? We know charters have been investing in advocacy and have hired strong talent to lead these efforts.  Can they use their people power to push a bigger conversation for excellence?

A-town on the Rise?

There are a lot of important questions for the new Aurora School Board.  We are excited to see what direction they go in seeking excellence for all Aurora students.  A+ Colorado is looking forward to remaining engaged in these issues and conversations.