June marks Pride Month for members of th LGBTQIA+ community; and the anniversary of the historic Stonewall Riots. A+ Colorado recognizes the unique experience and value LGBTQ+ students bring to Colorado classrooms. While we celebrate the resilience of these students, we recognize the disproportionate challenges they face within our schools. The most recent Healthy Kids Survey from Colorado reveals that a total of 62.6% of LGB youth were sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in the past year, compared to 27% of their heterosexual peers; and an estimated 41.5% of youth who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual reported being bullied either at school or electronically in the past year, compared with 21.6% of their heterosexual peers. These alarming statistics reaffirm the need for social and emotional supports in all of our schools. To the LGBTQIA+ students and educators throughout the state; we see you, hear you, you’re not alone and we celebrate you throughout this month and every other day of the year.
School Diagnostics Sign-On Letter
Heading into the summer, educators struggle to gain a full picture of their students’ needs. This is further compounded by the ever-present “summer slide” which requires remediation in the fall. Historically disadvantaged minorities, students with disabilities, emerging multilingual students, and other student groups who are underserved by the education system face greater challenges as COVID-19 left these students without necessary instruction. A+ Colorado joined a coalition of more than 10 organizations urging Governor Jared Polis, the Colorado Department of Education, and the Colorado Board of Education to begin the 2020-2021 school year with a valid, reliable, statewide diagnostic tool for every K-12 student in Colorado funded by the 10% holdback the Colorado Department of Education retained from the CARES Act.
Denver Public Schools and School Resource Officers Update
The Denver Public Schools Board recently voted to end their contract with the Denver Police Department following city-wide protests that called for action. There are currently 18 School Resource Officers contracted with DPD; and their cost is split by the school district and City of Denver. Over the next school year, as resource officers are phased out of DPS buildings, DPS must use research and data to determine how best to support student safety and ensure that the “school to prison pipeline” is stopped. DPS must utilize a data-driven approach combined with community input when making decisions that will affect school safety and operations and evaluate what other policies and actions might be necessary to ensure that all students are treated with dignity and respect and have the opportunity to thrive in our schools. The “school to prison pipeline” begins in classrooms and hallways before it gets to administrators, school security and policy officers. It is critical that school districts address all aspects of the problem, and not just challenges related to school resource officers.
Denver Public Schools – Budget Advisory Committee Update
Denver Public Schools Budget Advisory Committee continues to consider options to address the $65m shortfall caused, in part, by the COVID crisis. The Committee’s recommendations include Tier 1, 2, and 3 recommendations. Unfortunately, even if the recommendations for Tier 1 budget cuts are approved, a considerable gap remains and additional cuts are needed. Public comment regarding the FY 2020-21 recommended budget will occur at a special Board meeting on June 25 and the final vote will occur June 29. There is still time to let the Board know your concerns and suggestions to address the shortfall in an equitable and socially just manner.
Blueprint APS Sent Back to the Drawing Board
Acknowledging recent public feedback and questions around implementation, the Aurora School Board voted 5-2 against the district’s Blueprint APS plans at their meeting on June 16th. The plans called for the creation of a new magnet school in each of the district’s seven identified regions. The specialization of each magnet school was decided by regional design teams (RDT) and the Long Range Facilities Advisory Committee. The final plans were presented to the board in May and through community listening sessions, the board heard criticisms including concerns about the equity of access to the different models as there were no plans for transportation- a concern voiced repeatedly by community members throughout the regional design team process. The board passed a motion asking district leadership to put together a proposal for a transportation plan as well as address other questions from board members and present back to the board in late August or September. Board members were careful to say that they were not prepared to completely throw out the Blueprint work but that they needed more information in order to feel confident moving forward with what will be a multi-million dollar initiative over the next decade in APS.
A+ Colorado Advocacy Director, Valeria Contreras interview with Voyage Denver
A+ Colorado Director of Advocacy, Valeria Contreras was recently featured in an interview with Voyage Denver. We’re grateful to have a thoughtful and strong advocate on our team and this interview captures what’s shaped her passion and commitment for Colorado’s students. Read the full interview here.
A+ Colorado and DFER had the opportunity to speak to Efren Ortiz from the Central Language Services Office (CSLO) at Aurora Public Schools (APS). Efren shared how the CSLO’s work shifted to virtual interpretation and translation serves and how they continue to provide services for families and schools during COVID-19. We want to thank Efren and the CSLO for their time and for their continued work in the Aurora community. If you would like to learn more about the CSLO or if you are a parent or student and need to request services, you can visit their website at https://language.aurorak12.org/.
Climb Higher Colorado – Systems Impact Institute
The application for Cohort 3 of Climb Higher’s Systems Impact Institute is now open. The Systems Impact Institute is a year-long program designed for dynamic members of organizations across Colorado who want to develop their understanding and skills for systems change within the education landscape. The deadline to apply for the Systems Impact Institute is Monday, July 20th at 5:00 PM Mountain Time.
Summer Education Policy Course with CU Denver School of Public Affairs
The Summer Institute in Education Systems Leadership and Policy at the CU Denver School of Public Affairs is open to applications. This program began as education systems are transforming and require a new level of public leadership. The goal of the program, now part of a new graduate concentration in Education Systems Leadership and Policy, is to develop current and aspiring leaders and entrepreneurs working in public and private sector organizations engaged in education systems transformation and redesign.
Showing Up For Racial Justice – Virtual Gathering
Showing Up For Racial Justice Denver will be hosting a virtual community gathering on June 24th at 7 PM. This gathering will cover topics including Ways for White folks in Denver to plug in and start to answer the questions “what can I do?” and “where can I start?” Join this webinar to learn more about anti-racist, anti-oppression work in the community!
Sustaining Resilience Webinar
Join a virtual, multi-faith space with the Sustaining Resilience Webinar to share words and reflections for resilience, comfort and sustenance from many faith traditions. This webinar will be Friday, June 19th from 11:30-12:00. This time is a space for healing, lament, sustenance and faith renewal for all who are fighting for human dignity and social justice during the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and the killing of our black siblings by law enforcement.
Fordham Institute – Virtual Summer Camps list
The Fordham Institute has released a list of 16 Virtual Summer Camps to keep kids learning throughout the Summer of 2020. These include virtual museums, STEM learning opportunities, coding camps and more!
Blueprint 4 Summer CO
ReSchool has created the Blueprint 4 summer CO which serves as a Hub for students, and families to scope out summer programs, and learning opportunities for students from pre-school through 12th grade and is available in multiple languages. This tool is designed to provide families with access to learning options that fit their specific needs and interests.
Valeria Contreras, Director of Advocacy
Go-to quarantine meal: Tacos, always.
Favorite spot in Colorado during the summer: Any nevería in Aurora, CO.
Favorite online concert or recording: Residente’s recording of his song, “René.” It’s beautiful.
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