Last week was an extremely busy and important week for Denver Public Schools. The board and the administration tackled challenging issues and one of our higher education institutions made headlines with a landmark policy change.
I’d like to start by thanking the DPS administration and DCTA for working together on a new teacher contract. Denver stands in stark contrast to Chicago. We were pleased that this new contract will have no caps on teacher collaboration but we see no reason for why this and many other work rules need to be in the contract in the first place. We are committed to supporting the good work in Pro-Comp to get to the next level so that teachers can be paid and treated like professionals are in all other fields.
New Schools & Standards
The DPS board also approved a set of promising new performance, innovation and public charter schools last week. In particular, we were happy to see the NW community, North and West Denver Prep school leaders, and school board members work together to find a compromise on a contentious facilities issue. We hope this compromise will help to build trust and respect at the start of a long term working relationship between the NW community, North High and the newly approved West Denver Prep High School. We are also excited to have West Denver Prep, one of the highest performing schools in Colorado, be able to expand into parts of Denver where there are so few high quality seats especially at the high school level.
At the same meeting the DPS board voted to adopt the National Association of Charter School Authorizers Principles and Standards to continue to strengthen their charter review and approval process. DPS staff and board continue to apply a rigorous and fair process for the approval of new public charter schools. Denver is a national leader on this front. We hope that all new Denver schools whether district, innovation or charter have similar expectations for approval. A thoughtful, fair, and rigorous approval process for all new schools will lead to more successful schools.
That being said, we continue to be disappointed that DPS does not have better processes for engaging local communities on new school development, co-location and turnarounds. Once again, over the last few months, there was far too much misinformation regarding the proposed co-location of West Denver Prep and North on the North High School campus. We hope that the district and other community organizations, including A+ Denver, can do a better job of disseminating accurate and timely information to the community so that all have a solid understanding of the facts on issues like school capacity, performance, development and student demographics.
A+ Denver supports rigorous community debate and discussion on strategies and tactics for improving schools but we all need to be on the same page when it comes to the facts. We have lots of collective experience in the district and the larger community from the “19 nights of North,” Manual, the far NE school turnarounds, Lake, Sandoval, Stapleton, etc. Some processes have worked better than others over the last decade in Denver. DPS and all of us involved need to apply the lessons from these experiences so that we can do better in the future.
Moving from DPS to exciting and commendable news regarding a Denver higher education institution. Dr. Steve Jordan and the Metro State University board deserve high praise for taking a courageous step and offering a lower tuition rate for undocumented students who have graduated from high school here in Colorado. A+ Denver has strongly supported efforts to break down barriers for successful Denver Public School graduates to pursue college and while we were sad to see the legislature fail in this respect we are glad that Metro State has taken action. Not removing these barriers is unfair to students and makes little sense in terms of economic development. Now that President Obama, Senator Rubio and Metro have stepped up, hopefully others will take up the fight to change these penny-wise and pound-foolish policies.
Inside A+ Denver
Now to some internal news here at A+ Denver. We continue to grow our member network and have just added former Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien to our board of directors. We will be spending the next month bringing together a new task force to examine quality arts programing in Denver with support from the Denver Foundation while we finish several other projects including an analysis of what’s working in Denver’s high schools.
Finally, we want to give a huge thank you to Rob Stein for his committed service on the A+ Denver board and his remarkable educational leadership in Denver over the past decade and half. The Roaring Fork School District is incredibly fortunate to have hired such a wise and able minded educator to lead their school district. I will miss having such a close friend, thoughtful critic, neighbor, advisor and supporter. We know he’ll just be on the other side of the continental divide but we will miss his leadership in Denver.