Our goal is simple: to share what is happening at school board meetings so you can engage with the board and the district even if you cannot attend hours of meetings every month.
The board discussed potential edits to Ends Policy 5, Post Graduation and Global Citizenship, which states in part, “Graduates will be civically changed lifelong learners with the necessary knowledge and skills to adapt to changing local, regional, and global demands. To this end, all graduates will be prepared for a successful post-secondary experience…” Discussion primarily surrounded how explicit and specific to be in language related to civic engagement and voter registration. Because one board member was not in attendance, the discussion around Ends Policy 5 was tabled and will be added to a future agenda.
Declining Enrollment- Denver Discovery School (DDS), Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy (MSLA), Fairview Elementary
Superintendent Marrero and staff presented an update on the recommendations for the critically-low enrolled schools, DDS, MSLA, and Fairview Elementary. DPS secured some community input from each school to inform recommendations presented to the Board. For context, DDS’ projected total enrollment is 62, with $1,056,611 in supplemental funding needed, MSLA’s projected total enrollment is 104 with $693,282 in supplemental funding needed, and Farview’s projected enrollment is 118 with $680,139 in supplemental funding needed.
Meetings were held in person and virtually with each schools’ staff, families and community and the options discussed with them were:
- Close the school at the end of the school year. Students have priority enrollment into all DPS schools and a guaranteed seat at their boundary / zone school.
- Close the school at the end of the school year. Move students and staff to a nearby school as a group.
- Begin closing the school by not enrolling students into the incoming grade.
- Keep the school as it is.
Some of the feedback expressed from the DDS community was a “strong desire to not be merged into a welcoming school,” families wanted priority in other DPS schools when participating in School Choice process and direct support with choosing a school for next year. Staff asked for support in finding a job at a school and to receive incentive pay for closing the school. As for the timeline, staff and families asked for a quick decision. MSLA community also asked for a quick decision and wanted to stay close to Valverde as well as opportunity to selected schools elsewhere. Fairview staff surveys indicated staff are frustrated by years of uncertainty, stating they want support ASAP with finding a job. The Fairview community wants to merge with Cheltenham and asked for transportation resources for students to cross the busy road to Cheltenham. Fairview does have the potential to serve as a community hub and/or reopen if enrollment comes back.
In the end, the recommendations presented were to close DDS at the end of the 2022-2023 school, unify MSLA into Valverde for the 2023-2024 school year, and unify Fairview into Cheltenham for the 2023-2024 school year. The recommendations were approved and passed.
Staff from DPS gave an update on the legislation they are supporting this session. There were numerous bills presented but some highlights are:
DPS is supporting several school to prison pipeline reform, housing and gun bills including HB23-1042 Admissibility Standards for Juvenile Statements, HB23-1109 School Policies and Student Conduct, HB23-1120 Eviction Protections for Residential Tenants, SB23-169 Increasing Minimum Age to Purchase Firearms.
Innovation Zone Reviews and Plans
DPS staff presented recommendations on the Luminary Learning Network, Becon Network Schools Innovation Zone, and Northeast Denver Innovation Zone. First, they shared some context on how innovation zones work and how they differ from charter renewals when it comes to the guidance provided by the state and Colorado’s State Board of Education’s role. State statute does not provide the same level of guidance as charter renewals and if an innovation zone is not approved by the Board and asks the State Board to review the decision, the decision that comes from the State Board is not binding as it is with the charter process.
The criteria that DPS uses when reviewing an innovation zone is:
- Academic Outcomes (primary)
- Organizational Health (primary)
- Zone Plan Quality and Implementation
- Stakeholder Engagement and Consent
Considering the criteria, Luminary Learning Network’s recommendation was to approve the innovation zone. Beacon Network’s Schools innovation zone was recommended to be revoked due to “insufficient academic progress of students at Kepner Beacon Middle School, and concerns with the organizational health of the zone, which are likely to negatively impact academic outcomes.” Northeast Denver Innovation Zone’s recommendation to the Board was to continue to review due to the lack of clarity when the plans were submitted and vote on the review in the April or May meeting.
The DPS Board discussed the need to prolong the timeline to redistrict DPS. For some context, DPS district borders need to change because as population grows only in certain districts, each district must have close to the same amount of people, so the borders must adjust. This process was supposed to start in the fall of 2022, but due to other priorities confronting the board it was pushed to February 2023. There was minimal participation in the in-person community engagement meetings and minimal participation from groups of people who should have a say in the conversation. The Board is seeking to delay the timeline to vote for the new maps, but clarity and guidance is expected from the Denver Elections Division.
DPS staff said the district is on track to meet its budget by the end of the year. At this point schools have entered their hiring timeline and PERA funding is on track as well. Then they presented an update around how the stimulus funds have been used. DPS is currently spending ESSER II funds and those end September 2023. They have spent around 78% of those funds and are on track to spend 100% and move into the last year of ESSER Funds (ESSER III) by September 2024. You can find these updates on the district stimulus website.
DPS staff presented updated next steps for the two innovation zones, Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ) and Beacon. They presented some context that led them to create specific next steps.
Northfield High School, which is the NDIZ zone, voted to leave the innovation zone, but remain an innovation school. Teachers were surveyed and the resulting numbers were 62.9% of teachers voted to exit the zone and 68% voted to retain innovation status as a school. Due to Northfield leaving the zone, NDIZ will need to revise the plan. They also mentioned the NDIZ is out of compliance with calendar guardrails, the Healthy Start Times resolution, and forced placement.
The Beacon Innovation Zone information presented consisted of finances, staff management, and their academic. Beacon’s finances were said to be unreliable, and they spent more than was allocated for the year. Some of Beacon staff are technically DPS employees, but not managed by DPS, which can cause issues in staff management. The academic data that was presented showed that students are underperforming, but they are working towards closing gaps.
The next steps recommended for Beacon consist of adding support to the personalized learning efforts already being done at each campus and funding support.
Board Discussion and Update on School, Student, and Adult Safety
This Special Board meeting was scheduled after the regular board meeting got cancelled due to the school shooting tragedy at East High School. The DPS board went into executive session which means their discussion was held without a public audience. After hours of the executive session, the board came back to a public forum and read aloud a memorandum directing actions by Superintendent Marrero. In the memorandum, it mentioned that the district will be collaborating with DPD again to get armed officers in high schools for the remainder of the school year. The Superintendent was also directed to work with Mayor Michael Hancock to provide at least two armed police officers and as many as two additional mental health professionals at all Denver high schools with external funding and support.
After they adjourned the meeting, they attended a press conference where they expressed how DPS, and society failed the student involved in the shooting.
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