Friday Churn: Weighing in on BEST

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The state Capital Construction Assistance Board has two major rounds of grants under its belt, but there’s still some confusion about how the BEST program is run and projects are chosen.

So, the board is opening the floor today for public comment on its construction guidelines, project ranking procedures, local match requirements and waivers, master plans and other issues.

The Build Excellent Schools Today program largely serves rural and/or poorer districts unable to finance their own building needs. As Education News Colorado has previously reported, see stories here and here, the board has sometimes struggled with its recommendations to the State Board of Education, which has final say.

There has been some particular dissatisfaction and misunderstanding with how the board and the construction division staff have handled prioritization of projects and local matches. And the board has some of its own issues, particularly that some districts have sought state money for projects they should be funding themselves. (Some requests for roof repair funds have sparked that concern.)

The meeting is from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today at the Colorado Association of School Boards, 1200 Grant St. Here’s the agenda and here’s more about BEST.

Time again for school district budget hearings and the state’s largest district, Jefferson County Public Schools, has released the schedule for its first round of community meetings. Five meetings are scheduled on the same morning, Nov. 13, a Saturday, and each will be led by a school board member. Here’s the complete list of times and locations. Jeffco leaders estimate $26 million will need to be cut from the 2011-12 budget – that’s twice the $13 million trimmed for 2010-11. Superintendent Cindy Stevenson talks about the issue in a recent video, linked at the bottom of the district’s homepage.

Speaking of money matters, Gov. Bill Ritter‘s announcement last Friday that he’s proposing to cut state school support by $156.3 million and replace it with $159 million in federal “Edujobs” funding was not greeted with wild applause by school districts. Roberta Selleck, the superintendent in Westminster Adams 50, said, “The additional funding certainly would have helped our students.”

Adams 50, like many other districts, did not announce plans for its $1.9 million portion of the federal money because district leaders feared the state might require it be used to replace existing money. “With so many budget cuts in recent years, it was easy to dream about areas in the school district the money could go,” Selleck said in a piece on the District 50 website. “But our finance team was explicit in their belief that the state would use the money to backfill its own revenue shortfall, and, unfortunately, that turned out to be the case.”

What’s on tap:

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness continues its task with a meeting today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the boardroom at the Colorado Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax. Ave. The agenda includes a discussion of the degree to which the state can dictate teacher evaluation methods to school districts and, at 2:30 p.m., a presentation titled “Using Student Academic Growth Measures to Inform Educator Effectiveness Determinations,” by Damian Betebenner with The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment. Public comment is at 3:30 p.m.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.