Who Is In Charge

Co-chairs named for higher ed strategic plan

Businessman Dick Monfort and lawyer Jim Lyons will be the co-chairs of the delayed higher education strategic planning effort, Gov. Bill Ritter announced Thursday.

Monfort is vice chair of the Colorado Rockies and a trustee of the University of Northern Colorado. Lyons is a member of Ritter’s advisory Jobs Cabinet and prominent in the Democratic Party.

No other firm details of the plan, such as the size of the steering committee, its membership, a meeting schedule or a completion date for the project were announced Thursday.

Ritter met briefly with three members of the Commission on Higher Education, several college presidents and higher ed Director Rico Munn, who were gathered at the Capitol for another meeting about a financial flexibility bill.

Since the idea first surfaced last summer, the outlines of the project have remained somewhat vague, its start has been pushed back and some have questioned the rationale for a study, given that the higher education system is in an immediate fiscal crisis and that Ritter is about to enter the last year of his first term and may face a tough re-election campaign.

On Dec. 3, Rico Munn, new director of the Department of Higher Education, gave members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education s a three-page “concept paper” for the plan.

According to Munn’s memo, the strategic plan is designed to address what the state needs from its higher ed system, the current funding crisis, other challenges and its relationship to the K-12 system.

While that memo said, “the strategic planning process should be launched by a clear articulation of goals by the governor,” the statement issued by the governor’s office Thursday set out no specific goals for the process. Noting the importance of higher education to the state’s economy and growth, the governor said, “We need to look out 10, 20 and 30 years. And the only way we get there is with a vibrant higher-ed system that can meet the needs of a 21st century Colorado.”

Munn’s memo said the goals “could include some mix of” doubling the number of postsecondary degrees and certificates awarded (Ritter’s Colorado Promise), increase in overall postsecondary participation, a larger role for community colleges, “targeted” improvements in remediation and retention, developing “some measure” for affordability and accessibility and “a standard for efficiency and sustainability” of the state system.

The memo outlined a steering committee that would supervise the work of subcommittees. Munn said the steering committee would focus on developing accountability measures while the subcommittees would be organized by issues such as the future needs of higher ed, institutional roles, governance, accessibility, financial issues and coordination with the K-12 system.

John Karakoulakis, legislative affairs director for the Department of Higher Education, said Thursday the steering committee is expected to have about a dozen members and that Ritter hopes to name them “as soon as possible.” Karakoulakis said the plan still includes use of the subcommittees.

Munn told CCHE members earlier this month that the steering committee would periodically report back to them, and the final report would be done by the fall of 2010.

Karakoulakis said there currently are “no definitive timelines on when it [the planning process] will end or specific deliverables. … The specifics haven’t been laid out yet.”

Joint Budget Committee Chair Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, recently questioned the need for a strategic plan, noting that Ritter’s first term will be ending and that many are calling for action now to deal with higher ed’s financial crisis (see story about that meeting).

The idea of a strategic or master plan was first surfaced publicly last summer by then-DHE Director David Skaggs, who subsequently resigned over an unspecified disagreement with Ritter. Munn, already in the governor’s cabinet as head of a different agency, was subsequently plucked to head DHE.

Funding for the state’s 27 colleges and universities, not shielded from cuts by constitutional or federal requirements as some other programs are, has suffered during this decade’s two recessions. While state tax support has been cut, the system has been held at flat overall funding levels with federal stimulus money and a steady series of tuition hikes.

Only a relatively small amount of stimulus money will be available for the upcoming 2010-11 budget year and none after that. Looking ahead to that “cliff,” many college presidents have already made budget cuts, particularly in administrative costs.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”