Who Is In Charge

State board starts to look beyond Dwight

Dwight Jones
Education Commissioner Dwight Jones formally submitted his resignation on Nov. 3, 2010.

The State Board of Education on Wednesday began the long process of finding a successor to education Commissioner Dwight Jones.

During the longest board meeting in recent months, members also approved the first public release of the state’s new school ranking system (see this in-depth Education News Colorado story) and heard some fervent testimony in favor of something that students might not be so wild about – expansion of state tests.

Jones, who’s headed to Las Vegas to become superintendent of the 310,000-student Clark County Schools in Nevada, made that official Wednesday, telling the board, “It’s about time I submitted a formal letter of resignation. … I don’t think I can hold it off any longer.”

Board Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, said the occasion was “pretty sobering,” telling Jones, “Your impression on Colorado is permanent.”

“All right, what’s next?” Schaffer asked.

Jones outlined his transition plans, saying he’ll work at the department until Dec. 13 and start in Nevada two days later. He then recommended that the board name Robert Hammond as interim superintendent.

“Do you want to do it?” Schaffer, smiling, asked Hammond, who allowed that he did. “I hope I can provide the stability you need.” The board unanimously approved the appointment.

CDE Deputy Commissioner Robert Hammond
CDE Deputy Commissioner Robert Hammond

Hammond is deputy commissioner in charge of operations and administration. He joined the department in March 2008 after serving as chief operations officer for the Boulder Valley School District. Hammond is married to Ranelle Lang, superintendent of Greeley schools.

Later, toward the end of the meeting, the board turned to the process for finding a permanent commissioner.

Members informally agreed to a schedule that calls for selecting a search consultant in late December and meeting with the winning firm in mid-January, at the same meeting when two new members elected Tuesday, Republicans Paul Lundeen of the 5th District and Debora Scheffel of the 6th District, take office.

That likely means a new commissioner won’t be selected until next spring.

Schaffer said that he doesn’t think having the current board select the search firm “limits the future board at all. … The experience of Peggy and Randy can be very valuable at this step.” He was referring to Republicans Peggy Littleton and Randy DeHoff, who will be leaving the board.

DeHoff will chair a board subcommittee that will prepare a request for proposals and interview search firms that apply for the job. DeHoff said he’d get started on the RFP Thursday. Other subcommittee members are Littleton and Democrats Elaine Gantz Berman of the 1st District and Jane Goff of the 7th District.

Board discussion indicated that a search could cost anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. “I don’t want to cut any costs. … I don’t want to be constrained at all in finding the best candidate on the planet to come to Colorado,” Schaffer said.

Fighting for social studies tests

The board Wednesday heard testimony from a crew of witnesses who urged that the board add social studies to the list of subjects to be tested by the successor to the CSAP testing system.

Kathryn Hill, CEO of History Colorado (formerly the Colorado Historical Society), warned, “Social studies are in danger of extinction.”

Developer Buz Koelbel, a board member of the Colorado Council for Economic Education, warned, “School districts will continue to de-emphasize the teaching of social studies” if the subject isn’t tested statewide. Reading, writing, math and science are the only tested subjects now.

“I urge you to join 20 others states that do include social studies.”

Pursuant to a 2008 law, the Department of Education has been conducting extensive studies to determine the characteristics of a new testing system to replace the CSAPs. That probably won’t happen until at least 2014.

One of the subcommittees involved in the study recommended that social studies be added to tested subjects, but the main advisory committee didn’t include that in recommendations given to the board recently.

Asked by board members why that happened, Assistant Commission Jo O’Brien said the main “stakeholder” panel was concerned about costs, adding to the length of testing and opening the door for debate about inclusion of other subjects such as physical education and arts.

Some board members were sympathetic to adding social studies. “I would really encourage us all to listen to what they said,” said Marcia Neal, R-3rd District and a retired social studies teacher.

Berman said, “I am convinced that social studies should be a tested area. … I look forward to a healthy discussion at our December board meeting as to whether we should add this test.”

Schaffer said the issue presents “a difficult juggling act” but complained that American education is “becoming more of a German model of training people to work” and moving away from the traditional American ideal of training students to be informed citizens.

A hidden bummer factor in proposed budget?

Vody Herrmann, CDE school finance chief, briefed the board on Gov. Bill Ritter’s proposed 2011-12 budget, released Tuesday (see this story).

The plan includes a modest $43 million increase in state support of K-12 schools, well below what schools would get if projected enrollment growth and inflation were covered.

But Herrmann told the board that as much as $13.5 million of the $43 million could be consumed by increased spending on the new Ascent system, a “fifth-year” program that helps some students take college courses while finishing their high school diplomas.


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.