Friday churn: Jeffco puts closures on hold

Updated 5:10 p.m. – Denver’s election division has rejected an effort to recall Denver School Board President Nate Easley, saying parts of the proposed recall petition are not in compliance with state law.

John McBride, the former school board candidate who launched the effort, can re-file his petition. Easley was elected to represent Far Northeast Denver in 2009. He is part of the board majority that has pushed through dramatic changes in some low-performing schools, including Montbello High School, despite bitter opposition from other board members, the teachers’ union and some community activists and members.

Read the letter outlining issues with McBride’s petition.

Updated 3:45 p.m.Jefferson County school board members are putting any school closures and consolidations on hold through at least 2011-12.

Board members made the decision Thursday night after more discussions of the district’s preliminary five-year facilities master plan, which included the closure and consolidation of up to 16 schools. In the first year, or 2011-12, at least two elementary schools – Thomson and Zerger – were candidates for closure. Read more about the plan here.

“We’re going to continue to look at our options and develop a five-year strategic plan for facilities but we are not in a position to do anything in the immediate future, for this year at least,” said board president Dave Thomas.

While closing and consolidating schools might save Jeffco money in the long run, the initial shuttering of buildings and shifting of students carries a price tag.

“They all have price tags on them and some of them are relatively small,” Thomas said, “but a lot of them have some long-term policy implications and we really want to spend some more time looking at those policy implications.”

That doesn’t mean discussions about a bond issue and tax rate increase are off the table for November 2011, he said.

Updated 3 p.m. – Gaps in early childhood developmental gains, school readiness and academic success will negatively affect the state’s economic health, leaders of the Colorado Early Childhood Leadership Commission told lawmakers and Gov. John Hickenlooper today.

The commission, created by the 2010 legislature, is studying ways to improve health and education outcomes for children 0-8 and specifically to recommend better ways to coordinate fragmented policies and programs.

“Often our efforts are not good enough,” said commissioner co-chair Anna Jo Haynes, citing statistics about childhood poverty and school readiness gaps. Pat Hamill, the other co-chair, said, “We really have no system in the state for early children education.” The group’s report notes there are six state agencies and more than 20 funding sources involved in the field. The commission next year will make recommendations about streamlining such services. Read the full report here.

The commission reported to a joint meeting of four legislative committee and Hickenlooper.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Conversations about the work of the State Council on Educator Effectiveness tend to focus more on teachers than principals. But school leaders are front and center in today’s School Leadership Academy Advisory Board meeting.

The board was created by the 2008 legislature “to provide a statewide comprehensive leadership and professional development system that identifies, recruits, trains and inducts qualified persons for leadership positions in public schools.” But work didn’t get organized until last year because of funding issues. Members have been updating state principal standards and working with the educator effectiveness council, which is developing broader recommendations for teacher and principal effectiveness.

The leadership academy board meets from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the board room at the Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave. On the agenda is a revision of Leadership Standards, based on feedback from the educator effectiveness council, and developing the Leadership Academy concept. The council will present the new Colorado standards for school principals at next month’s State Board of Education meeting.

To learn more about the leadership academy board, including a list of members, and to see the agenda, go here. The educator effectiveness council, meanwhile, meets again Monday. See more about that meeting here.

Good reads from elsewhere:

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”