Board of Education Update – December 18, 2017 Work Session

Strengthening Neighborhoods Recommendations Presented

On March 16, the board passed a resolution that established the citywide Strengthening Neighborhoods committee, charged with the task of developing recommendations to increase integration and inclusion in all our schools, and to effectively address issues associated with the declining number of school-aged children in gentrifying areas of the city.

After nearly six months of work, which included conversations with over 300 community members and educators, the committee presented its recommendations to the Board of Education at the December 18, 2017 work session.

Co-chairs Diana Romero Campbell, president of local literacy nonprofit Scholars Unlimited; Antwan Jefferson, clinical assistant professor, Human Development and Family Relations, University of Colorado-Denver School of Education and Human Development; and Janice Sinden, CEO of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts presented the recommendations.

“We believe deeply in achieving our Denver Plan goal of Great Schools in Every Neighborhood , and we believe integration is a key lever for achieving this goal,” said Romero Campbell. “That’s really how we approached this work. …research shows that all students benefit from being in an integrated school environment.” The committee created a mission to work toward integration and inclusion, which both improves students’ academic outcomes and also creates vibrant, sustainable communities.

The four overarching recommendations include:

  1. Goal Setting and Progress Monitoring: Set clear targets for increasing socioeconomic integration within our schools, and regularly monitor each school’s progress toward those goals.
  2. Resources, Incentives and Supports: Find resources, incentives and supports to help schools create more inclusive and integrated environments.
  3. City Coordination and Advocacy: Coordinate closely with city agencies and community partners, knowing that DPS cannot tackle an issue of this scale alone.
  4. Community Engagement: Expand existing engagement efforts to ensure that students, families and communities are partners in implementation.

The committee also developed recommendations in three specific focus areas:

  • Access to schools
    • School choice: Give underrepresented students priority in the enrollment system so they can attend the school that is the best fit for their family.
    • Boundaries and zones: Use enrollment zones to increase integration and opportunity for students across larger geographic areas.
    • Transportation: Use transportation to increase access to schools for both more- and less-affluent families.
    • Enrollment: In order to equitably serve highly-mobile students, require schools to make seats available for new students, all year and in all grades.
  • Equity in schools and classrooms
    • Expanded metrics: Develop measures of school culture and climate that can be used by each school to identify and assess equitable teaching practices.
    • Equity in budget: Create greater transparency about how DPS gives funding to schools with the goal of increasing success for all students. Regularly evaluate funding strategies to see if they are creating more equitable outcomes for students.
    • Role of the community: Expand the role of communities and families by increasing support structures that build trust, increase engagement and provide authentic feedback between schools and community.
  • Design and sustainability
    • Declining school-aged population: Proactively evaluate and respond to the impact of actual and forecasted declines in school-aged population throughout the city.
    • New school design: Strive to foster schools that are diverse and that provide inclusive excellence for all students.
    • School planning: DPS should reward individual school leaders and teachers for making progress toward shorter-term goals related to diversity and inclusive excellence in schools, and hold them accountable when such progress is not made.

You can learn more about the committee and read a summary of the recommendations here, or read the full recommendations report here. Board members are expected to delve into the recommendations in detail at their Jan. 11 Focus on Achievement session.School leaders, watch for materials regarding opportunities to promote integration through SchoolChoice in early 2018.

Denver Language School Recommended for Placement at Gilpin

Superintendent Tom Boasberg endorsed the Gilpin Facility Placement Committee’s recommendation to place grades 5-8 of the Denver Language School (DLS) at the Gilpin facility in Curtis Park. The fourth grade is included in the placement only for one year, while a portion of DLS’ main facility is under construction.

The committee met five times to review seven applications received to use the building. The committee recommended Denver Language School due to its consistently high academic performance, track record of strong enrollment and robust bus transportation system. The committee examined district enrollment data, and confirmed that the school will have minimal to no enrollment impact on neighboring middle schools. DLS’ unique school model has historically drawn from across the district and enrolled very few new students after kindergarten.

Board members asked questions about the community engagement, timing and process. The district makes decisions about which approved schools will be placed in district buildings through the Call for New Quality Schools process. This past October, DPS started the process for Gilpin by releasing an application that called for currently operating or previously-approved secondary schools that enroll students from across the city in a unique program model.

Liz Mendez, director of operation support services, and John Hayden, president of the Curtis Park Neighborhood Association, presented the recommendation. The board is expected to make the final placement decision at its meeting Thursday.

2018-19 School Calendar Proposed; Vote Expected Thursday

The Calendar Advisory Committee submitted the proposed 2018-19 school calendar to the Board of Education. Key items include:

  • School starts Aug. 20, ends May 31.
  • Full weeks off at Thanksgiving, Winter Break and Spring Break.
  • Spring Teal Days align with interim assessments, Student Learning Objective (SLO) conversations.
  • Renamed “Parent-Teacher Conferences” to “Family Conferences”; Provided flexibility at the school level to decide the need for and schedule of a Spring Family Conference day.

The committee is comprised of 15+ principals, teachers, parents, instructional and operational department representatives, and members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association who solicited input from their networks and approximately 100 additional stakeholders.

The board is expected to formally adopt the 2018-19 calendar at its meeting Thursday. You can view the presentation here and see the proposed calendar here.

2018-19 Budget Update Includes Five-Year Forecast

Chief Finance Officer Mark Ferrandino presented a budget update that includes a five-year forecast. While the board is not expected to approve the district’s budget until May, school leaders begin planning their budgets in mid-January.

The projection shows it will be challenging for the district to maintain its budget balance, largely due to negotiated increases in teacher compensation and other increasing expenses. Superintendent Boasberg said the district is committed to continuing to shield classrooms from any necessary cuts. See the presentation here.