Board of Education Meeting Update – June 19, 2017

Board Approves Discipline Policy Changes for Youngest Learners

Denver Board of Education members unanimously approved changes to district discipline policy that are designed to dramatically reduce out-of-school suspensions and end expulsions for students in preschool through grade 3, except as required by law.

The policy changes, which were first introduced by board members in March, represent another milestone in discipline reform. Over the last decade, DPS has reduced its suspension and expulsion rates by more than two-thirds.

Several board members cited the district’s shared core value of equity in their comments supporting the decision, since discipline statistics show students of color are disproportionately impacted in Denver and across the country.

“This is a significant move forward for the district around equity, our core beliefs and our vision of Every Child Succeeds,” said Board Member Happy Haynes.

Both Haynes and Board Vice President Barbara O’Brien said the policy will have far-reaching impact. O’Brien noted district staff conducted a 60-day feedback period to gather student, staff and community input on the policy changes. She herself hosted a telephone town hall in which 4,000 Denver citizens participated.

“The district went out of its way to understand the ramifications of this policy and how to keep other students and teachers in the school safe,” she said, “while our youngest learners stay in school and keep learning.”

DPS Deputy General Counsel Amber Elias, in a memo to board members, notes “the policy is amended to eliminate expulsions except as provided by federal law, which requires expulsion for the possession of a firearm, and the limitation of the use of suspension except in cases of severe offenses which impact staff and/or student safety. The policy also requires the use of developmentally appropriate strategies to address behavior needs.”

Read the policy changes, designated in red text, in Policy JK and in the accompanying policy regulation, Policy JK-R.

Community-Backed Restart Providers Approved for Amesse, Greenlee

Board members voted to approve the placement of two district-run, community-backed restart providers, the Center for Talent Development at Greenlee and the Montbello Children’s Network at John Amesse, beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg recommended these placements to board members last week, based on the findings of each school’s Community Review Board (CRB), which included parents and community members from each school along with professional reviewers.

This year marks the first use of the CRBs, which are intended to provide stronger parent and community voice in the process of replacing low-performing schools that continue to struggle despite significant investments of funding, resources and time. (Learn more about the entire process, the School Performance Compact, here.)

At Greenlee, the Center for Talent Development was the only restart provider under consideration. However, at Amesse, two schools competed to restart the school — STRIVE, a high-performing charter, and the Montbello Children’s Network, formed by educators from nearby McGlone Academy, considered one of DPS’ most successful turnaround schools.

Ultimately, the CRB for Amesse backed the McGlone group but it was a close vote. At tonight’s meeting, several members said the decision was difficult but that both schools represented the promise of a stronger education for Amesse students.

“This is one of those tough decisions where you describe it as a good problem to have,” said Board Member Happy Haynes. Haynes and other board members were complimentary of STRIVE Prep Founder and CEO Chris Gibbons, saying the work of such high-quality charters has “upped the game” for all schools in DPS.

“With the Montbello Children’s Network, we are seeing that response to our schools stepping up,” said Board Member Lisa Flores.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the process is “about getting the very best public school supporting our kids, be that school district-run or charter.”

“Having these two high-quality choices represents an extraordinary promise to the community,” he said.

Learn more about the Montbello Children’s Network: McGlone Academy & John Amesse School Partnership and the Center for Talent Development at Greenlee.

Board Celebrates June as Immigrant Heritage Month 

Board members applauded a proclamation celebrating June as Immigrant Heritage Month. Board Member Rachele Espiritu, the first immigrant to serve on the Denver Board of Education, read the proclamation aloud.

The proclamation celebrates Colorado as “a land of immigrants within a nation of immigrants who have built our country’s economy and created the unique character of our nation.”

It also notes “immigrants have provided the United States, the state of Colorado and the City of Denver with unique social and cultural influence, fundamentally enriching the extraordinary character of our nation” but states these contributions have “frequently been overlooked and undervalued throughout our history.”

Espiritu briefly recounted her family’s history leaving the Philippines for what they thought would be a temporary stay in the United States — until Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. Espiritu said she was a shy little girl so impacted by culture shock in her new U.S. home that she stopped talking. She went on to earn her doctorate in clinical psychology and joined the DPS board in May 2016.

Superintendent’s Update on African-American Equity Task Force 

Board members received an update on the work of the African-American Equity Task Force, formally receiving the task force recommendations.

Sharon Bailey, a former DPS board member whose report led to the creation of the task force, told board members she felt “a deep sense of renewed hope” as a result of the work of the task force. She and several others, however, confirmed the work has really just begun.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion is much like a dance,” she said. “Diversity is being invited, equity is being asked to dance and inclusion is being at the table when the decisions are being made around what type of music will be played and what decorations will be hung.”

Several board members thanked task force members for their work and said they are committed to moving forward.

“I am deeply, deeply committed and encouraged about what we can do together going forward,” said Board President Anne Rowe.

Morey, Inspire Latest Schools to Achieve Innovation Status 

Board members approved the school innovation plans of Inspire Elementary and Morey Middle School.

Innovation schools are district-managed schools that are granted the ability to waive certain requirements in order to improve student achievement. Within the Denver Plan 2020’s strategy of flexibility, innovation status empowers schools to exercise flexible, school-based decision-making. Typically, innovation schools make changes to their school calendars or schedules, their hiring processes and/or curriculum choices.

Innovation schools must be approved by the Denver Board of Education and the State Board of Education, and then undergo renewal of their innovation status every three years.

Policy Revisions Related to Safe and Welcoming School District Resolution 

Board members approved changes to several policies related to the Safe and Welcoming School District resolution approved in February. The changes are designed to ensure the board’s intention with the resolution are clear in related policies. For example, in the board’s Equal Educational Opportunity and Non-discrimination Policy, the policy has been amended to include immigration/citizenship status. Learn more about the policy changes.

Board Approves Updated School Wellness Policy; New Meal Prices 

Board members approved updates to the district’s school wellness policy and nutrition standards for food sold and provided to students during the school day, outside of the school meal program. The new rules are based on recent changes to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations for school districts across the country that participate in the National School Lunch Program. Changes to the policy include food served in school stores, classroom parties and food incentives given by educators. See the policy changes here.

In addition, the board approved small increases to meal prices for the 2017-18 school year. See the changes here.