Who Is In Charge

First charter gets BEST money

The state Public School Capital Construction Assistance Board Wednesday approved the first grant of Build Excellent Schools Today funds to a charter school, awarding $1.3 million to The Classical Academy of Colorado Springs for a school that’s being built on the grounds of Pikes Peak Community College.

The board also approved grants to two small districts that were kind of the poster kids for the BEST program, Edison and Miami-Yoder on the plains of El Paso County. Those “are the two schools that inspired the then-speaker of the House [Andrew Romanoff] to put together the BEST bill,” said board chair Mary Wickersham, who was the author of the 2004 “Crumbling Classrooms” report that began raising public awareness of school building needs.

The board makes recommendations for grants to the State Board of Education, which will consider proposals at its Aug. 12/13 meeting. The construction board will finish its list of recommendations Thursday.

In late 2007 The Classical Academy’s 800 students were driven out of the modular classrooms they had been using because of mold problems and have been using space in four Academy District 20 buildings. Construction began late last year on the new school at the Pikes Peak campus, with completion expected at the end of September. The charter is providing $11.6 million of the total cost.

The construction board approved a $17.7 million grant to Miami-Yoder for phase two of expansion of its PRE-12 building. There is no local match because the district already is at 90 percent of its bonding capacity. The plan is to use the state funding to pay off a lease-purchase plan.

The board also approved a $78,737 cash grant to the Edison district to help pay the final bills on $2.6 million elementary school construction project that was paid for with $2.2 million in previous state grants and about $410,000 in local money.

The board is considering 91 grant applications including $231.3 million in requests with $163.8 million in district matches. This is the largest round of grant application since the BEST program was established in 2008 and is the last round to be a decided before a statewide needs assessment of all school buildings is completed later this year.

Do your homework

List of applicants and program rules (514-page PDF)
Division of Capital Construction Assistance webpage


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”