The Daily Churn: Thursday

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Updated 6 p.m.Gubernatorial candidates John Hickenlooper and Don Maes debated education and children’s issues today at a session organized by our partners at 9News, along with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and The Children’s Hospital. Both candidates agreed there’s little immediate likelihood of tax increases to support schools. Third-party candidate Tom Tancredo was invited to the event but cancelled. Go here to read the 9News story and view video clips.

What’s churning:

Terrance Carroll, the term-limited speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, is the new chairman of the board of A+ Denver, an education advocacy group founded in 2006. Carroll replaces former Denver Mayor Federico Peña as chair of the group.

Carroll, a Denver Democrat and the first African-American elected speaker, is a lawyer with Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with offices in Denver.

A+ describes itself as “non-profit independent civic organization formed to help Denver transform its public school district into the best in the country and to make increased student achievement and public school reform a top priority in the Denver community.”

The organization has at times been an aggressive advocate for change in Denver Public Schools, most notably during debate over the future of the ProComp teacher compensation system. In 2008, ProComp was instrumental in pushing the district to steer some of its ProComp reserves toward larger bonuses for teachers who measurably improved student achievement or taught in tough-to-staff positions or in challenging schools. More recently, the organization has kept a lower profile.

Gov. Bill Ritter’s office has announced that more than 900,000 free meals were served to Colorado children over the summer break, the largest number since the free summer meals program was started more than three decades ago. You can get more information in this news release and background in this recent EdNews story.

What’s on tap:

A grudge match between the Colorado Leadership Academy charter school in Commerce City and the Adams 14 school district is expected to be the highlight of today’s State Board of Education meeting. The school – the district’s only charter – wants the district’s exclusive chartering authority revoked, claiming Adams 14 hasn’t treated it fairly or legally in financial and other matters.

Revocation of the district’s exclusive chartering authority would mean the school could apply to be supervised by the state’s Charter School Institute. CDE officials say this is the first time a district’s exclusive chartering authority has been challenged. Most districts have such authority. You can read the school’s appeal here and the district’s reply here. The hearing starts at 2 p.m.

At the school’s request, CDE officials examined some of the school’s financial claims. The board was told Wednesday that the district appeared to be in the right in most cases. (Read the staff report.)

The board today also is expected to discuss and vote on resolutions opposing the three budget-busting ballot measures, amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. (Get background on what opponents call the “ugly three.”)

And outgoing board member Peggy Littleton, R-5th District, has proposed a resolution on violent video games.

The Denver school board meets at 5 p.m. tonight at the usual place, 900 Grant St. The agenda includes Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s report on school ratings and a decision about buying a 5.91-acre site near Montbello High School to start an early childhood education center tentatively scheduled to open in fall 2011. The center is being designed to serve more than 250 preschool and kindergarten students, relieving capacity strains in nearby elementary schools.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County’s school board will meet at 5 p.m. tonight at the district’s Golden headquarters. Tonight’s meeting, and another scheduled for noon tomorrow, same place, are a continuation of board members’ work with facilitator Matt Van Aucken , who’s helping them with teamwork. Tonight’s agenda describes meeting several goals in the earlier meeting:

“On August 20, the Board met several of its desired outcomes toward being a more effective and responsible team, including communication agreements on parent/student advocacy; communications with board members and superintendent on issues, students and advice; meeting structure agreements including timing of and member participation in discussion topics, arrival time for regular meetings, and presiding member role in the absence of the Board President; and, review of governance process policies, including agreement on action related to Board Member Conflict of Interest (GP-9) and the Financial Oversight Committee.”

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 [email protected]

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.”