Friday Churn: Jones enters DPS race

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Updated 10:45 a.m. – Manual High School administrator Vernon Jones on Thursday said he’s decided to seek the at-large Denver Public Schools board seat being vacated by term-limited Theresa Pena.

Jones’ move has heightened speculation about a potential candidacy for the same opening by
Democratic former state Sen. Ken Gordon.

Reached this morning, Gordon confirmed that he is mulling an at-large bid but added, “I have not made a decision about that.” Asked about when he’ll decide, Gordon said, “I think I should probably do it sooner, rather than later.”

Gordon would not talk about his view on key DPS issues, saying, “I think I would be premature to discuss that. … “I guess I would just say that [nothing is more important than] the education
of our children.”

“I don’t have anything to say” about Jones, Gordon said. “I don’t know Vernon.”

One political analyst familiar with the developing DPS candidate field predicted that Gordon, if he runs, would likely have the strong backing of union interests.

Gordon, a lawyer, was elected in 1992 to the Colorado House, where he served as minority leader, and he later served in the Senate, where he was majority leader before being term-limited in 2008. He represented districts in far southeast Denver. In 2006 he narrowly lost the secretary of state race to Republican Mike Coffman, now a congressman.

This won’t be the first campaign for Jones, who ran a strong second to board president Nate Easley when Easley was elected in November 2009 to represent District 4 in Far Northeast Denver.

A month ago Jones told EdNews that he was considering a bid for the at-large seat. He issued a statement Thursday saying, “Every child in every classroom in every community deserves an excellent school. Every child deserves to be prepared for success on the next pathways of his or her life. That’s the bottom line, and that’s why I’ll be seeking this opportunity in November 2011.”

Jones’ statement expresses his commitment to continue his “100 percent focus” on his job at Manual. He said he plans to make a formal announcement of his candidacy in a few weeks. Jones will be director of community engagement next fall.

Candidates who previously said they will run for the at-large seat are former Denver City Council member Happy Haynes, who resigned May 11 as DPS’s chief community engagement officer, and Roger Kilgore, a Park Hill resident and longtime business consultant. (It was announced this week that Haynes has joined CRL Associates, the influential political and public affairs consulting firm.)

Two other DPS seats will be contested this year. In District 5, incumbent Arturo Jimenez is seeking a second term representing northwest Denver and is being challenged by Jennifer Draper Carson. Bruce Hoyt is term-limited in District 1 representing southeast Denver. Announced candidates for that seat to date are Frank Deserino, Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota.

Aug. 3 is the first day DPS board candidates can circulate nominating petitions, and Aug. 26 is the deadline for filing petitions.

What’s on tap:

The University of Northern Colorado trustees meet starting at 8:30 a.m. A top agenda item is consideration of 2011-12 tuition and fees. The administration is proposing a 13.2 percent increase for resident undergraduates taking 13-16 credit hours. The meeting’s on campus in Greeley. Details

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and two other officials have scheduled a 10 a.m. Monday news conference to “make a major funding announcement for work aimed at dramatically increasing student achievement in Colorado.” (Don’t you love news release lingo?)

Word on the street is that the news will be a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fund implementation of the educator effectiveness law and related efforts.

Like most of the education reform laws passed since 2008, the effectiveness law didn’t come with state funding, forcing the Department of Education to rely on outside grants – known in statehouse lingo as “GGDs” – gifts, grants and donations.

The Rose Community Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the Daniels Fund, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and Co. and Common Good already have provided support for the State Council on Educator Effectiveness and related CDE work.

Garcia will be joined by education Commissioner Robert Hammond and Legacy executive director Helayne Jones for the event in the echoey marble lobby of CDE, 201 E. Colfax Ave.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Common tests: Armed with federal money, two multistate groups are working on developing common tests that could be a life-saver for a cash-strapped state like Colorado, which is facing 2014 legal deadline to replace the CSAPs. Colorado has been working with both groups, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Comes now news that California, an 800-pound gorilla if there ever was one, has affiliated exclusively with the SMARTER group, perhaps indicating a shift in the balance of influence between the two groups. EdWeek Curriculum Matters blog

Go figure: Student pass rates plummeted after California State University Bakersfield switched some developmental math courses to an all-online system. But, after the new system was fine-tuned to include mandatory lab hours, pass rates soared to levels higher than they’d been when the courses were taught in the traditional classroom setting. Inside Higher Education

Tax credit plan faulted: A study by the Southern Education Foundation has concluded that Georgia’s tax credit program for private school tuition lacks accountability, doesn’t help at-risk children and should be changed or shut down. Tax credit proposals have had tough sledding in the Colorado legislature; a 2011 bill couldn’t muster enough support to even get out of the GOP-controlled House. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Churn is published occasionally during the summer – whenever news breaks.

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.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.