Tuesday Churn: New DCTA suit response

Updated – The legal volleys continue in the battle between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association on the subject of innovation schools, with the union’s filing on Monday of a response to the district’s earlier motion for dismissal of a lawsuit.

The DCTA sued the district in June over DPS’s approval of 10 new innovation schools, most of them in Denver’s Far Northeast, claiming that they were green-lighted in defiance of key provisions in the 2008 Innovation School Act.

That law requires that at least a 60 percent majority of the staffs at the affected schools vote their support of innovation status; the union’s contention is that DPS broke the law by seeking innovation status for the schools before their staffs were in place – preventing such a vote from being taken.

The union, representing roughly 4,000 DPS teachers, is asking that a judge either reverse the granting of the schools’ innovation status or that votes of the schools’ staffs now be taken.

In its motion to dismiss, DPS had argued that “mandamus” ­ a court order to a government entity ­ cannot be used to force a government body, such as the school district, to undo something which has already been done, as the union was asking. “It can neither be used to invalidate an action already taken nor to prevent an official from performing an action in the future,” the district had contended.

But the union’s new filing argues otherwise. Saying the district acted “unilaterally” in approving the schools, it asserts “there was no opportunity” for the DCTA to be heard during the decision-making process, leaving an after-the-fact reversal by the courts as its only legal remedy.

Lawyers for DPS now have until Sept. 26 to file a reply brief to the latest DCTA filing, after which District Judge Ann B.  Frick is expected to set a hearing date for the district’s motion to dismiss the action.

Read the latest DCTA filing in the case here.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock this morning sent a clear signal that he will endorse candidates in at least some of the three Denver school board races.

Speaking to a meeting of the A-Plus Denver citizens group, Hancock said it is “more than likely I will make endorsements.” He said he has interviewed all but one candidate for the three contested seats and will decide whom to endorse once the interviews are complete.

As a candidate for mayor earlier this year, Hancock made Denver Public Schools a campaign issue, even though the mayor has no control over the school district. Hancock told A-Plus members he did so against the advice of some of his advisors, because he believes a stronger school system would have a positive impact on all other aspects of the city.

In the city-wide at-large race, where the seat is open, Hancock would choose among five candidates: John Daniel, Frank Deserino, Happy Haynes, Roger Kilgore and Jacqui Shumway. In southeast Denver’s District 1, Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota are vying for the open seat. And in northwest Denver’s District 5, Jennifer Draper Carson is taking on incumbent Arturo Jimenez.

Hancock also told A-Plus that despite his campaign’s focus on DPS, and his likely endorsements, he has no designs on mayoral control of the school system.

“Between me and my God, there is no way I want to run the schools,” he said.

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.