Who Is In Charge

Literacy, ASSET vie for attention

Revisions to the early childhood literacy bill, expected to be offered in committee Wednesday, would give more flexibility to school districts in carrying out the program, and the amendments also include $16 million in funding.

Legislature 2012 logoThe hearing on House Bill 12-1238 is in the Senate Affairs Committee at 1:30 p.m. – the same time at which the House Finance Committee convenes to take up Senate Bill 12-015, the undocumented students tuition bill.

The overlapping hearings come as the pace of events is getting faster at the Capitol, given that lawmakers face a May 9 deadline to adjourn for the year.

Other big bills are also stacked up, including House Bill 12-1345, the 2012-13 school finance act. It passed the House Tuesday on a 63-1 final vote and now must make its way through the Senate.

Crucial hearing for literacy bill

The Colorado Early Literacy Act, House Bill 12-1238, has drawn a lot of attention since the idea surfaced last year, pushed by business and education reform groups and modeled on a Florida law.

The main lightning rod was a proposal to require holding back third graders who are significantly below grade level in reading. Faced with widespread criticism, mandatory retention never made it into the bill. But the bill has been subject to intense scrutiny by – and jockeying among – education interest groups since it was introduced Feb. 7.

The House Education Committee spent seven hours on the bill, and House floor debate lasted two hours.

As passed by the full House on March 21, the bill’s original “preference” for retention of struggling third graders was softened. (See this story for details on the bill’s provisions as it left the House.)

The measure faced an uncertain future in the Senate, given a skeptical Democratic leadership and lobbying from school district interests who saw the bill as too restrictive and underfunded. The bill was assigned not to the Senate Education Committee but to State Affairs, sometimes used as a “kill committee.”

But key Democratic senators – sponsor Mike Johnston of Denver, State Affairs chair Rollie Heath of Boulder, vice chair Bob Bacon of Fort Collins and other senators – have been working on amendments. House sponsor Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, and staff from the governor’s office also were in on the talks.

Proposed amendments were circulated to lobbyists and interest group leaders at midday Tuesday. Key features of the proposed changes include:

• A focus on students with a “significant reading deficiency” (to be defined by the State Board of Education). The House version of the bill also covers students with “reading deficiencies,” defined as those reading below grade level but above the level of significant deficiency.

• Use of interest revenue from the state school lands permanent fund to provide about $16 million in per-pupil funding (about $700 per student) to districts working with students who have significant reading deficiencies. The House version of the bill included about $5 million in funding. Proposed changes in the bill’s legislative declaration specifically note the need for financial resources.

As in the House bill, additional funds, about $4 million, would be available for a grant program for districts who need help implementing the program.

• Easing of some of the more detailed requirements for parent consultation and notification contained in the House version.

• While the proposed amendments still have specific references to retention as an option for struggling readers, the language is somewhat softened compared to the House version. Superintendent review of retention decisions for third graders remains in the bill.

• Addition of specific interventions, such as enrollment in full-day kindergarten, summer school and tutoring, for K-3 students with reading problems.

The State Affairs hearing on the bill will be in the Old Supreme Court Chambers on the second floor of the Capitol.

At the same time the House Finance Committee will hear the ASSET tuition bill in room LSB-A of the Legislative Services Building, across the street from the Capitol at 200 E. 14th Ave. The measure passed out of the House Education Committee Monday night on a 7-6 vote (see story).

The measure, freighted as it is with arguments over illegal immigration, faces tough prospects in the Republican-controlled House. Some observers believe House Finance is where it will die this year.

Testing costs last stumbling block to budget deal?

The Joint Budget Committee Tuesday started – but didn’t finish – trying to reconcile House and Senate amendments to House Bill 12-1335, the 2012-13 state budget.

The main stumbling point appears to be restoration of $5.7 million that the JBC originally included in the budget for development of new state science and social studies tests. The Senate stripped that money and put it in the budget for state economic development efforts.

Committee members seem inclined to restore the testing funding but couldn’t agree Tuesday on other sources for the economic development budget. The six-member panel had to break off discussions because Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, had to leave at 4 p.m., reportedly for President Obama’s speech in Boulder. Chair Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, was not happy.

Houses send each other fresh bills

Both houses voted final passage for several bills Tuesday, including:


  • House Bill 12-1345 – School finance act (63-1)
  • House Bill 12-1306 – Reimbursement of school districts for mid-year enrollment increases (43-21)
  • House Bill 12-1069 – Creation of a three-day sales tax holiday in August for school supplies and clothing (44-20)
  • House Bill 12-1331 – Western State name change to Western State Colorado University (60-4)


  • Senate Bill 12-047 – Requiring skills tests, such as Accuplacer, for all students at least once during high school (34-0)
  • Senate Bill 12-164 – Regulation of for-profit colleges that award bachelors and graduate degrees and establishing consumer protections for students (25-8)

Lawmakers can’t help themselves

Sure, the session enters its 106th of 120 days Wednesday, and things are already getting a little nutty. But that doesn’t prevent lawmakers from introducing new measures. New this week are resolutions for proposed constitutional amendments on initiative petitions, use of lottery revenues for education and PERA transparency, plus a bill to allow resident tuition rates for some military dependents.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.