STRIVE community: No more delays

STRIVE Prep supporters gathered before the Denver Board of Education Thursday to make a clear plea: Don’t put off the decision on the location of their new high school any longer.

About 50 people attended a Choose North Now meeting in early October, one of several heated meetings about a proposal to open a STRIVE Prep high school at North High.

The parents and students who flanked the microphone in the boardroom did not provide a preferred location. They simply want a decision.

Student Edgar Campos said STRIVE has already altered the trajectory of his young life. He was comfortable talking to the adults in the room because he has to give a speech every six weeks at STRIVE Prep, he said. The system of reward and penalties at the school keep him on track.

“Students have to really pay attention because if you don’t you will get behind,” Campos said. “This school has given me confidence that I can get to college.”

After every speaker, members of the STRIVE crowd snapped their fingers.

District staff already recommended a location for the first STRIVE high school in the charter network: North High School. Under a controversial district proposal the high school would take the place of the STRIVE Highland middle school. Meanwhile, the middle school would move into the vacant Remington building.

But a vocal contingent of Northwest Denver parents and community members have fought the proposal. They worry the addition of a charter high school will disrupt the transformation now underway at North, a turnaround school, and create unnecessary competition. Furthermore, they don’t believe there will be space for STRIVE if student projections at North come to fruition.

A working group of citizens from all affected schools proposed alternatives but was unable to garner community support for any of them. The board is slated to make a decision on the location of STIVE Prep High School, scheduled to open next fall, on Nov. 29.

At a community forum Tuesday at North High School, district staff said there were two new options for STRIVE Prep.  One of the buildings is vacant; the other is not. However, the purchase or lease of a privately owned facility would require spending additional district resources.  Due to the sensitivity of the real estate negotiations, staff declined to provide details regarding the two options.

STRIVE Prep’s CEO Chris Gibbons said STRIVE families were asked by STRIVE staff not to attend the informational meeting at North to provide a space for the North community to express its feelings about co-location and ask questions.

At the board meeting Thursday, STRIVE middle schooler Esmeralda Contrerras said STRIVE has helped her grow as an “independent scholar.”

“I encourage the Board of Education to quickly decide where my STRIVE Northwest high will be located,” she said.

The system of rewards and consequences “make us realize our mistakes, fix them and quickly move on.”

STRIVE teacher and parent Lee Vigil said STRIVE embodies a true love of learning in a “small, safe” learning environment.

“The doors are always open,” she said, adding that teachers, students and staff are leading their own kind of educational “revolution.” Middle school students never have less than an hour of homework each day and are expected to read for at least 30 minutes per day.

“The teachers and leaders at STRIVE Prep are visionary,” she said. “These scholars know where they come from, where they are going and why.”

“We have been waiting since March. We need to proceed quickly and decide upon a location. There is too much at stake to delay any longer.”

Linda Gonzales, parent of a STRIVE eighth-grader, said the board needed to make a speedy decision for the kids.

“It’s kind of important for our kids,” Gonzales said. “They don’t really think about much but school. For them next year is coming very quickly. We have a school to prepare for and get ready.”

Neither board members Arturo Jimenez nor Andrea Merida attended the meeting. Board member Jeannie Kaplan said her colleague Jimenez was in Washington, D.C., as part of a program to train Latino school board members and school leaders. Board President Mary Seawell had to leave the meeting early due to a childcare conflict, although she was there for the STRIVE testimony.

Candace Ortiz, a member of the stakeholder working group and mother of a STRIVE eighth-grader, said the time has come to make this difficult decision.

“It’s been a long summer and long few months,” Ortiz said. “I believe in all three options. I believe we do have a lot of viable options. I believe that a lot of work has gone into this… I am pleading with you tonight, as a member of the stakeholder work group, this decision is not delayed any further. Please keep the date of Nov. 29 as the date where the decision is made.”

With that, more snaps from the audience. Board members – who have already listened to exhaustive testimony on the divisive co-location plan – listened, but didn’t make any comments.

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.