right fit

Search for new leader for struggling Adams City High School will continue

PHOTO: Denver Post File
Students at Adams City High listen to Dave Nikaido, who graduated from the school in 1952, describe how difficult it was for him decades ago to start school in America knowing no English — only Japanese.

A Commerce City high school staring at possible state sanctions for poor academic performance will not have a new principal by the start of next semester as envisioned.

District officials are reopening the application process to find a principal for Adams City High School after Javier Abrego, the Adams County School District 14 superintendent, said he didn’t feel comfortable hiring any of the finalists.

“It’s going to be a challenging position. It’s a unique position,” Abrego said Monday. “There was a feeling that they weren’t quite ready for that.”

The district announced three finalists last month and hosted a meeting at the school so the community could meet the candidates and provide feedback.

The candidates included Jennifer Abeyta-Cifuentes, a former assistant principal at Adams City; Caroll Duran, a current assistant principal at Adams City; and Mark Roberts, a former principal of Aurora Central High School.

Abrego said an ideal candidate will have a proven record of improving other schools, experience working with English language learners and an ability to unite the school community.

The current leader of Adams City High School, Gionni Thompson, accepted a district job as executive director of secondary schools earlier this year and has been working both jobs while a replacement is found.

Adams City has been a low-performing school for some time. This year’s preliminary state ratings show it failed to earn a higher rating for a fifth year. That means the state must step in and may choose from a limited number of options including closing the school or handing over management to a third-party.

District officials say they are working on drafting a plan for innovation status for the school. The state could also choose to accept an innovation plan as a reform strategy, giving the school more time to show improvement.

Abrego said his new goal is to have a new school leader in place by July, which means the new principal may not have a hand in shaping the innovation plan that he or she will be overseeing. Abrego said taking time to find the right person is more important.

“The most important thing is to find that outstanding person,” Abrego said. “It’s more important that we do that correctly.”

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.

Half-priced homes

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is announcing an educator discount that will allow employees of all Detroit schools to buy houses from the Land Bank at 50 percent off.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is getting ready this morning to announce a major effort to lure teachers and other school employees to the city of Detroit: Offering them half-priced homes.

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

For city schools, the discounts give administrators another perk to offer prospective employees. District and charter schools in Detroit face severe teacher shortages that have created large class sizes and put many children in classrooms without fully qualified teachers.

Detroit’s new schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has said he’s determined to make sure the hundreds of teacher vacancies that affected city schools last year are addressed by the start of classes in September.

In the press release, he’s quoted praising the discount program. “There is an opportunity and need to provide innovative solutions to recruit and retain teachers to work with our children in Detroit.”

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Educator Discount Program will be announced at an event scheduled for 10:45 this morning in front of a Land Bank house in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood.

The Land Bank currently auctions three homes per day through its website, with bidding starting at $1,000.