exclusive

Citing capacity concerns, KIPP, Freedom Prep pull out of ASD takeover process

Two charter operators on Monday pulled out of the state’s efforts to take over some of its worst-performing schools next year.

KIPP Memphis officials said they would not take over South Side Middle School and Freedom Prep officials said they would not take over Florida-Kansas and A.B. Hill elementary schools next year, as the state-run Achievement School District had planned.

Officials with both charters raised concerns about their own ability to take over more schools, a laborious and expensive process that includes replacing leadership, hiring teachers, and building a new curriculum.

The development means South Side Middle and A.B. Hills Elementary schools will not be taken over by the state’s Achievement School District. Florida-Kansas could still be matched with Scholar Academies charter.

Two weeks ago, to much fanfare, ASD officials announced that they would take over nine schools next year and hand them over to nonprofit, privately run charter schools.

Over the next two months, they said, the charter operators would go through an extensive “matching” process with 12 schools in order for officials to determine which schools should be taken over. Several meetings with community members were set to start tonight.

Three of those schools – including South Side Middle School – would definitely be taken over by vetted charter operators next year, ASD officials said. Nine other schools would go through a months-long “matching” process to help ASD officials make the determination whether the ASD should, in fact, take over the schools and to which of five charter operators they should match them.

Of the three schools affected by today’s development, only one of them, Florida-Kansas Elementary, has another charter operator — Scholar Academies —  named as a possible pairing partner.

Teachers at South Side Middle School protested the takeover process last week, sending a letter to government officials and the media arguing that their scores had improved in the past year.

KIPP said the protest didn’t play into its decision to pull out of the process.

“We view the matching process as just that, a matching process,” said Jamal McCall, the executive director of KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools. “With me doing our reflection, I was looking at where we are as a network, and my focus right now is on the quality of our current schools and ensuring that we continue to commit to those we currently serve and serve as we expand grade levels.”

McCall described the matching process with the Achievement School District as cloudy. KIPP originally requested to open a new elementary school inside a school that was closed by the district last year.  That plan, McCall said, is still in the works.

When the Achievement School District proposed KIPP take over South Side Middle School, McCall saw it as a “reachback.”

South Side was on the short list of schools to be taken over last year but ASD officials decided at the last minute not to pair it with ASD or Artesian.

“South Side is not KIPP’s priority list, it’s on ASD’s priority list,” McCall said. “Whether or not KIPP partners with South Side. ASD still has right to decide what happens with south side no matter what KIPP wants.  That’s the law.  South Side is on their priority list.”

Freedom Prep officials said they lack the capacity at the moment to expand their work to additional schools.

For example, each one of their current elementary school classrooms has two teachers an expensive experiment to lower class sizes and give kids more individualized attention.

“It’s really internal and external factors and changes that happened with our organization that effected our capacity to open a brand new schools and serve kids the way they need to be served,” said Roblin Webb, the executive director and founder of Freedom Prep. “We want to serve more kids but the last thing we want to do is serve kids poorly. We’re not doing that school any justice.”

This story has been updated to add comments from KIPP and Freedom Prep leaders.

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.