The following post was submitted by Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.
The membership of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association would like to take this opportunity to rebut a few of the assertions made by Denver Public Schools in the article “DPS board 4-3 on FNE schools” published by your organization Monday, May 2.
The Denver school board did not have legal authority to approve three new Denver public schools (Noel Community Arts School, the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford and the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello) for innovation status because these schools do not have the complete staff employed to approve this action. According to the Innovation Schools Act, schools may only be approved for this status when they have secured:
- Evidence that a majority of the administrators employed at the public school, a majority of the teachers employed at the public school, and a majority of the school accountability committee for the public school consent to designation as an innovation school.
- A statement of the level of support for designation as an innovation school demonstrated by the other persons employed at the public school, the students and parents of students enrolled in the public school, and the community surrounding the public school.
Since the new schools have yet to employ a complete staff, and have yet to create levels of support among students, parents and the community, it’s impossible for the board to meet these requirements for approval. The Innovation Schools Act does not allow a new school with no current teachers employed and no current accountability committee to begin as an innovation school.
Further, the board’s rush to approval also brings up the significant concern that these schools will use consent for innovation status as a condition for employment, which is clearly outside the scope of the Innovation Schools Act. The article quoted DPS legal counsel John Kechriotis, who claimed the board had legal precedence for approving these new schools as innovation schools. The two cases he cited, however, should not be used to approve these new schools.
In the case of Denver Green School, the law requiring a staff in place for an innovation vote was not applied in creating its innovation status. The failure to apply the law for this school does not mean the law shouldn’t be applied in new cases. In the case of the Math and Science Leadership Academy, this learning institution is a performance school, not an innovation school. MSLA was negotiated collaboratively between DCTA and the district in accordance with performance school policy. Its status is irrelevant to the creation of new innovation schools.
DCTA does not oppose a school’s right to apply for innovation status; however, in the case of these new schools, their faculty and school accountability committee should vote on whether they actually need innovation status or not. Alternatively, the District could work with DCTA to create new performance schools like MSLA. Either of these options would give the teachers and the school community a voice in such an important decision.
The law needs to be implemented as it was intended – rushing new schools into innovation status without the consent of employees who haven’t even begun employment in these schools neither fulfills the spirit nor the letter of the law.
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