Southeast Denver evaluates school board candidates

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Our friends in southeast Denver that are fighting the impending co-location of a program nobody wants into Merrill Middle School have shared their “candidate litmus test” with us.  They’re calling it the “Candidate Performance Framework,” which we find very apropos.  Further down, they’ve shared the unedited candidate responses with us.  Read on…

At present, the Denver Public Schools administration is proposing to co-locate a new elementary school concept called “C3” at Merrill Middle School in south east Denver. I have attended countless community meetings and talked with literally hundreds of people across the south east related to this issue. Through these conversations, it became evident that the majority of south east Denver apparently does not want this co-location of C3 at Merrill.

Over the din of most political campaigns, we sometimes have trouble discerning one candidate from another. We were curious about how the at-large and southeast Board of Education candidates would vote on the proposed co-location at Merrill. So, we asked each of them to answer two questions; please see the table below.

Using a similar approach as the district does with its School Performance Framework (“SPF”), we’ve assigned the candidates’ answers color-coded ratings of “green” or “meets expectations”, “yellow” or “approaching expectations”, or “red” which means “does not meet expectations”. This Candidate Performance Framework, or (“CPF”), has colors which, for the table below, symbolize how the candidates will vote (on the co-location issue) as compared the apparent desires of the majority of the constituents they (will) represent. No response from a candidate also equals RED, since one person chose not respond to this community member’s request.

CPF Color Key
GREEN = “Meets expectations” – Candidate will vote in accordance with the community’s apparent wishes.
YELLOW = “approaching expectations” – Candidate’s answer was inconsistent/noncommittal/unclear.
RED = “does not meet expectations” – Candidate will vote with the DPS administration, or is unresponsive to community requests.

 

click image to enlarge

Unedited candidate responses

Southeast Candidates:

Anne Rowe

Response # 1 from Anne, Monday 10/10/11 at 2:32 PM:

As I stated at the Denver Decides Forum, Oct. 1st, I do not support C3 at Merrill. I believe the community engagement was done poorly by the District (which I’ve shared with the District and current board members Bruce Hoyt, Theresa Pena and Mary Seawell) and that the broader strategic thinking around Merrill has not been considered in the District’s proposal. We need great middle schools and I want to work with both Merrill and Grant.

 

Follow-up  question to Anne’s Response # 1, Monday 10/10/11 at 2:37 PM:

If the C3 co-location at Merrill is voted in by the current board, would you move to reverse that decision?

Response # 2 from Anne, Monday 10/10/11 at 3:03 PM:

That’s a tough one. I would have to see the details of the proposal voted on by the current board. Considerations would include:

  • “real” community engagement/input
  • strategic thinking/plan around Merrill
  • examples of co-location of an elementary with a middle school (I think most co-locations have been of similar age students)

Follow-up question to Anne’s Response # 2, Monday 10/10/11 at 3:35 PM:

Hi Anne,

Please see question # 2 again, exactly the same way as I first posed it to you and the other candidates.  I understand your answer to question # 1 is “No”.   I am unclear as to your definitive answer to question # 2.

Here’s the question:  2.  In the event that the current BOE votes “Yes” to the co-location of C3 at Merrill, if elected, would you move to reverse that decision immediately upon being sworn in?

Thanks!

 

Emily Sirota

1. If you were already a member of the BOE right now, would you vote “Yes” on the DPS administration’s proposal to co-locate the C3 at Merrill?

NO.  In my many conversations with Merrill parents they have made known to me they do not want co-location of C3 at Merrill.  The DPS administration “engaged” the Merrill community after the administration had already made its co-location decision.  The district must do a better job of listening to the community, taking their input and working with parents to determine the best course of action in our schools.  We need our parents to feel and be invested in our schools, and by telling them what is going to be done we potentially loose a vital component of student success.

2.  In the event that the current BOE votes “Yes” to the co-location of C3 at Merrill, if elected, would you move to reverse that decision immediately upon being sworn in?

YES – If the building has not been retrofitted.  When I am sworn in I will immediately move to reverse the decision on co-location of C3 at Merrill if no funds have been spent to retrofit Merrill to accommodate C3.  However, if the retrofit is underway or completed, I do not believe it would be fiscally sound to retrofit then move locations.

At-Large Candidates

John Daniel

Thanks for your interest in this race.  We need all the help we can get from parents and people involved with their schools.

1. If you were already a member of the BOE right now, would you vote “Yes” on the DPS administration’s proposal to co-locate the C3 at Merrill?

This has become a complicated issue.  My understanding is Merrill is under-subscribed.  There are too few students of Middle School age registered in the school..  It was designed to hold more students.  We have a number of Elementry schools that are over-subscribed.  This is a less than ideal solution to the situation.  I would vote to co-locate C3.  We only have access to so much relestate and a constrained budget.

2. In the event that the current BOE votes “Yes” to the co-location of C3 at Merrill, if elected, would you move to reverse that decision immediately upon being sworn in?

I would not vote to reverse a co-location of C3 at Merrill.  This is an important issue, but as I feel we need to maximize our use of the available buildings and resources, the co-location is an example of the type of decision we will have to make to maximise our use of funds.  I would prefer to keep the Elementry Children segregated from older children.  That is not always possible.

Frank Deserino

In answer to your first question, NO, would be my vote to have any type of school, especially a charter like C3 to co-locate at Merrill.

In answer to your second question, YES I would vote to reverse any decision that would place / co-locate a C3 at Merrill.

 

Roger Kilgore

I can see why you have been successful in achieving the community-based goals that you have tackled in the past and no doubt will continue to address in the future, like the issue you are raising today. I have to say, I am not a fan of color-coded ratings because they tend to simplify our discussions too much.  Given that, I would request that you distribute my comments, and those of the other candidates, not just the color-coding.

Here are my responses to your two quesitons:

Question 1: The administration has a record of poor to little consultation with the community in co-location and turnaround issues. That comes for a belief that the central administration knows best.. I am running to help strengthen school-centered decision making where parents, teachers, the principal, and the community identifiy issues, develop improvement plans, and work on the implementation of those plans, all with the supporting resources of the administration.  There is clearly a need for more elementary school capacity, but you and others had been working on a Cory-Merrill K-8 scenario that was ignored. It also appears that other options such as the use of Rosedale were not considered. From this the co-location of C3 at Merrill was premature and should not have been approved in June. If I was on the board right now, I would vote NO on the proposal.

Question 2: The board of education is currently hampered by challenged working relations internally and with the Superintendent. I firmly believe that this is not in the best interest of our children. I think it is in their best interest to have a broad range of opinions so we do not get into a “group think” about our education system. If elected, I will commit to investigate this issue immediately with my colleagues, with you, and with other stakeholders. There is more I need to know before taking a stand to reverse the previous board’s decision.  I hope you will not judge me too harshly for not providing an unequivocal yes.

 

Jacqui Shumway

1.   If you were already a member of the BOE right now, would you vote “Yes” on the DPS administration’s proposal to co-locate the C3 at Merrill?   Please answer “Yes” or “No” and explain if you like.

No.  Based upon all of the information you have provided here, it appears that there is not enough room, and would inhibit the efforts to expand Merrill as the community middle school option.  Another location should be explored if Rosedale Elementary is not an option.

As I mentioned in an earlier e-mail, this situation sounds very similar to the 2008 situation at Smiley Middle School.

2.  In the event that the current BOE votes “Yes” to the co-location of C3 at Merrill, if elected, would you move to reverse that decision immediately upon being sworn in?   Please answer “Yes” or “No” and explain if you like.

Yes. We would need to look at other locations and determine if space is available to house C3.  Since the “Prime Choice” time for middle school selection is November-January, we would have to move quickly to inform parents of the change which could greatly effect their child’s choice to attend Merrill.

 

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