June 14, 2017
Diana Aqra/Denver, CO – In the last public comment session before the Denver Board of Education Thursday, several charter schools gave testimonies to earn the control of two highly contested school closures in 2017.
STRIVE Preparatory Schools and McGlone Academy, two growing charter networks in Denver, vied for the takeover of John Amesse Elementary while Center for Talent Development at Greenlee contended for Greenlee Elementary. Both Amesse and Greenlee were schools closed this year by the Board due to low-performance and are expected to restart under new control in 2017-2018.
According to the Board’s website, final facility placements will be made on Monday, June 19. A Community Review Board, including Superintendent Tom Boasberg, have already released recommendations for the decision, signaling McGlone Academy will be the winner of Amesse and the Center for Talent Development will be the winner of Greenlee.
The restarts themselves and the charter schools vying for them did not uncontested during the meeting. Parents, teachers, former teachers and even recently graduated high school students from the Denver Public School system stood at the podium to protest charter schools taking over the schools.
The decision will be based on which school will be the “best available option” and include criteria such as if the school is able to provide Transitional Native Language Instruction, build stronger ties with the community and improve overall education.
STRIVE Prep arrived with more than a dozen teachers, students, bilingual parents and its CEO, Chris Gibbons all in STRIVE marked T-shirts. Their remarks aimed to promote their charter school as the most equitable and highest form of education for children available. STRIVE Prep currently operates two middle schools in the far Northeast; one Green Valley Ranch and one in the Montbello neighborhood.
Although the restart process is to improve performance of the school, many parents complained that the process is disruptive and not in the best interest of the community.
A parent and self-identified lawyer from another highly disputed closure, Gilpin Elementary in the Five Points neighborhood, said the closure process was “demoralizing,” “illogical,” and “disruptive.” She explained that Gilpin experienced tremendous growth in its final year and parents and students had positive experiences at the school. Yet, the school Board went ahead with the closure in the middle of the 2016-2017 school year.
While charter schools are known to slightly outperform non-charters, they have much lower graduation and retention rates. For the four-year graduation rate, just 47.77% of charter school students in 2014 graduated on time compared to 79.98% of non-charter school students, according to a Colorado Department of Education report released in 2016. Furthermore, according to Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform report, charter schools received $3,059 less per student than traditional schools in 2011.
Nevertheless, charter school enrollment continues to grow in Denver. For the 2015-2016 school year, 226 charter schools operated in Colorado serving 108,793 students from preschool to 12th grade, according to the CDE report. This represents a 30% increase from the 83,478 students counted in the 2013 report. In addition, the average teacher salary in charter schools in 2015-2016 was just $39,052, a $15,413 difference with traditional schools that pay an average of $54,465.
Speakers in protest of the closures at the meeting received silent support from a potential future candidate of the Denver School Board, Tay Anderson. Anderson is an 18-year old fresh graduate from Manual High School planning on running for the District 4 (Far Northeast) seat, the position currently held by Rachel Esperitu. Anderson stood in a black suit, black and red bow-tie silently nodding, but making no remarks himself. In a private interview, Anderson, said he would put a “complete moratorium,” on the restart process, if elected into the board.