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Friday Churn: Dougco’s voucher letter

Updated – Is Douglas County’s new superintendent trying to weaken the impact of today’s Denver Post voucher story with this letter to parents last night?

In it, Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, hired from Arizona this summer, writes that, “There have been a lot of conversations and draft recommendations, but there have been no decisions” and that “Members of my leadership team … did not find the ideas alarming.”

The Post wrote that the district’s choice task force, aided by a district-paid lawyer, has developed a plan that would pay parents state tax money to send their kids to private schools, including religious schools.

Fagan, in her letter, wrote that, “This subcommittee is exploring the idea that a private school could become a Douglas County ‘Contract School.’ ”

Contract schools aren’t new in Colorado – Escuela Tlatelolco has operated as a contract school with Denver Public Schools for at least five years. But it’s unclear how closely the idea being explored in Douglas matches that of contract schools elsewhere.

Here’s the draft of the Dougco subcommittee report on contract schools and here’s the one on “option certificates” or vouchers.

The choice task force is expected to present their recommendations at the school board’s Nov. 16 meeting.

What’s churning

There will be some new faces in legislative leadership next year but there’s still uncertainty about the membership of the Senate and House education committees, where the lineups probably won’t be revealed until next week. Chances are House Ed will see a lot more changes than the Senate panel. See this story for details.

Soon-to-be-former education Commissioner Dwight Jones apparently hotfooted it out of town after Wednesday’s State Board of Education meeting. He was in Las Vegas Thursday to talk about his visions and his concerns for the Clark County Schools, which he’ll officially be joining as superintendent on Dec. 15. “We’ve got to get better; we know we’ve got to get better,” Jones said in a speech. Check this story and video. Jones told the Colorado board that he’s taking vacation time for Las Vegas trips until he leaves CDE for good on Dec. 13.

In other Capitol news, Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper is taking two key staffers directly across the park from city hall to the Capitol. Chief of staff Roxanne White and PR man Eric Brown will have those same roles in the new administration. Although Hickenlooper hasn’t yet filled out his transition team, a series of statewide meetings to gather public input about administration priorities kicks off in a week – on Nov. 13 (get more info here). The transition website includes a listing and descriptions of state agencies, including the departments of education and higher education. A set of 23 committees will be created to review the agencies. The transition team is seeking volunteers for those panels.

In case you missed it, here’s the Denver Public Schools’ latest proposal to improve some of its lowest-performing schools. The 39-page document was presented last night to school board members, who are scheduled to vote Nov. 18. It includes the expected plan for Far Northeast Denver that’s generating some heat, as we’ve written about here and here. It also includes some changes in Near Northeast Denver, such as the location of a third Denver School of Science and Technology. The high-performing charter, which serves grades 6-12, would phase its middle school program into the Cole Arts & Science Academy while its high school would eventually move into nearby Mitchell Elementary.

Good reads from elsewhere

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