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Friday Churn: DPS delay

What’s churning:

Bids by three new schools to be approved for innovation status stalled Thursday night when Denver Public Schools board members voted for a delay while more information on the proposals is gathered.

Board member Andrea Merida proposed a delay of one year; approved instead by a 4-3 vote was a delay of just one business day.

The board will meet at 7 a.m. Monday to reconsider proposals by Noel Community Arts School, the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford and the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello.

Board member Jeannie Kaplan led the push for more details from the applicants, such as more budgetary data from Noel Community Arts School. It was unclear whether questions she and others have could be resolved in a day.

The trio of schools before the board Thursday were included in the controversial Far Northeast turnaround plan, passed last November. Board members were told Thursday night by district staff there is a narrow window of time for approval, in order to pass the proposals on to the State Board of Education for its consideration of the plans at that board’s meeting May 11 and 12.

Some DPS board members Thursday night were clearly uncomfortable making a decision on three new innovation schools in what they considered to be a rushed fashion.

“A school should show a history and track record in growth and student achievement, before they apply for innovation status,” said board member Arturo Jimenez. “New schools don’t have that yet. There are a number of reasons I don’t feel comfortable going through with this.”

At the heart of some board members’ unease is the provision, under the Innovation Schools Act of 2008, that 60 percent of the schools’ staff must have voted for its innovation plan, and more than 50 percent have to have agreed to waive union rules and regulations.

Because the schools before the board Thursday night do not have full staffs yet in place, such votes have not taken place. Instead, potential staff members are being asked during their interviews about whether they want to be part of the innovation plan.

DPS legal counsel John Kechriotis has assured the board that precedence for this situation was set a year ago with approval of the Denver Green School, and that his judgment was enforced this week in conversations with the office of the Colorado Attorney General.

The motion for the one-day delay was made by Jimenez and seconded by Merida. Voting with them for the majority were Kaplan and Mary Seawell.

Seawell said at the meeting’s conclusion she will “absolutely” vote to approve the applications, but felt it would be “unnecessarily combative” to deny her colleagues an opportunity for further discussion.

What’s on tap:

Jefferson County Public Schools continue their Saturday budget forums at Arvada and Evergreen high schools tomorrow. Details.

Denver Public Schools hosts a free summit Saturday on how schools can help the environment. Details.

Good reads from elsewhere:

In case you missed it: Terry Gross of Fresh Air talked with Diane Ravitch and Andrew Rotherham about education reform. National Public Radio.

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