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Wednesday Churn: Another Race shot

Updated – Colorado is among nine runners-up in last year’s Race to the Top contest that will get another shot at competing for $200 million.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced this morning that the additional $700 million allocated by Congress for Race to the Top will go towards a new contest focused on early education and the nine states that lost in last year’s contest, according to the industry journal Education Week.

The states that will compete again are Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. South Carolina has declined, according to an EdWeek update.

In a statement this afternoon, Gov. John Hickenlooper welcomed the news, saying, “We have every intention of pursuing this opportunity to fund excellence in our schools.” Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and education Commissioner Robert Hammond also expressed their support.

According to the governor’s office, Colorado will be eligible to apply for between $10 and $50 million. Grant applications will be due in the fall.

“This means Colorado and Louisiana, thought to be shoe-ins to win in last year’s competition, now have a shot at a piece of a much smaller pie,” wrote Education Week reporter Michele McNeil.

The other $500 million will fund an Early Learning Challenge competition among states, rewarding those that “create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development.”

Read more details here.

What’s churning:

Education Commissioner Robert Hammond has filled two key positions on his staff, naming Jill Hawley as chief of staff and strategy and Janelle Albertson Asmus as chief communications officer.

Hawley is state project director with The New Teacher Project, which has had a contract with the Department of Education to advise on implementation of the new educator evaluation law and other initiatives.

According to a CDE statement, she “will oversee the implementation of CDE’s strategic plan and statewide reform agenda … and she will guide, manage and ensure alignment and coherency of statewide policy. Hawley will oversee the human resources, policy, and project management functions and provide general operations support to the commissioner.”

In addition to communication and media relations, Asmus will oversee CDE’s legislative liaison and Web services. She has been chief communications officer for Adams 12 Five Star schools for eight years and previously worked for the Boulder Valley and Wichita, Kan., school districts. She worked with Hammond in both those districts, and both she and Hammond are graduates of Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan.

Hawley and Asmus start work next month. See release for more information on the two appointments.

Hammond was named last December to fill in for departing Commissioner Dwight Jones, and the State Board of Education voted earlier this month to give him the permanent job. Hammond had been deputy commissioner for administration and operations since being hired by Jones in 2008.

The department’s upper ranks have been in transition since before that vote. Veteran school finance chief Vody Herrmann retired in March and has been replaced by former Jeffco finance administrator Leanne Emm. Associate Commissioner Rich Wenning, who headed up many of CDE’s policy and data initiatives, left the department at the end of the legislative session.

Former Aspen Superintendent Diana Sirko was hired by Jones in January 2010 and assigned to oversee implementation of various recent state laws. Hammond said Tuesday that Sirko will remain as deputy commissioner but that her future responsibilities are still being decided. Hammond also said he wouldn’t be hiring a deputy for his old job but, “We are envisioning another associate commissioner and possibly assistant commissioner with different responsibilities.” No final decisions have been made, however.

A third name has entered the race to represent Southeast Denver and replace term-limited Bruce Hoyt on the Denver Public Schools board.

Emily Sirota registered her campaign with the Colorado Secretary of State on Monday. She joins a field that includes Anne Rowe, a founding co-chair of the district advisory group A+ Denver, and Frank Deserino, a South High School teacher who ran unsuccessfully against Hoyt in the 2007 election.

Sirota moved to Denver in 2007 and in 2009 earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver. She said she is employed as an independent contractor doing consulting work.

“I am hoping to put my efforts toward really focusing on neighborhood schools, and really building up our neighborhood schools,” she said. “I think that public education is really a cornerstone of a strong community, and a strong Denver. Neighborhood schools are a major piece of that, and so that’s where I would like the focus to be placed.”

See this EdNews story for more on announced candidates for the three board seats up for election in November.

Great Education Colorado, the major group backing a proposed ballot initiative to increase state income and sales taxes to raise money for education, is trying to entice supporters to download petitions, print them out and circulate them.

In a statement, Great Ed policy director Lisa Weil said this is the first time that petition forms have been made available online. More information here.

What’s on tap:

The state Capitol Construction Assistance Board meets from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave. The agenda includes a rule-making hearing and initial discussion of 2011-12 grant applications, including how the applications will be categorized, a subject of some controversy last year. Applications will be considered in detail and officially ranked at meetings June 27-30. Agenda.

The St. Vrain Valley board meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Educational Services Center, 395 South Pratt Parkway, Longmont. The board will receive a report on the 2011-12 budget. Agenda.

The Adams 12 Five Star school board meets at 7 p.m. at the Educational Support Center, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. There also will be a public hearing on proposed 2011-12 budget at 5:30 p.m. Agenda.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Degree debate continues: There’s been a lot of chatter, articles and debate recently about whether college degrees are worth their rising price, a lot of it running counter to the conventional wisdom espoused by education leaders (including those in Colorado). The latest entrant in the debate is a supportive study by Georgetown University, which argues that bachelor’s degrees pay off, but some are a lot more valuable than others. Bloomberg News

Now Rupert weighs in: Microsoft’s Bill Gates is the tycoon most associated with education reform, but media mogul Rupert Murdoch apparently has some thoughts as well. At a high-powered conference in Paris, Murdoch said schools are way behind the technological curve. The article also notes that Murdoch has some business interests in this field. The Guardian

ESEA reauthorization still lagging: Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, says there’s no chance of meeting President Barack Obama’s August deadline for an overhaul of the nine-year-old No Child Left Behind law. Associated Press

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