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Friday Churn: Jones enters DPS race


What’s churning:

Updated 10:45 a.m. – Manual High School administrator Vernon Jones on Thursday said he’s decided to seek the at-large Denver Public Schools board seat being vacated by term-limited Theresa Pena.

Jones’ move has heightened speculation about a potential candidacy for the same opening by
Democratic former state Sen. Ken Gordon.

Reached this morning, Gordon confirmed that he is mulling an at-large bid but added, “I have not made a decision about that.” Asked about when he’ll decide, Gordon said, “I think I should probably do it sooner, rather than later.”

Gordon would not talk about his view on key DPS issues, saying, “I think I would be premature to discuss that. … “I guess I would just say that [nothing is more important than] the education
of our children.”

“I don’t have anything to say” about Jones, Gordon said. “I don’t know Vernon.”

One political analyst familiar with the developing DPS candidate field predicted that Gordon, if he runs, would likely have the strong backing of union interests.

Gordon, a lawyer, was elected in 1992 to the Colorado House, where he served as minority leader, and he later served in the Senate, where he was majority leader before being term-limited in 2008. He represented districts in far southeast Denver. In 2006 he narrowly lost the secretary of state race to Republican Mike Coffman, now a congressman.

This won’t be the first campaign for Jones, who ran a strong second to board president Nate Easley when Easley was elected in November 2009 to represent District 4 in Far Northeast Denver.

A month ago Jones told EdNews that he was considering a bid for the at-large seat. He issued a statement Thursday saying, “Every child in every classroom in every community deserves an excellent school. Every child deserves to be prepared for success on the next pathways of his or her life. That’s the bottom line, and that’s why I’ll be seeking this opportunity in November 2011.”

Jones’ statement expresses his commitment to continue his “100 percent focus” on his job at Manual. He said he plans to make a formal announcement of his candidacy in a few weeks. Jones will be director of community engagement next fall.

Candidates who previously said they will run for the at-large seat are former Denver City Council member Happy Haynes, who resigned May 11 as DPS’s chief community engagement officer, and Roger Kilgore, a Park Hill resident and longtime business consultant. (It was announced this week that Haynes has joined CRL Associates, the influential political and public affairs consulting firm.)

Two other DPS seats will be contested this year. In District 5, incumbent Arturo Jimenez is seeking a second term representing northwest Denver and is being challenged by Jennifer Draper Carson. Bruce Hoyt is term-limited in District 1 representing southeast Denver. Announced candidates for that seat to date are Frank Deserino, Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota.

Aug. 3 is the first day DPS board candidates can circulate nominating petitions, and Aug. 26 is the deadline for filing petitions.

What’s on tap:

The University of Northern Colorado trustees meet starting at 8:30 a.m. A top agenda item is consideration of 2011-12 tuition and fees. The administration is proposing a 13.2 percent increase for resident undergraduates taking 13-16 credit hours. The meeting’s on campus in Greeley. Details

Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and two other officials have scheduled a 10 a.m. Monday news conference to “make a major funding announcement for work aimed at dramatically increasing student achievement in Colorado.” (Don’t you love news release lingo?)

Word on the street is that the news will be a multi-million dollar, multi-year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fund implementation of the educator effectiveness law and related efforts.

Like most of the education reform laws passed since 2008, the effectiveness law didn’t come with state funding, forcing the Department of Education to rely on outside grants – known in statehouse lingo as “GGDs” – gifts, grants and donations.

The Rose Community Foundation, the Gates Foundation, the Colorado Legacy Foundation, the Daniels Fund, the Donnell-Kay Foundation, JPMorgan Chase and Co. and Common Good already have provided support for the State Council on Educator Effectiveness and related CDE work.

Garcia will be joined by education Commissioner Robert Hammond and Legacy executive director Helayne Jones for the event in the echoey marble lobby of CDE, 201 E. Colfax Ave.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Common tests: Armed with federal money, two multistate groups are working on developing common tests that could be a life-saver for a cash-strapped state like Colorado, which is facing 2014 legal deadline to replace the CSAPs. Colorado has been working with both groups, the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Comes now news that California, an 800-pound gorilla if there ever was one, has affiliated exclusively with the SMARTER group, perhaps indicating a shift in the balance of influence between the two groups. EdWeek Curriculum Matters blog

Go figure: Student pass rates plummeted after California State University Bakersfield switched some developmental math courses to an all-online system. But, after the new system was fine-tuned to include mandatory lab hours, pass rates soared to levels higher than they’d been when the courses were taught in the traditional classroom setting. Inside Higher Education

Tax credit plan faulted: A study by the Southern Education Foundation has concluded that Georgia’s tax credit program for private school tuition lacks accountability, doesn’t help at-risk children and should be changed or shut down. Tax credit proposals have had tough sledding in the Colorado legislature; a 2011 bill couldn’t muster enough support to even get out of the GOP-controlled House. Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Churn is published occasionally during the summer – whenever news breaks.