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Denver school board OKs McAuliffe middle school placement, preschool tuition hike and more

A school bus outside Denver's Manual High School.
A school bus outside Denver's Manual High School.
Marc Piscotty

At an action-packed last meeting before winter break, the Denver Public Schools board unanimously approved a policy Thursday night that directs the district to promptly intervene when low-performing schools continue to struggle even after getting help.

Those schools will be eligible for closure, restart or replacement, according to a policy known as the School Performance Compact.

For much more on the policy, read our coverage here.

The board unanimously endorsed several other proposals, as well. Among the highlights:

— The board approved the placements of three schools, including a new middle school based on the popular McAuliffe International School. Dubbed McAuliffe II, it will be located at the Smiley campus in Park Hill for the 2016-17 school year and at Manual High School starting in 2017-18.

— The board voted to raise tuition for some DPS preschool students next year by between 4 and 12 percent after five years of no increases. Tuition for low-income families will stay the same.

— The board passed a resolution supporting the creation of the district’s first innovation zone under the state Innovation Schools Act. A group of DPS innovation schools is expected to apply early next year to create a zone for the 2016-17 school year.

According to the resolution, it “should be designed to illuminate how autonomy can impact and improve the larger district system and how innovations in the proposed zone would achieve results for students that would be less likely to be accomplished by each school working alone.”

— The board renewed the charters of several charter schools.

The Odyssey School, a K-8 expeditionary learning school in east Denver, received the longest renewal at five years.

STRIVE Prep at Lake Middle School in northwest Denver received a two-year charter renewal with a three-year automatic extension.

Venture Prep High School in Park Hill got a two-year renewal with a two-year automatic renewal.

Denver Justice High School, an alternative school in Capitol Hill, received a two-year renewal with a one-year automatic extension.

Wyatt Academy, a K-8 school in the Cole neighborhood, got the shortest renewal at just one year. Despite its academic struggles, board members said they saw some promising trends and were willing to give the school a last chance to turn around.

“I am persuaded by the fact that you’ve been making decisions with your eyes open, with a recognition of the challenges that you’ve had,” board member Happy Haynes said. “To me, that’s the first step to getting better.”

— The board OK’d an agreement between DPS and the teachers union that will give one-time bonuses to teachers whose students did well on state tests, in addition to teachers who work in so-called hard-to-serve schools with high populations of students living in poverty, under the district’s ProComp teacher incentive pay system.

— The board voted to name a new school campus in far northeast Denver after the late Regis F. Groff, a former DPS teacher and state lawmaker.

Groff taught history at Smiley Junior High School, Lake Junior High School and East High School between 1963 and 1978 and later served as intergovernmental relations specialist and community affairs coordinator for DPS before retiring from the district in 1992.

“He was always looking out for young people and trying to guide them to a brighter future,” said Haynes, who had Groff as a teacher. “Whether they were good students, which I was sometimes, or whether they were students on the edge.”

In addition to being a teacher, Groff was the second African-American state senator in Colorado, having been elected in 1974. In 1984, he persuaded the Colorado Senate to pass a bill making Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday a state holiday.

KIPP FNE High School ninth-graders will move into the Regis F. Groff Campus in January. STRIVE Prep RISE high school students will join them in the fall of 2016.

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