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Search for new leader for struggling Adams City High School will continue

Students at Adams City High  listen to Dave Nikaido, who graduated from the school in 1952, describe how difficult it was for him decades ago to start school in America knowing no English — only Japanese.
Students at Adams City High listen to Dave Nikaido, who graduated from the school in 1952, describe how difficult it was for him decades ago to start school in America knowing no English — only Japanese.
Denver Post File

A Commerce City high school staring at possible state sanctions for poor academic performance will not have a new principal by the start of next semester as envisioned.

District officials are reopening the application process to find a principal for Adams City High School after Javier Abrego, the Adams County School District 14 superintendent, said he didn’t feel comfortable hiring any of the finalists.

“It’s going to be a challenging position. It’s a unique position,” Abrego said Monday. “There was a feeling that they weren’t quite ready for that.”

The district announced three finalists last month and hosted a meeting at the school so the community could meet the candidates and provide feedback.

The candidates included Jennifer Abeyta-Cifuentes, a former assistant principal at Adams City; Caroll Duran, a current assistant principal at Adams City; and Mark Roberts, a former principal of Aurora Central High School.

Abrego said an ideal candidate will have a proven record of improving other schools, experience working with English language learners and an ability to unite the school community.

The current leader of Adams City High School, Gionni Thompson, accepted a district job as executive director of secondary schools earlier this year and has been working both jobs while a replacement is found.

Adams City has been a low-performing school for some time. This year’s preliminary state ratings show it failed to earn a higher rating for a fifth year. That means the state must step in and may choose from a limited number of options including closing the school or handing over management to a third-party.

District officials say they are working on drafting a plan for innovation status for the school. The state could also choose to accept an innovation plan as a reform strategy, giving the school more time to show improvement.

Abrego said his new goal is to have a new school leader in place by July, which means the new principal may not have a hand in shaping the innovation plan that he or she will be overseeing. Abrego said taking time to find the right person is more important.

“The most important thing is to find that outstanding person,” Abrego said. “It’s more important that we do that correctly.”

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