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Movers and shakers: significant comings and goings in Colorado education in 2017

Jeffco superintendent Jason Glass at the Boys & Girls in Lakewood (Marissa Page, Chalkbeat).
Jeffco superintendent Jason Glass at the Boys & Girls in Lakewood (Marissa Page, Chalkbeat).

Every year brings arrivals, departures and transitions on the Colorado education scene — and 2017 was no different.

The highest-profile change was signaled early in the year, when the Jeffco school board voted in January to open a search for a new superintendent while the incumbent, Dan McMinimee, still had six months remaining on his contract.

McMinimee stepped down in March. The school board picked Jason Glass, at the time the superintendent in Eagle County, to take the helm of the state’s second largest school district. Later in the year, Chalkbeat profiled the district leaders working with Glass.

As the state’s largest school district, Denver Public Schools is bound to see changes in personnel, and there was some movement in 2017. Chief of Staff Eddie Koen left after a year with the district to take a job with Mile High United Way.

The district announced in August that Koen would be replaced by Tameka Brigham, a former classroom teacher and Teach for America official. But she instead landed in a different position — chief of family and community engagement. We explained that move, and much more, in our look this fall at the inner circle of DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. Nina Lopez was tapped to serve as interim chief of staff.

The departure that got the most attention in Denver was the exit of Andy Mendelsberg as East High School principal after an investigation into complaints over the school’s cheerleading coach. Mendelsberg was swiftly replaced by former East principal John Youngquist, who resigned as Aurora Public Schools’ chief academic officer to return to the school. Andre Wright took on Younguist’s former position on an interim basis.

Former DPS board member Nate Easley left his position leading the Denver Scholarship Foundation to become CEO of a new nonprofit called Blue School Partners that aims to be an “education quarterback” in Denver.

Taking over as CEO at the Denver Scholarship Foundation: Lorii Rabinowitz, who previously headed a startup venture in the city that counts among its goals improving high school graduation rates by engaging at-risk students in arts education.

The Colorado Department of Education did not experience much staff churn in 2017, a sign that Education Commissioner Katy Anthes has been a stabilizing force since taking the job on a permanent basis last year. (The department had been experiencing an exodus of top talent dating to Robert Hammond’s departure as commissioner in 2015).

The state education department did lose deputy commissioner Leeann Emm, an authority on school finance, to retirement. Anthes, meantime, took on an additional role, joining the advocacy group Chiefs for Change.

In another move with statewide implications, the Colorado League of Charter Schools tapped Ben Lindquist, who most recently worked for the Wisconsin-based Kern Family Foundation, as its new executive director.

This is the first in a series of articles looking back at the year in education in Colorado in 2017.

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