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Adams 14 will use relief money to call on more help from its for-profit manager

Students walk through the hall at Adams City High School Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 in Commerce City.
Students walk through the hall at Adams City High School Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 in Commerce City.
Michael Ciaglo/Special to the Denver Post

Adams 14, the first district in the state to contract its management to a private company, had planned to steadily regain control and shrink the role of consultants every year. But, citing the pandemic, the district will add to its contract with MGT Consulting to secure more help.

The school board for the Commerce City-based district unanimously approved a resolution earlier this month authorizing the district to use COVID relief money it has received from the federal and local governments, to expand the MGT Consulting contract.

The contract is not yet finalized, officials say, but as proposed, would increase staff and services at an added cost of $770,000 for the year. That would be about a 28% increase of the $2.7 million original cost of the contract in Year 2, excluding incentives.

MGT Consulting, a Florida-based for-profit company, just finished its first year of a four-year contract managing Adams 14 under state orders to improve the district’s student achievement. The contract in Year 1 was $3.46 million.

Under the original $8.3 million contract, MGT proposed to steadily decrease the scope of its help, to ultimately leave more and more responsibility in the hands of district staff. But board and MGT officials agreed the proposed increase this year was necessary because of the unexpected challenges of the pandemic.

Harry Bull, executive director of the Colorado MGT team, cited research he said was concerning. Studies suggest students across the country may be falling behind following the closures of school buildings, and in a district that already had a lot of work to do to get student achievement up to state standards, the losses could have higher impacts.

Adams 14 does not have standardized data on student achievement because the state cancelled testing in the spring. According to data Bull presented, district tests indicated that students were improving before classrooms closed last spring. Then remote learning decreased the amount of instruction, and some students may have had trouble accessing any instruction at all.

“So we’ve got work to do,” Bull said presenting the plan. “It’s a very aggressive approach to address what we know will be a very negative impact on learning.”

The add-ons to the contract would pay for three new turnaround specialists to oversee programming and COVID planning, redesigning some jobs to have additional work in the district, and more time for contractors that MGT is working with: SchoolsCubed, 2Partner Mathematics, and the University of Virginia, which will work with more Adams 14 schools this coming school year.

Board members lauded the proposal and noted that they’ve heard good things about how the district and MGT have been able to work together. Veteran board member Connie Quintana also applauded the detail and transparency provided in the presentation.

“I haven’t seen a presentation this thorough in many, many years, probably over 20 years, 25 maybe,” Quintana said. “Right now, MGT, and everybody is doing a fantastic job.”

To pay for the $770,000 part of the contract, the district will tap into its federal coronavirus relief dollars. Adams 14 received $6.7 million in CARES dollars the state allocated for schools, and $1.66 million in federal dollars paid directly to schools. The district has already spent some of that on student technology, thermometers and protective equipment as well as on staff overtime and hazard pay. The district has identified other potential uses for the money, but has not finalized that spending.

As board members approved adding to MGT’s contract, they pointed out that the relief money has restricted uses. They also said the district is lucky to be able to get additional people to help plan and work with students and teachers this school year.

“COVID has hit us hard,” said board member Reneé Lovato. “We need all the help we can get.”

See the full MGT presentation here:

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