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State orders Adams 14 to appoint reorganization committee

High school students walk through a wide and dark hallway at Adams City High School. There’s a window behind them that illuminates the floors.

Adams 14 and neighboring districts now have 30 days to form a reorganization committee.

Michael Ciaglo / Special to the Denver Post

Colorado’s Commissioner of Education has ordered Adams 14 and neighboring districts to begin reorganization. 

With a notice sent Monday, the state is giving Adams 14 and the neighboring districts of Mapleton School District, Brighton School District 27J, and Adams 12 Five Star Schools 30 days to appoint three members each to a reorganization committee. The first meeting must be held by Nov. 16.

In the letter to Adams 14, Commissioner Katy Anthes also announced that the state will make available an extra accountability grant for up to $100,000 to help pay for the costs of the committee, including hiring a facilitator.  

In a news release from Adams 14, the district notes that the beginning of “forced reorganization” doesn’t have any immediate impact on staffing or students.

“The Colorado State Board of Education has been advised that its efforts to reorganize Adams 14 will fail,” the district says in the press release. “The four school districts now must reallocate time, resources, and finances from its students and redirect them towards reorganization efforts. All the school districts agree that reorganization of Adams 14 is not in the best interest of our students, parents, community, and neighboring districts.”

The Colorado Board of Education voted in May to direct Adams 14 to reorganize — the first time it has used the drastic measure of intervention for a low-performing district.

Adams 14 has been on the state’s radar for low performance for more than 10 years after receiving consecutive low ratings for lagging student achievement. The district has dealt with high turnover at the leadership level as well as among teachers. With the latest superintendent, the district had come out of compliance from previous state’s orders requiring a management company to take over daily operations, when the district locked out MGT Consulting officials and eventually terminated the contract. 

The new superintendent asked the state for more time to implement her own plan for improvement, but State Board members questioned the proposal. After asking for a more fleshed-out plan, the board rejected it, saying her plan alone would not be enough to help the district improve. Instead, in May, they ordered reorganization

At least one of the three members that each district appoints to the reorganization committee has to be a parent selected by the District’s Accountability Committee. In addition, reorganization committee meetings must be open to the public.

The plan the committee creates also needs state approval from the Education Commissioner and voter approval in the affected districts.

The plan could leave things as is, reshape boundaries to allow neighboring districts to absorb parts of Adams 14, close schools, or dissolve the district altogether.

Leaders of neighboring districts have voiced their support for Adams 14 and the current leadership. 

The district filed a lawsuit against the state attempting to stop the reorganization orders, but a Denver district judge dismissed the case. Adams 14 is still planning to appeal.

Read the full letter sent to the districts on Monday:

Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at yrobles@chalkbeat.org.

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