Monday churn: New face on Senate Ed

Updated 4 p.m.There will be a slight change in the Republican lineup on the Senate Education Committee for the upcoming legislative session.

GOP leaders announced this afternoon that Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, will join the committee, replacing Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, who will be serving on three other committees. Renfroe, a conservative small businessman, formerly served on the Eaton school board and was elected to his second Senate term earlier this month.

Republican Sens. Nancy Spence of Centennial, long a leading Republican voice on education issues, and Keith King of Colorado Springs, a charter school administrator and school finance expert, will return to the education committee.

Senate Democrats haven’t announced their committee lineups, although it’s expected they will replace Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, on Senate Ed. He’s been assigned to the Joint Budget Committee. Because of the workload, JBC members usually don’t serve on other panels. The other Democrats on education last session were Chair Bob Bacon of Fort Collins, Vice Chair Edie Hudak of Westminster, Rollie Heath of Boulder and Mike Johnston of Denver.

House Republicans and Democrats also haven’t announced committee rosters, although Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, has been named chair of House Ed. Four members of the panel won’t be back in any event. Democratic Chair Mike Merrifield of Colorado Springs is term limited, Democrat Karen Middleton of Aurora didn’t run for reelection, Democrat Debbie Benefield of Arvada was defeated and Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez is headed to Congress. And, 2010 member Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch will be the new speaker of the House, who generally doesn’t serve on committees. But, the 33-31 partisan split in the House may require some juggling to ensure Republicans have majorities on every panel.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Most Colorado school districts will have a short work week due to the Thanksgiving holiday this Thursday. But in some districts, an extra day or two is off because furlough days were part of the budget-cutting package for 2010-11.

That’s true in Littleton Public Schools, which is out the entire week. Two furlough days in the district, which is grappling with cuts to state funding and declining enrollment, are expected to save about $860,000 this year. To balance the calendar, Littleton officials carved one day out of each semester.

And in Adams 50 Westminster, tomorrow will be a furlough day for teachers and many classroom aides. The furloughs were part of negotiated agreements with the employee groups as the district cut $3 million from its 2010-11 budget.

Teachers agreed to a furlough day and a temporary reduction in their contract from 185 days to 184 days. Education support workers agreed to two furlough days.

“Just as so many families and businesses are making sacrifices during these difficult economic times, so are the teachers and employees of District 50,” Westminster teachers union President  Melissa Walsh said in an article on the district website. You can read more about it here.

Speaking of district budgets, it’s time again for financial talks to begin. In case you missed it, Jefferson County Public Schools held five public meetings on a recent Saturday to talk about next year’s financial state. Here’s the list of proposed reductions being considered and you can access a Powerpoint presentation made at those Saturday meetings from the district homepage.

What’s on tap:

The calendar is pretty bare during this week but at a couple of board meetings are scheduled.

Mapleton‘s school board is set to meet at 6 p.m. tomorrow at district headquarters, 591 E. 80th Ave. in Denver. And Adams 14 Commerce City also has a board meeting scheduled tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., at district headquarters, 5291 East 60th Avenue in Commerce City. No agenda is posted on either district website.

Good reads from elsewhere:

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”