Who Is In Charge

Hamner named House Ed chair

Rep. Millie Hamner of Dillon has been named chair of the House Education Committee and Rep. Cherilyn Peniston of Westminster will be vice chair.

Colorado CapitolDemocrats retook control of the House in the Nov. 6 election, and incoming Speaker Mark Ferrandino of Denver today named the Democrats who will lead the chamber’s committees.

Hamner and Peniston both had been mentioned as the likely candidates for chair, and the appointments are a nod to both the reform-oriented and more traditionally-minded wings of the Democratic Party.

Hamner is a former Summit County Schools superintendent while Peniston is a retired middle school teacher and former president of the Westminster Education Association, a Colorado Education Association affiliate.

Peniston is a legislative veteran and is starting the last of the four terms allowed under state term limits. Hamner was appointed to fill a vacant seat in late 2010 and won her first election on Nov. 6.

Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Summit County
PHOTO: Scott Elliott
Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon / File photo
Hamner raised her legislative profile last spring as a prime sponsor of House Bill 12-1238, the READ Act, which established literacy requirements for students in early grades. Hamner also was a sponsor of Senate Bill 12-172, the measure that required the State Board of Education to join a multi-state testing program.

During the 2012 campaign season, Hamner received endorsements and/or contributions from the full spectrum of education interest groups, including AFT-Colorado, CEA-affiliated groups, Stand for Children and Democrats for Education Reform.

Peniston was a “no” vote on the READ Act, both in committee and on the floor, and two years ago she voted against Senate Bill 10-191, the landmark principal and teacher evaluation bill. She also has been a longtime advocate of programs for gifted and talented students. She received contributions from teachers’ union committees during this year’s campaign.

Committee chairs are selected based on a variety of complicated behind-the-scenes factors, including a chair’s relationship with the speaker, a chair’s experience on particular issues, suggestions from interest groups and campaign contributors and other political considerations.

ep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster
Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster / File photo
Chairs of legislative committees don’t have the sweeping powers of congressional committee chairs. Among other things, Colorado legislative procedures require that every bill get at least one hearing so bills generally can’t be pocket-vetoed in Colorado. But chairs have strong influence over bill scheduling and other procedural issues.

Hamner will preside over a significantly changed committee. Of the 13 House Ed members during the 2012 session, seven won’t be returning because of term limits, election defeats or deciding not to run for re-election.

Senate committee chairs, to be selected by new Majority Leader Morgan Carroll of Aurora, haven’t been named. Democratic Sens. Rollie Heath of Boulder, Evie Hudak of Westminster and Mike Johnston of Denver have been mentioned as possible contenders for chair of the Senate Education Committee.

performance based

Aurora superintendent is getting a bonus following the district’s improved state ratings

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Aurora’s school superintendent will receive a 5 percent bonus amounting to $11,820, in a move the board did not announce.

Instead, the one-time bonus was slipped into a routine document on staff transitions.

Tuesday, the school board voted on the routine document approving all the staff changes, and the superintendent bonus, without discussion.

The document, which usually lists staff transfers, resignations, and new hires, included a brief note at the end that explained the additional compensation by stating it was being provided because of the district’s rise in state ratings.

“Pursuant to the superintendent’s contract, the superintendent is entitled to a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of his base salary as the result of the Colorado Department of Education raising APS’ district performance framework rating,” the note states.

The superintendent’s contract, which was renewed earlier this year, states the superintendent can receive up to a 10 percent bonus per year for improvements in state ratings. The same bonus offer was in Munn’s previous contract with the district.

The most recent state ratings, which were released in the fall, showed the state had noted improvements in Aurora Public Schools — enough for the district to be off the state’s watchlist for low performance. Aurora would have been close to the five years of low-performance ratings that would have triggered possible state action.

“I am appreciative of the Board’s recognition of APS’ overall improvement,” Superintendent Munn said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to recognize that this improvement has been thanks to a team effort and as such I am donating the bonus to the APS Foundation and to support various classroom projects throughout APS.”

This is the only bonus that Munn has received in Aurora, according to a district spokesman.

In addition to the bonus, and consistent with his contract and the raises other district employees will receive, Munn will also get a 2.93 percent salary increase on July 1. This will bring his annual salary to $243,317.25.

At the end of the board meeting, Bruce Wilcox, president of the teachers union questioned the way the vote was handled, asking why the compensation changes for teachers and compensation changes for other staff were placed as separate items on the meeting’s agenda, but the bonus was simply included at the bottom of a routine report, without its own notice.

“It is clear that the association will unfortunately have to become a greater, louder voice,” Wilcox said. “It is not where we want to be.”

Movers & shakers

Memphis native named superintendent of Aspire network’s local schools

PHOTO: Aspire Public Schools
Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job. Previously, Manning was a Memphis City Schools principal.

Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job.

Manning will replace Allison Leslie, the founding superintendent of the charter network’s Memphis schools. She is leaving for Instruction Partners, an education consulting firm that works with school districts in Tennessee, Florida, and Indiana.

“I look forward to serving children and families in my hometown,” said Manning, who was previously Aspire’s associate superintendent, director of curriculum and instruction, outreach coordinator, and principal of its Aspire Hanley Elementary.

Aspire runs three elementary schools and one middle school in Memphis.

Manning said he hopes to focus on Aspire’s role in supporting students outside the classroom and to launch a community advisory board, composed of parents and neighborhood residents, to “make sure that the community has a voice.”

“We know that we need to support our children in more than just academics,” he told Chalkbeat.

In Memphis, most students who attend Aspire schools come from low-income neighborhoods. At its four local schools, the charter group serves about 1,600 Memphis students.

Manning, who holds a doctorate in education, is a graduate of Memphis’ Melrose High School, which sits less than two miles from two Aspire schools. Before joining the network, he worked as a teacher and administrator in the Memphis City Schools and served as principal of Lanier Middle School, which closed in 2014 due to low enrollment.

In a statement, Leslie praised Manning’s commitment to the network’s students, saying,“I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Manning continue the great work we started together and make it even better.”

Aspire was founded in California in 1998 and runs 36 schools there. The charter network was recruited to Memphis to join the state-run district in 2013 — the organization’s only expansion outside of California.

In Memphis, Aspire opened two schools in 2013 and grew to three schools the following year. That’s when it opened Coleman Elementary under the state-run district, before switching course in 2016 and opening Aspire East Academy, a K-3 elementary school under the local Shelby County Schools.

This year, the charter network applied with Shelby County Schools to open its second a middle school, in Raleigh, in 2019. Though the application was initially rejected, Manning it would be resubmitted in the coming weeks, before the district’s final vote in August.

The proposed middle school harkens back to a dispute between Shelby County Schools and the state Department of Education over the charter’s legal ability to add grades to its state turnaround school. If approved, the state could create a new school that would be under local oversight.

“We are deeply committed to our children and families,”  Manning said. “We’ve heard from our families that they want continuity in K–8th-grade in their child’s time in schools. We’re committed to that end.”