DENVER – A turnaround plan for the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District received preliminary support recently from the Colorado Board of Education.
The board voted unanimously to instruct the district and the Colorado Department of Education to come up with a pathways plan involving outside management. The district will bring the plan before the state board at its April 12 meeting.
A delegation from Cortez, including Superintendent Lori Haukeness, school board President Jack Schuenemeyer and other district officials gave a presentation about the district’s turnaround efforts to the state board on March 9. The 2½-hour hearing took place during the state board’s regular March meeting in Denver and was broadcast online.
“I sincerely thank you for all the hard work that has gone into this,” CDE board Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder told the group.
Outside group to help The district received the “priority improvement” rating from CDE last October for the sixth year in a row. Priority improvement is the second-lowest in the state department’s five-level rating system.
According to state Senate Bill 163, passed in 2009, districts and schools can spend five consecutive years at the two lowest tiers – “priority improvement” and “turnaround” – before they face consequences and intervention from the state board. The countdown is referred to as the “accountability clock.”
Districts that are out of time must submit a turnaround proposal, which can include options such as district consolidation, school closures and outside consulting.
Cortez district officials have been working with the University of Virginia on a turnaround program for three years and plan to work with the college for two more years. District and CDE officials, as well as state board members, agreed it’s in the best interest for the district to continue working with UVA.
“We are confident the district is on the right track to come off the clock in the next two years,” CDE Commissioner Katy Anthes told the state board.
William Robinson of UVA said the university’s work has focused on creating support systems for teachers so they can have the tools they need to drive student success.
Three or four years ago, those systems did not exist, he said.
Moving forward, UVA will focus on accelerating those support programs to all the buildings in the district, Robinson said. They will also focus on creating deeper partnerships with teachers, as well as recruiting and retaining personnel.
“Our work starts with helping district leaders establish conditions where they can be successful,” Robinson said.
District makes progressTime is up on the clock for Re-1 on July 1, so the state board must approve a pathways plan by that deadline.
Anthes recommended the outside management pathways track for Re-1 based on staff members’ expertise and site visits she and other state education officials have made to Cortez schools in the past few months.
She said CDE has developed an excellent partnership with the Re-1 district and would continue to support Cortez schools through grants and consulting.
“We have consistently seen urgency toward implementing strategies, and we have seen that turn into student progress,” Anthes said.
She pointed to Kemper Elementary as an example of district progress. The school was rated at the lowest state rating, “turnaround,” for five years, but the school jumped to the highest rating, “performance,” last fall.
The UVA program has focused on Kemper, Mesa and Manaugh, the district’s three in-town elementary schools. Anthes said the progress at those schools is a good start, but district officials must scale-up the work and strategies to other schools.
There is lots of work to be done, Anthes said. “We believe they will get there.”