Press Release: Dec. 16, 2016
The Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education voted Thursday night (Dec. 15) to restart Greenlee Elementary and John Amesse Elementary and to close Gilpin Montessori. The decisions were based on the School Performance Compact policy, adopted by the board last year and being implemented for the first time this year.
The policy sets transparent criteria for determining the future of low-performing schools which, despite increased support from the district, are not making significant gains. The criteria includes school performance over three years, student academic growth in the most recent school year and the results of recent School Quality Reviews conducted by an independent third party to check overall instructional quality and learning culture.
Several board members commented on the difficulty in casting their votes, using terms such as “gut-wrenching” and “painful.” But they also noted they must be willing to make tough decisions if they are to meet the ambitious goals of the Denver Plan 2020, which calls for 80% of all students to be enrolled in high-performing schools in less than five years.
“I believe in that vision,” said board member Rachele Espiritu, “and because I believe in that vision, I know we have hard decisions to make.”
They also noted that such votes come only after years of increased resources at struggling schools have not shown significant progress.
“The schools that are recommended for restart or closure are schools that have many years of students not being at grade level. And once a child gets behind, it is very, very difficult for them to catch up,” said board member Rosemary Rodriguez.
“These are the absolute toughest decisions,” she added, “But the larger agenda is to provide for every child in this district regardless of race, ethnicity, country of origin, socio-economic status or gender, and I remain committed to that agenda.”
Both Greenlee and Amesse will be included in the Call for New Quality Schools this January, and the community will have input in selecting the new schools to be placed in these facilities at the start of the 2018-19 school year, after a year of planning. Students currently in these schools will continue to receive additional supports throughout the transition. Gilpin Montessori will be closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year. During the SchoolChoice process this January, students at Gilpin will be guaranteed a seat at one of four schools located within a mile of the Gilpin campus. Depending on individual school capacity, they will also receive priority at the four other Montessori elementary schools in DPS.
Board members also approved an amendment made by board member Espiritu that directs the district to provide transportation options to another DPS Montessori program for students at Gilpin, since that school will be closing at the end of this school year.
“I know these are hard decisions and are a disruption in your lives, but we don’t get do-overs with our kids,” said board treasurer Mike Johnson. “I want to thank the staff at these schools who have worked so hard and poured so much of their heart and souls into our kids. The current staff in the two schools that are restarts are welcomed and encouraged to submit proposals for a restart; so the work you’ve done has an opportunity to continue in this restart process.”
Board members voted to approve the staff recommendation that DSST: Conservatory Green High School, which will open next fall with students in grade 9, share space at the Samsonite Campus with High Tech Early College for the 2017-18 school year. Because there is not enough space on that campus for the two schools to share space long-term, the board also voted to move DSST: Conservatory Green High School to the Paul Sandoval Campus when a new building is complete in fall 2018.
Based on public comment tonight and at recent community meetings, the board also approved a separate resolution affirming its ongoing support for Northfield High School, which is already operating at the Paul Sandoval Campus.