ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The Colorado State Board of Education on Tuesday removed Adams 14 School District's accreditation and started the process to reorganize the district.
The district, which serves about 6,000 students in Commerce City, has been struggling with its accreditation rating since 2010, and was previously ordered to work with an outside manager to turn student performance around. In January, the school district fired that consulting company, citing a "pattern of misconduct."
In April, the state board heard from the school district, as well as an independent review board on recommendations on how to move forward. The school district suggested they work with a different management company, and the board asked the district to come back in May with a detailed plan outlining the responsibilities of that partner.
"We did everything that the state board of education asked us to do after the April 14th meeting, and we did it working alongside CDE officials," Adams 14 attorney Joseph Salazar said on Wednesday. "We literally followed everything that CDE has on their own website. So we follow it to a 'T' and despite that, they moved the goal post on us."
On Tuesday, in addition to removing the accreditation and starting the reorganization process, the board directed Adams 14 to proceed with that plan to use a partial manager.
The board said the district will remain open during the reorganization process, which takes more than a year.
"It’s a dark day and frustrating," Adams 14 parent Laura Martinez said. "It's frustrating to get the impression that we are being listened to and we are going to be treated with respect, like the way we should, and then turn around and go in the other direction."
The first step in the process is the formation of an organization planning committee with representation from the districts surrounding Adams 14 – Mapleton School District, Adams 12 Five Star Schools and Brighton School District 27J. That committee will consider options for reorganizing the district. Those options include consolidating with another district, having other districts absorb individual schools, or dissolving the district completely.
A plan must be developed and public hearings held to gather community feedback on the plan. Ultimately, voters in each of the affected districts will be given a chance to approve or disapprove of the plan.
As for the loss of accreditation, Salazar said it does not change anything for students. In a message to parents and students officials stated:
- Student learning continues
- Schools remain open
- State and federal funding remain intact
- High school diplomas are not affected
- Higher-education opportunities for students are not affected
Adams 14 previously lost accreditation in October after missing a deadline to submit a joint letter demonstrating that it was working collaboratively with its outside manager. The accreditation was restored later that month.
The Colorado Department of Education in April said the board’s actions are the result of Adams 14 having more than a decade of low academic performance. Under the state’s Education Accountability Act, the board is required to direct action to schools and districts that remain on the Accountability Clock for five years in a row, the department said. The law says these actions may include:
- granting innovation status
- requiring a district or school to work with an external manager
- converting a school to a charter school
- closing a school
- initiating a district reorganization process
Accountability ratings have not been calculated since 2019 due to the pandemic, but the department said Adams 14 had been on the Accountability Clock since 2010.
Salazar told 9NEWS the district plans to challenge the State Board of Education's decision in the coming weeks.
"We’re not going to take this sitting down," he said. "We are going to engage in our legal avenues to go after the State Board of Education.
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