ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The Colorado State Board of Education approved an order Tuesday morning will begin the reorganizing process for the Adams County School District 14, which has been struggling with low academic performance for nearly a decade.
Adams 14, which serves about 6,000 students in the Commerce City area, 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."
"I’ve heard no one say they can believe this district can really solve their own problems, and they’re declining to accept meaningful help from others, and that’s unfortunate," Steve Durham, a member of board of education, said ahead of the vote on Tuesday.
In April, the state board heard from the school district, as well as an independent review board on recommendations for 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 [Colorado Department of Education] officials," Adams 14 attorney Joseph Salazar said earlier this month. "We literally followed everything that [the department of education] has on their own website. So we follow it to a 'T' and despite that, they moved the goal post on us."
Now the neighboring Adams County school districts must create a committee to figure out what is the best course of action for Adams 14. Once they have a plan, they will bring it to the public to receive feedback.
The reorganization plan can include consolidating with another district, having other districts absorb certain schools or dissolving the district completely.
Ultimately, voters from all the impacted school districts will decide whether to absorb Adams 14 schools. Adams 14 Superintendent Karla Loria, Ed.D. said they will fight the reorganization process.
"Adams 14 is here, and we’ll be here next year and years to come," Loria said. "I understand for many years that we have done a disservice to our students and our families and not engaging them in a genuine manner, but things are changing and I want them to genuinely engage with us to determine what is best for students and our kids."
On Tuesday, teachers held a rally in support of fighting the reorganization process. SD14 Classroom Teachers' Association, the teachers union for the district, confirmed the order has scared teachers from returning to the district, ultimately hurting the students more.
"It’s the stress, it’s the instability, what’s going to happen. It seems like every time [the state board members] have a meeting it’s hard to tell what’s going to come out of it," said Jason Malmber, union president and an Adams 14 teacher. "Now that they’ve announced plans to dissolve the district, of course that’s going to be destabilizing to anybody."
However, Malmberg added he was encouraged by the teachers that have stuck around. On Tuesday, he and dozens of others vowed to continue to fight to keep the school district intact.
"Nothing ever comes easy here, our staff and our community are used to fighting and we’re ready," Adams 14 teacher Lacey Mueller-Taschdjian, said. "If local control is truly part of our constitution and our state board chooses to follow that, then they need to leave the decisions in the hands of this community who knows what’s best for the kids."
The board also approved a partial manager for the school district, which was the district's initial solution to the student performance problems. The reorganization process will start in the next 30 days, but some Adams 14 parents hope the school board will reverse course before then.
"Members of the state board look into your hearts and think about what is truly in the best interest of the students," Adams 14 parent Elizabeth Rivas said.
"What you may be considering in saying what is the best interest really doesn’t support what this community needs most, and what we would really ask for is that you spend time in this community," Rivas added "That you be here with us to learn what we need and how to work together with us, rather than making decisions from a distance and without having that true understanding of how to support the students and families of Commerce City and Adams 14."
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