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Adams 14 School District fires outside manager, calls state board of education biased

A 2018 order requires the district to work with an outside manager in an effort to turn around student performance which had the lowest rates since 2010.

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The Colorado Board of Education on Friday voted to temporarily deny Adams 14 School District’s request to find a new outside manager. The request came as a motion to amend a 2018 state board order that had required the district to find a management partner to reverse long standing struggles in student academic performance.

After firing its external manager, MGT, earlier this month, Adams 14 sought permission to find a replacement, the board of education said. The state board denied that request for now, opting to begin a process that will culminate with an April 2022 hearing.

The Adams 14 board said they were "disappointed" with the denial from the state board which would have allowed them to move forward and find the "right partner."

In its decision, the state board said it wanted to first consider public input regarding the district’s future turnaround path as well as a new report from the independent State Review Panel, which will be complete in March, on the status of student learning at the district.

>> Watch the full press conference in the player below

The state board will take an electronic vote next week on a written order prepared by counsel that formalizes the board’s decision to deny the Adams 14 motion to amend the 2018 order. The written order will include a detailed history of the board’s action and explain next steps for the district and the public.

The state board issued the 2018 order to help the district dramatically improve student performance after receiving priority improvement or turnaround ratings – the lowest ratings on the state’s accountability system – since 2010.

For its part, the district said there was a "pattern of misconduct" by MGT, which resulted in their firing on Jan. 11. The district also claimed that MGT was making decisions without the school board's approval.

The Adams 14 School District said it found "good cause" to terminate its contract with MGT, and said they didn't need to involve the state board in their firing. The district also accused the state board of education of being biased toward the district and was not acting in "an impartial fashion."

A representative of MGT shared the following statement with 9NEWS in response to the school district's claims:

“The State Board of Education said that Adams 14 should produce evidence to support its unsubstantiated claims, and Adams 14 again failed to do so. Instead, Adams 14 administrators said they’d wanted to work with MGT all along, even though sworn affidavits show they engineered a report as a pretext to oust MGT before the new superintendent even officially started.

What we know is an independent investigation led the district’s Executive Director for Human Resources to recommend two high-level terminations. Adams 14 families and staff deserve to know why the superintendent and school board are refusing to act on those recommendations.”

RELATED: Adams 14 School District’s accreditation restored

RELATED: Adams 14 school district loses state accreditation, given 1 more chance to get it back

The school district’s accreditation was restored in October 2021, according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).

The state said that Adams 14 complied with a State Board of Education order that required the district to sign a memorandum of understanding and joint letter with its management partner, confirming it will resume working together to turn around the district’s low academic performance.

CDE had forced the district to have a private company called MGT to come in to run the schools for more than 6,000 students in Commerce City.

The district originally lost accreditation after missing an Oct. 1 deadline to submit a joint letter demonstrating that it was working collaboratively with MGT.

CDE Commissioner Katy Anthes released the following statement in response to the situation Friday:

“There have been many conflicting claims and frustrations for months from both the Adams 14 School District and from MGT, and this has made the current situation confusing. Part of the information needed to understand the situation has not been shared publicly or with us, which makes it difficult to come to a definitive conclusion for who has ‘good cause’ and who is ‘at fault.’ In some ways, that doesn’t even matter. Bottom line for me – as the commissioner – is that I want the students of Adams 14 to have the high-quality education they deserve.

“The state board did not amend their previous order today because they want more information before taking action. They have asked for an independent evaluation of the status of student learning at the district. They want to consider that report, and they want to hear from members of the public before taking any action.

“I want to clarify that the State Board of Education was not acting in a quasi judicial manner today. Today’s meeting was not a hearing. A hearing will be scheduled in April, and at that time the district will have an opportunity to present their information. At that time the state board will be acting in a quasi judicial capacity.

“We are not aware of an investigation taking place at the DA’s office or that there is any reason to withhold the document in question that would help the state board ascertain if there was wrongdoing from the management company. We have been in touch with the DA’s office to confirm this.

“The CDE staff has acted with integrity — they have been in the district working alongside staff, teachers and partners for years. My staff have spent countless hours in the district trying to urge things along, make things work and help teachers and educators find some stability.

“I know the community and certainly some district staff are frustrated or wonder why the state board and CDE are so involved in this. It is because the board has a constitutional authority and a statutory authority to oversee the education of students in Colorado. We have ALWAYS wanted a world class education for Adams 14 students and all students in the state of Colorado.

“We look forward to working with the district to build a plan for students that everyone can support.”

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