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

A school district fighting to turn things around is losing its state accreditation. That's never happened before in Colorado.

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Adams 14 School District, fighting to turn things around, is losing its state accreditation. 

That's never happened before in Colorado, and it's a signal to other districts headed down the same road.

"This continues to be a difficult chapter in what has been over a decade-long effort to improve the quality of education in the district," Colorado Commissioner of Education Katy Anthes said.

The Colorado Department of Education forced the district to have a private company called MGT come in and run the schools for more than 6,000 students in Commerce City.

In August, according to Colorado State Board of Education Vice-Chairman Steve Durham, the Adams 14 board and superintendent locked out the contractor. 

That prompted the action to take away the state accreditation. Now, more drastic measures may come, including dissolving the district or forcing it to merge with someone else. 

"They should suffer penalties for what they did earlier, and we should not restore their ability to mismanage the district as they've done for the previous 10 years," Durham said. 

Adams 14 can get its accreditation back on Thursday, if it makes a new agreement with MGT. 

"I'm hopeful that we're now in a place that we can get to that agreement on Thursday, and we can continue that work that we've already started," MGT Executive Vice President Eric Parish said. 

Parish said since they took over in 2018, graduation rates have increased, dropout rates have decreased, and Adams 14 has done a better job dealing with English language learners. 

"I think what we do is bring in a team of experts that have proven themselves in this type of a situation," Parish said.

Adams 14 sent a written statement to the board outlining concerns about payments to MGT, which is why it started pushing them out.

"We never want to get to this step of accreditation being removed," Anthes said. "But given how students continue to be impacted, that is where we are today." 

Tuesday morning, Adams 14 released this statement:

 In adherence to the directives issued by the Colorado State Board of Education (hereafter SBE) on September 10, 2021 and further clarified on October 4, 2021, Adams County School District 14 will continue to operate in a good faith partnership with its external management partner: Adams 14 Schools Succeed / MGT Consulting, LLC (hereafter A14SS/MGT). 

As noted by multiple SBE members in its October 4, 2021 proceedings, Adams County School District 14 administration and local school board members have consistently sought to allow A14SS/MGT full access to school and district operations since SBE’s decision of September 10, 2021 to ensure their ability to fulfill their mandated duties under its order. 

Adams County School District 14 greatly appreciates the recognition of multiple SBE members of both the good faith efforts made by the district to fulfill its obligations under the partnership and the challenges it has faced in doing so. As always, Adams County School District 14 intends to act in the best interests of its students, staff, families, and the Commerce City community. 

Adams County School District 14 anticipates no disruption to the accreditation of its schools and will adhere to all deadlines specified by SBE. 

The Adams County School District 14 Board of Education also intends to communicate directly with its constituents regarding these recent events and looks forward to engaging with them as well as A14SS/MGT stakeholders in advancing the interests of the district’s schools and students. 

Jason Malmberg, president of the School District 14 Classroom Teachers Association, released this statement on Tuesday afternoon:

Educators in Commerce City are laser-focused on ensuring that all schools in Adams 14 are places with exceptional teaching and learning for every single student.

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely difficult for students, which is why teachers are putting every ounce of energy into supporting students' educational, social and emotional needs right now.

I'm not going to lie -- the State Board of Education's vote to strip away the district's accreditation is disheartening for Adams 14 educators who work hard every day to make sure we're meeting our students' needs. But make no mistake -- regardless of what's happening outside the classroom, we are committed to continue putting our hearts and souls into teaching and supporting students every day.

Meanwhile, day-to-day operations remain intact for students and families. 

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