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Adams 14 school board rejects charter school contract

The charter school's contract was rejected at a meeting on Oct. 11, leaving supporters of the proposed school disappointed and confused.

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — As Wendy Hernandez looked through her son Dominic's progress report, she reflected on why she felt University Prep (UPrep) was the right choice for him. 

"...there's always communication between staff, between the teachers," Hernandez said. 

However, one improvement she hopes for, was for better means of transportation for Dominic, who is in the 3rd grade. 

"Since I am a full-time [working] single parent … it’s either trying to find help taking them to school or from school," she said. 

That's why, when she was approached by some parents about the idea of the next elementary school from UPrep to be in the area of Commerce City, where Hernandez has lived for decades, she was on board. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
University Prep Charter School in Denver.

According to a presentation on Dec. 14, 2021, to the Adams 14 school board a group of "parent leaders" from Commerce City began a co-design process with U Prep to propose a new, Pre-K-5th grade public charter school for the district. 

After 10 co-design team meetings centered on the voices of families, U Prep wrote and submitted a charter application to Adams 14, which was approved. 

Among the many goals, one was to set forth a clearer path to biliteracy. 

When the Oct. 11 meeting came, the Adams 14 Board of Education voted down the official contract, 4-0, with board secretary, Maria Zubia absent from the vote. 

Just after, the board directed legal counsel to provide a resolution for a future public meeting, so that the "rationale" for their vote would be explained. 

As of Tuesday night, there is no future meeting yet scheduled that would take up the resolution. 

Parents and supporters of the new proposed school could be seen on the video recording of the meeting leaving just after the vote occurred. 

"We were incredibly disappointed by the decision made by the local school board," said UPrep's Executive Director and Founder David Singer in an email to 9NEWS. 

He said there were around 20 meetings between senior leaders of Adams 14 and UPrep, calling the contract a fair and appropriate contract between the two entities. 

"Following all of that work and nearly 300 days after the original 'yes,' to have the board turn around and say 'no' to the contract… that was a disheartening moment," Singer said. "It was especially troubling and hurtful to our parent leaders from within the community. Moreover, to have that 'no' come without any rationale or transparent communication during a public meeting was highly concerning."

Singer also said that he along with parent leaders has been weighing options with legal counsel on what to do next. Those next steps may include an appeal with the state board of education, he said.

"But most importantly, they will include our parents’ voices – making sure they ultimately find a pathway forward to bring their new school to life in their community," Singer wrote.

Representatives with the Adams 14 School District did not respond with comments by the time of publication of this article. 

Credit: Luis de Leon
Wendy Hernandez sits with her son Dominic, who is in the 3rd grade at University Prep.

According to the Colorado League of Charter Schools, there are 256 charter schools across the state serving more than 134,000 students – 51% are students of color. 

"When parents from historically marginalized backgrounds look at the choices around them and want and need something different, and then put forth the incredible energy and effort to create that something different, we should be doing everything we can to support them," Singer said. "This is about parent voice and parent choice bringing about meaningful change."

While Hernandez remains shocked and disappointed by the decision, she remains hopeful. 

"I just hope that once our voice is heard ... that we get somewhere," she said.

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