Who Is In Charge

Districts eager for SB 191 pilot

Nearly a quarter of Colorado school districts have applied to participate in field-testing of new principal and teacher evaluation methods.

Teacher evaluationIt was “a surprise and an encouraging message” that the Department of Education received 41 applications, said Diana Sirko, deputy commissioner. “We look at this as very encouraging.” She said CDE had expected a couple of dozen applications at the most.

The applicants range from the Jefferson County Schools, the state’s largest with 85,000 students, to the 120-student Mountain Valley district in the San Luis Valley.

Other large districts on the list include Academy, Adams 12-Five Star, Boulder Valley, Brighton, Douglas County, Falcon, Poudre, St. Vrain Valley and Thompson.

About 39 percent of the applications came from rural districts, 30 percent from suburban areas, 22 percent from mountain districts and 9 percent from urban districts, based on the descriptions checked by districts on their applications. A group of nine southwestern Colorado districts applied together under the umbrella of the San Juan BOCES.

Pilot applicants
  • Academy
  • Adams 12-Five Star
  • Aspen
  • Boulder Valley
  • Brighton (partner)
  • Center
  • Charter School Institute (GOAL Academy, Pinnacle and Stone Creek Charter)
  • Crowley County
  • Custer County
  • Del Norte
  • Douglas County (partner)
  • Eagle County (partner)
  • Elbert
  • Falcon
  • Harrison (partner)
  • Jefferson County
  • Keenesburg
  • Kiowa County
  • Platte Canyon
  • Miami-Yoder
  • Moffat County
  • Mountain Valley
  • Poudre
  • Rocky Ford
  • St. Vrain Valley
  • Salida
  • San Juan BOCES (represents Bayfield, Dolores, Dove Creek, Durango, Ignacio, Mancos, Montezuma-Cortez, Pagosa Springs and Silverton)
  • South Routt
  • Telluride
  • Thompson
  • Trinidad
  • Valley
  • Wray

Read applications (101-page PDF). Document doesn’t include all applications from San Juan BOCES group.

While districts have a variety of evaluation systems in place, Senate Bill 10-191 changed the rules by requiring that at least 50 percent of principal and teacher evaluations be based on academic growth of students. The bill also requires annual evaluations and a tiered rating system for educators, and it specifies that teachers can be returned to probation if their evaluations are subpar.

The bill was the focus of intense controversy and negotiation during the 2010 legislative session, and a key provision of the final version was that new forms of evaluation would be pilot tested in selected districts before fully going into effect in 2016. The first phase of pilot testing starts this fall. (See this CDE chart for details of the pilot process.)

Districts will be chosen in three areas. Six to eight districts will be selected for the main pilot process. Another four to six districts will be selected as “partners” that will compare their existing evaluation systems against elements of the proposed state system in an effort to enhance the model state system with local experience.

Brighton, Douglas County, Eagle and Harrison, all of which have experience with evaluation systems, have applied to be partner districts. CDE is still accepting applications for this category.

And a third group of districts, also about four to six, will be selected for a broader program intended to help them implement not only new evaluation methods but also the new state content standards and the upcoming new state testing system. Lessons learned from this project are to be shared statewide. (See previous article about this program.)

Pilot district applicants will be notified if they’ve been selected by Aug. 10.

The pilot projects are just one part of the SB 10-191 implementation process. CDE staff members have prepared draft regulations for implementation of the law. The State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on final rules in November, and the legislature will have until February to review those rules. (Information about rule making, including links to drafts and timetables.)

A key decision that remains to be made is the amount of flexibility districts will have in customizing evaluation systems. (See this article for background.)

Also, CDE is working on a model evaluation system, and the State Council for Educator Effectiveness still has to recommend an appeals process for teachers who revert to probationary status because of low evaluations.

See CDE’s educator effectiveness page for more information.


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.