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Upstarts clash with establishment candidates in State Board of Education primaries

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
The Colorado Department of Education.

Two upstart candidates critical of Colorado’s embrace of the Common Core State Standards and the multi-state testing consortium PARCC are challenging their respective party’s establishment candidates in Colorado’s primary election for seats on the State Board of Education.

Democrat Ilana Spiegel, an author, activist and former educator, is challenging Rebecca McClellan, former mayor pro tem of the City of Centennial, for a chance to unseat Republican incumbent Deb Scheffel, who represents Colorado’s 6th congressional district.

Scheffel is running unopposed.

Anita Stapleton, a nurse from Pueblo who is a fixture at State Board of Education meetings, is challenging Republican incumbent Joyce Rankin to represent Colorado’s 3rd congressional district on the board. Rankin, a former teacher and principal who is married to Republican state Rep. Bob Rankin, was chosen to fill the seat last year after Marcia Neal resigned, citing health reasons and board dysfunction.

The winner of that primary race will face Pueblo Democrat Christine Pacheco-Koveleski, a lawyer and former member of the Pueblo City Schools board of education. Republicans are considered to have an edge in the sprawling district.

Pacheco-Koveleski is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

The primary races set the stage for November’s general election, with control over the seven-member board on the line as the state faces crucial decisions about how to address chronically low performing schools and districts. The board faces immediate questions about the search for a permanent education commissioner after Rich Crandall’s sudden resignation in May.

Katy Anthes, who previously served as the education department’s chief of staff, is filling the position on an interim basis.

Although Republicans hold a 4-3 edge on the board, votes don’t always fall along party lines. Denver Democrat Val Flores has sided with Republicans on issues such as testing but breaks with them over other issues, including charter schools.

Board members serve six-year terms.

Both Spiegel and Stapleton have been leading voices in the debate over the testing and standards.

Spiegel previously served on a task force that made recommendations on how to rein in state standardized testing.

Stapleton has helped create a sprawling network of activists urging the state to drop the nationwide standards.

A third seat on the State Board is in play this November. Democrat Jeffery L. Walker Sr. is challenging incumbent Republican Steve Durham, the board’s chairman, to represent the 5th congressional district.

Tens of thousands of dollars have already been raised the four candidates in contested primaries.

McClellan leads in donations among all candidates with more than $23,000 raised, according to campaign finance reports. Her opponent, Spiegel, has raised more than $18,000.

Rankin’s has considerably outpaced Stapleton in fundraising. Rankin has raised more than $13,000, while Stapleton has raised less than $800.

Tuesday is the deadline to return ballots in Colorado’s mail-in ballot primary.

Read our preview of the 6th congressional primary contest here.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”