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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Denver Schools are Revolting. And I’m Not Talking About CSAP Scores.

A quiet revolution seems to be building in some Denver area schools--schools that want to be freed from the bureaucracy of the overblown administration and the dictates of the teachers’ union. And, best of all, they are doing it for the kids--only this time it isn’t a funny catch phrase used to point out the obvious manipulation of politics and events with teary-eyed tots in hopes of doing something like banning the bomb so that the children will never again be hugged with nuclear arms. Or something like that.

Anyway, this revolt started a few weeks back with another school that wanted to free itself from the bonds of the district in hopes of creating a better school where kids could excel. I’m not sure what I think of their plans--I’m haven’t seen a real road map, if you will, of what they are trying to do. I like, though, that they recognize that schools need to be able to deal with their neighborhoods, their kids, their parent, and their issues with more agility than a giant district can provide.

Eighteen northeast Denver schools are seeking to build an autonomous school zone — freeing them from union and district rules they say are bureaucratic barriers to improving student achievement.

Principals from several of the schools met Monday with 50 community members and educators at Montbello High School to outline the proposal, which will be presented this month to the school board.

Principals from the 18 schools want to create a “zone of innovation,” giving them control over their budget, the educational program in the schools, staffing and incentives.
They want their own human resources department, a budget support office and an enrollment center to help schools balance populations — sending more students to schools with empty classrooms and alleviating crowding in others.

“We’re talking about putting an umbrella out here to make sure our kids get help,” said Ruth Frazier, principal of Greenwood School that serves kindergartners to eighth-graders. “We’ve come together as a region. . . . This zone is to create a new operating system.”

The move is similar, in parts, to autonomy agreements and waiver requests being sought by other Denver schools.

I would like to hear more about their plans--why they think they can do better, what the changes would mean functionally, and how it will work in relation to things like budget and support issues--but I like the trend. Moving away from bureaucracy might well mean more efficiency and smarter choices for the schools and their students.

Hooray for Denver’s revolting schools!

Read the rest.

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