DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s school board is under fire from a charter school director and families who say the board is playing politics with kids education. The battle comes to a head Thursday when the board will vote on whether to allow Rachel B. Noel Middle School in Northeast Denver to add a high school.
Noel is not only the top performing public school in the city, according to Denver Public Schools, it’s one of the top two in the entire state based on its growth in math and English. The school is 94% minority and 80% low income.
“And that speaks volumes to what our kids are capable of. It shuts down every single myth that you hear about our kids,” said Dr. Brandi Chin, founding director at Noel, a DSST charter school.
It opened three years ago with plans to add a high school in 2021. The expansion was contingent on every DSST high school being high performing.
The rating at Cole High School fell just below the mark last year, and its rating hasn’t been updated this year because of the pandemic. A district analysis last month found “important improvements” at Cole, enough to recommend Noel’s expansion.
DPS Board Member Jennifer Bacon – whose district includes Noel and Cole – isn’t convinced and she’s not alone. The board has repeatedly delayed a vote on the expansion.
Bacon says, “While it may feel like a promise is not being kept for the Noel students, we would say this network made a commitment to us for all their kids and we’re not willing to trade one for another.”
Bacon says, in order for Noel to expand, the school it shares a building with now would also need to move. DSST insists it never asked for space or money and, it says, it will rent space if needed.
Chin says the board is playing politics – anti-charter politics, “I know without a shadow of a doubt if we were not a charter school, we wouldn’t have this conversation right now.”
Danielle Walker’s daughter, Caleah, is an 8th grader at Noel whose fate hangs in the balance.
“It’s very frustrating, infuriating, mind boggling.” Walker says the board should make its decision based on Noel’s performance not it’s charter school status. “They say they care about students of color, but they’re turning around and doing something that flies in face of it so blatantly.”
Bacon counters that it’s not just about kids of color at Noel.
“The DSST Cole kids deserve a quality education and what they’ve demonstrated is they have to be made and pushed to get there.”
If Noel’s expansion is denied, Bacon says, the 8th graders at Noel can go to another DSST school, but DSST says there are already 500 kids on waitlists at its other schools.
Chin says punishing Noel won’t help Cole, it’ll just hurt kids.
“All of this to me is, honestly, an egregious lack of leadership, lack integrity, lack of values to say we made a commitment to families and we need to uphold it.”