By Kati Weis

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) — The State Board of Education has just voted to allow the Adams 14 school district to work with a new management company after the district’s relationship with its previous state-mandated private management company to fix student performance deteriorated earlier this year. The school district is allowed to have a new manager pending full state approval next month.

The board met with district leaders and deliberated over the decision for eight hours Thursday.

(credit: CBS)

Adams 14 will have to appear before the state school board again in a couple months to lay out more solidified plans for its new managing consultant.

This comes after the state school board required Adams 14 to work with MGT Consulting nearly four years ago after the district had consistently low student performance. This year, Adams 14 fired MGT, saying the company didn’t do the work it was paid to do.

But MGT said it had a thorough turnaround strategy for the district, and while it was in charge, was able to increase graduation rates and lower dropout rates.

Since Adams 14’s relationship with MGT deteriorated, it’s up to the state to decide the future of Adams 14; whether the district gets more charter schools, a new management company, or it’s dissolved altogether. A state review panel that examined the district this year recommended the district close schools and be dissolved.

During Thursday’s state school board hearing, the district laid out long-term strategic plans to improve student outcomes and move forward with a new management company of its choosing. The district says it’s hoping to work with a non-profit organization the community approves. MGT was a for-profit entity the district says the state forced it to choose.

“We believe in partners, we believe in individuals with expertise that can come and help,” said Adams 14 Superintendent Dr. Karla Loría. “This is not looking for someone to come and manage us… I am a collaborator, but let it be clear that I will not collaborate with anybody who tells me to come and do something against our local board or children.”

Adams 14 also accused the Colorado Department of Education and some state school board members of racism, saying they failed to investigate complaints of racism and bias, and have treated the district unfairly. Click here to read the full documents submitted to the state regarding that issue.

State board member Steve Durham (R-Colorado Springs) said Thursday the district’s presentation didn’t convince him the district’s staff are capable of turning the district around.

“The charge of calling someone a racist usually means to me that you’ve lost the argument, and you have nothing left to say, because you’re attempting to damage a reputation or intimidate, I’m not really subject to either,” Durham said. “The simple fact of the matter is we deal in statistics here, and I don’t believe in black statistics, brown statistics, there are statistics, and there are numbers and there are results, and the fact is that this district has failed to perform, and that’s just a fact, there are no racist facts, it’s a fact.”

Some audience members were audibly upset by some of Durham’s remarks. At one point, an audience member yelled out, “you’re killing our kids,” while Durham was speaking.

Thursday’s decision to allow a new management company was unanimous.

Jason Malmberg, middle school music teacher and president of the SD14 Classroom Teachers Association, released this statement:

“Today, educators, students and families are breathing a little easier after the State Board of Education voted to grant Adams 14 time to produce its innovation and partial management plans for the district, Central Elementary and Adams City High School. There will be no school closures which is a major victory for the students, families, educators and community.

“Our district has been in constant turmoil since the State Board of Education forced a private for-profit management partner on us, a failed experiment that left us all demoralized and frustrated. We’re cautiously optimistic that under co-partner management status, district staff, educators, students and families can come together to build the community schools we believe will provide the wraparound services that lead to greater student health and academic growth.

“District 14 educators are eager to collaborate with Dr. Loria, the district, and a new partner to provide the academic, social, emotional and other support our students need to learn, thrive and make their dreams come true. We are encouraged to develop a plan that will be envisioned with authentic community input as we heard loud and clear from community members that they want a collaborative school design process that prioritizes the needs and strengths of the community.

“With a strong sense of community pride, our students will continue the Adams 14 legacy when many of them will become third and fourth generation graduates of their public schools in May and in years to come.”

Amie Baca Oehlert, high school counselor and president of the Colorado Education Association, released this statement:

“No matter what we look like, where we live or how much we have in our wallets, we all want exceptional public schools that inspire imagination, cultivate critical thinking and encourage collaboration to ensure our children can live fulfilling lives – that includes the hardworking families and educators in Commerce City. The Colorado Education Association will continue to support the students, families, and educators of Adams 14 by supporting our community school model and its expansion throughout Adams 14.”

Kati Weis