By Kati Weis

(CBS4) – Colorado’s State Board of Education has voted to explore options of dissolving the Adams 14 School District of Commerce City and reorganizing it into a neighboring community, following a hearing Tuesday. The board also reportedly voted four to three to revoke the district’s accreditation, saying the district did not have a sufficiently detailed plan to improve student performance.

District dissolution could take a year, and Adams 14 will remain open in the meantime, the Colorado Department of Education says. The state school board mandated Adams 14 work with its newly-chosen private consulting company TNTP while that process takes place, to help student scores.

The about-face state decision comes just one month following the state board’s vote in April to allow Adams 14 to pursue plans with a new consulting company to improve student performance, instead of voting to dissolve the district at that time.

Adams 14 has been in hot water with the state since it fired its private management company, MGT Consulting. The state had required Adams 14 to work with MGT in 2018 following years of consistently poor student performance.

Adams 14 fired MGT in January, saying the company didn’t deliver on its promises and wasted district tax money. MGT says it improved student graduation rates and lowered dropout rates. CBS4 Investigates has reported Adams 14 isn’t the only education institution in the Denver metro area that has had issues with MGT in recent years.

Tuesday, Adams 14 presented its plan to the state regarding how it plans to move forward and improve student scores without MGT. Officials with Adams 14 said the Colorado Department of Education had been working with the district throughout the last month to ensure the plan was solid, and were surprised when some state board members said Tuesday the plan was insufficient.

Adams 14 officials tell CBS4 they plan to appeal Tuesday’s decision, and will take the matter to the courts, if necessary, to protect the district from dissolution.

“We are more committed than ever to seeing this district and its schools make a lasting impact on the students and families of this community,” said Adams 14 Communication Director Dr. Robert Lundin. “We will exhaust every recourse, whether they be legal, political, or getting the community mobilized, to ensure that our voices are heard, and that our legislators know the importance of getting this issue right, and that representatives in all branches of government see the injustice that was done here.”

Lundin called the state board’s decision “spiteful and arbitrary,” saying the state has discriminated against the district. He added, “the state board decided to change the rules of the game.”

The Colorado Department of Education issued the following statement about Tuesday’s decision:

“The Colorado State Board of Education today removed Adams 14 School District’s accreditation and initiated the process to reorganize the school district during the continuation of an extended accountability hearing that started in April.

In addition, the board directed Adams 14 to proceed with its plan of engaging TNTP as partial manager to continue working on improving student outcomes.

The process for reorganizing a school district takes more than a year and allows multiple opportunities for community participation. Adams 14 schools will remain open during this process.

The first step in the process is the formation of an Organization Planning Committee with representation from each contiguous Adams County school district – Mapleton School District, Adams 12 Five Star Schools and Brighton School District 27J.

The Organization Planning Committee will then consider options for reorganizing the district. A plan must be developed and public hearings held to gather community feedback on the plan. Ultimately, the voters in each of the affected districts will be given a chance to approve or disapprove of the plan during an election.

The board requested the Office of the Attorney General to prepare written orders reflecting its decisions.

Adams 14 has received the two lowest ratings in the state’s district accountability system since the Accountability Act became law in 2009. Though accountability ratings have not been calculated since 2019 due to the pandemic, the district has remained on the Accountability Clock since 2010. Under the state’s Education Accountability Act, the board is required to direct action to schools and districts that remain on the clock for five years in a row.

The accountability law specifies the strategies the state board may direct, which includes initiating a district reorganization process.

At an accountability hearing in 2018, the State Board of Education approved the district’s proposal to turn over full management of the district to an external partner for at least four years. In January 2022 the district terminated its agreement with its management partner, MGT Consulting; and in February 2022 the state board set the April accountability hearing date for the district because it was no longer in compliance with the 2018 order.”

UPDATE: Education Expert: Colorado’s Decision To Revoke Adams 14 District Accreditation A ‘Precedent-Setting Moment’

Kati Weis