By Kati Weis

(CBS4) – Thirteen Denver metro area school superintendents have signed a letter to the Colorado Board of Education saying they’re “deeply disappointed” the board would take the unprecedented step of reorganizing the Adams 14 School District. The superintendents believe the state should allow Adams 14 to remain its own district, under its current leadership.

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The letter comes after the state board voted last month to reorganize Adams 14, citing nine years of poor student test scores.

“The fact that seven people, most of whom have never stepped foot in the school district and Adams 14, most of whom have never walked in the shoes of a community like Adams 14, the fact that they are able to then pass judgment on a school and a district based on a single result of a one-dimensional viewpoint of a school district is pretty appalling,” said Mapleton Public Schools Superintendent Charlotte Ciancio, one of the superintendents who signed the letter.

Mapleton Public Schools is just next door to Adams 14. She says the state is treating Adams 14 unfairly, by evaluating it only through student test scores, as Adams 14 is a school district made up of a primarily poor, Hispanic student population, that faces unique challenges.

“These kids are bilingual, and that’s pretty impressive, but there’s no benefit,” Ciancio said. “There’s no bonus on their accreditation system for the skills they bring.”

Ciancio believes the state should reevaluate its accreditation standards.

“I hope that people recognize that the system is flawed, and this is the perfect example of what these flaws of the system can do, the harm it can cause to a community,” she said. “I hope it is kind of that trigger that we all say this is not acceptable for us as Colorado.”

This week, Mapleton’s local school board also issued a resolution, urging the state board to rescind its decision.

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“The dissolution of the school district for Adams 14 is really an unacceptable option,” Ciancio said. “We don’t want their community taken apart… we are not interested in enrolling all the kids from Adams 14. That’s not what the community needs.”

State Board of Education Chair Angelika Schroeder sees it differently.

“We don’t have a choice, quite honestly, the law requires us to take a number of actions when in fact, the students are not thriving and are not doing well,” Schroeder said. “This has been going on for at least nine years, that they have been underperforming.”

She says reorganization could bring a few different options to improve the school district, from local leadership change, to all out dissolution. She says ultimately, it will be up to the Adams 14 community to decide what is best.

“The challenge is we can’t do the same things we’ve been doing in the past, and we’ve tried a number of items and in fact, this particular board and superintendent did in fact, eliminate the option that we chose a couple of years ago which is to have full management. They were frustrated I believe with their management company, and although the order had said if it’s not working, come back to the board, they ignored that and just put them out,” Schroeder said. “So, it’s all sorts of different moves made by the district that make it really difficult for us. We’re just continuing to try the few tools that we have available to us as a state board in order to get things to be changed there.”

She says in the past other school districts facing similar situations as Adams 14 have risen to the occasion.

“The difference for example, is that we have had schools come before us because and districts, because they are on the clock, there’s been low achievement for five years or more, and we have worked together with them, and they have been successful, and they are off the clock,” Schroeder said. “This is the only district… where things haven’t worked.”

As CBS4 has reported, Adams 14 had originally hired a private management company, MGT Consulting, at the request of the state, to help bring up student performance. But the district terminated MGT this year, saying the company was not delivering on the services the district paid it to do. The company says it helped bring up student graduation rates, and lowered dropout rates.

CBS4 also found Adams 14 was not the only metro area school organization that had issues with MGT in recent years.

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Schroeder hopes to see school districts like Mapleton meet with Adams 14 to see what ways they can help the district through the reorganization process.

Reorganization decisions, in the meantime, could take up to a year to be finalized.

LINK: DASSC Letter

Kati Weis