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I have always had a lot of confidence in what parents believe is best for their kids, regardless of how much face time they can actually put in at their kid’s school. ¬†And of those who have actually done the heavy lifting of successfully reforming and revitalizing a school, we should sit up and take particular notice when they have advice for the rest of us.

George Washington High School parent Kristen Tourangeau knows a thing or two about what’s good for DPS’ kids. ¬†Listen up…

Hello DPS parents,

I am not a Facebook subscriber, however I recently learned from a Facebook post that was shared with me, that there are many of you in Denver who are feeling betrayed by DPS. You are not alone. Parents all over DPS are feeling the same way.

Since we all live in different parts of town, it is difficult to know what is happening with DPS issues in other areas. Therefore, I would like to share my thoughts and perceptions about DPS with you. I live in central Denver and I have experienced many trials and tribulations with DPS during the past fourteen years. I imagine that your struggles with DPS have also come as a result of your efforts to improve your children’s educational and extracurricular experiences during their elementary, middle school, and high school years.

I am sorry that you feel betrayed. You have been. For those of you with children still in elementary school, you are at an advantage having learned that early on. I didn’t have that experience until my children reached middle school, when the focus of 900 Grant changed dramatically with Superintendent Michael Bennet and the Denver Plan. At that time I learned that the voices of parents and the community didn’t matter. 900 Grant knew what was best for us, and they conducted community meetings in a way that produced the results that they wanted.

In addition, their clear focus on the CSAP’s/TCAP’s and the development of the SPF school rating system have derailed the education experience for our children. I now have ten years of experience with the CSAP’s/TCAP’s. Learning for our children has become routine and uninteresting. The creative, intriguing, and exciting aspects of the process of learning have been steadily diminished by the current curriculum outlined by 900 Grant and its laser-like focus on testing. The proposed 2012 3A mill levy seeks to restore some of the creative parts of past curricula, but no one can be sure that those funds will be directed to those endeavors. Promises are made, but not often kept.

In 2003 Denver taxpayers voted on a mill levy which was designed to provide arts and music to the elementary schools. Another of its purposes was to provide funds for the revitalization of neighborhood schools. Monies were designated for twelve schools for revitalization in 2004, the only year in which that happened. Since then, no one has been able to find out why those monies were not allocated to the revitalization of another twelve schools each year hence. This process was to continue until all DPS schools had been touched. Had that been done, over two-thirds of our schools would have been revitalized by now. This did not happen, even though there was an oversight committee. This committee produced reports and asked questions, but 900 Grant was not interested in listening to its concerns. Therefore, after more than four years of effort, the committee disbanded, frustrated and defeated.

I, as are you, was interested in sending my children to our neighborhood schools. In 1999 a group of parents at Steck Elementary built on the efforts of those before us and we were successful in making Steck one of the best elementary schools in DPS. Once we had a critical mass of parents and families, we decided to tackle Hill Middle School. We fought for those 2003 revitalization mill levy monies and were able to use them to turn around Hill. Hill is now one of the most sought after middle schools in DPS.

I am now working on GW, but 900 Grant is again not willing to help. As you realize, it takes time to recreate a successful high school. We absolutely need the help of 900 Grant to do that. That help is not forthcoming. One starts to wonder if 900 Grant doesn’t know how to fix its high schools, thus is willing to let them fail, so as to be able to turn them over to charters. For 900 Grant that is a much easier process if the charter is already co-located in the school. The North community is right to fight back. If you win, then we at GW need to be ready to fight them off, too. Every partially empty high school needs to be prepared for that battle. DPS does keep its promises to charters.

You might wonder why I am stupid enough to keep banging my head against the wall. It’s because I deeply care about public education in Denver, and because I keep hoping that the citizens of Denver will finally realize what is happening to our schools before it’s too late.

By defeating the 3B bond, we can send a clear message to 900 Grant — either they listen to their customers or we will fight back. There is no reason that those of us whose children attend these schools cannot put together a better bond for 2013. Let’s defeat this bond and produce a sensible one for next year!

By voting NO on 3B I hope to send a message of no confidence to 900 Grant.

It is time that we taxpayers spend our money more wisely.

Regards,

Kristen Tourangeau
GW Parent
Manual High School Graduate