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UPDATED: DPS board to vote June 16 on restoring some innovation school freedoms

The Denver school board could vote tonight to restore key freedoms that were stripped from 52 innovation schools by a hastily passed policy change earlier this spring.

Update: The vote will be held at a special meeting on June 16.

A minor tweak in the language of the policy, Executive Limitation 12 would stop the collective bargaining agreement between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools from superseding virtually all waivers granted to innovation schools.

There would still be two key exceptions. Innovation schools would not be able to waive the grievance procedure under which teachers can dispute alleged contract violations. Nor could they alter the steps a school must work through to file complaints against teachers.

But If the changes pass tonight, innovation schools could again enact waivers to the contract that would give them more freedom to make alterations in seven key areas:

  • Length of their school day
  • Length of school year
  • Leadership structure 
  • Class size 
  • Compensation for teacher extra duties
  • Student discipline
  • Hiring timelines

Update: Which waivers will and will not be allowed is in flux as board members continue to negotiate and collect feedback. The number of freedoms regained are likely to be fewer than originally introduced earlier this week.

DPS board Vice President Tay Anderson, who quarterbacked the proposed changes, said he was responding not only to angst among innovation school educators, but to a statement made last week by Superintendent Alex Marrero that the unintended consequences of the original policy change needed to be addressed.

After hearing that, Anderson said, “I got colleagues together and said ‘we have to act.’” The item was added to tonight’s agenda just yesterday, but Anderson said that wasn’t to “surprise everyone,” but because he and board members Michelle Quattlebaum and Scott Esserman believe the board needs to act before recessing until August.

“Innovation schools are already being told what they can and cannot do in their plans,” Anderson said. “And we want to make sure that they have enough runway to start new plans because 40 innovation schools are coming to us this fall for renewal.”

Innovation schools have been a flashpoint for the past several months, after board members Scott Baldermann and Xochitil “Sochi” Gaytán pushed through the policy change, insisting that it was narrow in scope and designed only to protect innovation school teacher rights.

After Executive Limitation 12 passed in March however, DPS staff did a deep-dive into the union contract and found that requiring innovation schools to adhere to that agreement would have much wider-ranging implications.

Anderson said he hopes a majority of the board will support the changes. “We have been able to get us to a point where we can do teacher rights and have innovation,” he said. “People have to be able to lead with kids first and not with who supports them when they run for office.”