19 October 2007

Tony Curcio For Denver Public Schools District 5

Jose Silva has dropped out of the Denver Public Schools District 5 race, according to the Rocky (something that not everyone in the Rocky Mountain News knows, as an October 16 story reported that he would be appearing at a candidate debate).

As I noted yesterday, there are very serious concerns about Ray Gutierrez, a 21-year old who didn’t complete high school. Similarly, there are real reasons to be concerned about Arturo Jimenez, who falsely claimed to be endorsed by two principals who didn't in fact endorse him. I don't care how smart he is, or how sensible his educational program may be, or who is endorsing him (both the Denver Post and Jose Silva; Jimenez is the "establishment" candidate in the race). You don't vote for someone who has committed a serious breach of trust before he's even been elected.

This leaves, by process of elimination, Tony Curcio. But, Curcio deserves strong consideration in his own right.

I have criticized some candidates for school board for griping without having a plan of their own (one of whom, Dr. Frank E. Deserino sent me a lengthy e-mail rebutting my claim). At any rate, this is not true of Tony Curcio. He has a well articulated plan of action. Unlike many other candidates, he acknowledges the wide public input that went into the Denver Plan (the DPS strategic plan), and the fact that the district needs money to make it work. He states:

DPS must do four things.

First, DPS must restart the public involvement process now. If history has any lessons for us, it’s that school closure is a painful and divisive process. If we give this process anything less than our full attention, we will not be ready for Fall 2008, and kids will suffer. DPS cannot wait until November to reengage the community, we must start now.

Second, reprogramming may be a viable option for some schools. It is imperative that DPS not continue to reinvent the wheel and dilute our professional development budgets. We need to look to a few proven school models that are shown to benefit all kids and serve a range of demographic needs: Core Knowledge, International Baccalaureate, and Montessori, to name a few.

Third, DPS must invest in ECE and full-day kindergarten. ECE and full-day kindergarten are critical to the success of our kids. Denver (and Colorado) trails the national average for ECE and kindergarten enrollment. ECE and kindergarten attendance is critical to the long-term success of students.

Fourth, and maybe most importantly, DPS must launch a comprehensive evaluation to determine why kids are leaving and how we are going to get them back to DPS schools. A+ Denver did a great job of providing a budgetary baseline for DPS schools, but if we can’t determine how to stop the exodus of students from DPS schools, we’ll be talking about the next round of school closures in five or ten years.

If DPS can provide the community a clear vision of life-after-school-closure, we have a chance of rebuilding our troubled school system, but we must demonstrate how we are making investments into our schools to successfully educate our kids.

Tony Curcio is the best candidate in Denver Public Schools District 5 and if you haven't voted yet, you should vote for him if you are in District 5.


In fairness, here is an excerpt of what Mr. Deserino wrote in response to my post, which I offer without comment (it is an excerpt only because he is a paragraph man, not a sound bite guy, and even blogs have de facto space limitations):

In my view I like the board, I like Mr. Bennet, and I like the Denver Plan, but I believe that it needs help. This school district needs the voice of teachers, which are one of the responsible parties for educating Denver’s kids, and a start would be to allow them to do what they are trained to do, teach. Currently our Chief Academic Officer for Denver Public Schools and his team, all of whom have either never taught or it has been some time since they have, dictate academic policy to the professionals and in doing so deter our kids from academic choice, and t eachers from teaching the whole child.

In making education academically fun again, I want to bring back choice. Surely you can remember when you were a student that course offerings were more than just the three R’s. Yes, the rudiments of education are important, but if all you want in society are graduates who have no sense of self, or lack of history and art education for example, than the result is sheep. . . . In the time that I have been working in this district I have watched, for example, the dismantling of social studies as a core curriculum, and in most cases it has been done without the Board of Education’s knowledge. Wishing for a dramatic rise in CSAP scores is nothing but a pipe dream. Choice is but one strategic way that will bring parents and kids back to this district, and in turn help to relieve our money issues. It is delusional to believe that the only reason parents have left and will return to this district is simply because of a test score. . . . the advice that seven Board members have been receiving from the curriculum department has been misleading. . . . A board of education should have as a responsibility / objective to make education academically challenging, by offering students and parents choice, and teachers the autonomy to deliver an understandable instruction. Whether or not this district is “ill suited” is not, I believe at issue as it is the Boards obligation to support a learning environment inclusive of all involved parties rather than cater to only one point of view.

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