Two years ago, a new organization, Adams 14 Schools Succeed, began partnering with Adams 14 schools. At that time, the schools were facing a federal investigation for not effectively serving students learning English. The state was threatening to dissolve the district. Leadership was inconsistent and unstable, and students were not reaching their potential.
Today, after years of hard work alongside the tremendous teachers and school staff in Adams 14, the graduation rate is up more than three points, the dropout rate is down nearly two points, and students have more opportunities for college and careers. According to a state survey, teacher morale is up nine points.
There is only one problem: as part of a gradual transition plan, Adams 14 has a new superintendent, but she doesn’t want us in the schools. In early August, after she was on the job for 34 days, her lawyer told us to stop working, and we were locked out of the schools. She’s now exploring ways to terminate our partnership.
We’re very confused by these changes. For two years, including through a pandemic, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with the Adams 14 team to finally begin to turn things around. Together, we resolved that federal investigation and improved services for students learning English. We increased opportunities for families to be involved in the schools. And, perhaps most importantly, we made it easier for all students to get the quality education they deserve.
Throughout this time, we didn’t hear a single complaint about our work to the Adams 14 Board of Education or to the State Board of Education. Indeed, just three months ago, Adams 14 Board members were praising the work done by the leader of the Adams 14 Schools Succeed team.
At the June 8 Board meeting, Board Member Maria Zubia said, “For me, it’s been a pleasure to work with you and learn from you.” Board Member Connie Quintana said, “You’re just great. I wish you could have stayed with us forever.” And Board President Ramona Lewis said, “I don’t think I could’ve done it without you.”
What’s changed in the last few months? The new superintendent flew in a for-profit consultant from out-of-state to write a report about our partnership with the district. After meeting with some district staff members, the consultant wrote in the first draft of his report that “the pluses of continuing this relationship for the short-term far outweigh the minuses. Ending this relationship now would result in chaos in a district that has already had its share.”
We agreed. But then something curious happened. Between his first draft and his final version, the consultant changed the report to say we haven’t done anything good. After recommending that our team stay, the consultant now recommends that we go, and the new superintendent wants us out.
We’re fighting to stay. This isn’t about us, and it’s not about the new superintendent. It’s about the kids. After years of instability in Adams 14 schools, more kids are learning English, more kids are graduating high school, and more kids are reaching their potential.
Together, we’re making progress, and that’s why it’s important that our partnership continues, and we finish what we started.
Eric Parish is the executive vice president of MGT Consulting, the external management organization hired to help turn around Adams 14. He resides in metro Denver.