"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rocky Road to School Reform in Denver Public Schools

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

The lack of success in education by Latino young men and women has long been a source of pain and determination for me to help improve the lack of achievement and failure facing young Latinos.  The drop out rate among Latino youth has centered around the 50% plus side for many years, and it past time that leaders in the church took a stand for the betterment of our community.

I believe a good education can be the great equalizer in our society and direct our community toward the road of future success.

The Denver School Board has been rocked by controversy in its attempts to decide school closures and school redesigns (where all teachers & Principal are fired) in neighborhoods of predominately Latino and Spanish-speaking areas of NorthWest - NorthEast Denver.  Parents, community members, teachers, faith leaders, and students have joined together to create a coalition putting pressure on the board to re-consider its decisions.

As a result, as a member of a community coalition demanding open meetings, I wrote an editorial speaking on behalf of a newly elected school board member who was criticized and demonized The Denver Post Editorial, and parents who simply want to be a part of the solution.

The Denver Post Opinion
School reform from the back room a shame
By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
Posted: 12/04/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

The Denver Post talks about the Denver School Board misfiring again and demonstrating to our children how to abuse the public trust. It is shameful the editorial board has failed to see the underhanded and unethical abuse of power by the superintendent and old members of the board for the past year.

Isn't this the school board that appointed Tom Boasberg without community input? Isn't this the school board that proposed radical changes without community input? Didn't the old school board and superintendent misfire again by trying to close a public meeting?

The Denver Post editorial board unfairly singled out new member Andrea Merida for what it called "bullying behavior," and her "embarrassing and unprofessional display." In fact, you can replace Andrea's name with Boasberg or any other member of the "old board," and find that those labels can adequately apply to them as well.

Merida took a courageous step in seeking a court order allowing her to be seated as a board member. She clearly demonstrated the seriousness many parents and community members of West and North Denver felt about the radical changes being forced on the community. By using the law to challenge the board's pending agenda, Merida forced the old school board to play fair.

That the proposals were being voted on without community input was an "embarrassing and unprofessional display" of arrogance by the old board.

Perhaps Merida's alleged bullying did not change the outcome of the vote on the reforms, but forcing the old school board to debate and discuss the proposed reform agenda in an open forum was success in itself.

It is a shame the editorial board immediately labeled "Merida and her camp" as being anti-reform. This is absurd! Merida's courageous stand was proof that many parents and families only want to improve education for their children. This alone is the guiding principle for Lake parents, and only shows that the editorial board does not understand the parents' commitment to see true reforms take place.

Let there be no doubt: Merida, Arturo Jimenez and Jeannie Kaplan stand for reform with due process and respect for the parents, teachers, community members and the students who may be impacted by the reforms.

Counseling Boasberg to "play hardball" with the new board members will only increase the rancor and mean-spirited behavior shown by members of the old board. If Boasberg learned anything from the Monday meeting, it should be that his data-based reforms will be challenged, questioned and reviewed so we do not make the same mistakes made in New York City or Chicago.

Reform without representation is dictatorial and shows that Boasberg and the old board will have to learn to change their bullying behavior and shameful display of abuse of leadership and allow parents and community members a role in determining the scope of the reforms for DPS.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. Contributing to this commentary were Nick Weiser, founder of the Denver Education Advocacy Network; human resources consultant Wendy Silveira- Steinway; and Guerin Green, publisher of the North Denver News.

Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_13921736#ixzz0Zqk3jt8E

Response to my Op-Ed by Editorial Board
The Denver Post Opinion
Critical misinformation in school board debate
By Chuck Plunkett
Posted: 12/07/2009 01:00:00 AM MST

In the wake of Hurricane Merida, and as the Denver community tries to make sense of all the fear and loathing, there is an insidious argument going around that needs to be buried.

If it's allowed to persist, all the marriage counselors in Denver won't be able to help put Denver Public Schools back together again.

The argument is being made by well-meaning people against well- meaning people, so hopefully there's enough goodwill yet to pull us through.

Community leaders like Butch Montoya and the most-famous new member on the DPS board, Andrea Merida, are casting the DPS administration as "dictatorial" and the former board as toadies to the heavy- handed machinations of Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

The erroneous assertion that needs to be clarified is that the DPS administration and the former board sought to push through reforms for several schools that were either failing or struggling — and did so without community meetings, public input or serious debate.

Such claims unfairly conjure an image of a Stalinesque superintendent changing the fundamental structure of six schools without giving so much as a thought to the taxpaying parents and students of DPS, much less any time for the public to dissent or to respond.

Against this horrid backdrop, Montoya and others who oppose Boasberg cast Merida as the courageous David against the DPS Goliath.

The argument explains why the otherwise good-meaning people who support Merida cannot concede that her actions were at least a little over the top.

Merida did nothing illegal. And those who back her convincingly argue that she was guided by her dedication to students and families who resist Boasberg's changes.

Still, let's acknowledge that Merida also was guided by the teachers' unions who backed her election with thousands of dollars and other support. The unions are at odds with Boasberg's plans.

I disagree with the unions that Boasberg's attempt to foster reforms championed by the Obama administration is bad for schoolchildren, but that's another debate.

Tom Boasberg, as I have come to know him, is not dictatorial. To the contrary, folks like me who favor President Obama's reforms wish the relentlessly consensus-minded Boasberg was a bit more resolute.

During the run-up to a community meeting at which the public was to consider the administration's reforms, the mild-mannered superintendent met with The Post editorial board. Boasberg presented us with piles of reports and statistics and rationales for suggesting the changes he hoped to see at the schools in question.

Parents had ample access to the same information. The district freely made it available to all who asked. Additionally, The Post wrote stories explaining the plans, and we editorialized on them.

Opponents demanded more time to debate the changes, so DPS scheduled a second public meeting.

Finally, DPS pushed back a meeting of the Board of Education to vote on the changes from Nov. 19 to last Monday, to allow for extra debate and discussion.

This was — demonstrably — a public process.

And the best-informed people to vote on the plans were members of the former board, who had been through the full scope of the public and administrative process.

Finally, delaying the vote much longer wouldn't have been reasonable, as parents begin making their school choices in January.

I'm a fan of debate and of the public process. I don't think any school administration is so smart or pure that it should not be scrutinized, questioned and challenged.

But DPS didn't try to hide.

DPS acted like a democratic institution is supposed to act. The process that ended so regrettably last week was fair and above-board.

It's time to move on, and to drop the false and destructive misinformation.

Chuck Plunkett: 303-954-1333 or cplunkett@denverpost.com.
Read more: http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_13941183#ixzz0ZqmIOfLu

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to Preach in 1972.

1 comment:

  1. It is obvious to me as an Anglo that the Denver Posts attacks on Merida are gender, class, and race based. And Moss, who Merida has replaced, was complicit in an illegal vote attempt. After the vote was certified on Nov. 19th, the old board had no standing to vote per Colorado statute. Hurricane Merida? Why not just call her some horrid racist epitaph. Hey Chuck Plunkett, Some of my ancestry is Native American and they would like you to go back to where you came from.