Students petition to save teachers fired from Adams 14

District under state pressure to boost achievement

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - The Adams 14 School Board voted Tuesday night to recommend that Superintendent Pat Sanchez officially notify nine teachers that their contracts will not be renewed.

The decision was a bitter pill for the dozens of students and parents who spoke out in favor of the teachers.

“It’s not fair because they’re firing teachers who care about us and we care about them,” said Diana Garibo, a 17-year old junior at Adams City High School.

After learning that several of her favorite teachers were being let go, Garibo collected more than 250 signatures on a petition seeking to reverse the district’s decision.

Garibo told 7NEWS that one of her teachers announced in class that his contract had not been renewed.

"He came in… and said, as you all know, they are not renewing teachers and I'm one of them," Garibo said. "You could just tell in his face, his eyes watered up and this guy is really manly. He's the wrestling coach, he's the football coach."

Erik Tucker is one of the teachers being let go. Tucker said he was called in to the principal's office last Wednesday and was told he was being fired.

"He informed me that I would not be asked back next year. My contract is probationary, which means not tenured," Tucker said.

Tucker has been a political science and college preparatory teacher at Adams City for the last four years. He said he was shocked by the news, considering it came one day before he received his semester evaluation from the district, receiving above average scores.

"I pointed to my strong record of evaluations and was trying to get some clarification on their decision. The only thing I was told was that the district is going to go in a different direction," he said.

When asked how the district determined which teachers were being retained and which were being let go, Superintendent Pat Sanchez told 7NEWS that the key is instructional expectations.

“We’re second from the bottom, performance-wise, in the state of Colorado,” Sanchez said. “That puts us under heightened focus from the Colorado Dept. of Education.”

Sanchez said Adams 14 is trying to improve its evaluation process and is working on adopting the state model evaluation tool.

“We’re really looking at getting clear, so there are no surprises for teachers, and we’re not there yet,” he said.

Jacob Lingard’s wife, Erica Kaiser, is one of the instructors being let go.

“I believe it has nothing to do with her capability,” Lingard said. “I think it’s politics… and has everything to do with the fact that she stood up about class sizes and the unacceptable conditions that existed at the beginning of the year.”

“That’s his story,” Sanchez told 7NEWS. “As a district, we’re trapped because we can never tell our side of the story. We can never tell about an instructional teacher’s performance, nor would we. It’s not appropriate.”

Several students told 7NEWS that the teachers being let go are their favorite teachers and are committed to students.

Sanchez countered, “To be where we are performance-wise, we have to look beyond just being good.  We need teachers that are excellent. We need teachers that are great.”

Sanchez added that the decision not to renew contracts doesn’t mean they’re bad teachers.

“It means we need more experienced teachers,” he said.  “We need teachers that have more of a tool box to be able to reach challenging kids. We need excellence and that’s a high standard.”

The students see things differently.

"I see (the teachers) as heroes," Garibo said.

She added that students have spent three years of their lives with those teachers and have bonded with them.

“It’s a bond that can never be broken,” she said.

Sanchez said he appreciates the student’s courage and their decision to speak out at the board meeting.

“I think that’s a step toward being an adult,” he said.

The Superintendent told 7NEWS that he empathizes with the students and hopes that in the long run the district can prove that it will provide better service and better academic performance.

Adams 14 has been in the spotlight recently after the CALL7 Investigators uncovered the district has paid out nearly $1.5 million in settlements and other payments for issues like discrimination in the past two and a half years.

http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/call7-investigators/adams-14-school-district-settled-repeated-discrimination-suits-during-the-past-3-years

Several parents noted at the meeting that the payouts and discrimination suits were filed against a previous school board before the current superintendent was hired.

Mark Gonzales said, “I commend the (current) board and superintendent on the direction you are going.”