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State requires Adams 14 to comply with 2018 order to work with management company

MGT took over formal decision-making for the district in 2019
Outside org to take over management of Adams 14
Posted at 11:13 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-11 01:13:42-04

DENVER — The Colorado State Board of Education directed Adams 14 School District this week to come into compliance with the board’s 2018 order requiring the district to turn over full decision-making authority to an outside management company.

The board held a meeting Thursday and Friday after learning the district stopped working with Florida-based education consultant company MGT last month without seeking state board approval.

The state board directed the district to come into compliance with the order by Sept. 27. The board also ordered Adams 14 and MGT to submit a joint written statement by Oct. 1 or the district will face immediate removal of its accreditation.

MGT was tasked with managing all of the formal decision-making for Adams 14 for four years after years of academic underperformance. The district first came before the state board in 2017 after receiving priority improvement or turnaround ratings on the state’s school and district accountability system for six years, according to the state board.

In August, it came to light MGT employees were being blocked from accessing the district. An email from an attorney representing Adams 14 said the district’s actions were not an attempt to avoid the order.

“The bottom line is that the District has been put in this position by the deficient performance of its external manager and that external manager’s unwillingness and/or inability to meaningfully or substantively engage on addressing the District’s concerns,” district attorney Jon Fero says in the email.

But Eric Parish, the Denver-based executive vice president of MGT, said In a letter to the Adams 14 board President Ramona Lewis that the district was preventing “open and productive engagement,” citing the following list of examples:

• A letter from Fero representing the Adams 14 Board of Education that initiated a legal process instead of a request for a meeting with an open dialogue and exchange of information;
• The stop work order issued by Superintendent Loria;
• A refusal to grant a meeting with MGT representatives in a forum conducive to addressing Adams 14 Board of Education issues or concerns; and
• The necessity for MGT to request the Adams 14 Board of Education to engage in mediation to resolve any issues or concerns.

The Adams 14 Board of Education then voted to sever ties with MGT during their Aug. 31 meeting.

For years, the district has faced serious challenges like low attendance rates and low test scores, as well as very high turnover of teachers, staff and administration.

To fix the issues, Superintendent Javier Abrego in 2017 presented a plan for improvement to the state board that included hiring outside management partner Beyond Textbooks to assist with training and curriculum. Ratings did not improve.

In November 2018, the state board ordered Adams 14 to turn over full management to an external organization. The Adams 14 school board initially selected Mapleton Public Schools, but the state board rejected the decision because the district did not meet the student achievement standards required. The Adams 14 school board then chose MGT, which the state board approved in May 2019.