Douglas County School District raises cap for highly effective teachers

Students in a Douglas County School District classroom.

Students in a Douglas County School District classroom.

Starting in the 2014-15 school year, the Douglas County School District will offer raises to highly effective teachers even if they have maxed out on the new market-based salary scale.

District leaders said that about 147 teachers who were deemed highly effective during evaluations in the 2013-14 school year will get an annual salary bump next school year because of a change in policy. Teachers rated effective or below will not be able to get an annual increase if they have reached the cap for their positions.

The Douglas County School District has about 3,600 teachers. Of those teachers, 387 have reached the cap for their positions and cannot get an annual raise. One-time bonuses have been provided in the past but are not guaranteed from year to year.

The district’s salary bands for 2014-15 are available here, but do not reflect the policy change for highly effective teachers.

“We thought about doing that but what we didn’t want to do was send the message that this thing is perpetual because every band, no matter what it is, president of the United States, they all have a cap,” said Chief Human Resources Officer Brian Cesare.

Cesare added: “We wanted to take care of the highly effective and we think we’ve got a ton of head room. We think we’ve got years and years to go before we have to think about a cap, but eventually, at some point, we may have to think about having some sort of cap, even if it’s $100,000.”


Denver Public Schools wants math tutors

Denver Public Schools is hiring 100 fellows to tutor students at 46 schools across the district.

Fellows will provide 45 minutes of daily small group tutoring. Each will earn an annual salary, receive benefits and be eligible for an up to $2,000 bonus based on benchmarks set for student growth.

The program, which was initially piloted at seven schools in Denver’s Far Northeast region, has expanded over the years with help from a voter-approved mill levy in 2012.

District officials said participating students have improved math performance by up to three grade levels in a year.

For more information and application instructions visit the website for the Denver Math Fellows Program.


Contract for Jefferson County leader

Dan McMinimee

Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent

Jefferson County Public Schools has officially finalized a $220,000 annual contract for Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

The contract, which makes McMinimee one of the highest paid superintendents in Colorado, provides up to $40,000 in performance pay based on student achievement, development of district leadership and communication with the board. Specific goals for each category are not outlined in the contract.

McMinimee will be reimbursed up to $20,000 for his personal contributions toward retirement benefits and the district will also reimburse his expenses.

Below is a copy of McMinimee’s final contract:

Daniel McMinimee Contract

Compensation for the district’s new leader has spurred complaints from some in the community who say that despite never being a superintendent he is making more than his predecessor . Stevenson’s annual salary was $205,500 and she was eligible for performance pay and retention bonuses that she did not take.

Below is Stevenson’s last contract with the school district:

Cindy Stevenson Contract


Colorado’s Michael Chen and Siyu Wu recognized as U.S. Presidential Scholars

Two Colorado students will receive a coveted national award this month.

, a senior at Fairview High School in Boulder, and from Poudre High School in Fort Collins are among the 141 children who have been named . They will be honored for their demonstrated academic achievements, artistic distinction, leadership and community service at a ceremony in Washington D.C. from June 22-25.

Michael Chen

Fairview High’s Michael Chen (Courtesy of Peter Chen)

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the students are good role models of academic achievement.

“They show all of us that when students challenge themselves and commit themselves to excellence, the results can be astounding,” Duncan said. “These scholars will help move our country forward and will have a lasting impact on their families, communities, and on our society. They represent the potential of all young citizens to lift up America.”

Established in 1964, the award recognizes the accomplishments of students inside the classroom and in their communities.

A commission appointed by President Barack Obama selected the scholars from more than 3,900 students who qualified through SAT and ACT test scores or were nominated by the Chief State School Officers and the National YoungArts Foundation.

More than 6,500 students have been honored since the program’s inception 50 years ago. The selection includes a male and female from each state, from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S.families living abroad. The commission also chooses 15 at-large recipients and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

Wu said she welcomes the opportunity to engage with all the current and former students who share her passion for learning.

“I will be able to have conversations with outstanding students and alumni from around the nation, all of whom I believe are engaged individuals who have had a wide variety of experiences,” Wu said. “These differing experiences will allow for amazing discussions that will be enriching for me intellectually and otherwise.”

Siyu Wu

Siyu Wu from in Fort Collins (Courtesy of Siyu Wu)

Duncan said part of the experience is about giving back to the communities that helped mold the scholars. As part of the honor, students are offered the opportunity to recognize their most influential teacher. Wu selected psychology teacher Brad Beauprez. Chen chose chemistry teacher Cammie Wickham.

For Chen, the most rewarding part about being named a U.S. Presidential Scholar is that it reflects not only his hard work, but the work of those who supported him.

“The most rewarding part about this recognition for me is its reflection on the incredible efforts of educators in the state,” he said. “Without the hard work of all of my teachers and counselors over the last twelve years, I definitely would not be where I am today. They are the ones who deserve to be recognized, and I am truly thankful for all of the opportunities that they have provided me. I hope to someday give back by helping those in underdeveloped areas of the world obtain access to education and healthcare.”


WISCAPE study cites declines in Latino enrollment in college

Denver Public Schools

Teacher helping students at a Denver public school (Photo By Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post)

Ten years after Colorado lawmakers launched the College Opportunity Fund, a Wisconsin-based policy brief is cautioning other states considering such voucher-based programs, citing a statewide decline in Latino enrollment in higher education.

The Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education () released a policy brief a couple weeks ago based on a study conducted by three assistant professors on the impact of the fund in past decade. ’S brief on the study refers to the fund as the Colorado Opportunity Fund and explores its effectiveness in raising cost efficiency and providing more access to students. According to the brief, the fund allocates vouchers to students enrolled at in-state institutions instead of appropriating money directly to public colleges and universities.

This was done in part to bypass restrictions placed on state tax and expenditures by the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights, TABOR. The The Colorado Department of the Treasury reports that the state has returned more than $2 billion to taxpayers rather than using the money to pay for K-12 education, higher education, transportation, public health services, public safety and other services.

The brief states that the fund has had some “undesirable and unanticipated” consequences. It noted declines in Latino student enrollment due to a lack of financial resources and a cumbersome opt-in requirement, which mandates that students apply for the program after they enroll in college.

The brief cited an up to 18 percent drop in Latino enrollment at public four-year institutions and a 14-to-22 percent decrease in Latino enrollment at community colleges. The dwindling purchasing power of the voucher also contributed to the decline, the brief notes. The brief reports that in 2005, annual vouchers accounted for 36 percent of the average, full-time undergraduate tuition – for public four-year colleges – at $6,661 per student. In 2010, the average tuition increased to $8,530 and annual vouchers represented just 21 percent of the overall cost.

The vouchers’ decline limits higher education access for students who represent the fastest growing demographic in the state, many of whom are already under heavy financial burden, the brief asserts. The authors note that are the most likely to pay their way through college while helping out with their families’ finances.

Latino students weren’t the only ones to see declines in the wake of the College Opportunity Fund’s implementation, according to the study. The authors found that fewer low-income students are enrolling in community colleges after already having been priced out of four-year institutions.

On top of that, community colleges did not increase their expenditures after the College Opportunity Fund was put into effect but they did enroll more students, which means that the sector of higher learning that already had the fewest resources is now doing even more with less, the brief reported.

“It is worrisome to find that the state’s efficiencies were primarily isolated in the sector that had the fewest resources to begin with,” the brief states. “Resources matter for improving student success, particularly among community colleges and other institutions serving traditionally underrepresented groups.”

According to the brief, the College Opportunity Fund could be considered successful assuming that its only goal is simply to circumvent tax and expenditure limits brought on by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. However, it provides diminished access to Latino and low-income students, the authors wrote. They call for additional research to investigate the full effects of the fund, but urge caution to states that are considering a “voucher model or other unproven market-based reforms to higher education.”


Boettcher Foundation announces 2014 scholarship winners

The Boettcher Foundation announced the winners of the 2014 Scholarship.

Selecting just 40 high school seniors from more than 1,600 applicants, the Boettcher Foundation gave merit-based, virtually full-ride scholarships to some of the state’s most promising students. The Boettcher Foundation has awarded more than 2,300 scholarships in 62 years and pays over $3 million per year, a release stated.

Scholarship recipients can use the money for any public or private in-state institution. The scholarship lasts for either 12 quarters or eight semesters and includes funds for tuition, books, fees, and a stipend for living expenses. Students are required to maintain a 3.0 grade point average.

Tiffany Anderson, Boettcher’s scholarship program director, said the program is highly competitive and rigorous. She noted that each year, Boettcher selects the best from hundreds of class presidents, musicians, community leaders, athletes and academically superior students.

The objective of the program is to retain talented Colorado students, said , the president and executive director of the Boettcher Foundation.

“The goal of the Boettcher Scholarship program is to keep the best talent in Colorado here by connecting them with the outstanding opportunities offered by our in-state institutions,” he said in a release. “We know that these students will become leaders on their campuses and continue serving others with their gifts, thereby contributing to the greater Colorado community.”

Congratulations to this year’s recipients.

The winners of the 2014 Boettcher Foundation Scholarship. Click here to view image large: (Photo provied by Boettcher Foundation)

The winners of the 2014 Boettcher Foundation Scholarship. To view larger photo, click here: (Photo provided by Boettcher Foundation)

Colorado College

Mr. David Andrews- Monarch High School
Ms. Amelia Atencio- Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts
Ms. Natalia Dellavalle- Denver East High School
Ms. Lindsey Deringer- Poudre High School
Ms. Anna Gilbertson- Fort Collins High School
Mr. Jared Russell- Pueblo South High School
Ms. Madeline “Maddie” Walden- Castle View High School

University of Denver

Ms. Bryce Anderson-Gregson- Boulder High School
Ms. Virginia “Ginny” Creager- Frederick High School
Ms. Haley Donathan- Delta High School
Ms. Elizabeth Hoffner- Homeschool/Saguache County
Ms. Allyson “Ally” Malecha- Broomfield High School
Mr. Morgan Smith- Air Academy High School

University of Colorado Boulder

Ms. Ellis Aune- George Washington High School
Ms. Amanda Cary- Northridge High School
Ms. Elisabeth “Elise” Collins- ThunderRidge High School
Ms. Torrey Davis- Swink High School
Ms. Piper Doering- Lyons Middle/Sr High School
Ms. Jasmine Gallegos- Centauri High School
Mr. Simon Hafner- Legacy High School
Ms. Manjing “Grace” Jiang- Sand Creek High School
Ms. Kristiana Longfield- Manitou Springs High School
Ms. Anne Lonowski- Poudre High School
Mr. Paul Marchando- Highlands Ranch High School
Ms. Sophia Schneider- Palmer High School
Mr. Noah Starbuck- Peak to Peak
Mr. Brandon Thomas- Gateway High School
Mr. Marc Thomson- Heritage High School

Colorado School of Mines

Mr. William Austin- Paonia Senior High School
Ms. Tabitha Kalin- Pine Creek High School
Ms. Holly Ketterman- Pueblo Centennial High School
Ms. Katrina San Nicolas- Northridge High School

Colorado State University

Ms. Maria Brock- Arapahoe High School
Ms. Josephine “Jo” Buckley- Berthoud High School
Mr. Francis Commercon- Highlands Ranch High School
Mr. Timothy Finnegan- Skyline High School
Ms. Jaynee Halverson- Valley High School
Ms. Lindsey Paricio- Smoky Hill High School

Fort Lewis College

Ms. Abigail “Abby” Lock- Montezuma-Cortez High School

University of Colorado Denver

Ms. Reilly Quist- Vision Charter Academy


PEBC hosts inaugural Colorado STEM summit; emphasizes primary education

William Roberts' Shannon Umberger with her dog. (Photo By Hugh Johnson/The Denver Post)

William Roberts’ Teacher Shannon Umberger with her dog. (Photo By Hugh Johnson/The Denver Post)

Numerous organizations are fighting to get more students involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, , fields. reports that jobs in science and engineering are expected to grow at double the rate of other jobs in the national labor force.

A Denver-based education nonprofit is focusing its efforts on encouraging children to become engineers, scientists and mathematicians at an early age. Leaders with the Public Education & Business Coalition or PEBC said cultivating elementary school students’ interest in math and science is a critical springboard to high-demand careers. The business group held its first last week, which offered tips and advice to educators in an effort to make them more comfortable teaching science and math. The event took place at .

Why the focus on younger students? Wendy Ward Hoffer, ’s education senior director, said that many elementary school teachers do not specialize in science and math and lack confidence, which often rubs off on students. According to Hoffer, students develop an opinion on science and math long before they reach secondary education.

“By third grade, 50 percent of children have formed their identity already about their orientation to math and science,” Hoffer said. “So research suggests that by eight or nine years old a child is making that choice. So if they haven’t had an opportunity in their earliest primary years to fall in love with math or to feel connected as a scientist, it becomes difficult for them to see themselves in that in their future.”

The result is what Hoffer calls “STEM phobia.” She noted that it’s culturally acceptable to say, “I’m not good at math,” or “I hate science,” but people would never say they aren’t good at reading. Hoffer believes that overcoming that phobia is key to making changes.

Scott Sampson, who has a doctorate degree in zoology and is a dinosaur paleontologist at the museum, was a keynote speaker at the summit. He believes the key to getting students to engage in STEM fields is to make it fun.

“Kids are natural born scientists and they learn science through play,” Sampson said. “Turns out that even toddlers can handle ideas about probability, that preschoolers are making theories about the world, hypotheses and testing them just in what they do and that is through play. So what we’ve done is take away play from kids, we structured their lives to the nth degree.”

Sampson said that part of the problem is that teachers feel they need to be an expert in all the STEM fields, which is impossible. He said if teachers feel comfortable with the subjects so will their students. He believes teachers don’t need to know all the answers to impact students’ lives. They just need to be co-explorers of science with their kids, Sampson said.

Shannon Umberger, a second grade math, science and social studies teacher at Bill Roberts School, is working with her students to create, build and, in some cases, launch simple machines. She said the hands on experience excites the students and gives them confidence.

“Some kids that have had this notion that ‘I’m really not that good at math.’ When they finally get it and they’re like ‘wait a second I can do this,’ that’s the most rewarding part,” Umberger said.

PEBC officials plan to make the STEM summit, which was sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Fund, an annual event. Lori Pidick, PEBC’s director of development and communications, said the company’s original focus was on improving literacy rates throughout the state. Since Hoffer arrived, the company has shifted its attention to math and science as well. The event was created as a result of the PEBC’s partnership with the museum and 100kin10, an organization formed after President Obama called for 100,000 math and science teachers in early education in 2021.


CU Technology Transfer Office honors inventors and companies

Boulder Physics professors and were honored last week by the University of Colorado’s Technology Transfer Office for their work improving the development of nanotechnology.

The professors were recognized at an awards dinner on April 24. The TTO presented awards to four CU Boulder professors and researchers who pioneer scientific and technological innovation. Inventions by researchers from the university’s four locations have led to the creation of 132 new companies in the past 20 years, according to a release. Nearly 90 of those companies operate in Colorado and seven of them are publicly traded.

Kapteyn and Murnane were named the inventors of the year. The two use with ultrafast lasers and x-rays to provide a more

CU Boulder professors Henry C. Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane (Provided By University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office)

CU Boulder professors Henry C. Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane (Provided By )

detailed look into nano processes. The technology could lead to the production of nano devices. The duo founded KMLabs in 1994 to commercialize their research, making their work available to academia, industry researchers and companies that develop nanotechnology.

and won the New Inventors of the Year award. Nagpal and Chatterjee, assistant professors of chemical and biological engineering at CU Boulder, developed technology that provides fast and reliable single-molecule sequencing of nucleic acids.

Prashant Nagpal (Provided By University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office)

Prashant Nagpal (Photos provided by University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office)

Anushree Chatterjee (Provided By University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office)

Anushree Chatterjee

According to the release, the technology could lead to the development of diagnostic tools used in personalized medicine while providing a greater understanding of the DNA of bacteria that are resistant to drugs.

was honored as the Boulder Company of the Year for its work with the Bose-Einstein Condensate, the fifth state of matter. The company specializes in cold and ultracold atom technology, which could improve atomic clocks and refine navigation for submarines and spacecraft, the TTO said. The company’s work also has applications in quantum computing.

The goal of the Technology Transfer Office is to introduce promising inventions from the four CU campuses to the public through partner companies or by creating startups. Lindsay Lennox, TTO’s associate director of marketing and communications, said the office creates about ten startup companies annually.


CU-Denver student explains who gets unfriended on Facebook

A sign at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (Photo By Ben Margot/ The Associated Press)

A sign at ’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. (Photo By Ben Margot/ The Associated Press)

Losing friends on Facebook? Two recent studies from the University of Colorado Denver explore which friends get dropped the most on the social networking site and the emotional responses to being deleted.

The studies, published in 2014, show that past high school friends are the most likely to be to removed. According to the studies that surveyed 1,077 people on Twitter, the top five people most likely to be unfriended were: high school friends, others, friends of friends, work friends and common interest friends.

CU Denver doctoral student , who authored the studies, said the top reasons for unfriending a person are frequent, uninteresting posts and divisive religious or political comments.

“Your high school friends may not know your current political or religious beliefs and you may be quite vocal about them,” Sibona said in a release, “and one thing about social media is that online disagreements escalate much more quickly.”

Political and religious views often solidify over time and folks who were once reserved about their beliefs may become more vocal, according to Sibona. The study suggests that too many polarizing comments may keep you from making the cut when a friend decides to “downsize” their friends list.

As for responses, surprise was the most common emotion in reaction to being unfriended. “It bothered me” was the second most common reply followed by “I was amused” and “I felt sad.”

Many of the negative responses came from those who were unfriended with no prior warning and the less negative ones came from instances in which there were tangible signs of issues in the friendship. A surprising observation in the study is that acquaintances are unfriended less often than friends who were close at one point in time.


Poll: Coloradans maintain support for teachers to carry guns in schools

Tom Boasberg

Tom Boasberg, Denver Public Schools superintendent

About half of Colorado voters support allowing and school officials to carry , according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

The latest results reflect similar views to those outlined in a poll released in February, which also showed that men and women disagree on the issue. According to the new poll, 59 percent of men support arming school employees, while more than half of the women polled opposed it.

Wednesday’s poll also showed that 74 percent of voters support placing at the entrances of school campuses.

Voters were asked which would be most effective in reducing gun violence: metal detectors, armed teachers or stricter gun laws. Nearly 40 percent chose metal detectors, 30 percent selected armed teachers and 21 percent said stricter gun laws.

“In large numbers, Colorado voters want metal detectors in the doorways of schools and a healthy majority wants teachers and school officials armed in the interest of keeping kids safe,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the University poll.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the Denver Post in a February interview that he opposed legislation to arm teachers.

“The safety and security of our students is the number one priority for Denver Public Schools,” Boasberg said. “We do not believe that arming teachers is the right solution to ensure the safety of our schools.”