there goes the neighborhood

Manual community hears proposals from potential neighborhood middle schools

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High School in northeast Denver.

Members of the Manual High School community heard pitches Thursday night from potential middle school programs that, if opened, would send students to Manual after eighth grade.

The programs discussed Thursday could be co-located at Manual or in a different building.

Barbara Allen of The Denver School for Speech, History, and Debate and Kurt Dennis, the principal of McAuliffe International Middle School, appealed to the community to win support for their potential programs.

The two outlined how they would partner with Manual, described possible curriculum, and shared why they thought they were quality school leaders.

Thursday’s meeting was the latest piece of a long conversation about a middle school for the Manual community in northeast Denver. The academically struggling school has been without a direct feeder pattern, in which students follow a line of neighborhood schools from elementary to high, for decades. Some believe a middle school that partnered with Manual would reverse trends of low enrollment and subpar academics.

The audience hesitated with the idea of constructing a new building or having a middle school share the Manual campus with the high school program.

Some, instead, urged to redraw the current boundaries so an already existing middle school could partner with Manual.

“Why not simply put Bruce Randolph back to the feeder school it was, and have those high schoolers come over here to Manual instead of all this rigamarole,” Marge Taniwaki, a Manual alum, said. “The answer to that is politics.”

Allen’s and Dennis’ proposals were the first step in the next phase of Denver Public Schools’ improvement efforts at Manual.

Earlier, DPS hired Nick Dawkins to lead the school next fall.

Dawkins will be responsible for introducing a biomedical training program at the school. District leaders hope this program will create a pathway to college or career for Manual students.

“After reviewing data from other schools we saw that sort of program prove to be very successful,” said Lainie Hodges, a member of the Manual Thought Partner Group and board chair for Friends of Manual. “Students that participate in career and technical education and career tracks tend to have higher, and better grades.”

Manual’s history of low academic performance has been well documented. As the city’s oldest high school, it has endured a constant churn of leaders and failed reform efforts in the 20 years since court-ordered busing ended.

Today, 84 percent of students who live within Manual’s boundaries choose to go to other schools. Some people have pointed to the attendance boundaries drawn after busing ended in 1995 for the school’s struggles.

Allen, who proposed the Denver School for Speech, History, and Debate as the primary feeder for Manual, wants high community involvement with her new school.

“If you want to bring about change you’re going to need numbers, we’re going to need people to turn out,” Allen said.

Dennis said he wants students at the future McAuliffe to go to Manual.

“Our goal in wanting to start a middle school here would be to help create that feeder, that’s going to get kids to this campus and then allow Mr. Dawkins to meet those kids, to be present every day, shake their hand and greet them every day,” said Dennis.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.