Rise & Shine: The Durango school board approves a budget that guarantees a living wage for support staff

Good morning!

We've got some sad news from the South High School community today. Citing personal health reasons, Principal Jen Hanson is leaving. Under Hanson's leadership, South saw rising graduation rates and more students of color enrolling in college-level courses, one factor that led the school to be named a "School of Opportunity." Melanie has that story. And if you have thoughts on Hanson's work at the school or what the district should look for in a new principal, please reach out to her at

We've also got some good news for charter schools out of this round of BEST grants. They did better than usual in the competition for capital construction money, partially funded by pot taxes, with two schools, including one in northwest Denver, getting new buildings. Why the love? The state had more money to spend overall, which won't be the case next year.

We've also got interesting stories from our Chalkbeat colleagues in Michigan and Tennessee that I highly recommend you check out. One is about how students in bilingual immersion programs could be hurt by a strict new standard on third-grade reading proficiency, and the other is about the failure of state intervention to help students in struggling schools.

Read on.

– Erica Meltzer, bureau chief

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DEPARTURE Denver Public Schools is looking for a new principal for South High School after Jen Hanson said she was leaving for health reasons. Under Hanson’s leadership, South High School has been on an upward trajectory, with rising graduation rates and more students of color taking college-level courses. The school was named a “School of Opportunity” by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado and featured in the book “The Newcomers,” which followed the lives of 22 immigrant students. Chalkbeat

CHARTER CHANCE Charter schools fared unusually well in the latest round of BEST grants, Colorado’s school construction assistance program partially funded with marijuana tax money. Two schools, including one in northwest Denver, will get replacement buildings, something one expert compared to “winning the lottery.” Chalkbeat

LEFT BEHIND Students in bilingual immersion programs often score behind their English-only peers on third-grade reading tests, but research finds they catch up later. But beginning in 2020, a Michigan law would prevent these students from moving on to fourth grade unless they can pass a state reading exam in English. There’s no exemption for bilingual immersion schools. Chalkbeat

TURNAROUND A new study from Tennessee found that state intervention did nothing to improve student performance in struggling schools but locally controlled “Innovation Zones” helped students and sustained those changes over time. Chalkbeat

POLITICS The Republican candidates for governor of Colorado held their last debate before the primary, with each candidate trying to associate himself with President Donald Trump to some degree. Read to the end for some discussion of education funding. Denver Post

Earlier this month, Chalkbeat asked the candidates about their educational experiences and positions. Read their answers here. Chalkbeat

BOND MEASURES The Lewis-Palmer district in Monument will ask voters to approve two financing proposals this November to build a new elementary school, convert another into a middle school, and improve safety and security across the district. Gazette

BUDGET BOOST The school board for the Durango district approved a budget that adds the equivalent of 7.5 full time staff to meet students’ social and emotional needs and that pays support staff a living wage. The extra money comes from an increase in state funding and voter-approved tax increases. Durango Herald

WORLD VIEW Technology allows students in the tiny Arickaree district to connect with students at STEM School Highlands Ranch and with a school in Mexico. “I think this expands our knowledge of the world and not be like just centered around Arickaree,” one student said. ABC 7

NAME CHANGE A Virginia elementary school named for a Confederate general will now honor the nation’s first African-American president. Washington Post