August is here and Back to School season is in full gear

Monday, August 1, 2016 - 1:13pm
Back to School

Explore new learning opportunities in the superintendent's back 2 school letter

Most of our students will never admit it. They dream about summer starting in the spring, but I know deep inside, the initial excitement of summer break is beginning to wear off. They’re starting to look forward to reconnecting with all of their friends, teachers and staff at school.

It’s not just the students who are excited for school to start – the parents are too. As both a parent and superintendent, I love the start of a new school year because it’s like cracking open a new book that you’ve been excited to read. How will our students write their story for the 2016-2017 school year and how will we help them polish their story?

Five Star Points of Pride
We have much to celebrate in Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Just look at the accomplishments of our recent graduating class – three Boettcher Scholars (the highest number in the history of the district!), a Thornton High School graduate’s early acceptance into medical school at the University of Colorado, and more than $18 million in scholarships districtwide.

We’re equally proud of our work in closing the gap between minority and non-minority student graduation rates. Hispanic graduation rates have jumped from 57.7 percent in 2011 to 73.0 percent in 2015. At Horizon High School, 95.3 percent of Hispanic students graduated in four years, the highest percentage of Hispanic graduates on record in the district.

New Opportunities for Students
Creating multiple pathways for student learning is one of the Five Star District’s core strategies and we have several new opportunities for our students launching this year.

About 30 incoming ninth-graders will make history with the 2016-2017 school year as they become the inaugural class of metro Denver’s first early college opportunity at Northglenn High School (NHS). They are participating in the P-TECH program (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) recently authorized by the state legislature. With the support of industry partner Level 3 Communications and higher education partner Front Range Community College, the first year’s class will leave NHS with a high school diploma, an Associate in Applied Science degree (AAS) in Computer Information Systems, and relevant work experience.

Mountain Range High School (MRHS) has been named a distinguished ‘High School of Business’ and as an MBA Research High School of Business. By the end of their sophomore year, program participants will receive a Business Specialization Certificate from Front Range Community College. Students who successfully complete the program will also earn preferred acceptance into the University of Northern Colorado's School of Business and potential introductory course waivers.

Partners in Education
We are blessed with many partners in education. One of the best illustrations of these partnerships is our district’s Five Star Leadership Academy (FSLA). In its inaugural year (2015-2016), more than 50 parents and community members from across the district came together on a monthly basis to learn together, develop their leadership skills and become positive agents of change for our students.

Many of the graduates of the Five Star Leadership Academy have gone on to chair parent groups, take on education advocacy roles or simply initiate dialogue within their own social and professional circles about the issues affecting public education. I thank them for the foundation they’ve built in developing future community leaders in support of public education. Because of their leadership, the demand for the academy is growing. This year’s class has more than 80 participants!

2016 Bond Proposal – Impacting every student in every school with no tax rate increase
While we have much to celebrate in Adams 12 Five Star Schools, we also face some real challenges.

At the June 29 board of education meeting, I recommended to the board that it place a $350 million bond on the November ballot. The last time voters approved a bond to support our schools was in 2004. The bond proposal would result in no tax rate increase because the district has paid down existing debt obligations and refinanced existing debt to lower interest rates.

This recommendation came after a year-long process of focusing on our district’s facility needs that started with a review by our community-based Long Range Planning Advisory Committee. We’ve engaged thousands of community members in dialogue regarding our facility needs  through a town hall, surveys and social media conversations.

The 2016 Bond plan focuses on three critical areas:

  1. Safe, Comfortable and Dry Learning Environments; Renovations and Upgrades – Nearly half of the bond proposal addresses the natural aging of our buildings and the systems inside, as well as renovating and repairing learning spaces to include art, music and physical education. This involves fixing and replacing aging components such as roofs, air conditioners, flooring and plumbing that have reached the end of their service life. The plan also preserves and updates technology investments throughout the district.
  2. Overcrowding Relief – About a third of the bond addresses overcrowding in schools and unmet demand for specific educational programming. This includes a new P-8 school in the Anthem neighborhood, additions to two elementary schools, a new Career and Technical Education Center in addition to Bollman Tech to meet the demand for students who are waitlisted for classes, and more classroom space for early childhood education.
  3. Safety and Security – Safe and secure learning environments are vital to supporting student learning. The bond invests in safety systems to support protected classrooms and campuses such as upgraded security cameras, consistent security card access and enhanced emergency communications.

On August 24 at 7 p.m. at the Educational Support Center, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton, the Adams 12 Five Star Schools Board of Education will vote whether to place the $350 million bond proposal on the November ballot.

Thank you for your continued partnership in helping our students thrive in the Five Star District. Don't forget to check out our online back to school resource page for all you need to know and do to start the school year off on the right foot. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer! We look forward to welcoming you and your children back to school in a few weeks.


Chris Gdowski