Teachers’ unions sue Adams 14, state board over hiring of outside manager to run school district

Two teachers’ unions filed a lawsuit this week against Adams County School District 14 and the Colorado State Board of Education over the hiring of a private company to manage the troubled district’s schools.

The state board had ordered Adams 14 to find a manager for its persistently low-performing schools, with the possibility of turning them into charter schools if the district didn’t comply. Adams 14 initially chose Mapleton Public Schools as its manager, but the state board deemed Mapleton unprepared for the job and directed Adams 14 to choose a different partner.

The district selected MGT Consulting, a company that has done some turnaround work, in partnership with the University of Virginia and Schools Cubed, another private group.

Adams 14 will pay at least $8 million to its partners over four years, with the possibility of paying out another $1.7 million in incentives, according to the lawsuit filed by the statewide Colorado Education Association and the local School District 14 Classroom Teachers’ Association.

The unions’ lawsuit claims the state board overstepped its authority by requiring Adams 14 to hand over control of its schools to a third party, and that Adams 14’s school board members failed in their duty to constituents by “willfully abdicating.” The two teachers’ unions filed a similar suit against the state board and Pueblo City Schools over the decision to hand over management of Risley International Academy of Innovation to MGT.

The teachers’ unions asked the court to declare that the contract between teachers and Adams 14 was still in force; that the Adams 14 board still had control of decisions about personnel matters and instruction; and that no public funds should be paid to MGT.

“MGT was not selected by, nor is it accountable to, Commerce City’s voters,” the lawsuit stated. “Moreover, MGT will collect most of the public money it is owed under the management contract in years one and two — i.e. before stakeholders, including members of the (teachers’ union), are able to determine the success and sustainability of MGT’s approach to managing the programs and affairs of the school district.”

State board Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder and Vice Chairman Steve Durham expressed frustration with the lawsuit, and said the board had followed the law.

“For over eight years, Adams 14 students have attended schools with some of the lowest performance ratings in the state, and it’s time to take dramatic action to improve educational opportunities for these kids,” Schroeder said in a news release. “It is unfair to the students and their families to be caught in the middle of this disagreement between adults. The fact is, the district needs a manager with fresh eyes and creative, proven ideas to bring about immediate improvements.”

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