May 14, 2019
State Board of Education responds to lawsuit, says focus should be on students
District's turnaround plan should continue moving forward
DENVER – State Board of Education Chairwoman Angelika Schroeder today said the complaint filed last week by Pueblo Education Association concerning Risley International Academy of Innovation is disappointing and called on the adults involved to focus on improving outcomes for students.
“When the State Board of Education approved Pueblo City Schools’ requested turnaround plan last November, Risley International Academy of Innovation had seen low student performance for eight consecutive years – that’s an unacceptable amount of time for students to be struggling,” Schroeder said. “We approved the plan developed by the district because we believe that without the district’s full support, the turnaround efforts wouldn’t have a chance. We should all be focusing on implementing that plan and making sure our kids have access to a high quality education.”
The Pueblo Education Association on Friday filed a lawsuit challenging the state board's November 2018 order that supported Pueblo City Schools’ request to turn over management of Risley International Academy of Innovation to an external organization, as outlined in state law. In June 2017 the board approved the district’s original turnaround plan to give limited authority to an external partner. That 2017 order was triggered by state law that requires the board to intervene after six years of low performance on the state accountability system.
In fall 2018, the middle school was again rated as “Turnaround” -- the lowest possible level in the rating system used for Colorado schools. Colorado Education Commissioner Katy Anthes assigned the State Review Panel, a group of state education experts, to critically evaluate the school’s performance and make recommendations regarding a path to improvement.
The State Review Panel recommended Risley be run by “a management entity that has full decision-making authority over all school operations, including (but not limited to): recruiting and retaining high quality staff and leaders; curriculum and instruction; staff supervision; and finances.”
At the end of a locally driven search process, Pueblo City school board unanimously selected MGT, and presented its request to the state board in April. The state board approved the district’s selection of MGT together with University of Virginia Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education as the external manager for Risley International Academy of Innovation.
“The board meticulously followed the requirements of Colorado’s Education Accountability Act while working hard to find a pathway that had support from the community,” said state board Vice Chairman Steve Durham. “We are still considering our options following the lawsuit initiated by the Pueblo Education Association, but in the meantime we expect the district and its chosen manager for Risley to continue moving forward swiftly to develop and implement plans to dramatically improve outcomes for the students.”