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Future of state's largest school may be in question

6:32 PM, Dec 4, 2012   |    comments
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"In general, they are not showing improvement," Chris Gdowski, superintendent of the Adams 12 Five Star School District, said. "They tend to be flat and declining in most areas. Their academic achievement has not been strong."

The current charter agreement between COVA and Adams 12 expires in June of 2013. Gdowski says because of the poor academic performance, the school board is in the process of deciding whether to renew the charter again.

He says COVA has had a high attrition rate between count day in October and the dates for standardized testing in the spring. Gdowski says COVA's graduation rate hovers around 20 percent damaging the performance totals of the entire district.

"Typically, what we've seen is COVA's performance draws us down by nine percent," Gdowski said. "It does have an adverse impact in terms of reputation of the district."

Gdowski says that's tough to accept especially since less than 10 percent of COVA's students are within the district's boundaries.

Mary Gifford is the interim executive director of COVA. Gifford says she and administrators have been working hard to turn things around.

"We have created an action plan and put in place a special operations team to really focus on improving the school's academic performance for this year," Gifford said.

Gifford says one major factor in the school's struggles is that it is taking in more at-risk students than ever before.

"We definitely recognize this is what our population looks like and as a public charter school, we're going to serve them all," Gifford said.

Gdowski says that may be true at the high school level.

"I'm less persuaded that's true at the elementary and middle school," Gdowski said.

A few months ago, COVA explored the option of moving its charter from Adams 12 to the Charter School Institute which authorizes charters for schools around the state. But, CSI staff members studied the application and made a recommendation to deny the charter request.

Gdowski says that was a weighty recommendation that is factor in the decision making of the Adams 12 district.

Gifford says that CSI recommendation is more a reflection of the situation of CSI as a charter authorizer with other struggling schools.

Gifford says she is telling her school community to remain positive.

"We're talking with parents as a whole about the plans around the instructional program and the need for remediation for some students and really focusing on how they can contribute on improving COVA," Gifford said.

She says she feels confident that in the end the school will survive and remain within the Adams 12 school district.

"I am hopeful that they they will see improvements in what we're doing and that the charter will be renewed," said Gifford.

The Adams 12 school board will vote in February on the issue. If it votes against the renewing the charter, COVA can appeal to the State Board of Education. Or, it can seek another district to authorize its charter.

Gdowski says there is no financial factor in this vote. The district neither makes nor loses money by authorizing COVA. He says this is a decision that the district will take seriously, especially since it could lead to the closure of a school with about 4,400 students.

"We'll be thoughtful about that and if it is a decision not to renew, we're very committed to finding good other educational options for those students," said Gdowski.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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