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Long-delayed renewal of McAuliffe’s innovation plan set for final vote

The long-delayed renewal of McAuliffe International School’s innovation plan is nearing final approval.

The school and Denver Public Schools that authorizes innovation status recently completed more than a year and half of negotiations. The McAuliffe staff is scheduled to vote on the updated plan Monday and Tuesday (May 13 and 14), according to Brian Duwe, McAuliffe’s principal.

Duwe, who was recently hired to replace McAuliffe founder Kurt Dennis, said the plan positions the school well.

“I think the flexibility with calendar, curriculum and professional development give us a strong starting point,’’ he said. “I think for now the things that have helped MIS be successful are still intact.

McAuliffe International Principal Brian Duwe.

“I’ll have a better idea of effectiveness next year when I’m in the work.”

Innovation schools operate much like charter schools with autonomy to control their budgets, staffing, programming, scheduling, training and other operations.

The McAuliffe plan, according to Duwe, includes several waivers from district policies and labor contract that the school desired:

  • Design of the school’s yearly calendar that includes start and end days and schedule of professional development that is not aligned with DPS. Daily start times will remain as they are with early enrichment opportunities.
  • Ability to set teacher work hours to support enrichment classes such as music, art, science and technology and sports.
  • Some teacher planning time may occur outside the student contact day; elective classes may experience higher class size limits.
  • McAuliffe may provide extra duty pay above the district’s rate.
  • McAuliffe may develop its own curriculum and assessment programs.
  • McAuliffe may develop its own professional development for teachers and school leaders.
  • McAuliffe may use licensed and non-licensed teachers to support enrichment programming.

On hiring:

  • McAuliffe may post open positions earlier than other DPS schools.
  • The hiring committee includes: principal, assistant principal (AP) of academics, one or more teachers from the department in which the vacancy exists.
  • If necessary, the principal may hire staff in the summer without the committee.
  • The committee over reductions of staff: principal, grade level APs if available, AP of academics operations.
  • The collaborative school committee (CSC) has been expanded and will function as a combined CSC and school leadership team: principal (or designee), three teachers including teacher union representative, five parents and one community member (at this time).

New Educator Cabinet

Starting in the 2024-2025 school year, McAuliffe will initiate an Educator Cabinet to advise on operations that will consist of: principal, grade level APs and AP of academics (Daily operations are managed by the administrative team.)

The Educator Cabinet is meant to codify the “big tent” approach that has always guided decisions at McAuliffe and will advise on operations. Members will be elected and will include but not be limited to:

  • At least one core teacher per grade level,
  • At least one elective teacher,
  • At least one special education teacher,
  • At least one member of the mental health team,
  • At least one representative from the Community Office/Main Office staff.

“It’s essentially an opportunity for staff to provide some advisement around operations, not decision making, but advisement,” Duwe said. “This is a way to keep people from a cross section of the school aware of decisions that are made, and updated on how things are progressing.”

(Periodically the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities gives grants to Central Park schools.)

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