Day 52: With Heads Held High

I write to you today with some apprehension, because I have been wrestling with the words I intend to use in this public forum.   I have procrastinated my semi-weekly blogging because lately our school has been in the midst of many losses, changes and (frankly) a fair amount of confusion.  I will do my best to document happenings as diplomatically as possible, writing only what I know and have seen.

Approximately three weeks ago the staff was abruptly notified that our principal had been removed from her post “pending the conclusion of an investigation”.  We were told nothing of the investigation and we were strongly encouraged to remain quiet and wait until the issue had been resolved.  We were told that interviews regarding the investigation were being conducted, but that individuals could not request to be interviewed. In the absence of our principle, the Denver Summit School’s Network (DSSN), the team assigned to oversee the turnaround of 11 schools in this region, spent a lot of time at our school.  The good news was that with so many people in the building, student behaviors were more regularly observed, documented and redirected.  While the interim leadership may not have been as familiar with the school’s rituals and routines, they at least were able to observe the many challenges the educators at this school face daily.  I think we all appreciated the additional support, as it seemed unrealistic to many of us to expect one administrator (the principal) to fix all the ills of a chronically underperforming school alone. 

Over the past three weeks we have had three principles and countless assistants.  And then finally on Friday, the Executive Director of DSSN came to the school and abruptly called an all-staff and student assembly in the auditorium.  I was actually at a conference at the time, attending workshops on arts integration sponsored by our grantor, Colorado Creative Industries (CCI).  What I have been told, however, was that the Executive Director announced to students, teachers and staff alike that our Principal, the woman who had co-developed the school’s vision and programming, had “resigned”.  We all know that her resignation was her chosen alternative to termination, and still the rationale behind these grand decisions has not yet been conveyed to the staff. 

So now we have a new, long-term interim Principal.  She was once the Assistant Principal at Ford Elementary, the school we are here to replace.  While I do not know her or her counter-part well, one thing I can say is that it is probably a good thing that she is at least familiar with our students. What is also clear is that every member of the DCIS staff still working here today, after all of the changes and boulders in the road, are truly here because they/we love these kids and we want the school we believe in so deeply to succeed.  We believe in the vision.  It has not been easy, and I am not sure when it or if it will ever get easy.  All I know is that consistent support from the community is imperative.

Now about our Integrated Global Arts Program…  🙂  I am happy to announce that despite setbacks, there will be an exciting assembly tomorrow.  The assembly is called a “Global Leadership Assembly” and we will be honoring those students who exemplify the school’s core values.  The primary purpose for this assembly is to acknowledge and reward good behavior, as well as give the students the opportunity to demonstrate the learning they have been doing in their Projects classes with their teachers and their Community Artists.  Further, Senator Mike Johnston will be here to honor our school with the first check from CCI, a state agency.  Finally, a representative from Colorado State University’s (CSU) Global Campus will be here to congratulate those parents who have applied for our adult education program.  The assembly will be action packed; full of urban design projects, a theatrical performance and songs full of movement and dance.  So if you are in the area, please join us!!!  🙂

Now…  before I close this post… I’d like to take a moment to e-troduce you all to a new addition to the DCISF team.  While Maria Segura is not teaching the “integrated” part of our Integrated Global Arts program, she has been hired as a full-time educator to co-develop the “global” component with me.  Maria will be continent hopping, so-to-speak, around the world with every DCIS kinder, 1st and 2nd grader by uncovering the folktales, dances and music of each region.  I am excited to know Maria Segura, and even more blessed to have the opportunity to work with her.  Welcome Maria!  🙂

Thanks to all for your support and interest in our new program as it carves its way through uncharted (and sometimes turbulent) waters.  

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

~TC

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Day 38: A Press Release

For Immediate Release

The Denver Center for International Studies at Ford Elementary (DCISF) has received a matching grant of $9,000 each year for the next two years from the Colorado Creative Industries (CCI), a state agency. This grant was awarded through the CCI’s StART Program and it will support the development and implementation of a new Integrated Global Arts program which will use all forms of art as a tool to further academic learning.

State grants are awarded through a competitive process. This grant signifies that DCISF provides a high level of quality in its programs, community service and administrative ability. The Integrated Global Arts program at DCISF will provide every student at the school with multiple pathways to learning by fostering the use of art as a tool for instruction in the classroom.  Through rigorous professional development opportunities, the teachers at DCISF will become comfortable using creative teaching strategies in their classrooms that will permeate all subjects of study.  The Integrated Global Arts Program is the first of its kind and will be designed and implemented by Tamera Cone in collaboration with the Harmony Project.  This non-profit has been providing schools of need with Community Artists living in Denver for over ten years.

On Wednesday, October 26th at 12:30 pm a Global Leadership assembly will be held in the school’s auditorium.  In addition to honoring outstanding students who exemplify the school’s core values, the assembly will acknowledge the Integrated Global Arts program and the funding recently granted by CCI.  Senator Mike Johnston will be in attendance and will speak to the students, faculty and members of the community regarding the value of arts education in shaping the creative thinkers and global leaders of tomorrow.

Senator Mike Johnston says:  A major thing about DCIS is that they believe, as we all should, that art should be a critical part of every child’s education.  It shouldn’t just be an opportunity reserved for wealthy kids, for kids who are already proficient.  Art is what gets many kids to school and art is what keeps many kids in school.  No education is complete without art and it is inspiring to see schools like DCIS take a stand to ensure that every child has access to outstanding instruction in art in the same way that they do in the other core subjects.”

Principal Maria Elena Thomas says:  “I think that the program is successful because the teachers are involved in planning with the artists and because Tamera Cone is successfully coordinating efforts and resources with the Harmony Project.  The students have access to using arts for their own learning, to seeing a role model of someone in a creative profession and to learning content in an integrated and constructivist way.  Projects classes have been fun for the teachers as well as for the students because of the integration of the Community Artists. “

IGA Specialist, Tamera Cone, says:  “This is not about art for art’s sake.  It is about art with a purpose.”

For more information please visit https://tameracone.wordpress.com/ or contact Tamera Cone at tamera_cone@dpsk12.org.