Stuart Steers, Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 24, 2007
Denver’s effort to reform its public schools hit North High School like a hurricane Friday, when students learned that half of their teachers would not be returning in the fall.
The news upset many students, as well as their teachers, but DPS administrators said drastic action is needed to save North.
Last year Bennet decided to close Manual High School because of low test scores and a sky-high dropout rate. That move proved controversial, and some feared a similar fate might befall North. Instead, Bennet has undertaken a “redesign” of the school, bringing in a new principal—JoAnn Trujillo-Hays—with orders to turn North upside down.
As part of the reform, all of the 68 teachers at North were required to reapply for their jobs. Sixteen chose not to interview, 18 interviewed and were not offered positions, and 34 were rehired. That means at least half of the faculty next year will be new.
The school’s test scores aren’t much better. Last year, 400 ninth- and 10th-grade students at North were rated unsatisfactory in math; only 14 10th-graders were proficient.
“We have tried to do school reform there for a number of years and it just wasn’t working,” said Ricardo Martinez, co-founder of Padres Unidos (Parents United), a group of Hispanic parents. “They had to do something different.”
But many teachers at North believe they’re being blamed for things beyond their control.
“I think we’re being scapegoated,” said Lawrence Garcia, a math teacher who has been at North for three years and was not invited to come back next year. “I’ve been busting my butt for three years trying to raise scores.”
Garcia is a DPS grad with a master’s degree who wanted to work at North.
Trujillo-Hays said she had to take dramatic action to change things during the next school year.
“Some of them have been here 20 years and are leaving,” said Alma Trvizo,a 16-year-old junior. “It’s going to be weird. We’ll graduate with teachers we don’t know.”
Ezequiel Galvan, 16, said he worried the teachers he knows best wouldn’t be around to write letters of recommendation for college. He plans to study medicine and wants to become a paramedic.