Letter from a District 51 teacher about proposed school closures

Orchard Ave. Elementary school, one of the schools targeted for closure by the D-51 board

AnneLandmanBlog received the following letter from a District 51 teacher regarding the D-51 School Board’s proposed school closures.

But first, two important notes:

  1. The teacher who wrote the letter noted that the complete data and metrics on which the schools’ paid demographer, Shannon Bingham, based his proposal to close three traditional schools were not made available to D-51 staff. This same omission was echoed in a commentary about Bingham’s work in the Bellevue, WA School District, where Bingham also recommended closures. That commenter noted that Bingham expressed no uncertainty whatsoever in his projection and did not offer any alternative projections. The same appears to be true for District 51. The commenter also said “Western Demographics sells school closure and consolidation services.”

2. A sharp-eyed commenter on this blog discovered that in Anchorage, AK, Bingham proposed allowing charter schools to utilize the space freed up by the closure of traditional public schools.

Here’s the letter:

My name is Abigail Slingsby and I am the PE teacher at Orchard Avenue Elementary in Grand Junction, Colorado. On Friday we were informed as a staff by a district member that we were on a list of schools for potential closure. I don’t believe in potential or proposed. I believe the board has made up its mind on the matter. It has all been based on a demography study completed by an “outside” source. School culture, teacher retention, academic achievements or school panoramas were not taken into consideration, only the following criteria:

      • Low enrollment
      • Future growth
      • Adjacent to schools with room
      • Building condition
      • Pedestrian viability
      • Additional transportation requirements
      • Logic of post change boundaries
      • Budget and level of service

The information presented to us on Friday was superficial and not transparent. We were not shown the complete data or metrics, how that data was calculated or which schools they surveyed – all of them or just a few? We can not find that data anywhere. We are not a small school being combined. We are a middle range school and our kids are going to be relocated. We are concerned about nearby schools being able to absorb all of our kids. The culture at the schools closest to us are different to Orchard Avenue, which could adversely affect our kids, especially those deemed most at risk. What happens if the nearby schools can’t absorb or cater to all our diverse students? Will transportation be provided? With school of choice being closed for the 2023/24 school year parents are being forced into sending their kids to unacceptable schools, resorting to home schooling or attending non-district schools. These educational decisions being made by parents could ultimately impact future budgets and result in lower enrollments. 

We are rallying our community to fight this decision and present logical reasoning why we should remain open. We have a doctorate level principal at our helm whose panorama data from staff, parents and students is exceptional.  We have four National Board Certified educators in our classrooms. We have five White Iced recipients. 100% of our staff are trained in restorative justice. 100% of our K-3 staff received rigorous CORE Phonics training to support our striving readers. The list goes on and will be presented at the meeting. 

Despite being understaffed, overworked, and helping children with needs most of us can only imagine, we are a high-functioning and healthy staff demonstrating the most important quality demonstrated by research to produce positive outcomes for kids… collective efficacy. This collective efficacy has resulted in our performance rating and upward academic and social emotional trends in all areas K-5.

We are not the school that should be closed. We are a school that districts should duplicate and highlight. We have rallied our community to attend the school board meeting on Tuesday February 21st at 5pm at the Harry Butler Boardroom and I am hoping someone with your passion for community activism can help us promote our cause. We need as much support as we can rally. Our goal is to question the process and transparency in order to be certain if closing our school would actually deal with the budget. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Abigail Slingsby,

Physical Education Teacher
Orchard Avenue Elementary

  7 comments for “Letter from a District 51 teacher about proposed school closures

  1. What a great letter! I fully support Abigail Slingsby for writing this absolutely true and honest words in this letter. Some of the present school board members are a joke and only in it to fund charter schools.

  2. Show up. Be heard. Be reasonable. And watch Haitz/Jones/Lema sweat. They have NO idea what they’re doing, and we ought to at least enjoy watching them squirm.

      • The right wing in Mesa County prefers to sabotage public school quality. The better our public schools, the more likely educated (rational and liberal) people are to move to Mesa County. Let’s turn the Western Slope blue!

    • Charter schools are private schools. Period. No argument. It’s time the words “charter schools” disappear. These people are just following the Bircher/DeVos/Koch Brothers mantra of eliminating the Dept. of Education, eliminating public schools, and most certainly eliminating integrated schools. They’ve held that grudge for more than half a century, and will never let go. Call them out on it and make them deny this publicly. They won’t.

    • Yep. Juniper Ridge where Haitz sits/sat on board. They are asking for $3million to build on to their brand new school at 7th and Horizon. Smells like agenda to me.

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