Jimmy’s Denver Gazette Column | Cherry Creek Schools — dedicated to excuses

Written by on December 4, 2020

Jan. 5, 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of my family’s move to Colorado. Midway through 5th grade and a very disgruntled 10-and-a-half-year-old, I just wanted to stay in New Jersey. My parents tried everything to win me over, even taking us to the airport in a limo. Fun as that was, I didn’t want to leave my home. Alas, my dad’s new job called, and we left for Aurora.

What I didn’t know – and wouldn’t come to appreciate until I was an adult – is that I was moving to better schools. Not just any better schools, mind you, but Cherry Creek Schools – the cream of the crop! I spent the rest of my fifth-grade year at Rolling Hills Elementary, went on to Falcon Creek Middle School and ultimately graduated Grandview High. From January 2001 through May 2008, I was blessed to experience 7.5 school years in a district genuinely “dedicated to excellence.”

Sadly, through no fault of its tremendous teachers but because of its admonishable administration, Cherry Creek School District is but a shadow of its former self. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and under the tutelage of Superintendent Scott Siegfried, the district I once embraced as “a proud product of” has swapped its commitment to excellence for a commitment to excuses. Parents in this district have a right to be outraged.

For weeks, CCSD was fairly transparent about what data they were using for COVID decision-making; the district followed its own data until recently. On Tuesday, the district announced it will finish out the semester exclusively with remote learning, offering a brand-new excuse: It’s the parents’ fault!

“Due to the high COVID incident rate & minimal reporting of student cases,” the district tweeted, “CCSD is unable to operate schools. K-5 Online & Elevation students aren’t impacted.”

“Minimal reporting of student cases?” CCSD publicly accused parents of lying, omitting and underreporting. Has it occurred to the district that there might be fewer student cases as they stay home and CCSD is merely assuming culpability of parents as failing to report kids as COVID-positive? As I’ve asked before, when did parents become the enemy?

I’ll forgive parents if you scoffed at such snide and condescending language from a conceited school district with unchecked power over your children’s access to “excellent” education. As my friend Michelle, mother of three CCSD kids, told me, “I’m big mad.”

But wait – there’s more! Without warning or explanation, CCSD decided to take down their “Science-Based Metrics” dashboard (“This page is currently unavailable”), depriving parents of easy access to verifiable data. Who’s doing the “minimal reporting” now? (Thankfully, Internet Archive saved it.)

This happened on what would have been Day 7 of sustained rating change allowing children to go back to in-person learning. According to the limited data still on the CCSD website, the rating as of Tuesday’s announcement would have been even better than the past 7 days. All this immediately after teacher furloughs extended Thanksgiving break from the normal three days to a full week and, lest we forget, a month after voters approved ballot measures giving CCSD more money.

I’ve written before about how damaging forced remote learning is. Both Dr. Anthony Fauci and Gov. Jared Polis have finally caught up and started emphasizing the need to get kids back in school. CCSD, like other school districts, keeps ignoring the science. But it gets even worse.

Tillie Elvrum is director of the Colorado Coalition of Cyberschool Families, a coalition representing 22,500 kids in Colorado’s public cyberschools. These online schools have actually been educating students for decades, and CCCF works with dozens of them. They understand what is needed for effective “remote learning.” During the spring, as schools were shutting down in-person learning, CCCF reached out to school district superintendents across the state offering decades of expertise and experience.

Crickets. “Unfortunately, we received no response from one superintendent in the state of Colorado to tap into our longtime experience in utilizing online education in Colorado,” Elvrum told me in a radio interview. Wow.

As science, data and experts like Dr. Fauci altogether prove the minimal COVID-19 transmission risk in schools and underscore the need for in-person learning, school districts ignore the experts. Then, as schools shift to remote learning, districts ignore offers of help from experts at online education.

Finally, when Cherry Creek Schools’ own metrics justify a return to in-person learning, they scrub their website of those datapoints, blame parents and accuse them of deception. Because CCSD is the new expert.

It seems when a school district dedicates itself to excuses, educational excellence – and actual expertise – become irrelevant.

Click here to read Jimmy’s December 4 column at Denver Gazette, a sister publication of The Washington Examiner.


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