Moffat County School District interested in SB 10-191 pilot program

It’s possible the Moffat County School District will be a testing ground for Colorado Senate Bill 10-191 beginning in August.

SB 10-191, also known as the “Great Teacher and Leaders Bill,” or the “Educator Effectiveness Bill,” was signed into law in May 2010 by then-governor Bill Ritter.

Although the bill was signed more than a year ago, it won’t go into full effect until 2015.

In the meantime, the bill has undergone study and recommendations by the State Council for Educator Effectiveness, and is nearing the point of being rolled out in pilot programs at five school districts throughout the state.

Superintendent Joe Petrone has submitted an application to the Colorado Department of Education that expresses the district’s interest in being a pilot site.

The interest, however, is preliminary, Petrone said.

“We are indicating our interest in learning more. Our understanding is it’s non-binding,” he said of the application.

Petrone said he and several members of the District Personnel Performance Evaluation Council — a group comprised of about 20 Moffat County educators and administrators — attended a meeting Monday in Denver with representatives from the Department of Education.

“We all went down to learn more about the prospect and potential of being a part of the pilot program,” Petrone said. “Our interest was to learn as much as we can possibly learn about the responsibilities, requirements, obligations and, of course, the rewards of being part of the pilot.”

SB 10-191 seeks to create a consistent statewide system for evaluating teachers, principals and other educators in Colorado.

Being a part of the pilot program would give Moffat County educators a better idea of what to expect when the law goes into full effect in 2015.

The pilot application is due to the Department of Education by Saturday. The department will notify districts if their application was accepted as early as July 1.

Acceptance, however, doesn’t necessarily mean Moffat County will participate, Petrone said. First of all, there are too many uncertainties.

“They haven’t told us if it’s three teachers in the district that would be piloted. Five principals in the district? One from every school? They just don’t know,” Petrone said. “So, it’s very fluid at this point.”

Second, Petrone said getting district educators to buy into the pilot program is crucial.

“In any pilot, there needs to be ownership built and understanding built with those who are going to participate,” he said of district employees. “We need to have that time (to discuss the pilot program within the district), and that’s the contingency for our interest.

“We want to make sure our educators are partners in this decision.”

Dave Grabowski, president of the Moffat County Education Association, said he attended the same meeting in Denver. Grabowski said he sees great potential in the pilot program.

“If you’re in the pilot program, you get support and training,” Grabowski said. “Otherwise, in 2015, they’d say, ‘OK, here’s what we piloted, here’s what you’re going to do, here’s what you’re going to get.’”

Not only is there support and training, but school districts involved in the pilot program can help fine-tune the statewide evaluations, he said.

“It’s good to have a voice, especially if you’re in rural Colorado,” Grabowski said. “Sometimes we’re not as well recognized, so it would be a great opportunity for us, as a rural district.”

Grabowski said he sees few negative aspects of hosting the pilot program.

“There’s very little downside,” he said. “You get to work with it for a couple of years and see how it goes, and help them tweak it a little bit to make it work with the district and what’s best for students and learning.

“I think the downside is if you don’t do it … it’s just sprung on you.

“It would be nice to be part of the pilot.”

When SB 10-191 was first introduced, detractors said the bill was designed to target teacher tenure rights. Grabowski disagrees with that assessment.

“I don’t think it’s anti-tenure,” he said. “We, as teachers, want success for all students. We want effective teachers in all classrooms. So, I don’t think it’s an anti-tenure bill.

“It’s going to make our profession even stronger and better.”

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