Staff at Aurora Central High School give thumbs up to innovation proposal

Eighty-two percent of staff at Central approved of the so-called innovation plan, which calls for a slew of waivers from dozens of state and Aurora Public Schools regulations.

AURORA | Staff at Aurora Central High School voted in favor of a plan to retool the school Wednesday, March 9, moving Central and three other schools in northwest Aurora closer to gaining greater flexibility in their daily operations.

Eighty-two percent of staff at Central approved of the so-called innovation plan, which calls for a slew of waivers from dozens of state and Aurora Public Schools regulations. Among the most prominent waiver requests at Central: Impose one-year contracts for teachers, allow the school to hire non-licensed teachers, and shift to an alternative calendar system, which will be finalized by April 1, according to the Central proposal.

In recent weeks, Central teachers and administrators have been working to fine-tune the school’s proposal and waiver language. The district released a revised, final version of the Central plan on March 4. The most-recent version totaled more than 140 pages in length.

“Aurora Public Schools understands there is an urgent need to accelerate student achievement at Aurora Central High School,” APS Superintendent Rico Munn said in a statement. “We are excited about the opportunity for Aurora Central staff to pursue innovation status. This opportunity will allow school leaders and staff to find unique and targeted responses to the various challenges and opportunities within the school and zone community.”

The Central plan is a part of APS’ ongoing push to create a so-called innovation zone comprised of as many as fives schools. If approved, the zone would grant each school innovation status, which is tied to a 2008 state law intended to grant struggling schools greater latitude in policymaking decisions.

Already in the last year of the state’s five-year accountability clock, Central faces reconstitution, charter conversion or closure if it does not display marked improvement.

APS had initially aimed to have five schools included in the innovation zone: Aurora Central, Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, Boston K-8, and Paris and Crawford Elementary Schools. However, teachers at Aurora West voted down their proposed innovation plan last month, citing a lack of detail in the document, according to Amy Nichols, president of the Aurora Education Association. Staff at Boston, Crawford and Paris have approved of their respective schools’ plans.

Under state law, the district needs the state board of education to sign off on at least two of the schools vying for innovation status in order to officially enact an innovation zone.

The APS board of education will hear a formal presentation on the Central plan during its regular meeting on March 15. At the same meeting, the board will vote to approve or deny the three staff-approved plans for Boston, Paris and Crawford.

Central was granted an extra week to conduct a staff vote due to the significant length and density of the school’s plan, according to Munn.

Any plans approved by the local board must then be approved by the state board of education later this spring.

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