Together Colorado’s Social Justice Ministry at Our Lady Mother of the Church (OLMC) in Commerce City, Colorado marked its first anniversary in July 2019. For the past year, community leaders have been organizing in Commerce City to build a base of people to effect social change. From conversations with community members, the top three issues affecting the minds of Commerce City residents are 1) education, 2) water quality, and 3) street safety. As education was a chief concern among community members, the OLMC Social Justice Ministry (SJM) leaders narrowed their organizing focus to structural education reform.
No matter what zip code we live in, all of our students deserve to learn in an environment that nurtures their growth and wholeness. OLMC Social Justice Leaders are organizing to ensure Adams 14 students receive an equitable education.
The Adams 14 school district, where Commerce City is located, has been failing students for almost 10 years. Adams 14 has experienced constant turnover in district leadership, high teacher turnover, student exodus, and a lack of continuity of teaching approaches to educate English-language learners. Adams 14 has the highest percentage of students learning English as a second language (48 percent) and students on subsidized lunch is up from 56% in 2000 to 86% in 2019.
In a move to curb and reverse Adams 14’s inequities compared to other districts, the Colorado State Board of Education determined to hire an external manager to oversee the school district. In early 2019, Adams 14 began the process of choosing the external manager. The state received four applications, one of which was a neighboring school district that community leaders favored. In the end, a private consulting firm, MGT Consulting, received the contract to take over control of Adams 14 for the next 8 years for $8 million. MGT also received a contract to oversee Pueblo’s Risley International Academy of Innovation. Two teachers unions in Adams 14 and Pueblo filed lawsuits against this decision because the firm wasn’t publicly elected and it will essentially function like an unelected school board.
Together Colorado Leaders at OLMC Social Justice Ministry continue to educate the community about Adams 14’s education issues by presenting research findings and best practices for bilingual and bicultural education at their weekly church services. They’ve reached over 2,000 community members to date. Pending the outcome of the teachers’ union lawsuit, leaders are putting pressure on MGT to commit to prioritizing bilingual/bicultural education and to create a co-governing plan with community leaders so parents have a voice in the decision-making process that affects their children in Adams 14.
For more information on Together Colorado’s OLMC Social Justice Ministry, contact Adrienne Aguirre Deshaies, [email protected].
Together Colorado Our Lady Mother of the Church Social Justice Ministry Anniversary Celebration