Douglas County School District, Colorado

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The Douglas County School District Re. 1 is a school district that serves Douglas County, Colorado. It is the third-largest school district in Colorado, serving more than 61,000 students with 70+ schools.

Douglas County School District was formed in 1958 by the consolidation of 17 smaller school districts, adding the "Re. 1" to its name to note the district's first reorganization. The district manages 46 elementary schools, 9 middle schools, 9 high schools, 8 charter schools, 2 magnet schools, 1 alternative high school, and 1 night high school.

Website evaluation

See also: Evaluation of Colorado school district websites

Last rated on an unknown date.

The good

  • Budget
    • 2012-2013 budget summary is provided.
    • Budgets are archived for 3 years.[1]
  • Administrative Officials
    • Department heads are listed for each department.[2]
    • Contact information for administrative officials is provided including a mailing address, phone number, and personalized email.
  • Elected Officials
    • Elected officials are listed with a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[3]
  • Meetings
    • Meeting minutes are archived for 5 years.[4]
    • Meeting agendas are archived for 5 years.[5]
    • A meeting calendar is available and names the times and locations of public meetings.[6]
    • Executive session summares are disclosed.
  • Audits
    • The most recent audit is posted.
    • Audits dating back to 2006 are available.[7]
  • Contracts
    • Bids are posted.[8]
    • Awarded bids, including those over $10,000 are posted. [9]
  • Public Records
    • The public information officer is identified and maintained by the communications department. This person provides a mailing address, phone number and personalized email.[10]
    • A public records form is provided.
    • A fee schedule for documents is provided.
  • Academics
    • Academic performance reports for the school are posted online.[11]
  • Taxes
    • Tax revenue is available in budget documents.
    • Tax rate tables are published, with archived information dating back to 2002.[12]
  • Background Checks
    • Background check policy is posted.[13]

The bad

  • Budget
    • Complete 2012-2013 budget is not provided.
  • Taxes
    • Tax rates are not posted.
  • Meetings
    • According to the Strong Schools Coalition, the Douglas County School Board spent 49% of meeting time in Executive Session(closed sessions) in 2012. These sessions are not recorded in meeting minutes.[14]

District Controversies

Over the past few years the relationship between the Douglas County School Board and public sector union officials has become contentious. Some of the key issues have involved a merit pay system for teachers, a voucher program that includes using public dollars to send students to religious schools and rehire policies.

Severing Ties with Teachers Union

In September 2012 the school board unanimously voted to sever ties with the teachers union, which means the district will no longer collect union dues through paychecks, nor granting paid release time to teachers who spend their days conducting union business instead of teaching in the classroom. [15]

Severing ties with the union also meant an end to collective bargaining. The teachers union collective bargaining agreement expired in 2012. [16] Although the collective bargaining agreement expired in June 2012, the district agreed to provide teachers with a 1 percent pay raise for the 2012-2013 school year. [17]

Teacher Pay Plan

In October 2012 the district implemented a pilot teacher pay program based on performance and merit. The new system was funded with $4 million, after being supported by a voter referendum. The pay system is market-based incorporating elements of performance, education and supply and demand. [18]

The new pay plan eliminates "knowledge-level advancement", where teachers receive raises for gaining education. District officials said teachers have to "prove the worth of that education through their performance." [19]

School Choice Plan

In 2011, the Douglas County Board of Education unanimously approved the Choice Scholarship Program, a voucher program that provided the use of public funds to give students a chance to attend one of more than 20 private schools. Under the county program up to 500 students could receive $4,575 in state funds for tuition at private schools, including religious schools. Each will get 75 percent of the education money provided by the state to choose the school of their choice, whether it is public or private. The other 25 percent of the funds stay with the Douglas County School District. [20] More than 200 students received voucher money from the county before the program was put on hold due to lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. Plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argued the program violated the state constitution's prohibition of using public funds to support religious schools. [21]

Court Blocks Plan

In August 2011 a Denver District judge issued a permanent injunction which halted the voucher program. [22] Judge Michael Martinez blocked the voucher program in August, saying it was a disservice to the public interest for taxpayers to pay tuition for religious schools. Martinez ruled the program violated the state's constitution and school-financing act. [23]

Appeal Overturns Block

In February 2013 the Colorado Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that blocked Douglas County's Choice Scholarship Program. The court said the voucher program does not violate the state constitution. The court added local school districts are not prohibited "from providing educational opportunities in addition to and different from the thorough and uniform system." [24]

The case is likely to be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. [25]

District Legal Fees

The district's legal fees are being funded in part by The Daniels Fund, an organization that provides funding for needy and poor students to attend college. The fund is expected to pay up to $500,000 of the district's legal costs. [26]

Email Controversies

Media Trackers Colorado reported some district teachers and officials used their district provided email accounts for political campaigning. [27]

Rehire Lawsuit Filed

The Douglas County Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against the school district saying the district did not fill new positions with teachers who had been laid off. More than 10 teachers were laid off and not rehired. Six of those teachers are named as plaintiffs. [28]

The DCFT is also receiving assistance from its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, in its push back against the school board. [29]

Journalist Ejected from Board Meeting

After ejecting a documentary filmmaker from a board meeting in August 2012, the board of education reversed a ban against him, after the ACLU intervened on his behalf. According to reports the filmmaker stepped outside an area cordoned off for media and refused to return to the area. [30]

Advocacy Groups

Parent Group Criticizes Lack of Transparency

The Strong Schools Coalition, a Douglas County parent group, criticized the school board for multiple transparency issues. Criticisms include: [31]

  • The district has stopped issuing Annual Reports and Quick Facts
  • Public input from surveys, forums, and comments are not valued
  • An open records requests about employee salaries has gone without a response, despite the fact that the information was released in 2010.
  • The Board has not responded to requests and letters urging greater transparency in government.
  • The amount of time that public meetings spend in sessions closed to the public has increased from 8 percent of the time 2009 to 49 percent in 2012.

Strong Schools Parrots Public Unions

Colorado Media Trackers reported the Strong Schools Coalition and the Douglas County Federation of Teachers were using the same talking points in their messaging. The media group also said the two organizations worked together to distribute campaign materials. [32]

Douglas County Classrooms

The Douglas County teachers union launched a parent-teacher organization to inform other parents of the board of education’s activities and try to elect new members to the school board. A representative of the initiative told the Denver Post Douglas County Classrooms was started in response to what she called the board’s political motivations toward reforming education, including the voucher program and severing ties with the teachers union. [33]

School board

Douglas County, CO schools are overseen by a 7-member school board, who are elected on staggering four-year terms.

Member District Term
John Carson District B Exp 2013
Dr. Carrie Mendoza District D Exp 2013
Doug Benevento District E Exp 2013
Meghann Silverthorn District G Exp 2013
Kevin Larsen District C Exp 2015
Justin G. Williams District F Exp 2015
Craig V. Richardson District A Exp 2015

Administrative Officials

The current superintendent of Douglas County Schools is Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, formerly of Tuscon Unified School District. She is the highest-paid school official in Colorado, receiving a compensation of $280,350 yearly, including retirement benefits. [34]

School budget

Expenditures by Fund [35]
Fund 2010 Budget 2011 Budget Alloc Per Pupil Percent of Budget
General Fund $476,977,336 $436,656,943 $7,632 $66.9%
Debt Service/Bond Redemption Fund 61,047,544 67,310,740 1,176 10.3%
Building Fund 61,397,721 $16,277,949 285 2.5%
Capital Reserve Fund 15,268,246 3,527,377 62 0.5%
Capital Projects Fund - 3,327,000 58 0.5%
Transportation Fund - 18,838,599 329 2.9%
Govtl Designated Purpose Grant Fund 15,646,514 15,644,123 273 2.4%
School Discretionary Fund 1,704,000 - - 0.0%
Nutrition Services Fund 16,292,156 14,613,438 255 2.2%
Child Care Fund 9,489,398 8,879,677 155 1.4%
Private Purpose Trusts 52,000 64,000 1 0.0%
Pupil Activity Fund 3,076,000 4,880,000 85 0.7%
Medical Self-Insurance Fund 43,694,440 47,820,096 836 7.3%
Insurance Reserve Fund 3,839,312 3,699,141 65 0.6%
Athletics and Activities Fund 8,720,579 11,038,401 193 1.7%
Mil Levy Override Fund 3,123,555 - - 0.0%
TOTAL 720,328,801 652,577,484 $11,406 100.0%


District Mill Levies for 2009 - 2010. [35]
District Mil Levy (per $1,000 of AV 2009 Budget 2010 Budget
Mil Certified, December: 2008 2009
Property Taxes Collected: 2009 2010
Program Funding including Abatements & Omitted Property 25.440, 0.603 25.440, 0.181
Overrides (‘89,‘97, ’03 & ‘06) 7.154 6.864
Bond Redemption 13.906 14.196
Total Mil Levy 47.103 46.681
Total Assessed Value $4,712,352,380 $4,878,012,235

Academic performance


The Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) is Colorado’s standards-based assessment designed to provide a picture of student performance to schools, districts, educators, parents and the community. The primary purpose of the assessment program is to determine the level at which Colorado students meet the Colorado Model Content Standards in the content areas assessed. The CSAP is collaboratively developed by the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado teaching community and CTB/McGraw-Hill. The data should be used to keep abreast of individual student, school, and district progress toward attaining higher student achievement levels. The fact that CSAP is based on the Colorado Model Content Standards will ensure that all districts are held to the same challenging standards that Coloradans expect for their students regardless of whether they live in urban, suburban, or rural areas.[36]

Three-year performance trends

Douglas district performance for years 2009-10, 2008-09, and 2007-08:[37]

Performance Indicators Rating  % Earned
Academic Achievement Meets 77.1%
Academic Growth Meets 72.2%
Academic Growth Gaps Approaching 61.1%
College and Workforce
Exceeds 91.7%
Total 78.2%

What do the performance indicators measure?

  • Academic Achievement: The Achievement Indicator reflects how a district's students are doing at meeting the state's proficiency goal: the percentage of students proficient or advanced on Colorado's standardized assessments. This Indicator includes results from CSAP and CSAPA (Reading, Writing, Math and Science), and Lectura and Escritura.
  • Academic Growth: The Growth Indicator measures academic progress using the Colorado Growth Model. This Indicator reflects 1) normative growth: how the academic progress of the students in this district compared to that of other students statewide with a similar CSAP score history in that subject area, and 2) adequate growth: whether this level of growth was sufficient for the typical (median) student in this district to reach an achievement level of proficient or advanced on the CSAP within three years or by 10th grade, whichever comes first.
  • Academic Growth Gaps: The Gaps Indicator measures the academic progress of historically disadvantaged student subgroups and students needing to catch up. It disaggregates the Growth Indicator into student subgroups, and reflects their normative and adequate growth. The subgroups include students eligible for Free/Reduced Lunch, minority students, students with disabilities (IEP status), English Language Learners, and students needing to catch up.
  • College and Workforce Readiness: The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Indicator measures the preparedness of students for college or jobs upon completing high school. This Indicator reflects student graduation rates, dropout rates, and average Colorado ACT composite scores.


  1. Douglas County School District, Budgets, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  2. Douglas County School District, Staff Directory, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  3. Douglas County School District, Elected Officials, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  4. Douglas County School District, Meeting Minutes, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  5. Douglas County School District, Meeting Agendas, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  6. Douglas County School District, Meeting Calendar, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  7. Douglas County School District, Audits, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  8. Douglas County School District, Bids, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  9. Awarded Bids
  10. Douglas County School District, Open Records Requests, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  11. Douglas County School District, Performance, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  12. Tax rate tables, Accessed: March 22, 2013
  13. Douglas County School District, Background Checks, Accessed: March 19, 2013
  14. Strong Schools Coalition, Transparency Inspires Trust, Accessed: March 20, 2013
  15. Dougco Board Bids Teachers Union Adieu, Moves On, Sept. 7, 2012
  16. Denver Post, Douglas County Teachers Union Sues District, Feb. 15, 2013
  17. Douglas County Schools, Pay Resolution, June 2012
  18. Denver Post, Douglas County starts new teacher pay plan, Oct. 15, 2013
  19. Denver Post, Douglas County starts new teacher pay plan, Oct. 15, 2013
  20. 9news, Douglas County Schools votes for school choice voucher program, March 15, 2011
  21. Denver Post, Court overturns block of school voucher program, Feb. 28, 2013
  22. Denver Post, Daniels Fund promises up to $530,000 in fight for Douglas County voucher program, Aug. 30, 2011
  23. The Denver Channel, Court overturns block of Douglas County Schools school voucher program, Feb. 28, 2013
  24. Denver Post, Court overturns block of school voucher program, Feb. 28, 2013
  25. Denver Post, Court overturns block of school voucher program, Feb. 28, 2013
  26. Denver Post, Daniels Fund promises up to $530,000 in fight for Douglas County voucher program, Aug. 30, 2011
  27. Media Trackers Colorado, Investigation unearths inappropriate emails sent from Douglas County Schools accounts, Sept. 18, 2012
  28. Denver Post, Douglas County Teachers Union Sues District, Feb. 15, 2013
  29. Education News Colorado, AFT prez sees best, worst in DPS, Dougco, Oct. 3, 2012
  30. Education News Colorado, Dougco lifts ban against ejected journalist, Aug. 15, 2012
  31. Strong Schools Coalition, Transparency in DCSD, March, 2013
  32. Colorado Media Trackers, 'Parent Led' Strong Schools Coalition Broadcasts Union Talking Points, March 21, 2013
  33. Denver Post, Douglas County group aims to counter board of education message, Dec. 19, 2012
  34. Meyer, Jeremy P. The Denver Post. "New Douglas County School superintendent's salary raises the bar during tough times," 22 June 2010. Accessed 17 Nov 2010
  35. 35.0 35.1 Douglas County Schools, Colorado. DCSD Financial Plan and Budget: FY 2010 - 2011(PDF)
  36. about CSAP
  37. Douglas CSAP

External links

Portions of this article were taken from Wikipedia.