On Tuesday May 27, DPS held a community meeting at East High School to discuss the possibility of an East-Manual Partnership. The proposal presently under consideration is to combine all Manual 9th graders with East 9th graders and form a 9th grade academy to be housed at Manual. Graduates of this academy would either go on to East for 10-12th grade or enter into a proposed 10-12th grade Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) High School with their choice of a medical or an engineering pathway.
This proposal came from a committee called Thought Partners, a group of parents, teachers, community members and DPS staff who met from March until May to come up with a recommendation to address low school performance ratings, low enrollment and retention, and poor test scores at Manual High School,.
This proposed change would not take effect until the 2016-17 school year and will not be decided on for another year, to allow for community deliberation. Over 200 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, which was a question and answer session led by East Principal, Andy Mendelsberg.
For two hours, Mendelsberg and Greta Martinez, the interim assistant superintendent for DPS, fielded questions from parents, present East students and alumni, as well as members of the broader Denver community. Questions ranged from concerns over student culture, enrollment numbers and overpopulation at East to the source of funding for the proposed programs at Manual, but the most commonly asked question was a resounding: why?
“Why would high performing students feeding into East take the social and academic risks involved in going to Manual,” wondered parent Harry Simpson. Principal Mendelsberg’s and Assistant Superintendent Martinez’s responses to this repeated line of questioning remained consistent—and consistently “vague,” members of the community bemoaned—such a merger “offers more opportunity for more students to pursue their passion and interests.” When Simpson pressed Mendelsberg further, “beyond the platitudes, what are the benefits?” Mendelsberg said that not even the widely acclaimed East High School is serving all of its students, citing the 91% graduation rate and 88% college placement rate to suggest that there is room for improvement at East.
Perhaps such a partnership could not only revive Manual, but also benefit East students by providing greater opportunities and attention for students whom early intervention could mean the difference between success and failure in their high school career.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I kept hearing, in effect, the need to keep the special students in the special school, not threatened by non-special students or non-special school. Seldom was mentioned the need for proper support for comprehensive neighborhood schools open to all, for the benefit of all.