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Rest of the Story: Some Students Leave Class for Peaceful Protest

Some Students Leave Class for Peaceful Protest
Organizer Chooses to Meet with Superintendent After Event

Calling for a “peaceful protest,” a group of Ponderosa High School (PHS) students and adults gathered on the PHS soccer field on March 9 to talk about teachers who have left their school. DCSD would like to provide the facts surrounding this gathering.

Who is behind the protest?

Based on one online petition, a single student launched the effort.

What did the superintendent and other leaders do to avoid this disruption to the learning environment?

Superintendent Liz Fagen first learned of the student’s concerns when the online petition was launched. She reached out to the student to better understand her concerns and offered to meet in person. However, the student chose not to meet with Fagen until the day following the protest.

I hear a lot about teacher turnover in DCSD. Is it a problem?

DCSD’s turnover runs in line with state and national averages for overall turnover. DCSD’s Human Resources team looks at data in a myriad of ways to put the context with the number. For instance, last year the teacher turnover for Highly Effective teachers was 4.9%. Turnover for Effective teachers was 10.9%.

When an employee leaves DCSD an automated exit interview is sent to them. The Human Resources team actively works to review the reasons why and reacts to any trends.

The District's overall turnover for the 14-15 school year was 17.27% versus 20.22% for the average school district in Colorado.

You mentioned low turnover for Highly Effective teachers.

Staff evaluations are based on a four-tier system:

1.    Highly Effective

2.    Effective

3.    Partially Effective

4.    Ineffective

We know that the biggest factor in student success is the teacher in the classroom. We have retained approximately 95% of Highly Effective teachers and 90% of Effective teachers. It is no secret that parents want the very best teacher in front of their children. We are pleased with our retention rate of our best teachers.

So how is turnover at DCSD and PHS?

School Year 2012-2013


PHS Teacher Turnover Rate


PHS Overall Turnover Rate


Overall District Turnover Rate




School Year 2013-2014


PHS Teacher Turnover Rate


PHS Overall Turnover Rate


Overall District Turnover Rate




School Year 2014-2015


PHS Teacher Turnover Rate


PHS Overall Turnover Rate


Overall District Turnover Rate



What does DCSD do to address concerns like turnover?

We have a multi-level appeal process to address any concerns our stakeholders may have – students, staff, parents and community members. When it is specific to a school, such as the PHS protest, the discussion typically starts with the principal. If unresolved to the satisfaction of the stakeholder, the concern may then be addressed by the director of schools, assistant superintendent and superintendent. We have a very open door policy and are always willing to meeting with anyone – such as the student who organized this protest.

Did students get in trouble for attending the protest?

Students who chose to leave class to attend the protest were marked unexcused. Per the DCSD Student Code of Conduct, an unexcused absence means an absence with or without prior knowledge and approval of the parents, but for reasons not acceptable to the principal. In accordance with the law, the Ponderosa administrative staff may impose appropriate penalties regarding an unexcused absence. Penalties for student truancy with no other complicating factors may include a warning, school detention or in-school suspension. This is consistent with school truancy policies and practices.

How did you keep these students safe?

The Ponderosa team worked closely with DCSD Security and our local law enforcement partners regarding the safety of our students who chose to participate in the protest. PHS is adjacent to Parker Road, with a large number of vehicles traveling at a high speed. Because of this, students who participated in the protest were asked to stay on school property and away from all streets. We also had an increased law enforcement presence in the area to provide the highest level of safety to our students, given the circumstances.

What happened inside the school during the protest?

Classes were held as planned.