City and County of Denver School District No. 1 in the State of Colorado and City and County of Denver School District No. 1 Board of Education, Petitioners.
Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Denver Association of Educational Office Professionals, Lloyd Bourdon, Cheryl Myres, and Toni Falcon. Respondents.
to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No.
Attorneys for Petitioners: Zonies Law, LLC Sean Connelly
Denver, Colorado Denver Public Schools Molly Ferrer, Denver,
Attorneys for Respondents: Colorado Education Association
Sharyn E. Dreyer, Denver, Colorado.
JUSTICE RICE announced the judgment of the Court and
delivered an opinion, in which JUSTICE BOATRIGHT joins.
JUSTICE EID concurs in the judgment, and JUSTICE COATS joins
in the concurrence in the judgment.
JUSTICE GABRIEL dissents, and JUSTICE MÁRQUEZ and
JUSTICE HOOD join in the dissent.
This case requires us to determine whether the Innovation
Schools Act of 2008 ("ISA"), §§
22-32.5-101 to -111, C.R.S. (2016), precludes a local school
board from approving an innovation plan submitted by a
"new" innovation school, that is, a school that has
not previously opened as a non-innovation school and has yet
to hire teachers.We hold that the ISA does not preclude
approval of innovation plans from such "new"
innovation schools. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of
the court of appeals and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
Facts and Procedural History
Between 2010 and 2012, the Board of Education of School
District No. 1 ("DPS Board") approved and
implemented innovation plans at eleven schools under the ISA.
Most of these schools were created to replace failing schools
within the Denver Public Schools District ("DPS").
All of the schools were "new, " in that they had
not previously been opened as non-innovation schools and had
new names, new identification numbers, and employed only a
principal and, in some cases, one or two other administrative
employees-but had no students, teachers, or other employees
at the time their innovation plans were approved.
Six of the eleven schools at issue here are in the far
northeast area of Denver. They were created to replace
failing schools in that area, including the former Montbello
High School. For example, at Montbello High School, only
seven percent of entering freshmen graduated four years later
with the ability to enroll in higher education without
remediation, while a thousand students from the area opted
for very long bus rides so they could attend DPS high schools
outside the area.
In November 2010, after ten public meetings and a final
hearing lasting until 2 a.m., pursuant to its authority to
close schools, the DPS Board voted for phased-out closures of
Montbello High School and the area's middle and
elementary schools. See § 22-32-110(1)(1),
C.R.S. (2016); Hawkins v. Cline, 420 P.2d 400, 403
(Colo. 1966). In their place, five new innovation schools
were created to serve high school and middle school students:
Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello 6-12,
Collegiate Prep Academy, High Tech Early College, Vista
Academy (focused on high-risk youth), and Noel Community Arts
Program 6-12. A sixth innovation school, the Denver Center
for International Studies at Ford, was created to serve
elementary school children in the area.
Two of the other schools at issue here, West Generation
Academy and West Leadership Academy, replaced West High
School and the middle school operating on the West campus.
These schools serve grades six through twelve on the former
West High School campus. In 2011, the DPS Board approved
phased-out closures of West High School and the middle
school. The resolution approving these closures cited the
failings of both: West "had declining enrollment"
as well as "the lowest graduation rate and highest
remediation rate of any of [DPS's] traditional high
schools, " while the middle school was "Accredited
on Probation and the lowest rated school on the
District's Performance Framework."
The final three new innovation schools challenged here are
the Denver Center for 21st Century Learning at Wyman
("DC21"), Swigert International School, and
McAuliffe International School. DC21 was designed to
re-engage high-risk youth facing problems such as gang
involvement, substance abuse, pregnancy, and truancy. Swigert
and McAuliffe were created to address student population
growth in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood.
After the DPS Board voted for phased-out closure of the old
schools and the eleven new schools were created, the DPS
Board approved the innovation plan for each new school. In
2011 and 2012, the State Board of Education ("State
Board"), pursuant to section 22-32.5-107(3), unanimously
designated these eleven new schools. Then, teachers and other
employees were hired to work in the eleven schools. Next, in
the first week that each school opened, as provided in
section 22-32.5-109(1)(b), the faculty at each new school
voted on whether to waive the collective bargaining agreement
("CBA") provisions identified in the innovation
plans. Each of these secret-ballot votes resulted in far more
than the requisite sixty percent support for the waivers of
the CBA provisions. The teachers and staff at each school
also voted on whether they supported their schools'
innovation plan. The majority of teachers and staff at each
school voted in support of each innovation plan.
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the Denver
Association of Educational Office Professionals, Lloyd
Bourdon, Cheryl Myres, and Toni Falcon (collectively,
"the Association") brought suit to challenge the
DPS Board's approval of the eleven new schools'
innovation plans. The district court upheld the innovation
school designations except as to two schools in
Stapleton-Swigert and McAuliffe- which it denied on the basis
that those schools were not created "to address problems
identified in chronically failing schools and failing student
populations." The court ruled that section
22-32.5-104(3)(f), which states that an innovation plan shall
contain evidence that a majority of teachers, administrators,
and the school accountability committee consent to the
designation as an innovation school, was
"inapplicable" to the remaining nine schools,
noting that teachers showed "their approval of the
Innovation Plan by agreeing to work at the school and signing
a contract of employment at the school, knowing it was
operating under an Innovation Plan, with an extended school
day and year, other provisions imposing higher demands on the
teachers, and statutory and CBA waivers."
The Association appealed and argued that under section
104(3)(f), an innovation plan cannot be submitted to a local
school board and the State Board without the prior majority
consent of teachers, administrators, and the school
accountability committee. In other words, it argued that an
innovation plan could only be submitted by an existing
non-innovation school and could not be submitted by a school
that had yet to hire teachers. The court of appeals agreed
with the Association and reversed the designations except as
to Swigert and McAuliffe-for those, it upheld the denial of
the innovation designations. Denver Classroom Teachers
Ass'n v. Denver Sch. Dist. No. 1, 2015 COA 71,
¶ 68, __P.3d__. DPS and the DPS Board appealed, and this
court granted certiorari.
The crux of the question presented by this case is, simply,
can a local school board approve a "new"
school's innovation plan before the school hires
teachers? We hold that it can. The General Assembly intended
that the ISA give schools and school districts flexibility
and autonomy to address the needs of students and the
communities in which they live. Construing the ISA to
preclude a local school board from approving innovation plans
from "new" schools that had not previously opened
as non-innovation schools and had yet to hire teachers would
be directly contrary to this intent. Moreover, given this
intent, we construe section 104(3)(f) to be directory and
inapplicable to such "new" innovation schools.
Accordingly, we hold that the ISA does not preclude a local
school board from approving innovation plans from schools
that have not previously opened as non-innovation schools and
have yet to hire teachers.
Standard of Review and Statutory Construction
We review issues of statutory construction de novo.
Specialty Rests. Corp. v. Nelson, 231 P.3d 393, 397
(Colo. 2010). In interpreting a statute, our primary
objective is to ascertain and effectuate the intent of the
General Assembly. Id. In making this determination,
we presume that the General Assembly intended a just and
reasonable result, and we consider the consequences of a
particular construction. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of Cty.
of Park v. Park Cty. Sportsmen's Ranch, LLP, 45 P.3d
693, 711 (Colo. 2002). "Perhaps the best guide to intent
is the declaration of policy which frequently forms the
initial part of an enactment." St. Luke's Hosp.
v. Indus. Comm'n, 349 P.2d 995, 997 (Colo. 1960).
Additionally, a "statute should be given the
construction and interpretation which will render it
effective in accomplishing the purpose for which it was
enacted." Zaba v. Motor Vehicle Div., Dep't of
Revenue, 516 P.2d 634, 637 (Colo. 1973). We also
"read the statutory design as a whole, giving
consistent, harmonious, and sensible effect to all of its
parts." Young v. Brighton Sch. Dist. 27J, 2014
CO 32, ¶ 11, 325 P.3d 571, 576. But we should avoid
constructions that lead to illogical or absurd results.
Johnson v. People, 2016 CO 59, ¶ 18, 379 P.3d
The Innovation Schools Act
The legislative declaration of the ISA explains that the
General Assembly recognized a need to grant principals,
faculty, and school districts the "maximum degree of
flexibility possible to meet the needs of individual students
and the communities in which they live." §
22-32.5-102(1)(d). The legislative declaration also explains
that districts should "delegate to each public school a
high degree of autonomy in implementing curriculum, making
personnel decisions, [and] organizing the school day"
(among other things)-"thereby empowering each public
school to tailor its services most effectively and
efficiently to meet the needs of the population of students
it serves." § 22-32.5-102(1)(e).
To effectuate its purposes, the ISA created a system that
allows a public school to submit an "innovation
plan" to its local school board for approval. §
22-32.5-104(1)(a)- (b). The plan should describe the
"innovations" the public school would like to
implement, which may include changes to, among other things,
the length of the school day and year, the curriculum, and
teacher hiring and compensation. §
22-32.5-104(3)(b)-(c). If the local school board approves the
plan, it may seek designation by the State Board as a
district of innovation on the basis of the submitted plan or
plans as the case may be. § 22-32.5-107(1).
Because submitted innovation plans may require changes that
otherwise would be precluded by state statutes, district
rules, and CBA provisions, designation by the State Board has
the important consequence of relieving the designated
innovation schools from a number of these restrictions.
Specifically, upon designation, "the [S]tate [B]oard
shall waive any statutes or rules specified in the school
district's innovation plan" other than specified
statutes not subject to waiver. § 22-32.5-108(1).
However, if the innovation plan contains a provision that
attempts to waive any CBA provisions, any such waiver will
only be effective upon "obtaining the approval, by means