Off Limits

Good fellows: An effort to recruit minority teachers to the Denver Public Schools spearheaded by Denver mayor Wellington Webb hasn't done diddly to get black and Hispanic role models into teaching jobs at DPS. In fact, the "Mayor's Fellows" program produced such lackluster results that it's been given the ax after just one year. But before flunking out, the program did manage to help a couple of "fellows" with connections to Webb.

The recently aborted recruitment program was born in 1996, when Webb and former DPS board president Aaron Gray attended a swearing-in for new teachers and noticed a lack of minority participants. Webb responded by allotting $60,000 from his "education advocacy" fund--most of it donated by the Colorado Rockies--to the recruitment of "teachers of color." And how better to dig up hard-to-find Hispanic educators than by giving a $20,000 contract to Larry Martinez, both a brother to longtime Webb aide Jim Martinez and a longtime local PR man (among other things, Larry's former firm Hill and Knowlton got paid $60,000 to powder Denver International Airport's ego). How better to locate all those elusive black people in the education wilderness than to dish out another $20,000 to Ben Jeffers, an old Webb buddy who serves as Democratic Party chairman in Louisiana and who, two weeks before the 1995 election, sent a team of "political specialists" to Denver to help Webb get out the vote?

According to DPS spokesman Mark Stevens, Martinez and Jeffers managed to scrape up twenty black and Hispanic teachers for the district. But rather than putting DPS on the road to teacher parity--48 percent of the district's students are Hispanic, while only 14 percent of its teachers are--the program posted a dropout rate even worse than that of the kids. Of the twenty teachers recruited, fully half will be "non-renewed"--district lingo meaning they won't be given a contract to teach next fall.

The reason? "With every one of these ten teachers," says Stevens, "the issue was the fact that they did not get their paperwork done." In other words, they didn't get licensed to teach in Colorado. "There were other issues that were identified--for instance, classroom management and ability to maintain discipline in the classroom," adds Stevens. "But we think their ability to manage classroom and create a good environment is directly related to their lack of taking these classes."

Well-paid Webb education guru Carol Boigon manned the Fellows program for the city, even picking up the prospective teachers found by Martinez and Jeffers at the airport (their airfare and expenses were covered by the remaining $20,000 from the budget) and wooing them with Chamber of Commerce brochures touting the joys of life in Denver. "We really tried," says Boigon. But even she admits the program "wasn't as productive as we thought it would be."

Gosh, after hiring a politician from Louisiana to recruit teachers for Denver, it's hard to imagine why.

The choke was on us: Now that Dan "The Horse" Issel, one of the Denver Nuggets' most beloved former players, has taken the reins of the NBA's least beloved team, let's not forget that it was only a year ago that another former Nugget, Allan Bristow, was similarly hailed as a franchise savior. And long before the '97-'98 Nuggets did their gag job--and before role model Latrell Sprewell put the big hurt on coach P.J. Carlesimo's gullet--Bristow had turned choking into an art form. Chances are you missed it, since the incident was soft-pedaled by the local press, but here's how the squeeze play went down:

In October 1990, Bristow was general manager of the Charlotte Hornets. During a negotiating session with star guard Kendall Gill's agent, Arn Tellem, the 6' 7" Bristow leaped across the table at the 5' 5" Tellem, forced him against a wall and choked him. Tellem had to get medical treatment. Tellem complained to the NBA, and the league investigated. Shortly afterward, Bristow agreed to pay the agent's medical expenses, and the league issued this statement from Bristow: "I deeply regret that this incident ever took place, and I never should have touched Arn. Arn conducted himself professionally at all times, and I know that I was wrong, and I am sorry." Not as sorry as Denver's basketball fans, though. Turns out that Tellem became Antonio McDyess's agent--and Bristow, by then the Denver GM, shipped the promising young player to Phoenix last summer instead of re-signing him. McDyess hinted afterward that the bad blood between Bristow and Tellem had a lot to do with the poor communication between him and the Nuggets.

Speaking of choking, Tellem today represents Sprewell, who was immediately suspended by the league and fired by his team for throttling Carlesimo. Bristow got off light by comparison. Too bad Denver hoops fans didn't.

Follow that car!: Yes, city officials are still moving forward on plans to tear down the ludicrous toll plaza at DIA and replace it with a system of smaller toll booths outside the parking garages. But like all things at DIA, progress won't come cheap. The first step toward a new era of vehicle management at the world's best all-weather (except really bad blizzards and really bad fog) airport is a $625,000 contract to count the cars going in and out of the garages. The city accepted counting contract bids for a third time last week--officials couldn't find a winner the first two times around--and maybe the third time will be a charm. Don't bet on it. Irascible city councilman Ted Hackworth says his main goal in evaluating the new contract will be making sure that whoever gets it guarantees the city that it won't screw up. After all, says Hackworth, screwing up airport contracts is a proud tradition; the city spent millions to build the toll plaza, only to decide less than three years after the airport opened to tear it down. "They keep telling me that was a lousy design," says the Hack Man. "Well, if it's a lousy design, who in the hell said it was the right design? We oughta hang somebody."

Preferably from the nearest tent pole.

Hey, she's good--but not that good! The Rocky Mountain News has hired Oscar winner Donna Dewey to film its new commercial, but even James Cameron couldn't make a blockbuster out of the paper's new circulation statistics. Despite the trick of tossing its newfound sibling, the Boulder Camera, into the mix, the News's numbers are plummeting. Having finished its obligatory annual exercise in creative writing ("Boulder paper adds to circulation in metro area"), the News eventually admitted last week that it had lost an average of 13,085 papers daily, while the Denver Post has increased by 19,193 over the past year. And just when the tabloid's editorial content was looking up, too--at least, when compared to the Post's.

If Dewey can't make a silk purse out of this pig's ear, maybe the News could get a rewrite from the inflationary author of its March 4 front-page bannered story, which announced that new-home permits in January were up 31 percent--31 percent, Edna!--over a year before. Uh, never mind: In a small story in the business section the next day, the News admitted the actual rate was 6 percent--but blamed the mistake on a clerical error by the town of Superior rather than its own reporter.

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