DPS board member Andrea Merida hijacks district's media mailing list

Update, 2:10 p.m.: Westword just spoke to Andrea Merida. To read what she had to say, click on "More" and scroll to the bottom.

Denver Public Schools board member Andrea Merida has been raking muck with regard to the school district's plan to "turn around" failing Lake Middle School ever since she had herself secretly sworn in hours before a November 30 board meeting so she could vote down the proposal, instead of waiting to be sworn in at the end of the meeting with the two other new board members. The proposal passed anyway.

And now that early data shows the plan may be working exactly how the four "yes" voters had hoped, Merida is at it again. When the district sent out a press release to local media informing them that twice as many students have signed up for the new sixth-grade options at Lake than the number of sixth-graders who currently attend school there, Merida hit "reply all" and sent out a press release of her own.

Let's be clear that the reason these numbers are strong is because of the intense grassroots organizing of the Lake IB community: parents, teachers and community members. Your coverage cannot be complete without actually speaking to some of the folks that worked on that campaign.

Merida then listed four people she suggested the media call, including former councilwoman Deb Ortega and Democratic District 4 House candidate Amber Tafoya.

As for the projected enrollment numbers at Lake, here's the breakdown: There are currently 190 sixth-graders at Lake, which is located in northwest Denver and which boasts an International Baccalaureate, or IB, program that some say isn't working. The turnaround proposal calls to revamp the IB program and co-locate the high-achieving West Denver Prep charter school in the Lake building. A second West Denver Prep will be located nearby, at the campus of the Emerson Street School.

So far, DPS says that 380 sixth-graders have signed up for one of the three options. According to spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong, 119 have signed up for the new Lake IB program and 261 have signed up for one of the two West Denver Preps.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg is scheduled to give a press conference on the subject at 2:15 p.m. today. But it looks like Merida isn't satisfied with Boasberg having the final word.

Update, 2:10 p.m.: Merida disagrees with our use of the word "hijacked," and she's correct in that she did nothing wrong or against-the-rules when she sent a message to the media via DPS's list -- although it was a bold move. "It's called communicating," she says.

With regard to her message, Merida says she's thrilled that the new sixth-grade IB program at Lake and the two new West Denver Preps have attracted so many students, but she's bothered by the fact that DPS is taking credit.

"The district can't claim any success on this because they didn't do anything," she says.

Instead, Merida says, the high enrollment numbers are due to the hard work of the folks associated with West Denver Prep and to a grassroots group of parents, teachers and community members who recruited for Lake's IB program.

"I think it's a fabulous thing because people are taking charge of their school communities," she says.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar