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PASS making a positive difference for students and parents of color

Parents who attended the district PASS meeting in December got a wealth of information that will help their students succeed in school, and that makes perfect sense, given that PASS stands for “Partnership for Academically Successful Students.”

Michael Giles“Partnership for Academically Successful Students (PASS) is an effort to engage parents and community in a partnership to raise the achievement of all students, while eliminating the disproportionality in academic performance and achievement outcomes experienced by students of color and other historically underrepresented groups” said Michael Giles, executive director of Inclusive Excellence for Cherry Creek Schools.

Giles explained that PASS was born out of the district’s early equity work as district leaders sought to understand the role that race plays in students’ academic experience and in what was then called the “achievement gap.”

PASS began in the Overland High School feeder area with monthly meetings for Black and Hispanic parents.

Dec. district PASS meeting“We know that oftentimes, some of our parents of color don’t feel safe to come in to other school meetings like PTCO or Accountability,” Giles said. “They don’t necessarily feel like their voice is going to be heard or that they’re going to be valued in that conversation, so creating the PASS is a different way to engage them in an affinity space with other people who share the common goal of raising the achievement and creating inclusive learning environments for black and brown kids. It’s a safe environment where they have access to the principal and they can talk openly about their experiences and what they need to help their children feel and be successful.”

Over the years, PASS has expanded. Every school in the district now has a school-based PASS committee and there is also a district PASS committee, led by a parent steering committee. The district PASS meetings are held six times per year.  One meeting is held at each of the district’s six comprehensive high schools.

Audience 4.jpgThe 60-plus parents, teachers and administrators who attended the Dec. 6th district PASS meeting, which was held at Cherokee Trail High School, got valuable information about how counselors support students at the middle and high school level and how students can explore different career paths, earn college credit and in some cases, even a paycheck, through classes and internships offered through CCSD’s Career and Technical Education program. That was followed by a panel discussion featuring college admissions counselors from several universities in Colorado.

“The meeting was very valuable. It provided information about important opportunities and how to access them,” said Diefadima Sesay, a parent who has participated in PASS since 2003 and now serves on the district PASS Steering Committee.  “I am involved in PASS because I love the fact that during PASS meetings, we are not only sharing students’ achievement data and the gap between different demographics, but we are also advocating for a better school experience for all students, an equal access to opportunities and an equitable learning environment for all students.”

Joi GreenAt the December district PASS meeting, Joi Green, Counseling Coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools, explained how school counselors provide both academic and social/emotional support to middle and high school students. Counselors meet with every student assigned to them at least once during each semester and often, far more frequently than that, Green said. They help students develop their Individual Career and Academic Plan, or ICAP, which encourages students to explore different options, ensures that they take the courses they will need to meet graduation requirements and fosters college and career readiness.

Next, Mike Wadleigh, a teacher in CCSD’s Career and Technical Education program, explained the rich variety of courses that allow students to explore different career paths and even earn industry certifications. Concurrent enrollment classes allow CCSD students to earn college credits – at no cost – while they are still in high school. Wadleigh also introduced the audience to Careerwise, an internship and apprenticeship program that allows high school students to develop marketable skills, gain valuable work experiences and, in some cases, even earn a paycheck.

College Admissions PanelFinally, the group heard from a panel of college admissions counselors from Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University, the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado at Denver. They talked about admissions standards and expectations and what students can do in middle and high school to increase their chances of college acceptance. The panel shared information on the ways their schools support all students, and specifically, students of color, as incoming freshmen and throughout their college careers.

That kind of information is available to all parents through schools, the district website, and organizations including PTCO, Parents’ Council, school and district accountability committees, as well as other avenues. But Giles said some parents of color are still not comfortable using those resources or participating in groups where minority parents have historically been underrepresented. That’s why it’s important to share the information via PASS. However, Giles emphasized that all parents and community members are welcome at PASS meetings.

Dec. district PASS meeting“We welcome any and everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity or culture,” Giles said. “I welcome everybody to that meeting because the reality is we need everybody at the table to really make sure we’re providing the best information for all. That’s the only way we can truly be successful.”

The next district PASS meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 24 at Grandview High School. The first part of the meeting will feature an opportunity for community members to contribute feedback to help the Board of Education shape the superintendent selection process, as current Superintendent Harry Bull has announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year. The board has selected a consultant to facilitate feedback on two priority questions:
1) What are the strengths of the Cherry Creek School District that support its mission to inspire every student to think, to learn, to achieve, to care?
2) What challenges do you foresee in the next three to five years as the district continues striving for excellence and innovation in every school?

Following the feedback opportunity, Dr. Bull will share his thoughts on the status of the district.    

For more information about the PASS program in Cherry Creek Schools, visit

Posted 1/23/2018 10:48 AM
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