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Former President Bush Visits Denver to Tout Get Smart Schools Partnership

Friday, October 21, 2011

Former President Bush Visits Denver to Tout Get Smart Schools Partnership

Former President George W. Bush steered clear of politics and controversy during his visit to Denver early Thursday.

"Post-presidency is an interesting period," Bush said. "I'm out of politics . . . but I still have a great passion about educational excellence."
Bush declined to comment on Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy's death Thursday and even avoided discussing current legislative changes to his administration's landmark No Child Left Behind law.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who joined Bush at a closed roundtable discussion at the headquarters for Get Smart Schools, said the former president did talk about the importance of accountability and testing measures — the foundation of NCLB.
"It was perfect timing for me to have the opportunity to hear what led him to create that legislation," said Hancock, who has made fixing Denver Public Schools' problems a focus of his campaign and early administration.

In April, Get Smart Schools signed a contract with the Dallas-based George W. Bush Institute's Alliance to Reform Education Leadership to examine how principals are trained and evaluated.

The specifics of how the partnership will support local principal training through Get Smart Schools has not yet been worked out.

Bush left quickly after brief remarks, praising the work Get Smart Schools does and talking about the importance of good leaders in every school.

Later in the day, DPS school-board candidate Emily Sirota sent out a news release criticizing the mayor for praising No Child Left Behind. "Mayor Hancock has rightly decried divisiveness and dysfunction in our education system — but standing with George W. Bush during an election-timed visit is not the way to start fixing that problem," her statement read. "Nor are his comments today promoting the failed No Child Left Behind policy that has so harmed our schools."
Her spokesman, Kevin Paquette, said Sirota feels strongly about the negative effects of overstressing accountability as a result of the NCLB law.

Sirota joined former U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh's legislative staff in 2002, a few months after NCLB was signed into law Jan. 8, 2002. Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana, voted for the law.

Paquette said Sirota worked with people who "suffered because of NCLB." Paquette said Sirota felt Hancock's praise of the law was inappropriate, especially on the heels of the mayor's involvement in the school-board races underway. Hancock has endorsed a slate of reform-minded candidates, including Ann Rowe, Sirota's opponent in the race to represent southeast Denver. He also endorsed at-large candidate Allegra "Happy" Haynes and Jennifer Draper Carson over incumbent Arturo Jimenez in northwest Denver.

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