OGDEN — The Ogden School District has opted not to use the Colors of Success program as its official anti-gang program in the district, but is not prohibiting individual schools from applying for a grant with Colors of Success if they want.
Colors of Success is an anti-gang program run by a nonprofit group out of Salt Lake City. The program has also been used in Salt Lake School District.
The decision comes after six weeks of review and meetings to go over the effectiveness of the program in the district.
Originally, the district thought it had until June 30 to renew its contract with Colors of Success, but officials learned last week it had to have grant applications to the state Office of Education by June 15, so Superintendent Brad Smith met with his executive staff to make a final decision. The district has applied for a grant to run another anti-gang program in the district and if the grant is received, it will apply the approximately $75,000 it used on Colors to the new program.
Part of the problem with the Colors funding was that the state and the district supplied some money and seven schools in the district individually kicked in Land Trust money to cover their portion. The Legislature tightened the restrictions on how Land Trust money could be spent, which did not allow money for the Colors of Success program.
Smith said that a few schools in the district are still interested in Colors or at least in the employees who have worked with the program, but he does not know if they will seek to continue the program without district money.
Smith said he repeatedly tried to get information from Colors about data about the overall effectiveness of the program, but to no avail. He also has concerns with the non-compete clause that employees have to sign, since their main source of payment to employees comes from government entities, but he was not able to get any extra information on that, either.
Repeated attempts by the Standard-Examiner to reach Colors of Success employees were not successful.
AnnaJane Arroyo, chair of IMAGE de Northern Utah, has represented community members concerned about the Colors of Success program and is very upset with the way Smith has handled the situation.
A group of parents and community leaders met with Smith in early May, when he said he would put a committee together to discuss the future of the program. He did that and the group of about five community leaders representing several cultures and demographics met once with the assurance the group would meet again, but Arroyo was informed last week that no more meetings would be held because of the early grant application deadline.
“I feel slighted and like he made a joke out of it,” Arroyo said of Smith. She doesn’t think any other anti-gang program will reach the students at the highest risk, those who may not graduate.
“Colors is there for those kids 24 hours a day. Is anyone else in that district going to do that? I don’t think so,” Arroyo said.
Smith said he has tried to look into the notion that employees are on call 24 hours a day and hasn’t been able to get solid information as to how that works out. He also said that research shows the time when anti-gang programs are most effective are between fourth and seventh grades, and that Colors has been in only a couple of elementary schools. If the grant is received, it will focus more on that age group.
Arroyo feels Smith had his mind made up and didn’t include the school board in the decision.
“He is representing the board and the community and I feel sorry for the community,” Arroyo said.
Smith understands there is frustration with the decision, but also wants people to understand he and others in the district don’t want to fund a program that was not efficient for the students and a waste of taxpayer money.
“There is no evidence to back it up (the program),” Smith said of Colors.
Arroyo said it’s about more than graduating students, which she thinks is Smith’s only objective. But he said that is not right.
“The purpose of the grant is not to graduate kids, it’s to keep them out of gangs,” Smith said. He is hopeful that a new program will be more helpful, and if implemented will be tracked better.
He also appreciates the hard work of Colors employees and would love for them to stay with the district if possible, but he doesn’t know how it will work yet. He emphasized he is not opposed to schools still using Colors, but that the schools themselves will have to supply any grant matching required, the district will not supply any funds for the program.