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Concerns grow about the future of program that helps Colorado students with dyslexia

Future cloudy for program that helps students with dyslexia in Colorado
Future cloudy for program that helps students with dyslexia in Colorado 03:57

Some parents and students at a school in Lakewood are looking for answers from their Jefferson County School District officials.

"We're very confused on why, what how," Brett Gallegos, one of the parents, said.

It concerns the Bright MINDS Program at Alameda International Jr./Sr. High School, one of the only programs of its kind in the country and the only one in Colorado. It is a program specifically designed to cater to the academic needs of students with dyslexia.


Multiple parents told CBS News Colorado that their children entered the program with reading levels far below grade level and improved tremendously. Some of the students who finished the program as freshmen in high school said they improved to reading at grade level with the help of their fellow students and the three teachers leading it.

"I think the Bright MINDS program. They're just like ... I feel like we're a family," said Zila Bobian, one of the students.

But now, the students themselves are trying to figure out what went wrong. In early May, teachers told the students in a classroom that the program would be ending and the teachers would no longer be working with the school.

"It was tough. Especially for me and (fellow student) Brody (Vance) because we only had one semester of this left before we were completely done," said freshman River Gallegos.

"What's the truth? There's two sides to every story, so what should we believe?" Gallegos' friend Brody Vance said.

Initially, parents were told that the issue was rooted in budget cuts and that the program would be among the affected. But parents say the story changed over multiple meetings with different administrators, some saying it was due to budget while others alleged it was a staffing shortage. Jeffco Schools Chief Student Success Officer Matt Palaoro said it was not budget related and instead staffing related. But even with that concern about having teachers to staff the program, Palaoro says that the program will survive.


 "We don't want to see that go away," Palaoro said. "In fact, our intention is to ensure that the program remains fully operationalized."

The difficulty of replacing the three teachers within the program lies in the highly specialized work that Bright Minds administrators do.

"From what I am understanding from the school is that this is the issue is that right now we can't hire the qualified staff that we need," Renee Nicothodes, Chief Academic Officer of Jeffco Public Schools, said.

But parents say that the teachers were a vital part of what made Bright MINDS so effective and are worried that a clash of personalities and personnel is what led to the exits happening at the school.

"If the Bright MINDS team isn't happy then there's something going on with the leadership," parent Kristina Trudea says.

In the meantime, Jeffco Public Schools officials like Palaoro and Nicothodes will be meeting with parents on Wednesday at 3 p.m. to help clarify some of the information and help answer any questions the community may have. Palaoro, in particular, says that students will still be able to enroll in the program next year even as the teaching team restructures. Some parents, however, are weighing enrolling in different districts in the middle of a stressful end-of-year period.

"It feels like the rug was pulled out from under you a little bit," said parent Eric Bivins. "There's not a lot of time to react and reorganize for what you do next. School's over. Enrollment for a lot of schools is over."

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