Blueprint APS Magnet Schools Update


Dear APS Community,

We are excited to share that planning for the first two Blueprint APS magnet schools is underway! We have hired leaders for both the Region 3 and Region 6 magnet schools. Please learn more about them below. 

As a reminder, the magnet campus located in Region 3 will be focused on Visual and Performing Arts. It will open for the 2022-23 school year and will include Peoria Elementary School, Educational Services Center 4 and Aurora Central High School, ultimately serving students in grades K-12. The campus will focus on arts-related disciplines including dance, music, theater and visual arts. Please note that Aurora Central High School will remain a comprehensive neighborhood boundary school and will strengthen its Visual and Performing Arts Pathway. 

The magnet school located in Region 6 will open at Wheeling Elementary School for the 2022-23 school year and will focus on Entrepreneurship and Invention. The school will ultimately serve students in grades K-8. Students at the school will learn through investigating and responding to authentic, engaging and complex questions or challenges. Students will work on these questions or challenges through project-based learning with support from community partners. Students will also need to collaborate and create solutions in team environments. Many postsecondary institutions are now offering entrepreneurial programs and certificates to prepare students to launch their own businesses and/or new technologies.

Both magnet schools will serve students districtwide and more information on how to enroll students in these schools will be available in Spring 2022. Since Wheeling and Peoria will no longer have students assigned to them based on where they live, we will begin boundary processes for current Wheeling and Peoria elementary school families in the coming months. This will determine which boundary schools will serve those families into the future.

Community Voice has driven the Blueprint APS process. As such, we are asking parents, students and staff members to be part of the school design teams for both magnet schools. School design team members will be required to attend regularly scheduled meetings and stay active throughout the design process. If you are interested in joining the design team for the Visual and Performing Arts K-12 Magnet Campus or for the Entrepreneurship and Invention K-8 Magnet School, please complete this application form by Tuesday, September 7 at noon. Please be assured that both design teams will include voices from throughout the district. Leaders will work to select design team members who are passionate and dedicated community members. 

We are now pleased to announce the leaders of our magnet schools and campus. All of these leaders have unique experiences and skill sets that are well-suited for the curricular and programming needs of magnet schools. We are grateful to have their expertise and leadership in APS.

Principal Laura Burke
Invention & Entrepreneurship Magnet School
Laura Burke is a Denver native and spent 15 years as a special education classroom teacher. After earning a master's degree in education from Regis University, she founded a nonprofit organization to support the success of students with disabilities through advocacy, workshops and trainings for kids, parents and educators. During that time, she also served on several community organizations including being appointed as a City Commissioner for the Denver Commission for People with Disabilities. 

She joined the APS community in 2015 as an Exceptional Student Services (ESS) consultant serving students with special needs. Ms. Burke was then named an assistant principal at North Middle School. Most recently, she served as a principal on special assignment and worked at the district level as part of the Leadership Development team. 

Director Jessica Brown
Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Campus
Jessica Brown will serve as the director, overseeing both the primary and secondary schools of the magnet arts campus. In this role, she will lead the magnet school team to build a robust arts program. Ms. Brown has worked in education for nearly 25 years. She has a strong background in leading arts programs and magnet schools that are nationally recognized.

She comes to us from Philadelphia where she served as the principal of the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School. The Masterman School is consistently ranked one of the top schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. She was also the founding principal of the Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush in Philadelphia and an assistant principal at Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School. Ms. Brown also has many years of experience as an English language learner teacher and coach of English language learner teachers.

During her time at Masterman, Ms. Brown worked to create impactful changes to ensure that all students felt welcome and supported. She listened to student and alumni concerns about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). She worked collaboratively to create a new position, structures and supports to improve the school’s focus on DEI. She is excited to bring that same focus on diversity, equity and inclusion to our community.

Ms. Brown earned her bachelor's degree in history from Kenyon College. She also has a master’s degree in education from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in administrative leadership from Lehigh University.

Secondary Principal Mehran Ahmed
Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Campus
We are pleased to announce that we have also selected the principal who will lead Aurora Central High School when it becomes a part of the magnet campus starting in the 2022-23 school year. Mehran Ahmed will serve as the leader of the secondary campus at ACHS. He has served as the principal of South Middle School since 2019. Prior to leading South, he was an assistant principal at Gateway High School and also served as the Interim Principal for one year. During his more than 15 years of experience in education, he has also served as a physical education teacher and student advisor.

Mr. Ahmed earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Sam Houston State University, and a master’s degree in educational administration from Tarleton State University. 

Primary Principal Shawn Graziani
Visual and Performing Arts Magnet Campus
Shawn Graziani is looking forward to the amazing opportunity of being the founding principal of the primary school of the magnet arts campus. He has over 15 years of experience in urban education starting from his years of teaching in Baltimore, Maryland. He continued his career as an instructional coach, assistant principal, district director and building principal. He was most recently the principal of Lyn Knoll Elementary in APS.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Shawn earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a master’s degree in education administration from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Denver. 

Please join me in congratulating and welcoming our new magnet school leaders. We are excited for our school design teams to begin their work and we look forward to sharing more information with you throughout the year.

-Superintendent Rico Munn