Denver School Board
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All of us – parents, teachers and our community – want the same thing:
the best education for our children.
For me, that means we need to shape a school district where…
the individual needs of each student are met, so that all students may achieve academic and personal success.
every student is performing at grade level in all subjects.
100% of our students receive diplomas that prepare them for their chosen future, without needing remedial classes.
teachers are paid a living wage, allowing them to live in the same communities where they teach.
DPS graduates want to return to Denver to teach DPS kids.
My plan includes three pathways to a high quality education: Opportunity, Equity, and Safe and Supportive Environments.
We need great schools in every neighborhood because every family should have the opportunity to send their child to a school that best meets their needs.
Early Childhood Education
The data is clear: access to Early Childhood Education prevents students from falling behind later in school. If elected, I commit to:
Open at least six additional ECE classrooms in the NW Denver region. I will work with DPS and the community to identify a location and financial resources to increase access for families, especially those with low-income households.
In my family, we have exercised choice. My three children have attended DPS district-run schools, innovation schools, and charter schools. I trust families to know what is in the best interest of their children and I will support district policies and programs that put the decision-making power in the hands of students and their families. If elected, I commit to:
Maintain a unified enrollment system which keeps admission simple. There should only be one application for any school in the district, and – with the exception of Denver School of the Arts – no interviews or extra hoops for admission.
Increase transportation options. Students must be able to physically access the schools of their choice.
Develop more high quality outcomes for all students in every neighborhood. Students need more quality options from which to choose. Strong and supported school leadership is key to achieving this goal.
Charter and Innovation Schools
Current educational politics have pitted people against each other when it comes to conversations surrounding charter and innovation schools. I believe in collaborative work which focuses on how best to support schools that work for kids.
Community Input and Local Control. Listening to and respecting the input of parents, teachers, and school leaders is of the utmost importance – especially when they indicate having a better understanding and plan for meeting the needs of their students.
Charter Accountability. As a school board member, and in accordance with Colorado State Law, I would ensure that charter schools have the infrastructure and governance needed to deliver the highest quality education to our kids. Denver has one of the most difficult application, approval, and renewal processes in the country — I will fight to keep our standards and expectations high. GALS, The Boys School, Rocky Mountain Prep-Berkeley, STRIVE, and University Prep are charter schools located in District 5.
The Charter Compact (signed in Dec 2010), which is essentially a collaborative contract between DPS and its charter school providers, maintains the goal of providing ALL students a quality education. The compact intends to serve Denver students through shared commitments to: Access for all students, Equity, and Accountability. I believe in and will uphold these tenets.
Innovation Schools are district-run schools that have appealed to the district for more autonomy over their budgets, curriculum, and professional development plans. With high levels of accountability, schools should be allowed greater control over their budgets, curriculum, and professional development plans. Valdez Elementary is a great example of a high-performing innovation school in District 5.
Every student deserves a great education, no matter what school they attend. I will work to make that goal a reality.
Lack of Access to High-Quality Education
Lack of Access to High-Quality Education. Five out of 10 DPS students attend a school that is rated “blue” or “green” on the School Performance Framework. In the northwest region of our city, only 13% of students attend a high-performing DPS school. ALL children deserve access to a high quality education. In order to make this possible, I pledge to enhance foundational elements of our education system.
We love and support our teachers. We must attract, retain, and support great school leaders and fantastic teachers in all of our schools. As multiple studies show, quality leaders and teachers have the greatest impact on student success.
We must prioritize equity by amping up accountability. The current “equity indicator” – while well-intended – is not an effective method of measuring equity across the district. In order to improve upon this system, we must commit to providing well-targeted resources which will close achievement gaps across the district. Otherwise, an overwhelming majority of schools in northwest Denver will continue to get “called out” by a broken system.
We must expand transportation options so more families can choose the school that is best for their students. Let’s work to expand busing options for our younger students and RTD access for our older students.
DPS has the third largest achievement gap in the country. Every student – regardless of their skin color, native language, or neighborhood – deserves a world-class education from DPS. To close the achievement gap, we must:
Provide early and effective intervention strategies.
Drive more resources towards early intervention programs to ensure that students graduate from high school with a diploma that prepares them for college or a post-secondary career.
Evaluate and replicate programs that are working well. We must evaluate what is best serving the needs of our students before adding any new programs.
We need to engage community members – teachers, parents, and students – to ensure that their needs are being met, especially the needs of LatinX and African-American students.
Denver Plan 2020
This document focuses on the whole child, and outlines a plan to provide a quality education for all kids — and this plan has a deadline.
While 2020 is nearly upon us, our district has not met all of its goals. These are still the right goals: achieve early literacy, increase graduation rates, ensure that our graduates are college and career ready, close the achievement gap, and foster great schools in every neighborhood. While the metrics to achieve these goals have continued to change every year, we should not abandon or lower our standards in order to achieve these goals. Instead, we must focus on tangible steps to drive this progress forward. I want to work with Superintendent Cordova and community leaders to review and recommit to our goals, recommit to the community while stating a clear plan for achieving those goals, and reallocate resources to ensure our goals have their intended impact. Our goals are reflective of the community’s values, which makes us accountable to seeing them through to fruition.
Lack of Diverse Teaching Staff
In multiple small listening groups, I consistently hear from students of color that they need and want teachers who “look like me.” For this reason, I pledge to partner with local and regional universities to recruit a more diverse body of teachers to the district. In doing so, I will do everything in my power to ensure they have the support they need to choose Denver and the resources to stay in the district long-term. Following this path, DPS should:
Continue to recruit and support DPS students of color to pursue careers in the field of teaching. This program, in its infancy, must be nurtured and expanded.
Continue to grow and support the “Para to Teacher” pipeline program.
Further enhance support groups for teachers and leaders of color.
Ensure that our work environments are safe, welcoming, and free of racist micro-aggressions, in order to protect both our students and staff of color. We need mandatory anti-bias awareness training for all staff who directly work with students.
We all learn when we listen. As a board member, I would hope to lead by creating more respectful space for this listening to occur – especially among white students, teachers, and families.
Students with Special Needs
Last year, the board of education passed a resolution demanding that DPS create a better plan for how to serve students with Special Needs. The board demanded that the plan include input from internal and external stakeholders (Special Ed teachers, service providers, parents, and community advocates, etc.). A task force was formed, and the resulting recommendations are excellent. DPS must remain committed to becoming a model district in its approach to meeting the needs of students with disabilities. To do this, I will champion the recommendations generated by the Special Education Task Force, where the district will:
Commit to inclusionary practices, so that students with special needs are taught in general education classrooms, with appropriate supports.
Fully equip and train staff to identify the special needs of students in a comprehensive way that is free from bias.
Do in-depth analysis on resource allocation, and ultimately increase funding to “right-size” educator workloads. Currently, each student on an educator’s caseload is treated equally. In practice, not all students require the same level of service support. Some students might need one hour each week, while others might require 20 hours each week.
Screen all entering students for predictors of future reading problems such as dyslexia, which affects 10-20% of people.
SAFE AND SUPPORTIVE SCHOOLS
We must provide safe and supportive school environments.
Students are exposed to trauma that undermines their ability to have the best learning experience and to be healthy, well-adjusted children.
I am committed to starting a task force in DPS dedicated to exploring how we best serve the mental health needs of our students and teachers. An effective task force working on mental health must include not only community members and administrators, but also teachers and students, who know firsthand the struggles in our schools and classrooms. Through this process, I am hopeful that we can develop a detailed plan that reflects the needs of our school communities and provides better direction for the district.
All students must feel safe and have a sense of belonging in their place of learning. While our society has made incredible strides since the days of the Stonewall riots, we still have a long way to go towards ensuring that all of our students -especially our LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming students – feel safe and respected for who they are. Towards our shared goal, DPS policy and culture must have:
No place for hate. DPS policy and culture must clearly enforce that bullying, harassment, and anti-LGBTQ+ bias are not acceptable practice.
Mental Health Supports. Support needs to be available to students, who may or may not find this support at home.
More LGBTQ+ Affinity Groups. While some DPS schools have fostered incredibly supportive environments, this needs to be a more widespread practice. I will work with DPS to more intentionally partner with groups like Rainbow Alley (The Center) and PFLAG to develop affinity groups for our students.
School to Prison Pipeline
As a result of poor disciplinary and educational policies across the U.S., our society has created a system that promotes the criminalization of our youth, especially our black and brown youth. DPS and school districts across the country have long entrenched policies and practices that promote racism, isolate students, and prevent them from achieving their full potential. To stop the pipeline flow, we must:
Acknowledge the racism that has resulted in our current systems of inequity.
Shift the orientation of our policies to a practice that lifts up our students to excellence. We begin this shift by: providing culturally responsive curriculum, intentionally developing and supporting diversity amongst our teachers and school leaders, promoting restorative justice programs (not jailing our students), offering more mental health services that support the whole child, and instituting universal anti-bias awareness training for all staff.
We must also follow the advisement of the African American Task Force, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, the Special Education Task Force, and other like-minded groups that have called out inequities in our district while also providing comprehensive recommendations for how to heal and better serve our students and staff.
Student perspectives are an invaluable resource to our ever-growing and changing district. To better hear from and learn from our students, I will help DPS:
Ask for and more consistently seek student feedback to learn how to better serve students and improve their educational outcomes.
Better highlight the work of student leaders at the 5280 Challenge. These student-led, school-based, problem solving initiatives are incredibly innovative and effective in addressing student identified issues that are answered in real time.
Increase opportunity for mentorship from recent DPS alumni to current DPS students.
Continue new DPS board practice of having student-led reports at monthly board meetings and of co-authoring resolutions with the Student Board of Education (SBOE) on issues that the SBOE is addressing.