Over the past month, Denver Public Schools has been conducting large-scale, regional meetings throughout the city to learn what the community would like to see in the next superintendent. So far, hundreds have participated in fruitful discussions and provided the board with useful input.
In addition, smaller meetings have been offered for community groups who wish to dive deeper into specific desires for the new district leader. You can view the up-to-date list of participants in these meetings on the community engagement page.
Board Chair Anne Rowe and Board Member Carrie Olson recently met with the Student Board of Education and members of the Young African-American and Latinx Leaders. More than 60 students were present at the meeting. These students provided feedback on the process and their hopes for the next district leader. Many of these themes echoed what has been heard in the larger community meetings, reinforcing commonalities across demographics such as age, race and gender.
Students of color comprise the majority of DPS’ ethnically- and culturally-rich student population, which includes 55% Latino, 13% African-American, 2% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 5% multi-ethnic and 24% white students. The students present were vocal about their desire for a person of color to lead the school district. The students said they want people of color as role models in the district—from top-level leadership down to school support staff.
Addressing achievement gaps between white and minority students was another critical area these students felt a person of color could prioritize and address. In these students’ experiences, the disparity is too great in the number of white and minority students in honors classes. This was echoed in another student’s desire to see equity reflected in classrooms and schools.
Students cited their desire to have a new district leader who has a close connection to Denver. They said selecting a new leader who is already part of DPS as an employee or alumni would foster a stronger connection between the new leader and our community. Someone who is familiar with the experience of attending a school in DPS, working within the district or living in the community were all cited as desirable backgrounds.
Students also expressed their desire to see a new district leader that is welcoming to LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Plus) students and who can address issues that students in these communities face. A focus on mental health was another critical area students wanted to see the new district leader focus on.
Students also went beyond individual- and school-based issues. They wanted to see the school district as a whole succeed. Students wanted a leader who would look for opportunities to improve schools and become transparently involved in discussions about how to create opportunities for success in small or struggling schools.
The confluence of all this input from the more than 60 students can be found in one student’s desire: ”Be yourself, know us individually, know our stories.”