DPS Leadership

Susana Cordova, Superintendent

Susana Cordova brings more than 20 years of experience to DPS, serving as a teacher or school leader at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She is a lifelong Denver resident who believes in the power of our schools to transform our city: “Schools are the great equalizer in our society. We must help create opportunities for all children by meeting them where they are and helping them grow and achieve at high levels.”

Susana is a DPS graduate who began her teaching career as a bilingual teacher at Horace Mann Middle School, teaching English and Spanish in a dual language program. From there, she moved to West High School, where she was taught both English and English as a Second Language, and was recruited for the DPS Leadership Academy. She served as assistant principal at Bryant-Webster Elementary for a year before becoming principal of Remington Elementary, a school with a 95% poverty rate.

While at Remington, Susana helped the school develop a comprehensive school-wide Title I plan and lead the school to implement a visionary program of integrated literacy instruction. While she was the principal, Remington experienced a gain of over 33 percent over four years on the state reading assessment. In 2002, she was recruited to the district level to broaden her impact.

Susana received her undergraduate degree in English from the University of Denver, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction/education administration from the University of Colorado, and was recently awarded an honorary doctorate in education by the University of Denver. She is the mother of one DPS graduate and one current DPS high school student.

Contact the Superintendent:

Emily Griffith Campus
1860 Lincoln St., 12th Floor
Denver, CO 80203

Allen Smith, Senior Deputy Superintendent for Equity

allen-smithAllen Smith is Senior Deputy Superintendent for Equity. He oversees a team working to empower, equip and hold all schools and departments accountable to make significant progress on equitable outcomes – in academics, whole child supports and access – for marginalized groups. Allen is nationally recognized for his work improving chronically low-performing schools and has a track record of successfully mentoring instructional leaders.

Allen is a Denver native, graduate of George Washington High School and former DPS principal (Skyland, Barrett and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College), with a previous assignment in DPS serving for three years as executive director of the Denver Summit Schools Network in Far Northeast Denver. He then joined Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina as a community superintendent before heading to California to serve as Deputy Superintendent/Chief of Schools for Oakland Unified School District. Allen is a graduate of Harvard’s Urban Principal Institute, Public Education Leadership Program and Urban Superintendent Program.

Tamara Acevedo, Deputy Superintendent of Academics

Tamara Acevedo is Deputy Superintendent of Academics, which aims to build coherence with tighter coupling of teaching and learning functions across the board.

She previously served for five years as the Lead Instructional Superintendent for Denver Public Schools in Network 1 – Northwest Collaborative.  Tamara initiated the creation of breakthrough networks, an innovative learning structure focused on specific school needs and lead by principal leaders.  Tamara holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Communication Disorders and Speech Science from the University of Colorado and a Master of Arts Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Denver University.

She has participated in instructional and organizational leadership programs including the EdLead and Leverage Leadership Institute fellowships and The University of Virginia Turnaround Partnership for Leaders in Education.   Tamara has worked in Denver Public Schools over the past twenty-two years as a teacher/literacy lead teacher, Mathematics Content Specialist, Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator, assistant principal, principal and instructional superintendent.

She has had diverse teaching and leadership experiences at Swansea, Bromwell, Gilpin and Carson elementary schools.  As a Denver native who as a child attended Denver Public Schools, Tamara has a strong commitment to the city and the education of its children.

Lauren Dunn, Chief of Staff

Lauren Dunn is the Chief of Staff for Denver Public Schools. In this role, she serves as a principal aide in the Office of the Superintendent, supports policy development in the District and works closely with the Denver Board of Education. Lauren is an experienced public & non-profit leader with a passion for economic equity and developing strong public institutions that deliver results for citizens.

Previously she played a lead role in managing DPS’ 2016 Mill Levy initiative to provide much needed resources to support Denver’s students. Prior to joining DPS, Lauren gained extensive experience working on domestic economic equity issues and federal policy development, serving for three years as an aide in President Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council. She has consulted for federal, state and local government agencies including the U.S. National Park Service, the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services, and New York City’s Department of Small Business Services.

Lauren holds a bachelor of arts in comparative religion from Tufts University, a bachelor of fine arts in studio art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a master in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and a master in educational leadership from the Broad Center for the Management of Urban Education Systems.

Mark Ferrandino, Chief Operating Officer

Mark Ferrandino is Deputy Superintendent of Operations. He joined DPS as Chief Financial Officer in 2014. In his role, Mark leads several of the district’s largest departments including finance, information technology, safety, school choice and enrollment, planning and strategy, food services, transportation and facilities management.

He attended the University of Rochester, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and economics in 1999, and a master’s degree in public policy analysis in 2000. Mark worked as a policy analyst for the White House Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C.

After relocating to Colorado, he worked as program analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice, then served as the senior budget analyst for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing until 2007 before being appointed to the Colorado House of Representatives. While in the legislature, he was elected Speaker of the House by his peers and served in that role from 2013-14.

Jennifer Holladay, Associate Chief of Portfolio Management

jennifer-holladayJennifer Holladay is responsible for strategy development and implementation across the different schools that make up the DPS family of schools, including charter, district-managed and innovation. She is tasked with ensuring our schools provide high-quality opportunities and equitable access for all students, especially students of color, those experiencing poverty, language learners and students with special needs. 

Holladay has been a member of Team DPS since 2013, serving as director of school development and support and leading authorizing practices for new charter and district-managed schools. Prior to DPS, she spent nearly 15 years at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, where she was director of the award-winning multicultural education program, Teaching Tolerance.

Holladay has one daughter, Zoe, who has been served successfully by a DPS charter school and a DPS innovation school, and who is now being served successfully by a district-managed DPS school. In 2013, she gave a Ted Talk on multiculturalism that describes her focus on educational equity.

Michelle Berge, General Counsel

Michelle Berge, a DPS parent and longtime member of Team DPS, leads our legal team. In this capacity, she helps advise the elected school board, superintendent and senior leaders of the state’s largest school district on all legal matters

Michelle was a law clerk for former DPS General Counsel and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex Martinez, as well as law clerk for former Gov. Bill Ritter. For the past seven years Michelle, who is bilingual, has led a pro bono legal clinic for Spanish-speaking families in Greeley to connect them with legal services.

Debbie Hearty, Chief of Human Resources

debbie-heartyDebbie Hearty is committed to making Denver Public Schools the best place in the nation to contribute if you want to work in urban education because we are known to respect, grow and develop our people and we provide opportunities to maximize impact. An important part of this vision is to make DPS a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace with comprehensive and innovative leadership pathways.

Debbie formerly served as the Chief of the Culture, Equity and Leadership Team (CELT) in DPS. In this role, she designed and implemented values-based leadership development efforts, led initiatives to make DPS a more equitable and inclusive organization, and developed mechanisms to help drive the transformation of the district’s culture. This includes creating a culture based on our Shared Core Values and in the service of the DPS vision – Every Child Succeeds.

During her tenure at DPS, Debbie has served as a math teacher, instructional coach, professional development leader and an assistant principal. Outside of DPS, she and her husband are busy with their two elementary school-aged boys and pets. She and her family love to be out and about exploring Colorado and beyond.

Anna Alejo, Chief Communications Officer

Anna Alejo joined DPS in April 2018 and has a long career in covering and supporting education. She spent 16 years as a broadcast journalist reporting on NBC- and CBS-owned stations in Denver, as well as CBS News, CNN and Univision. Previously, Anna was Director of Corporate Communications for Western Union, where she led global communications initiatives.

In addition to heading a firm providing communication strategy for technology companies, Anna has served as the Spanish-language spokesperson for the Denver Preschool Program and co-chair of A+ Colorado.

Erik Johnson, Chief Financial Officer

As Chief Financial Officer, Erik has oversight of general accounting, accounts payable, finance, treasury management, payroll and risk management. He has served in leadership positions in the DPS’ Financial Services department since 2013. Since 2015, Erik has been the Executive Director of Finance responsible for leading the financial planning and analysis, budgeting, grant management, state/federal data submissions and Federal Programs (ESSA) teams for the district.

Prior to serving the students of DPS, Erik led the Financial Planning and Analysis group for Coresite, a national leader in colocation, cloud connectivity and interconnection data centers and served in several leadership positions in the finance group of CenturyLink/Qwest communications, the third largest telecommunications company in America. Erik and his wife are proud parents of a DPS student and enjoy gardening and the outdoors of Colorado.

Deborah Staten, Executive Director of Student Equity and Opportunity

At DPS, Deborah Staten is our Executive Director of Student Equity and Opportunity. A Denver native, Deborah graduated from our own Thomas Jefferson High School. She served as the principal of Contemporary Learning Academy from 2011-2013, and has been an instructional superintendent for the Pathways Network since 2014.

Brette Scott, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education

brette-scottBrette Scott has served in most instructional roles in Denver Public Schools, including teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, principal, director of principal effectiveness, instructional superintendent and chief of staff to her current role, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education. In this position, she supports the work of nearly 100 DPS elementary schools, their principals and their instructional superintendents.

Brette earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations from the University of Southern California and her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction/elementary education from the University of Colorado.

Nicole T. Veltzé, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education

nicole_veltzeNicole Veltzé has 24 years of experience in education, beginning as a Teach for America corps member in Oakland, CA in 1993 and continuing to teach in Lima, Peru where she grew up. She started her leadership career with Denver Public Schools and has previously served in multiple roles: principal at Cole Middle School, Northeast Area assistant superintendent, principal of Skinner Middle School and principal of Denver North High School.

Under Nicole’s leadership, Skinner and North outpaced all expectations for school turnaround, implementing structures and systems that made an impact in changing school culture and increasing academic achievement. As a result, Nicole was named the recipient of the 2013 Game Changer Award by A+ Denver. Under her tenure at North High School, the school achieved High Growth for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 outpacing all other state turnaround schools. In 2014 and 2015, North was recognized for having the largest increase in graduation for Denver Public Schools. In 2016, North received the Colorado Center for Excellence Award for having demonstrated the highest rates of student longitudinal growth, as measured by the Colorado Growth Model under the leadership of Nicole and her team.

Nicole was part of the founding cohort of both the National Principals Academy Fellowship in 2013-14 and the Leverage Leadership Institute in 2014-16 with the Relay Graduate School of Education. After her success as a school and district leader, she then served as the associate dean of leadership programs with Relay GSE. In 2017, Nicole returned back to Denver Public Schools as the assistant superintendent of secondary education.

Nicole earned her bachelor of arts degree from Occidental College in Latin American Studies and her master’s of education degree in instructional technology from the University of Washington in Seattle. At UW, she also received her principal and administrator certifications from the Danforth Educational Leadership Program.

Verónica Figoli, President and CEO, DPS Foundation

Verónica Figoli leads the Denver Public Schools Foundation, the strategic fundraising partner to DPS that activates philanthropic support, invests in proven and promising programs, and connects the community to our classrooms.

Verónica joined the DPS Foundation from DPS’ Family and Community Engagement Office (FACE), where she served as the Chief Officer. Prior to her time at FACE, Verónica served as a Program Officer at the Piton Foundation, where she worked with the foundation’s grantees, other foundations and community stakeholders to help advance key initiatives supporting student achievement and adult self-sufficiency.

Originally from Venezuela, Verónica graduated from Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, and obtained her master’s degree in business administration from Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Verónica has been selected by the Aspen Institute for its inaugural class of Colorado Children & Families Health and Human Services Fellows, which invests in visionary leaders committed to making Colorado the best place to have a child and sustain a thriving family.

Verónica is a proud parent of two DPS students.