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DPS Leadership

Tom Boasberg, Superintendent

tom-boasbergSince being unanimously appointed as superintendent of Denver Public Schools in January 2009, Tom Boasberg has led the city’s efforts to accelerate the progress of its nearly 92,000 students and better serve the families of Denver. Over the past eight years, the district has posted record enrollment increases and increased its four-year graduation rate by over 25 percentage points.

In the past decade, DPS has moved from being the district with the lowest rate of student academic growth among major Colorado districts to the district with the highest rate of student academic growth. The district has also more than tripled the number of its students taking and receiving college credit for Advanced Placement courses. And, it has cut its drop-out rate by more than 60 percent.

DPS has received national recognition during this time for exceptional leadership development programs for teachers, school leaders and principal supervisors; school choice; collaboration among district-run and charter schools; and promising new schools. The city has welcomed more than 75 new schools and the closure or turnaround of more than 30 chronically under-performing schools.

Before DPS, Tom worked as vice president for corporate development at Level 3 Communications;  served as legal advisor to the Federal Communications Commission, where he helped establish the  E-Rate program, which provides over $2 billion a year to high-poverty schools across the country to pay for telecom and Internet services; and was chief of staff to Lee Chu-Ming, chairman of Hong Kong’s largest political party, working on issues related to Hong Kong’s change of sovereignty in 1997.

A speaker of Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, he worked as a junior high school English teacher in Hong Kong’s public schools and played semi-professional basketball. He earned his bachelor’s degree Summa Cum Laude in history from Yale College and a J.D. with Distinction from Stanford Law School. At Yale, he was selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar.

Contact the Superintendent:

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

Susana Cordova, Deputy 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.

Tameka Brigham, Chief of Family and Community Engagement (FACE)

As the mother of three boys in elementary, middle and high school, Tameka Brigham’s personal experience has shown her what a difference open communication and healthy relationships between parents and teachers can make for our kids.

“I have a strong belief in community engagement and listening to those impacted most about what is and isn’t working for them,” Tameka shared. “I am eager to work alongside all of the passionate family and community advocates on the FACE team, who work so diligently every day to put our kids and families first.”

Tameka served as education chair of the Denver branch of the NAACP, founded Community Organizations Aligned Together (C.O.A.T.), and served as the education outreach liaison for Great Education Colorado and education specialist for the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver. In these roles, she actively engaged hundreds of students and families in a variety of education initiatives. Tameka also worked as managing director of research for Teach for America, and taught in multiple K-12 and higher education institutions ranging from kindergarten classrooms to Africana Studies at Metro State University.

Ron Cabrera, Interim Associate Chief of Academics and Innovation

Ron Cabrera has returned to Denver Public Schools to serve as interim Associate Chief of Academics and Innovation.

Ron started his career in DPS as a teacher at Morey Middle and North High schools, and served as assistant principal at Centennial Elementary and principal at Stedman Elementary. He recently retired as assistant superintendent of instructional services and equity for the Boulder Valley School District. Between DPS and BVSD, Ron served in seven school districts, from Colorado to Washington, in roles including director of curriculum and instruction, assistant and deputy superintendent, and superintendent.

“Throughout my 37-year career, I have understood the importance and benefit of connecting with our students, parents and school community. In part this is done by creating learning environments and opportunities that are supportive, inclusionary, respectful and positive,” he said. “I look forward to again working with Denver Public Schools and advancing the vital work for as long as I can make a difference.”

Ron earned his doctorate in school leadership from the University of Colorado Denver. In addition, he holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in English literature from the University of Colorado Boulder.

Jerome Deherrera, General Counsel

jerome-deherreraJerome DeHerrera serves as the district’s General Counsel, advising the elected school board, superintendent and senior leaders of the state’s largest school district on all legal matters. Jerome, a graduate of Colorado College, Georgetown University and Stanford Law, joined DPS in 2013 as Deputy General Counsel. In private practice, he specialized in education law and performed significant pro-bono work, including representing the plaintiffs in one of Colorado’s longest-running disputes over land grant rights established in the San Luis Valley during the 1850s.

Jerome and his wife Cristal are the proud parents of two DPS elementary students who love expeditionary learning. Jerome grew up in Aurora and his family has called Northern New Mexico and the San Luis Valley home for generations that date back to the time before Colorado’s statehood.

Mark Ferrandino, Chief Financial Officer

mark-ferrandinoMark Ferrandino was appointed as the DPS chief financial officer in July 2014. 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. As CFO at DPS, Mark has general oversight of general accounting, accounts payable, budgeting, disbursement, cash management, financial planning, debt management and risk management.

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.

Eldridge Greer, Associate Chief of Student Equity and Opportunity

Eldridge Greer joined DPS in 2007-08 as manager of the department of psychological services and was selected for his current role in 2016. He had served five years as a school psychologist in Adams 14 before joining DPS. Eldridge earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell and his master’s degree in developmental psychology and doctorate in child clinical and developmental psychology from the University of Iowa.

Eldridge has focused on systemic change for our most vulnerable students, including:

  • Accelerating discipline reform efforts, resulting in 64% fewer out-of-school suspensions and 78% fewer expulsions in the past 10 years.
  • Providing direct support and subject matter expertise for a $12 million Whole Child mill-levy override request that was approved by Denver voters in November 2016. This approval is resulting in a significant funding increase allowing all schools to boost social-emotional support for their students.
  • Securing a $4.5 million grant for increased mental health supports for students, directly assisting 44 of the district’s most challenged schools in more deeply addressing students’ mental health needs.

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.

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.

Nina Lopez, Interim Chief of Staff

Nina Lopez has worked for several years as a strategy consultant and facilitator for DPS, helping coordinate retreats and Focus on Achievement sessions for the Board of Education. Nina launched her own consulting practice four years ago, in which she works with foundations, nonprofits and governmental entities to start new initiatives and enhance existing projects. She is particularly skilled at engaging stakeholders with diverse interests and helping them develop a shared vision and strategies for achieving their individual and collective goals.

As special assistant to the commissioner at the Colorado Department of Education, Nina was responsible for coordinating the use of federal stimulus funds, including the submission of three Race to the Top applications for the state. She also served as vice president of Research and Impact at the Colorado Education Initiative, and with a variety of public education and policy organizations in support of college access and completion, online learning and K-12 school finance. Prior to 2003, she practiced law for nine years.

Nancy Mitchell, Chief Communications Officer

nancy-mitchellNancy Mitchell is a former newspaper and online journalist who spent nearly 20 years writing about public education in Florida and Colorado, including eight years covering Denver Public Schools for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News. She loves to dig into data to tell a story and was a lead member of reporting teams winning national awards such as the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for the series, Early Exit: Denver’s Graduation Gap, described by judges as “the most precise and nuanced statistical portrait of dropouts that has yet been done in a big-city school system.”

After the Rocky closed, Nancy went to work at the online Education News Colorado, now called Chalkbeat Colorado, before leaving journalism to serve as communications director for the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the Education Commission of the States and, since 2014, Denver Public Schools. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Indiana University.

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.

Allen Smith, Chief of the Culture, Equity and Leadership Team (CELT)

allen-smithAllen Smith returned to Team DPS in 2016 in a new position designed to elevate and expand our equity, culture and leadership work. He 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 his last 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 to Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson, also a former DPS principal and district leader. Allen is a graduate of Harvard’s Urban Principal Institute, Public Education Leadership Program and Urban Superintendent Program.

David Suppes, Chief Operating Officer

david-suppesDavid Suppes has been the chief operating officer at DPS since 2009. In his role, David 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 also led the implementation of the district’s 2008 and 2012 bond programs.

Suppes and his team have led many innovative programs and services, with the goals of helping to fuel major enrollment growth in DPS, improve service offerings and customer satisfaction, and maximize funding available for use directly in school classrooms. Some key initiatives have included:

  • Alternative transportation services, such as shuttle buses, in multiple regions in the city enabling many more students to easily access desired schools throughout the region.
  • Scratch cooking in all school cafeterias, achieving a 50 percent increase in breakfast participation and increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables across all schools.
  • Improvements to choice and enrollment services, allowing families to apply to any school in the district through a single process and timeline, and providing equitable access to all students.
  • Shared campuses across more than 30 schools, supporting enrollment growth by offering quality programs for families in their neighborhoods, providing charter schools with cost-effective classroom facilities, better utilization of existing facilities and collection of cost-based facility use fees from charter schools to help provide additional funding to DPS each year.

Prior to joining DPS, David held senior financial and business leadership positions at Level 3 Communications and Staples. He has volunteered as a tutor in DPS for several years and served in a number of non-profit roles, including board treasurer for Metro CareRing and member of the Governor’s Early Childhood Leadership Commission. He received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Arizona State University.

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.

Ann Whalen, Deputy Chief of Teaching, Leading and Learning

Ann Whalen joined DPS in May 2017, bringing extensive experience leading large-scale initiatives for Chicago Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Education.

Ann served in the Obama Administration as senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education from 2015-17, delegating the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. As Delegated Assistant Secretary, she directed, coordinated and recommended policy for programs designed to assist state and local education agencies with improving the achievement of elementary and secondary school students. In this capacity, she oversaw a portfolio of over $22.3 billion, with more than 80 grant programs designed to ensure equal access to a high-quality education for all preschool, elementary and secondary children, particularly children who are economically disadvantaged.

Before joining the Obama administration, Ann served for six years with Chicago Public Schools, as deputy to the chief education officer and as deputy director of special initiatives for the chief executive officer. She also worked as a project administrator at the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.