Living the Value of Equity

Oct. 7, 2016

A note from Superintendent Tom Boasberg:

Dear DPS Community,

In the Denver Public Schools, one of our shared core values is equity. For many of our educators, a driving reason why they chose to become educators and to serve the kids of Denver is their commitment to equity – to create opportunity in disadvantaged communities and help our kids break through barriers of race and class.

On Monday at Columbine Elementary, I was joined by leaders of the Superintendent’s African-American Leaders Roundtable, DPS Board President Anne Rowe and Allen Smith, our new associate chief of the Culture, Equity and Leadership Team, to discuss our path forward in response to a pathbreaking report by Dr. Sharon Bailey. Responding to concerns from our schools and the community, we asked Dr. Bailey this spring to report in detail on the experiences of our African-American educators and to listen to their perspectives and concerns about how our African-American students are being cared for and educated.

Now we’re turning that learning into action. Led by Allen, we are launching our new African-American Equity Task Force and a series of working teams of educators, parents and students to recommend the changes we need to make to address the issues raised in Dr. Bailey’s report. We look forward to working closely with the task force.

While we believe it is important to listen to community voices and ensure community ownership around proposed changes, we also believe it important to act immediately on a number of the issues raised in Dr. Bailey’s report. In August, for example, we required for the first time all of our new educators in DPS to take a course on culturally responsive education as part of their training. In a number of discussions in our schools over the last month, I have heard strong praise from our new teachers about how much they valued the opportunity to talk about bias, its impact in the classroom and strategies to reach all children in a culturally responsive way.

We also want to provide strong support outside of the classroom to ensure our educators of color have a chance to connect with each other, to be paired with mentors and to learn from one another. We’ve created an advisory group called the Black Educators Superintendent’s Team (BEST) that will provide me and our leadership team with a valued connection to the priorities and needs of our kids and teachers. In addition, we’re expanding our current mentoring program for leaders of color, including teachers.

School districts across the country struggle to have the diversity of their educators reflect the diversity of their students. We know that improving our recruiting and retention efforts for teachers of color is an important step in strengthening a culture of equity and inclusion in our schools. We’ve heard that from our educators, and we’ve heard it from our students. We want the best educators at the front of our classrooms, and we want all our students – black, brown and white – to have the opportunity to learn from teachers with diverse perspectives and life experiences. We are both strengthening our own recruiting efforts and working with partners, including the city of Denver in the Make Your Mark campaign, to attract a more diverse teaching team to Denver.

Our data powerfully reminds us that too many children of color do not get what they need from our schools and our society. True equity remains an aspiration for too many.

With focus and determination, we are not just aspiring, but driving to change that. To close the opportunity gaps. To remove any obstacle that stands in the way of success for any child. To make Denver’s schools an inviting, inclusive, caring and equitable place for all of our city’s educators and children.


Read the full Our DPS Weekly newsletter online: Living Our Value of Equity.