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Strengthening Neighborhoods Initiative | Denver Public Schools
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Strengthening Neighborhoods Initiative

In DPS, we believe that students and families thrive when they have high-quality schools. The top goal in the Denver Plan 2020 – DPS’ five-year strategic plan – is to have Great Schools in Every Neighborhood.

As Denver grows, many neighborhoods have seen significant changes in income levels, housing patterns and a decline in the number of school-aged children.

On March 16, 2017, the Denver Board of Education passed a resolution (available here in Spanish) that established the DPS citywide committee – Strengthening Neighborhoods – with the task of developing recommendations to increase integration and inclusion in all of our schools and to effectively address issues associated with the declining number of school-aged children in impacted areas of the city.

After nearly six months of work, which included conversations with over 300 community members and educators, the committee presented its recommendations to the Board of Education and proposed ways to implement their ideas.

Phase II Steering Committee

We are excited to announce the launch of the Strengthening Neighborhoods Steering Committee. This committee of 40 people including students, parents, teachers and school leaders will meet several times a year to advise DPS on recommendation implementation and connect the work back to their local committees. You can learn more about the committee here.

Kick-off Meeting Wednesday June 13th: Meeting Materials

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Wednesday October 24th at 5pm (location North HS Library)
  • Wednesday December 5th at 5pm (location TBD)

Recommendations

The committee made four overarching recommendations, as well as targeted recommendations in the focus areas of Access, Equity, and Design and Sustainability.

  • Goal Setting and Progress Monitoring: Set clear targets for increasing socioeconomic integration within our schools, and regularly monitor each school’s progress toward those goals.
  • Resources, Incentives and Supports: Find resources, incentives and supports to help schools create more inclusive and integrated environments.
  • City Coordination and Advocacy: Coordinate closely with city agencies and community partners, knowing that DPS cannot tackle an issue of this scale alone.
  • Community Engagement: Expand existing engagement efforts to ensure that students, families and communities are partners in implementation.
  • School choice: Give underrepresented students priority in the enrollment system so they can attend the school that is the best fit for their family.
  • Boundaries and zones: Use enrollment zones to increase integration and opportunity for students across larger geographic areas.
  • Transportation: Use transportation to increase access to schools for both more- and less-affluent families.
  • Enrollment: In order to equitably serve highly-mobile students, require schools to make seats available for new students, all year and in all grades.
  • Expanded metrics: Develop measures of school culture and climate that can be used by each school to identify and assess equitable teaching practices.
  • Equity in budget: Create greater transparency about how DPS gives funding to schools with the goal of increasing success for all students. Regularly evaluate funding strategies to see if they are creating more equitable outcomes for students.
  • Role of the community: Expand the role of communities and families by increasing support structures that build trust, increase engagement and provide authentic feedback between schools and community.
  • Declining school-aged population: Proactively evaluate and respond to the impact of actual and forecasted declines in school-aged population throughout the city.
  • New school design: Strive to foster schools that are diverse and that provide inclusive excellence for all students.
  • School planning: DPS should reward individual school leaders and teachers for making progress toward shorter-term goals related to diversity and inclusive excellence in schools, and hold them accountable when such progress is not made.

Charge from DPS Board

The Denver Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution establishing a citywide committee to do the following:

* Review changing demographics and housing patterns in our city and the effect on our schools.

* Make recommendations on our policies around boundaries, choice, enrollment and academic programs to drive greater socio-economic integration in our schools.

* Consider how to think about school choice and school consolidation to ensure that our schools offer high-quality, sustainable programs for our kids in the face of sharp declines in the number of school-aged children in gentrifying neighborhoods.

In Their Own Words: Strengthening Neighborhoods Blog Series

Strengthening Neighborhoods committee members shared their perspectives about the work of the committee and its recommendations with Education Post's Colorado-focused education site, CO School Talk. The co-chairs jointly authored an entry introducing the committee, and individual committee members Amanda Sandoval, Michelle Quattlebaum and Lindsay Jones dove deeper into the three core recommendation areas. Read the entire blog series below on CO School Talk's website.

Denver community group aims to help DPS provide high-quality integrated schools while preserving culturally-rich neighborhoods in 2018 and beyond.

In the first entry in this blog series, the co-chairs Janice Sinden, Antwan Jefferson and Diana Romero Campbell define the challenges the committee wrestled with and explain the overarching recommendations for DPS to address declining enrollment and gentrification in Denver.

Read more on CO School Talk »

Increasing access and choice for all DPS families; recommendations for change from the Strengthening Neighborhoods Committee

Committee member Amanda Sandoval knows firsthand how choosing the right school can make all the difference for students and families. She shares her experiences and perspective as a community advocate, DPS graduate and current DPS parent.

Read more on CO School Talk »

Advocating for equity in Denver Public Schools

Committee member Michelle Quattlebaum explains the committee's recommendations for improving equity for students and families in DPS and explores what it will take for a true culture shift to happen in our schools.

Read more on CO School Talk »

Facing the future: Sustainable, equitable schools for DPS

As a former high school math teacher in DPS and current site director of non-profit College Track Denver, Lindsay Jones is keenly aware of the challenges of serving this city's students. She writes about the committee's recommendations for ensuring that district schools can plan for a sustainable future in an environment of declining enrollment and increasing segregation.

Read more on CO School Talk »

Phase I Committee Co-Chairs

Janice Sinden

CEO – Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Former Chief of Staff to Mayor Michael Hancock

Learn more about Janice

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) welcomed Janice Sinden as President & CEO in September 2016. She leads the 300 artisans and administrators who have made the 40-year-old cultural gem the largest non-profit theatre organization in the nation. Janice is committed to building upon the DCPA’s rich history of inspiring audiences, as well as supporting all six lines of programming to engage our community at large.
Previously, she served as Chief of Staff for Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock for five years where she managed 60 appointees, 26 departments and the day-to-day complexities that come with running a major metropolitan city. During this time, the Hancock Administration and the Department of Arts and Venues developed Denver’s first cultural plan since 1989 titled IMAGINE 2020, as well as “The Next Stage” process to re imagine the future of the 12-acre Denver Performing Arts Complex as a vibrant epicenter of entertainment, education and commerce.
Prior to joining the Hancock Administration, Janice served as the Executive Director of Colorado Concern, an alliance of top executives from across the state who care about the wellbeing of Colorado’s business climate. She pushed politics into action by overseeing the organization’s comprehensive legislative agenda, getting involved with numerous ballot campaigns and supporting statewide candidate elections.
The diversity of Janice’s career path has allowed her to support her personal passions of rich cultural experiences, access to education, and giving back to her community through her interest in politics. She co-founded Pinnacle Public Affairs, a Denver-based political and non-profit consulting firm, and served as the Manager of Community Relations for Sharp HealthCare in San Diego. She is no stranger to working in a fast-paced environment, and has coordinated dozens of large public events, facilitated two constitutional challenges to the Colorado Supreme Court, co-founded EPIC (Executives Partnering to Invest in Children) and co-led the effort to establish the Colorado Foreclosure Hotline.
Her love for community building and public service sparked after her graduation from the University of Northern Colorado when she moved to Washington, D.C. to work for then U.S. Senator Wayne Allard. In this role, she managed the Senate Renewable and Energy Efficiency Caucus and served as the Senator’s state lead for the introduction of federal legislation to designate Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site as a National Wildlife Refuge. This legislation passed by Congress and was signed by the President in 2002.
Janice has been recognized by 5280 magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in Denver, by the Colorado Women’s Foundation as one of the 25 most influential women in Colorado, by the Girl Scouts of Colorado as a Woman of Distinction, and by the University of Northern Colorado Department of Political Science and International Affairs as Distinguished Alumnus of the Year. She currently serves on the boards of Citizens for Arts to Zoo, the University of Northern Colorado, VISIT Denver, the American Transplant Foundation, the Denver Preschool Program, EPIC and Mental Health Colorado, and is a member of the national Performing Arts Centers Consortium and Colorado Concern. Previously, she was appointed by Governors Owens and Ritter to serve on the Colorado Creative Industries Council which invests in Colorado’s artistic workforce so creative entrepreneurs and enterprises will flourish.
She was born and raised in Fort Collins and enjoys skiing, hiking, traveling the world and experiencing local shows, exhibits and events with her friends and family.

Antwan Jefferson, Ph.D

Clinical Assistant Professor, Human Development and Family Relations, UCD School of Education and Human Development

DPS Parent, Former DPS Teacher

Learn more about Antwan

It seems like a trick question to try to tell my own story. Not only is it still unfolding, but I struggle with the pressure to present my life’s story in a (chrono)logical way. History is neatest when revised.

My earliest memory is playing with a battery-powered triceratops with glowing red eyes with my brother Mike. The dinosaur could only walk in one direction and didn’t have a remote, and I remember us pointing it to the stairs to see if it could manage to walk down. It couldn’t, no doubt, but it was a pretty exciting endeavor nonetheless. With the help of family, my mother raised us (including my younger brother, Chris) on her own. To be honest, I think that this single-parent home environment speaks most to my research interests and professional interests.

I didn’t want to become a teacher until I was 19. Prior to that time, I only wanted to be a doctor. The first profession that I was able to name somehow became the only profession I’d considered for college. It wasn’t until I began volunteering at community centers and schools in Atlanta that I thought of education as a possible career field, and it was a simple comment from a student at Booker T. Washington High School that caused my mental gears to spin: “Antwan, man, you would make a good teacher.” Dallas Tilley sold me on the prospect of a career in education because he was getting what I was giving, and I believed him.

After six years in high school classrooms in Providence, Rhode Island; Norfolk Virginia; and here in Denver, I stepped away from the classroom to work in a local church as the youth pastor. I saw this as a chance to give myself a bit of a reprieve from the physical and emotional costs of working with five sets of 25-30 students per day. Since stepping away from the classroom, I’ve learned that schools are important to me, and that families are important to me as well.

I earned my PhD in Educational Leadership and Innovation from CU Denver and remained on the faculty following completion of my degree. This is a fairly unusual outcome for any doctoral student, and even is ill-advised. However, I pursued and completed my PhD for three reasons:

  1. I participate in communities throughout the city that experience several social and education challenges; they grant me the privilege of struggling with them.
  2. My great grandmother, Florence Caroline Washington, passed away in 2013 at age 100, after a life as a domestic in Virginia. My mother, Gail, raised 3 sons, often struggling to see that we had what we needed. Both of these women made sacrifices from which I benefit. They deserve to see a PhD among their lineage.
  3. My wife, son and daughter.

My students at University of Colorado Denver:

Keep me humble. I’ve learned, and continue to learn that there is no personal story that I can predict; and this is one of the most important things I can share with my students.

Courses I teach at CU Denver:

  • HDFR 1020: Black and Latino Children
  • HDFR 3002: Preparing to be a Helping Professional
  • HDFR 3260: Family Systems and Social Justice
  • HDFR 4010: Family and Cultural Diversity
  • HDFR 7260: Family Diversity and Social Justice
  • EDFN 7410: Power and Privilege: The Social Construction of Difference

My research interests:

  • Family-School Interaction
  • Liberatory Public Education
  • Thirdspaces in Public Education

My hobbies:

I am a fair-weather Denver outdoorsman. In the summer, I ride bikes on trails, roads and mountains. I hike. I raft. I run. In the winter, when it gets cold, I stay inside waiting on the warm weather to return. Maybe I’ll reread Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me or Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed or Bale and Knopp’s Education and Capitalism. These are the types of texts that influence my thinking.

Diana Romero Campbell

Director of Early Learning and Education – Mile High United Way

Learn more about Diana

Diana Romero Campbell is the Director of Early Learning and Education at Mile High United Way has spent her career working the nonprofit sector focused on children, youth, and families. As a member of the District Accountability Committee, the DPS bond and mill levy advisory committee and the Birth to Eight Roadmap, she advocates for parent engagement and equity for all students.  

 

Diana is a graduate of DPS and her children are third-generation DPS students; one son is in high school and a daughter graduated this year. Diana is a PhD candidate at DU College of Education and is looking forward to addressing root cause issues affecting systems and communities in Denver. She is excited to work alongside courageous people to address the future of our children, our communities and our school district.  

2017 Committee Members

Rowena Alegria Anita Banuelos Jill Barkin
Erin Brown Debra Bustos Jim Chavez
Fran Coleman Leslie Colwell Nate Easley
Alicia Economos Mike Ferrufino Alan Gottlieb
Ismael Guerrero Anna Jo Haynes Deisy Hernandez
Bruce Hoyt Christie Imholt Lindsay Jones
Laura Lefkowits Jessica Lerner Janet Lopez
Ricardo Martinez Collinus Newsome Derek Okubo
Rick Padilla Luis Poza Michelle Quattlebaum
Regina Rodriguez Amanda Sandoval Mary Seawell
Erik Solivan Courtney Torres Elbra Wedgeworth
Lee White Dr. Terrenda White

How To Stay Involved

All meetings are open to the public, and we invite you to join. Meeting times and locations will be posted here when they are confirmed.

Additionally, this is a citywide effort. If you are interested in participating in a regional conversation on this topic, please email dustin_kress@dpsk12.org and we’ll put your name on our email distribution list.