Dear DPS Community,
When I agreed to take on the role of Superintendent of this great district, I engaged in a protracted Listening and Learning tour, speaking to every set of constituents to get a sense of the past and present challenges of Denver Public Schools. My educational, leadership and personal experiences positioned me well to take on many of these challenges and to identify and pose possible solutions. The Board of Education did not hire me to maintain the status quo. Board members entrusted me to take the necessary and sometimes difficult steps to make decisive changes that will improve and sustain greater educational outcomes of all of our scholars. I thank them for their trust in me to do this important work.
Upon my start, one of the first things I did was review the data related to how things have been done in the past. My focus since my analysis has been on making changes that will improve on the efforts that have already taken place and, when needed, shift how we educate our children. One of those much-needed shifts is outlined in the Board of Education’s Ends Policy 1.1, which calls for DPS to be a district free of oppressive systems and structures rooted in racism.
In alignment with Policy Governance, the Board of Education approved my Reasonable Interpretation of Ends Policy 1.1 and subsequently received a Monitoring Report in May 2022. The link can be found here. In it, I clearly committed to accomplishing a list of 7 significant actions to address the requests made by the Board in Ends Policy 1.1. The first item on that list is the following:
“…Given the great history of DPS and given my responsibility as the leader of this great organization, I commit to:
Discover, dismantle and revise persistent and enduring systems of oppression within our school system; …”
As a result, I subsequently identified a number of systems to be dismantled. The third item on that list was the following:
“Special Education Systems Identified for Dismantling
a. Students in Affective Needs (AN) and Separate School settings
i. Affective Needs Programming
In response to the overwhelming number of black and brown students contained within AN Center programming, [I will] replace [existing training] with stronger professional development for teachers on how to deal with student behaviors at tier 1 and tier 2 levels. In addition, more support has been dedicated to supporting schools with assessing student needs via IEPs and the creation of strong behavior plans that allow students to access general education programming in a more inclusive and responsive environment.”
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recently identified our Affective Needs Centers (AN Centers) as a problem as it relates to our Black scholars. Our process for placing students in our AN Centers is one of our oppressive systems that we have identified and are dismantling immediately. We will continue to comply with Federal Law to provide services to students through AN Centers while at the same time developing new processes for identification, referral and placement of students. My team and I will continue our search to identify, expose and dismantle all oppressive systems that are hindering our students. We will replace these systems with ones which better serve our students and prepare them for fruitful lives as proud graduates of Denver Public Schools.
There are a number of other steps that we plan to take as part of our Strategic Roadmap. This video featuring Julie Rottier-Lukens, Executive Director of Exceptional Student Services, goes into more details about the CDE complaint and how we are addressing the concerns outlined in it. This work is not easy. There are no “quick fixes”. Nonetheless, in order to ensure that Every Learner Thrives here in DPS, we know that we must continue to make changes. And, we will continue to do so.
Dr. Alex Marrero