Our DPS Weekly: Collaborating with Those Closest to Our Kids

Nov. 15, 2019
 
Superintendent Susana Cordova and the Teacher Advisory Council at their recent retreat
Superintendent Susana Cordova and the Teacher Advisory Council at their recent retreat

Dear Team DPS,

 

Thirty years ago, I became a teacher because I believed that I could make a difference in the lives of my students. I quickly realized that it was just as important to have a voice in making my school and district a better place. I’ve never forgotten this, and it’s why I was motivated to start a Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Council — to create a place for teachers to have a seat at the table and advise me on the issues that impact them and their schools. Our Teacher Advisory Council includes 23 teachers from across DPS who meet with me once a month throughout the year. This group of equity-focused educators provides feedback and advice on how we can support, clarify, and focus on what’s working and what’s challenging — from their lived experiences in classrooms and schools, closest to our kids.

 

On Monday, we held a Teacher Advisory Council retreat, where the group and I took some time to build connections as council members, colleagues and individuals. Teaching is a complex job, so we spent some time learning about our different work styles, as well as learning about interest-based decision-making so that we can build collaborative structures to get work done.

 

We worked together to create a list of topics so that as a council, we can dig into solutions over the coming months, including how to develop stronger supports for culturally responsive curricula and assessments, and how to build social-emotional skills for both students and teachers.

 

“It is really neat to see how different types of schools (elementary, middle and high school) from different neighborhoods have very different needs and perspectives,” said council member Ryan Cronshaw, an eighth-grade math teacher at Skinner Middle School. “It has challenged me to think about issues in DPS on a broader level than I do when I only think about my own building.”

 

This group of passionate educators is already taking an active role in advising on critical issues that affect our school communities, and I believe our efforts will be stronger and more effective as a result of their perspectives and contributions.

 

“In my opinion, Teacher Advisory Council is not just a committee, but a partnership between teachers and leaders to move forward with a shared vision,” said council co-chair Farwa Batool, a Senior Team Lead at Sandra Todd-Williams Academy. “Teacher Advisory Council has provided teachers a legitimate platform to participate in the determination of our schools’ goals and policies to improve educational experiences for our students.”

 

A significant part of our time together this week was spent on gathering the teachers’ critical feedback about how DPS’ instructional improvement priorities are being implemented in schools, as well as recommendations for how the work could be made more meaningful.

 

“I believe if teacher concerns are heard, listened to, and addressed at the district level, policy can be made that will ultimately affect student results in terms of connection to education/school, emotional well-being, and accountability measures such as test scores,” observed Randall Duval, a Senior Team Lead at DCIS-Montbello.

 

“I really, truly believe that if we go the next step with this council, that we are not just a way to be heard, but a way to make real progress and see things adjust, adapt and change for the better – we will all be in a better place,” said Jen Jones, an instrumental music teacher atWest Leadership Academy and West Early College. “We will close the gaps of understanding between administration and teachers/schools, and we will work more effectively to positively access all our students and get them to succeed as a whole child, not simply a score on a test. This council gives me hope.”

 

The depth of dedication, care, and insight of the educators who serve on this council gives me hope and energy as well, and I’m very thankful for their collaboration. Together, we can make our district a place where every student thrives — by design.

 

Warm regards,
Susana