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Our DPS Weekly: Community Collaboration

Sep. 20, 2019
Educators pose for a photo, smiling and raising their hands against a Montbello backdrop
Pictured above: Superintendent Susana Cordova, Deputy Superintendent Tamara Acevedo and team members from Academy 360 celebrate after a recent faculty meeting at the school.

Dear Team DPS,

One of the things that quickly became clear to me as I traveled around the city during my first few months as superintendent last school year is that there is such a strong connection between our community and our schools. And it’s one of my top priorities to do a better job of tapping into this connection and using the energy and commitment of our educators and community members to drive bigger improvements.

One of the three foundational cornerstones of all of our work going forward in DPS is collaborative teamwork. After doing outreach that included meeting with more than 200 community members, 650 educators, school leaders and support staff, 17 civic leaders and 33 community and advocacy groups, I knew we had to focus more on having authentic conversations out in the community about where our schools are in terms of performance and service, about where we want them to go, and about how to get them there.

So I’ve worked with my leadership team to put together a community-engagement and collaboration plan that reaches every corner of the city and invites all segments of the community to come and talk to us — to share your ideas, to ask questions, to tell us what you want from your schools.

From now through the end of the year, I’ll be doing “engagement cycles” in each part of the city. This includes faculty meetings with our teachers and support staff at schools, principal focus groups, informal school visits — during the school day and at athletics and arts events, and a culminating regional town hall that’s for all of the families and staff in that region.

For the first month of the school year, our community collaboration has focused on Far Northeast Denver. I have been excited to see kids learning with hands-on activities at places like John Amesse and in the new STEM lab on the Montbello Campus; engaging in issues of social justice at McGlone Academy and STRIVE Prep – Rise; seeing kids at football practices; and being treated to student-led tours at Farrell B. Howell and Northeast Academy. I’ve met with the school teams from district, innovation and charter schools, and we’ve taken lots of notes on how we can make our teachers’ work easier.

And I’m very much looking forward to our first Regional Town Hall, which will be held from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Evie Dennis Campus, 4800 Telluride St. This special Saturday event will feature activities for the whole family, including student performances, spoken word, and the opportunity to enjoy breakfast and engage in conversation around the topics that matter most to our families in the Far Northeast. You can find more information (in multiple languages) and RSVP to the event by clicking here.

Then, starting in October, our community-collaboration focus will shift to Southwest Denver, and then move to the Northwest, Near Northeast, Southeast and Central regions of the city throughout the rest of the first semester.

And I want to emphasize, in encouraging you to come to one of our engagement events, that we’re coming into your neighborhoods to talk a little and to listen a lot, with open ears and open minds. We’re working hard to create space for community members to truly come to the table around school improvements that they are deeply invested in. The folks who live in a neighborhood know the neighborhood a lot better than we at the district will know it. I’ve lived in Denver my whole life, and I know my neighborhood really well, but I wouldn’t pretend to know every neighborhood in Denver as well.

I’m looking forward to visiting each neighborhood and getting to know its families better. I hope you’ll help me do that. And I know our children and our schools will get so much stronger from the collaboration.

Warm regards,