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Our DPS Weekly: Strengthening Community Voice in Tough Decisions

Dec. 16, 2016
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“The decision to intervene at an under-performing school is among the toughest we face.” 

Dear DPS Community,

Everything we do at the Denver Public Schools centers around providing our community with great schools in every neighborhood. It’s absolutely at the heart of our service to the city. And it’s the overriding focus of our Denver Plan 2020 strategic plan.

That means making sure we support struggling schools with additional resources and supports, including additional teachers, counselors and social workers, as well as help improve the quality of the school’s academic program. We have been pleased to see significant improvements at so many schools, as a result of the work of our teachers and school leaders and these extra supports.

We also have been and will continue to be committed to restarting schools in which, despite these targeted supports, students are not showing the kind of academic growth that they need over a sustained period. In many of these cases, the schools have seen declining enrollment as families seek stronger schools. Restarting the school with a stronger plan and academic program has enabled us to increase the academic success of kids, bring many families back into their neighborhood schools and thereby strengthen communities.

In Montbello and the Far Northeast, for example, we are now seeing more than twice as many students graduate each year than before we made our changes to schools in that community six years ago. As a result, enrollment in local schools has shown great gains, as families choice in rather than choice out of their community schools.

Last night (Thursday, Dec. 15), the Denver Board of Education approved our recommendation to restart Amesse Elementary and Greenlee Elementary. It also decided to close Gilpin Montessori because of very low enrollment at the school and a sharp decline in the number of school-age children in that neighborhood, combined with easy access to higher-performing nearby elementary schools. The recommendation was the culmination of the School Performance Compact process that was developed last year.

**Learn more at our Great Schools website in English and Spanish.**

The decision to intervene at an under-performing school is among the toughest we face. Families and neighborhoods build strong connections to their schools. We appreciate and respect that, and we work hard to be upfront and transparent about what goes into making these recommendations. That’s why we worked with the community to create the Compact process — to give clarity to why these difficult actions are the right course, in the long run, for students and their neighborhoods.

We’ve now also strengthened the community’s voice in this process. We are creating Community Review Boards for each school that is being replaced. These review boards will evaluate among high-quality school plans approved by the district to recommend which plan would best meet the needs of the community.

This does not change the criteria in the Facility Allocation Process, but gives greater strength and clarity to the community’s role in the process. We want to make sure there is a structured process that ensures strong community voice in these very important decisions.

Right now, our focus is on our Amesse, Gilpin and Greenlee families. We’re going to work hard to make sure they understand how the transition will work and what their choices are for schools. We know it’s a difficult time. But with the community’s continued help, we’ll improve the service we’re providing to these families and make good on our commitment to bringing great schools to every neighborhood.


Read the full Our DPS Weekly newsletter at Strengthening Community Voice in Tough Decisions