DPS Superintendent Announces Equity Roadmap for Schools

By Talia Traskos-Hart

DPS Superintendent Alex Marrero has launched a new strategic roadmap for the district, with the vision of “Every Learner Thrives” as its intended goal.

This roadmap seeks to improve experiences for students, adults, and in the system as a whole. The district’s last strategic plan expired in 2020, leaving leaders largely without direction in a time of crisis with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marrero said the more flexible nature of this roadmap will allow more adaptability in challenging times.

“One of the many lessons we learned from the pandemic is that we can’t be rigid,” Marrero said. “A roadmap allows us to be nimble. It tells us where we need to go, but if we take some detours or a different route, we are still aiming towards that same north star.”

Marrero said the roadmap is formulated with lessons gained from his 100-day “Listening and Learning Tour” during which he spoke to communities across the district about their unique priorities. He said the tour gave him the important insight to design the roadmap with the “needs, wants, and desires” of the community—rather than just district leaders—as a top priority.

The first of the roadmap’s three goals is improving student, adult, and system experiences, and is aimed at promoting equity. Improving the student experience involves taking action to help all students, especially those from marginalized populations, to succeed in DPS and after graduation, Marrero said, and expanded access to a range of courses, extracurricular opportunities, and career and technical education is a main priority of the roadmap geared toward improving student experience.

Marrero also said his hope is that, particularly in North Denver, the roadmap can help begin closing achievement gaps. The second goal, improving the adult experience, is focused on helping district parents and staff feel appreciated and respected.

Diversity hiring initiatives, improved compensation packages, and family engagement initiatives will be just a few of the action measures taken in the pursuit of this goal.

“Our adults need to be cared for, they need to be valued and appreciated,” Marrero said. “If we do not have our adults feeling safe, secure, and valued then we are going to have a hard time delivering on our commitment to education.”

The third goal focuses on changing district systems to promote equity, sustainability, transparency, and excellence. The district will aim to make information on schools more accessible in the goal of transparency and will seek equity by working to “identify, dismantle, and rebuild inequitable systems.”

“We’re really looking at the system as a whole and dismantling any systems of oppression,” Marrero said. “Our district has failed to provide the majority of our students with learning environments that allow them to thrive … The district has the obligation not only to help our students overcome the obstacles that they’ve had but to disrupt and redesign inequitable systems.”

Marrero expressed his excitement to begin implementing these goals with the new school year. “I’m incredibly excited for this to be launched and beyond excited to launch this school year,” he noted. “This school year to me presents less uncertainty compared to last year.”

Board president supports superintendent’s vision

In August, members of the DPS board and a local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) met in front of the school board’s downtown headquarters to voice support for Marrero’s plan.

Additionally, DPS School Board President Xóchitl Gaytán urged the board to “work together in a productive and respectful manner for the sake and interests of DPS children, teachers, families, and the community at-large.”

Denver Public Schools Board of Education President Xóchitl Gaytán speaks Aug. 22 during a press conference in front of the school board’s downtown headquarters to ask for support for Superintendent Alex Marrero’s strategic plan to increase equity among the district’s schools.
Photo by Eric Heinz

A pamphlet handed out by LULAC and the other organizers involved to those in attendance said Latino students make up more than half of the DPS school population, but their housing situations are in jeopardy.

“With gentrification squeezing out Latino students, increasing school closures in Latino neighborhoods and rising economic hardships for struggling Latino families it is imperative that our community supports the strong leadership of President Xóchitl Gaytán, the only Latina representative on the DPS board in a majority-minority school district,” the pamphlet, with Veronica Barela as the contact for the supporters, stated.

The fractures of the DPS board have been clear and present for some time, as it censured one member, Auon’tai Anderson, last year after an investigation related to allegations of him sending inappropriate messages to a student. Its process in choosing Charmaine Lindsay as the replacement member in District 5 earlier this year was fought with seemingly irreconcilable differences, and was also conducted with significant indifference to the issues at hand.

“I will continue, as president of the board, to facilitate board meetings to assure that we are receiving the appropriate information from our superintendent, so that we can help in the development of education policy to strengthen that roadmap,” Gaytán said. When asked how the board could coalesce on these issues and implement the director’s vision, Gaytán said the board is trying to suture those divisions on specific matters.

“When I say that we’re doing that, I know that my board wants to move forward and keep the focus on our students and education policy because that is our charge,” she said.

The G.E.S. Gazette editor Eric Heinz contributed to this report.

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