After a Bruising Election, 4 Ways the ‘Flipped’ Denver School Board Can Put Student Success Before Adult Ego
The election cycle in the Denver metro area has been filled with tension, particularly in the races for the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. Two district seats and one at-large seat were up for grabs, sparking debates among education advocates in Denver. These debates often centered around divisive issues such as traditional vs. charter schools, SFER vs. DCTA, Stand for Children, Flip the Board, and conflicts between unions and the district. Unfortunately, these debates often created divisions among neighbors, while little was done to address the educational challenges faced by students who continue to suffer from subpar academic standards.
One candidate spent over $300,000 of their own money to compete for one of the seats, while Independent Expenditure Committees also contributed significant amounts of money. This influx of money resulted in a slew of negative campaign tactics, including fact stretching, name-calling, and the circulation of racially charged and inflammatory materials. Unfortunately, these tactics did not just affect the Denver races but also spilled over into a neighboring race in Aurora. This election cycle witnessed some of the most contentious races for volunteer positions. To put it into perspective, over $1.3 million was raised for the Denver school board race during the last reporting period. One cannot help but wonder how many school psychologists could have been supported with that sum.
This election cycle was truly remarkable, but what does it all mean? Now that all the votes have been counted and the board will undergo a significant change in composition, what lies ahead? Can this "flip" guarantee an end to educational mediocrity and the violence it inflicts on students in Denver? Only time will tell, but I urge the new board to consider the following:
– The new board must prioritize innovation. Regardless of how the current situation is portrayed, it is essential not to become complacent and to keep striving for better outcomes. Black children in the district continue to be failed across all types of schools, necessitating an injection of innovation throughout the district. Smart governance can create opportunities for collaboration to address the comprehensive needs of children and communities. Embracing the idea of doing things differently and not settling for ineffective practices is crucial. There is no time to slow down or ignore the need for substantial progress. The future of children hangs in the balance.
– The new board must prioritize the well-being of children. Over the past 25 years, education politics in Denver have often overshadowed the needs of children. There has been an abundance of adult grievances, power plays, and political rhetoric, all while children’s educational outcomes have remained disappointing. While there have been slight improvements in proficiency levels and graduation rates, many children still struggle and are unprepared for higher education. It is time to shift the focus from adult concerns to children’s well-being. Every policy, practice, and position developed by the board should be assessed for its impact on all children and their benefits.
– The new board must collaborate with Superintendent Susana Cordova. The worst outcome for children would be if this turns into a clash of egos among adults. The board has a duty to set the vision, goals, and policy boundaries for the district, but they also need to trust and support the superintendent, who is responsible for daily execution and realizing the vision. It is essential to avoid a tug-of-war scenario where board members interfere with day-to-day operations and blur their roles. If the superintendent fails to lead the district towards its goals and vision, the board should exercise governance, review goals, reset expectations, and, if necessary, make changes. Our communities do not need individuals using the boardroom as a platform for personal agendas that further marginalize them.
By prioritizing innovation, the welfare of children, and a collaborative approach with Superintendent Cordova, the new board has an opportunity to effect meaningful change and address the educational challenges faced by Denver’s students. It is time to shift the focus away from petty squabbles and self-interest and towards the betterment of our education system for the benefit of all children.
What is our next move, Denver? Let us come together and strive for the betterment of our children’s future!
In a Denver town hall meeting, leaders stress the importance of the black community uniting to bring about educational reform from the grassroots level.
Pastor Vernon Jones Jr., who has previously worked as a school leader in Denver Public Schools, is now the director of operations and strategy for FaithBridge. This non-profit organization aims to engage the faith community in ensuring that every child, in every community, has access to high-quality education. Pastor Jones and his wife are parents to five children, two of whom are currently attending college while the other three are enrolled in Denver Public Schools.
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