Op-Ed: DPS Superintendent Search Should Be Reopened

Former DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova left Denver for Dallas late last year.
Former DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova left Denver for Dallas late last year. Evan Semón
After carefully reviewing the published credentials of the three finalists for Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, we, the Congress of Hispanic Educators, are urging the Denver Public Schools’ Board of Education to reopen and expand the Superintendent search process. We ask that Interim Superintendent Dwight Jones remain the acting superintendent, at least through the end of the 2021-22 school year, until the reopened and expanded search is completed. Our reasons for this request are as follows:

• The Denver Public Schools currently serve over 90,000 students who are linguistically, culturally and economically diverse. None of the three finalists has been a Superintendent of a large urban district. One finalist has been an interim Superintendent of a 10,000 student school district. The other two candidates have not served in the position of Superintendent.

• It is not clear to us that any of the three finalists have experience designing, implementing, or monitoring programs for English language learners or bilingual educational programs. This is of extreme importance, as currently one-third (36,000) of the students in DPS are identified as language learners. Potential candidates need to demonstrate deep experience with and understanding of the educational civil rights of English learners and success in implementing quality programs for such students.

• Denver as a city is one of the most desirable cities in the United States to live, work, and raise a family. The students, families and community in Denver deserve a talented, experienced Superintendent who has a track record of success to lead the district. The Denver Public Schools should not be a “training ground” for new Superintendents. The community deserves and is demanding an experienced successful leader.

• The new Superintendent needs to have deep knowledge about the ethnically, linguistically, and culturally diverse communities unique to Denver. Our diverse communities are very different from those in other large urban cities and a new Superintendent needs to come to Denver with deep knowledge of our community and our history.

Over the years, in the Denver Public Schools, we have witnessed impressive gains with regard to the quality of programs offered to English language learners as well as gains in academic achievement. While much has been gained, much work remains to be done in order to insure equal access for all students, particularly those who come to school as emerging bilingual learners.

Kathy Escamilla, Ph.D., is senior education advisor with the Congress of Hispanic Educators; this letter was sent on the group's behalf to the DPS board on May 14.

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