photo of Denver skyline with words this month at the DPS Board

Welcome to the April edition of “This Month at the DPS Board”, a monthly newsletter sharing information about the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education.   

Our goal is simple: to share what is happening at school board meetings so you can engage with the board and the district even if you cannot attend hours of meetings every month. 

Work Session – April 7 2022 

Sustainability Student Group 

Denver Public Schools high school students from the Sustainability Student group presented their work on climate action, that consequently moved the DPS board to put forth an ENDS statement around environmental sustainability within the district. The goal is to allow DPS become a “national leader in establishing an organizational culture anchored in sustainability, climate action, and environmental justice in both the conservation of natural resources and in minimizing the carbon footprint of DPS’ practices.”  

Declining Enrollment Updates 

Superintendent Marrero shared an update on declining enrollment in the district. He shared that the Declining Enrollment Committee is in the halfway point of their timeline. Superintendent Marrero mentioned that the rationale behind creating this committee is to make sure community engagement is in the forefront during this process when discussing how fewer students enrolling in DPS schools and projections indicating that there will be a continual decline will impact schools financially and how students are being served equitably.  

Superintendent Marrero addressed some concerns around about the process:  

  • No schools have been identified, and there is no current list of schools that is being considered. The committee will create the criteria that will identify schools. 
  • A significant reorganization is currently underway at the central office to address the reduction in funding available and continue to maximize the funding provided to schools. 

He then mentioned that the committee meetings are not open to the public because they are considered “work sessions” intended to be for committee members only.  Meeting recaps are posted in all consent decree languages on the webpage. Opportunities for public feedback will be shared after the committee drafts the guiding principles and criteria through surveys. 

The following timeline for the process was shared: 

  • By Spring 2022, the Declining Enrollment Advisory Committee creates criteria. 
  • By Fall-Winter 2022-2023, criteria will be applied to schools and schools will be identified for closure or consolidation. 
  • In the school year of 2023-2024, schools identified will begin to plan to close or consolidate, plans will be created to support staff and families impacted. 
  • By the end of the school year 23-24, closure and/or consolidations will move forward. For certain schools, there may be an accelerated timeline where closures and/or consolidations will move forward by the end of 2022-2023 school year. 

Discussion of Board Community Engagement 

The Board plans to distribute a survey to the community to gain input on what community engagement means so that the Board’s definition aligns with community under a policy.   

Discussion of Proposed GP15 

The Board discussed possible changes and/or reinforcements for public comment and board meetings. The draft with the policy they were revising can be found here. These changes will be discussed in the June School Board meeting.  

Discussion of the Vacancy Process 

The board then discussed the potential timeline to fill in the District 5 representative vacancy. To recap this topic, check out our newsletter on last month’s work session here.  The board went through possible timelines according to the amount of applicants. “Board members and the Superintendent shall not have any discussions, meetings, or electronic communication with applicants, potential applicants, or supporters of an applicant to uphold the integrity of the process.” The Board of Education will choose the candidate by a majority vote in a public meeting, not by an informal consensus process. The board discussed the background check process the appointee will have to go through. 

Finance and Audit Committee Meeting – April 11, 2022 

2020 Bond Update 

Staff provided an update on the 2020 bond passed by voters. Funds totaling $420 million were wired for the Capital Projects Fund to DPS fulfilling the 2020 Bond Authorization. 

IntegraReport Hotline Update 

A report was provided by auditors on the IntegraReport Hotline – an anonymous hotline for district employees and the public to report suspected fraud, waste or abuse of district assets, or fiscal misconduct. Reports are either investigated by internal audit or human resources. In fiscal year 2020-2021 there were 114 cases reported, 62 cases were valid and addressed, 25 were unsubstantiated, and 11 are still in process.  

Information Items for Board Meeting Consent Agenda: 

The following items were presented and approved to go on the consent agenda for the School Board meeting:  

Grants Report 

Staff shared information about grants that were received in February and March over $50,000. 

Purchasing Report 

Information related to contracts and projects that cost less than $1 million were shared with the committee.  

Focus on Achievement – April 18, 2022 

Executive Limitations 

The board first reviewed some language changes in the executive limitations currently adopted from the “superintendent should” to the “superintendent will not fail to”. Some of the Executive imitations that were pointed out were (EL 2) which talks about succession planning for the superintendent and making sure the decision is still up to the board, (El 3) engage community in the development of policy when appropriate and at his discretion, (EL 4) the board is responsible for their own compliance, (EL 10) Discipline and safety procedure to be revisited at board retreat.  

You can read all here.  

Reasonable Interpretations – Transition Priorities 

Superintendent Marrero shared his reasonable interpretations as linked to his transition priorities. There are five and discussed the first three. The first priority is around equity where they centered the conversation around BIPOC teacher retention. The second priority is around teaching and learning where they focused the conversation on learning disruptions because of COVID-19 and how to ensure the district takes steps to set students back on track. They also had a conversation about accountability and whether to use state assessments for this end. Superintendent Marrero closed  saying it is needed to create some sort of baseline and understand where students are at now. The third transition priority is around students and staff well-being.  

District Five Vacancy Interviews 

The Board set the dates for interviews when it comes to the District Five vacancy to June 2nd between 1-4 pm. They should be open to the public and will be listening to special public comment later that day. 

School Board Meeting – April 21, 2022 

Recognition of DPS Athletic Accomplishments  

Staff highlighted athletic achievements in DPS this school year. 7000 high school athletes participated in DPS athletics this year, which is more than have ever participated.  

Northfield Men’s Soccer was recognized for winning a 4A State Championship and East Men’s Ice Hockey was recognized for winning the 5A State Championship. Staff also highlighted women’s basketball and wrestling.  

Denver Scholarship Foundation Report 

Staff from the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) shared a presentation about their work. The Denver Scholarship Foundation “inspires and empowers Denver Public Schools’ students to enroll in and graduate from postsecondary institutions of higher education, by providing the tools, knowledge, and financial resources essential for success.” 

Annually, DSF serves about 7,500 students. This year, DSF has awarded 1,869 scholarships and operates 14 Future Centers in high school campuses across the district where DSF staff supports high school students in creating post-graduation plans. Additionally, DSF partners with 30 higher education institutions to support scholarship recipients. Demographics of scholarship recipients include 66% female, 60% Hispanic/Latinx, and 16.5% Black students. 82% of scholarship recipients are persisting or have graduated higher education and since DSF’s inception, college enrollment has increased over 100%. 

Welton Street Café Proclamation 

Welton Street Café was recognized with a proclamation acknowledging the impact that Welton Street Cafe has had in the DPS community. Currently, Welton Street Café is raising funds to open a new location after closing its original location of 22 years. Anyone who is interested in supporting can find more information and donate here. 

Superintendent’s Report 

Superintendent Marrero gave a presentation related to District Central Office reorganization plans. Superintendent Marrero cited declining enrollment and feedback from staff and community as rationale for reorganizing the Central Office.  

Intended outcomes of Central Office reorganization include strengthening and tightening central support to ensure resources align to highest priorities and central staff functions are more tightly linked to Board of Education goals and policies. 

Superintendent Marrero previewed an approach to collaborative school structure by highlighting planned collaboration of four DPS schools, called “Collaborative Quads” to engage in shared learning and best practices around facilitating dual-language programs in DPS. The stated goal of the Collaborative Quads is “building communities of learning to drive improvement across our family of schools.” 

Staff outlined 2022-2023 district priorities as follows:  

  • Equity and Excellence 
  • Student Experience & Achievement 
  • Operational Effectiveness 

Finally, staff outlined a plan for central office reorganization structure which will include shifts in senior leadership and departments.  

You can view the presentation here.  

Climate Action  

Students presented a climate action statement, sharing their passion for expanding sustainability and climate-conscious policies and efforts in DPS. The board voted unanimously in support of the proposed revisions to their ENDS statements related to climate action. You can learn more here.  

Consent Agenda 

The board unanimously voted to approve the consent agenda.  

Public Comment  

Educators, parents, and other members of the DPS community delivered public comments about a variety of topics including feedback surrounding Executive Limitation 11 & 12, declining enrollment, and concerns around academic performance.  

Board Retreat April 21, 2022 

Completion of Reasonable Interpretations 

Before embarking on reasonably interpreting several policies, Superintendent Marrero mentioned that he would like to include partnering with the City of Denver to dismantle and revise persistent and enduring systems of oppression outside of our school system to a transition priority which is a policy anchored in equity. He briefly mentioned that this partnership will include the creation of community hubs that will provide services like social-emotional support, GED, citizenship, early literacy, and computer classes, academic tutoring, and basic needs assistance. The Board revisited interpretations for policies transition priorities (TP): Student and Staff Well-Being, Health and Safety, and post-graduation and global citizenship. The Boad then shared the monitoring report cadence to vote on END statements for each monthly board meeting.  

Community Engagement Planning  

Some board directors shared they have been working on a community engagement governance policy that aims “to ensure the DPS Board of Directors has a sustainable connection to the community” they serve “in alignment with district board policies.” The desired outcome for this specific policy is to have it be community led, proactive, and ensure all seven board members work together to find the best path for community engagement. This board policy is meant to be more focused on the long-term vision of the end statements by leveraging the expertise of the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) team and still preserving the ability to gather information on the ENDS statements as a Board. 

 Their proposed timeline to get this policy established is: 

  • May 2022- informal presentation 
  • June 2022- formal presentation with public comment and first read 
  • August 2022- second read and vote 

12-Month Agenda Planning 

The board talked through their upcoming meeting calendar, important dates that will fall within this year and about the timelines around the new executive limitations and their implementation (Els). As they think about community engagement as a part of the reviewal process of Els and TPs they are also thinking what those timelines look like in the calendar. They are hoping to vote on the reasonable interpretations presented by the superintendents during the May 5th work session.