In response to lobbying from students, parents, and community members concerned that a speedy superintendent search would sideline them, Denver school board members said Thursday they would consider lengthening the timeline.
The board has been aiming to name finalists to replace outgoing Superintendent Tom Boasberg by Oct. 15. Boasberg announced last month that he would step down in mid-October after nearly 10 years at the helm of Denver Public Schools.
In a district often criticized for not listening to the community, board members had promised robust opportunities for residents to weigh in. But they didn’t announce a schedule for hearing from the public until Thursday, a month into the process. It includes six meetings in different regions of the city during the first three weeks of September, with more to come.
Member Jennifer Bacon said at the board’s monthly meeting Thursday that she planned to ask her colleagues to extend the search timeline for at least a month. She noted that it took 30 days to schedule the regional meetings, “and so I hope we can recover (that time).”
President Anne Rowe said the board would discuss later whether to do that.
“I want to acknowledge the needed deliberation that was suggested tonight … around the timeline,” Rowe said. “We will have that deliberation among the board of education.”
The community debate around the next superintendent has already gotten heated, with several groups offering criteria and desired qualifications. But Thursday’s meeting was the first time the board held a public comment session since Boasberg’s announcement. More than two dozen people signed up to talk about the search, and many of them urged board members to lengthen the timeline. Some asked to stretch the process over a full year.
“When I found out that the selection of the new superintendent would be occurring in such little time, I was shocked,” student Mildred Gonzalez, a junior at STRIVE Prep RISE charter high school in far northeast Denver, told the board. Gonzalez was there with a group of other students. “I also felt powerless because it seemed like I wasn’t going to be able to impact the decision or have a say in it.”
Board members laid out a four-pronged strategy to gather community feedback. It includes the big regional meetings (see schedule below), small stakeholder meetings, an online survey, and a dedicated public comment session to be held Sept. 6 at 5:30 p.m.
The online survey hasn’t been released yet. And although board member Carrie Olson said she and her colleagues had already met with 17 small stakeholder groups and had 29 more meetings scheduled over the next two weeks, the district did not immediately divulge which groups were meeting with which board members and when.
Chalkbeat obtained the list of groups through an open records request. (See the list below.)
Olson said board members had been meeting two at a time with the small groups. Any meeting with three or more board members must be posted as a public meeting under Colorado law.
The schedule for the big regional meetings is:
Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Abraham Lincoln High School, 2285 S. Federal Blvd.
Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at John F. Kennedy High School, 2855 S. Lamar St.
Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Denver School of the Arts, 7111 Montview Blvd.
Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at George Washington High School, 655 S. Monaco Pkwy.
Thursday, Sept. 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson High School, 3950 S. Holly St.
Tuesday, Sept. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the Evie Dennis Campus, 4800 Telluride St.
The board plans to schedule additional meetings in the Green Valley Ranch and Montbello neighborhoods in far northeast Denver, and in the near northeast, central, west, and northwest regions of the city. Anyone may attend any meeting, regardless of where they live.
Here is the list of small stakeholder groups board members have scheduled meetings with, and the dates of those meetings:
Project VOYCE, Aug. 10
Denver Public Schools Foundation current and past board members, Aug. 10
Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center, Aug. 11
Association of Building, Grounds & Warehouse, Aug. 16
George Washington High School faculty, Aug. 16
Denver Public Schools family liaisons, Aug. 17
Constituents and families in school board District 3, Aug. 19
Colorado House District 6 Picnic, Aug. 19
Carson Elementary School faculty, Aug. 20
Janus Henderson Foundation, Aug. 20
Denver Public Schools safety and security command staff, Aug. 22
Denver Public Schools food and nutrition services staff, Aug. 23
KIPP charter school board of directors, Aug. 24
NAACP Denver, Aug. 27
District Accountability Committee, Aug. 28
Denver Public Schools transportation staff, Aug. 28
Denver Classroom Teachers Association representatives, Aug. 28
La Raza, Aug. 29
Equity Roundtable, Aug. 30
Together Colorado, Aug. 30
City of Denver leadership, Aug. 30
Padres & Jovenes Unidos, Aug. 30
Manual Council, Aug. 30
Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, Sept. 4
Asian Education Advisory Council, Sept. 5
Denver Public Schools Student Board of Education, Sept. 5
A Plus Colorado board of directors, Sept. 5
Colorado Latino Forum board of directors, Sept. 5
Colorado Youth for a Change, Sept. 6
Denver Public Schools principals from EED Network 1, Sept. 7
West Denver Asian Community meeting, Sept. 8
Colorado Black Round Table, Sept. 8
Shorter AME Church, Sept. 9
Denver Public Schools staff (at the Emily Griffith Campus), Sept. 10
Colorado Children’s Campaign, Sept. 11
Downtown Denver Inc. board of directors, Sept. 12
New Hope Baptist Church, Sept. 12
Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center, Sept. 19
Rocky Mountain Public Child Care Center, Sept. 21
Park Hill Collective Impact, Sept. 27
Climb Higher Colorado, Sept. 28
Here is a list of the groups that have requested to meet with board members but no dates were scheduled as of Aug. 29:
Denver Public Schools facilities staff
STRIVE Prep charter school community
Denver Classroom Teachers Association
Colorado Council of Churches
Denver Federation for Paraprofessionals & Nutrition Service Employees
Strengthening Neighborhoods Initiative Phase I Committee
Amalgamated Transit Union
Communications Workers of America
Denver Association of Educational Office Professionals
Facility Managers Association
Colorado Federation of School Safety Professionals
Vocational Teachers Federation
Mile High United Way
Calvary Baptist Church
The Interfaith Alliance
United Church of Montbello
True Light Baptist Church
Cure d’Ars Catholic Church
Friendship Baptist Church of Christ Jesus
King Baptist Church
Macedonia Baptist Church
Our Voice, Our Schools
STAND for Children
East High School PTSA
Editor’s note: Denver Public Schools rescheduled the special public comment session from Sept. 10 to Sept. 6 because the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah falls on Sept. 10. This story has been updated to reflect that change.