A top Denver school district administrator who has risen through the ranks was named a leader to watch Thursday by Chiefs for Change, a high-profile national network of education leaders.

Allen Smith is the chief of culture, equity, and leadership for Denver Public Schools. He’s one of nine state and district leaders who will participate in the Chiefs for Change “future chiefs” program. The program is considered a springboard that helps push administrators into top jobs. Susana Cordova, who started as Denver superintendent in January, was a participant. Her predecessor, Tom Boasberg, is a Chiefs for Change board member.

Smith is a graduate of Denver’s George Washington High School, and he comes from a family of educators. He previously served as principal of three Denver schools: Skyland Community High School and Barrett Elementary School, both of which are now closed, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College, a middle and high school in far northeast Denver.

Smith also oversaw for three years the district’s biggest school turnaround effort in far northeast Denver. He then left to work as a district administrator in Charlotte, North Carolina, and as a deputy superintendent in Oakland, California. He returned to Denver a few years ago.

Smith will soon have a new position in Denver Public Schools: senior deputy superintendent for equity. The job is part of a reorganization by Cordova of the district’s central office, meant in part to cut costs and in part to align to her vision.

Other new participants in the year-long “future chiefs” program include education leaders from Chicago, Indianapolis, San Antonio, Cleveland, Louisiana, and Florida. The participants will receive training, coaching, and mentoring from members of the Chiefs for Change network.

Chiefs for Change was founded by former Florida governor Jeb Bush in the 2000s but has since split from the foundation that launched it and taken a bipartisan turn. The group advocates for school choice, culturally diverse curriculum, tough accountability standards, and the rights of immigrant students, among other issues.