REVITALIZING DENVER’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS
My biggest role on the School Board is to refocus the conversation back to our students and away from political grandstanding. We need a vision for the district – and that is Great Schools in Your Neighborhood.
Great schools should and ought to be the number one priority of this board. We need to know what YOU think are great schools, what your neighborhood wants from a great school, and how we can make it happen.
That’s my job as your school board member. Not to get lost in the politics, but to keep it personal – schools that matter for your child.
You deserve it. And the good news is we already have a foundation. Our students, teachers, administrators, and schools have excellence everywhere. Our goal is to establish the pillars of what create excellence and ensure each school has the opportunity to be excellent if gaps exist.
I am embarking on a three month listening tour to understand what YOU want in a great school, how we can work to make it happen. But we have to get started and here are some of the key issues I’ve already heard from people across Denver:
Supporting our Teachers
We best support our students by supporting our teachers. And let’s be honest, Denver has become too unaffordable for our teachers. We need to elevate how we support our teachers. I have a Teacher Bill of Rights that promises our educators:
1. **Guaranteed Highest Paid Wage in the Region**: Through a city-wide ballot initiative, Denver's educators will be assured of receiving the highest wages in the region. Teachers will begin at $60K/annually - with a 2% + inflation increase annually for the next 5 years.
2. **Best Healthcare in the Region** DPS will provide its teachers who have been with the district for more than one year with three months of maternity leave and two months of paternity leave. DPS will also allow a spouse to be part of a teacher’s healthcare plan. DPS employees will also have subsidized egg freezing, IVF, and fertility benefits added to their healthcare.
3. **Teacher Housing Initiative**: DPS will provide mortgage down payment assistance for its teachers to purchase homes. In addition, by 2025, DPS will produce a plan, in collaboration with the city and associated agencies, to provide subsidized housing for 2,000 teachers and employees.
4. **Best Mental Health Support in the Region**: Every educator will have access to comprehensive mental health resources (for students and teachers) and training through partnerships with Denver Health and other organizations.
5. **Meaningful Coaching and Development**: Tailored coaching and mentorship programs will be available to all educators, fostering continuous growth. Funding for summer and other learning opportunities.
6. **Commitment to increasing BIPOC representation** Enhanced DPS pipeline development plan for students to become teachers. Targeted recruiting efforts. Unconscious bias training.
We should have never removed SROs from schools in 2020 without a clear plan on how to ensure students and teachers would remain safe. I support SROs in schools presently, as do over 70% of our residents. Our community is afraid to send our children to our schools and we must change that feeling.
We must immediately reimagine the role of SROs and reconsider how they are deployed to prevent unnecessary ticketing and targeting of black and Latino students. And we must aspire to remove all guns from schools and believe that we can keep our schools safe without police officers.
We also need different learning environments that can accommodate our students in need. Students facing criminal accusations inside or outside school or who are struggling with severe disciplinary issues should be in different schools where they can receive the help they need.
For instance, Cherry Creek Public Schools provides expelled students with a curated curriculum, including courses in math, and language arts, but also small group processing sessions, and their staff partner with affected families, as well as mental health professionals for care. This instruction takes place outside of traditional classrooms. We should provide similar services and options.
Great Schools in Your Neighborhood
DPS must have excellent schools. Period – and every family should be close to one.
We must ensure every school is excellent and evolve from the debate over charter, innovation, and traditional schools. DPS should have all types of schools in its district and parents should decide what school is best for their children.
I choiced into East High School and its environment allowed me to thrive. 50% of parents in DPS leverage some form of choice. We need to ensure the choice process is equitable and does not worsen our staggering achievement gap between our students. That starts with great schools in every neighborhood - so families that lack adequate transportation can partake in the choice process.
Mental Health Support & Wrap Around Services
Colorado consistently leads the nation in teen suicide rates. The climate around this abhorrent fact is getting worse as we recover from the pandemic. DPS must become a nationwide leader in the fight for our students’ mental health.
As a School Board member, I will:
Partner with Denver Health to create more school based clinics that provide mental health services and wrap around support for our students and teachers.
Provide professional development and training services for our teachers to better identify and aid students struggling with mental health
Push for more mental health funding at the city and state level for our schools
Denver is no longer affordable for our teachers. We must make drastic changes to how we think about housing to ensure our teachers can live in the city they make excellent.
I am proposing that DPS - as the second largest landowner in the City and County of Denver - lease its land to not for profit developers to build housing that will be deeded to our educators. The city of Santa Clara in California did something similar. We can deed the land to ensure that our educators have first access to affordable housing.
These are ambitious plans, but our teachers deserve ambitious ideas.
SUPPORT OUR FUTURE
Your voice and donations will help now more than ever. If we’re going to start focusing on our students and take politics out of our schools, we’ll need your support. There are no contribution limits. Anything you can provide helps us so much. Thank you for your generosity and commitment to academic excellence for our students.