Originally published as a letter to the editor in Greater Park Hill News – Sep 4, 2018
By James Roy and Andrew Lefkowits
Denver Public Schools is at a turning point. Under the leadership of outgoing Superintendent Tom Boasberg the district has made important progress, and, by many measures, the educational landscape looks much better than it did a decade ago. A better future is now imaginable, but, at our current rate of improvement, it will be many years before we are even close to educating all our kids as they deserve. We must do better.
We believe that top-down leadership alone will not drive the next wave of change the district desperately needs. Too many people who are affected by district policies are not given a seat at the table when those policies are decided. We can only realize the greatest gains for students going forward by unleashing the power of the community to change things from the bottom up.
The best partner for the new superintendent will be community members who have meaningful avenues of engagement and are truly empowered to co-create solutions and lead the change required to meet shared goals.
The school board has outlined an ambitious community engagement plan for the superintendent search. The plan promises to look to the community for “direct advice” and to incorporate that advice “into the decisions to the maximum extent possible.” We applaud this sentiment. But, by limiting the search process to a mere two months, this plan is unlikely to be fully realized, and even less likely to provide avenues of engagement for those who are not usually included in these conversations. Meaningful community engagement takes time and there is no more important time to engage in it than now.
The board should extend the timeline until at least the Spring of 2019 and begin immediately to implement a community engagement process that is inclusive, respectful, and collaborative. Not to do so will further alienate communities whose support is needed for the district to succeed, and will set up the next superintendent for failure.
We urge readers to follow progress on the search at https://supersearch.dpsk12.org and to call or write the board at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and to ask that they extend the timeline.