LifestyleEducationBack to School


Denver Public Schools Superintendent lays out goals for 2022-2023 school year

Dr. Alex Marrero is in his second year as superintendent
alex marrero.jpg
Posted at 10:22 AM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-22 12:27:31-04

DENVER — As a new school year begins for thousands of Denver students, Denver7 anchor Nicole Brady spoke with DPS Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero about the district's strategic plan, equity, teacher pay, school board drama and test scores.

Note: This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Nicole Brady: What is the overriding theme this year as we sort of move beyond the last two years of COVID and how that clouded the beginning of every school year? Is the feeling different this year?

Dr. Alex Marrero: Very different. Thank you for that question. I've said it to my board. I've said it to the public, I've said it to my leaders and my teachers that although I loved the last year, it was a great exploration for me, it was the uncertainty of what the year was going to be for me and for everybody else, for parents. So when I compare last year to this year, it's hard to compare the two. But if I can, I'm much more excited about this year because I can guarantee some things, I can guarantee some strategy, I can guarantee some certainty in terms of what we did well last year. So it's not going back to normal because normal was never good enough.

NB: Let's talk a little more about the strategic plan. What does it mean to lay out a strategic plan and how will that guide your decisions?

AM: I want to clarify terminology. I'm big on words. It’s a strategic roadmap. That may seem insignificant for some, but it's very important for me. So strategic thinking doesn't go away. A road map has many ways that you can get to your destination. A plan is very rigid. And what happened there in the pandemic, there were a lot of plans that were crumbled up and tossed out the window. So strategic plans went out the window. So we're not functioning under a plan, we're functioning in a mindset, thinking strategically in a strategic roadmap. So if we do have to pivot, we will pivot, but we won't lose sight of our goals.

NB: You mentioned that equity is woven into your system?

AM: We do not have a chief of equity anymore. Equity is everybody's responsibility. It's our collective responsibility. So equity is the work of everyone from our bus driver who picks up the student the morning to the escort to paraprofessional, who supports them on the way to the classroom.

NB: By the time this interview airs, we will have seen the new standardized test data. I was able to receive a copy of it already. And we do know that students suffered learning loss during the pandemic. Have you started to lay out goals, specific goals for math literacy and graduation goals?

AM: Of course. The data is out, so everybody has seen it. What I can say is that it's a shared offense, what's happened to our educational system. So DPS is not immune and is also not the only district that really needs to recover. What we can say is, our schools unfortunately need to do better if we're looking at our scores. But I have to also say that it was expected. And you'll see that we have intentional measures and metrics in our roadmap to make sure that we close our gaps.

NB: How are bilingual learners doing?

AM: Our multilingual learners, as expected, really suffered in terms of the most recent data. Those are the ones that usually receive the most support. And support was interrupted in the last few years. So that's why the data is not surprising. Especially in the younger grades of primary grades. Dual language research shows that once you get into grade three, four or five, six, that's when students take off in both languages. And if you don't see something attributed in terms of achievement, it's okay. The research shows that that's what happens when you are being taught in two different languages. But when it comes to our multilingual learners, which is a different group of students in a different axis of the educational model, every moment counts and data shows that every moment did matter.

NB: We need good teachers, obviously, to achieve those goals. But many teachers can't afford to live in the area where they teach. They can't afford to buy a home and rent has gone up. What are your concerns about that?

AM: I'm happy that this has become something of late that we're speaking about. It's not just a teacher issue. It's not just an educator issue. It's also a parent concern as well. And it's not just moving up to Broomfield, it's moving out of state. So we're losing them altogether. And I don't have an answer for that because there's not a DPS solution. We're part of the solution. I know that we can do something, whether it's, you know, building low-income housing and perhaps even on DPS property, all controversial topics. But what I'm saying is, I'm willing to come to the table to see how I can be part of the solution, because once we lose institutional knowledge, that's a major loss for DPS. And once we lose parents and the corresponding students, then now we have to downsize our footprint. And no one wants to talk about school closures, which is an inevitable. And as you're seeing around our community, our neighboring districts have already announced closures. Don't be surprised if we're next, because the numbers dictate what we have to do. So I beg your forgiveness, but it's something that we need to do for us to make sure that every student gets the best educational experience.

NB: I want to talk a little bit about the school board, what would you say to parents who are reading these articles about the school board not being on the same page when it comes to their students?

AM: I can say that not only are they fully functional, they're incredibly brilliant in my one-on-ones. So I have incredible amount of respect for all seven of them because when I meet with them, not only do they push my thinking, I see their passion in every session. I want to acknowledge that perhaps when they get together, as of late they haven't been in a common accord. But I know that's going to change because now we have a strategic road map.

NB: Are there competing interests between Hispanic and Black students or white and students of color?

AM: Well, I think that we need to work together for not only those students, but for all students. I inherited a Black Excellence Resolution. And also, we've been under a consent decree that addresses multi-lingual learners. It shows how unified this district really is. So I do not think that there is a Black and brown debate. What I think is a Black and brown support mechanism that needs to continue to happen because I inherited one. And I think that our board members are really passionate,but I don't think there's a divide at all.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent lays out goals for 2022-2023 school year