DPS commits to workforce equity through ongoing bond projects

After voters passed the $795 million bond, DPS made a commitment to ensure 24% of vendor contracts were with women and minority owned businesses. They've exceeded that goal.
Denver Public Schools
Posted at 12:54 PM, Mar 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-20 11:57:02-04

DENVER — Building minds starts with building solid foundations.

“It’s all about the children, the staff, teachers, students’ safety,” said Johnny Martinez, owner of Martinez Fire Protection.

His company is working on installing the fire sprinkler system at Montbello High School, one of Denver Public Schools’ ongoing bond projects.

Voters agreed to pass the $795 million bond in 2020 to update and improve school buildings across the district as well as break ground on new ones.

“Currently, [over] 70% of our students are students of color. We have a very diverse student population. We'd love to see our vendor supplier population be as diverse as our student population,” said Murugan Palani, director of the office of Business Diversity for DPS.

Palani has been leading the charge in promoting equity through these bond projects.

“The commitment started about 20 years ago when DPS decided to have a program to help local women in minority-owned businesses with opportunities with the district. And it went from just being an encouragement program, all the way being an actual ‘goals being set’ on projects back in 2016,” said Palani.

This time, the district pledged 24% of the bond budget towards partnering with women and minority-owned businesses.

They’re currently 5% over that goal.

Over 70 women and minority-owned businesses have contracts with the district.

“As we all know, the stronger the small business community is, the stronger the whole community is. And when the community is strong, we're strong as a district,” said Palani.

DPS commits to workforce equity through ongoing bond projects

For Martinez, the Montbello High School project is a testament to a strong relationship with DPS.

His first contract with the district was in 2013. Back then, he only had three employees.

Now, the company is nearing 60 employees – and he credits the ongoing partnership with DPS for its continued success.

“I love it. Being a Marine for 15 years, it's all about commitment. It's all about integrity. And [DPS is] definitely committed to us as I am to them. They can call us at any time and we're there for them,” Martinez said.

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