Susana Cordova leaving Denver; reaction pours in

Superintendent Susana Cordova, a Denver native who has spent her entire professional career in Denver Public Schools, is leaving  to take a deputy superintendent position in Dallas, the nation’s 14th largest school district.

Here is some community reaction (to be updated as more comes in):

Vernon Jones, Jr., executive director, Northeast Denver Innovation Zone:

“If anyone knew Denver, it was Susana.  She was a DPS student, a DPS parent, a DPS teacher, an instructional superintendent within DPS, a deputy superintendent, then superintendent. I do not believe she was ever given the same opportunity as those who came before her. I feel like the deck was stacked against her from the start because people never allowed her to move toward the future. So it’s a loss for kids in my view; it’s a shame.

“If the board wants to have a smooth transition, it look to someone like Dwight.”  (Referring to Dwight Jones who currently serves as Denver Public Schools Senior Deputy Superintendent, Equity and Engagement, and is a former superintendent of Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada and past Colorado Commissioner of Education.)

Superintendent Cordova represented us, Denver…We should have learned from her lived experiences and allowed it to inform the shifts and the supports necessary for all children within our district. She took the job in the shadow of a previous superintendent (Tom Boasberg) who had lost all credibility with and connection to community. I believe she paid the price for him, which makes me sick, to say the least. He led pretty much unchecked for 10 years and her short time was constantly undermined, publicly and privately, by people who convicted her for his sins.

“Knowing her, she would not want this to be about her or the other adult politics that sadly, continue to dominate. This is about children who must be served well by our district. This is transforming a reality where mediocrity is the hero and success has become the villain. Our charge remains and courageous leadership that is committed to building a healthy collective of community is still required. I wish her well and definitely will continue to push for the positive paradigm shifts for the students of Denver Public Schools.”

Nicholas Martinez, Co-Founder & Executive Director Transform Education Now

“It’s sad to see one of our own leave to serve children elsewhere.  I’m excited for Superintendent Cordova and her family and the Dallas ISD but am disappointed that our groundbreaking Latina superintendent is leaving after just two years.  I am looking forward to engaging DPS leadership alongside families and communities to ensure our kids have strong leadership moving forward.”

 

Janiece Mackey, Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism

“We need to be mindful to have racial equity front and center as we find a new leader for the district.  We need to move beyond simply talking about equity and talk about ways to operationalize it, particularly for Black students.”

 

Van Schoales, president, A+ Colorado

“It is tragic that Denver has lost such a remarkable educational leader, and it’s horrible that the Denver school board allowed this to happen. That this might happen has been telegraphed for a year. I wish this board had recognized what a gift Susana was to this community, as a product of DPS and a leader in the district for more than 30 years. In Susana’s years in leadership positions, the district has made so many great gains for all sorts of kids, including English language learners and others who otherwise were not receiving a quality education. The board must now look for a new leader who has a laser-like focus on supporting the most vulnerable kids and families in the district with academic and social-emotional supports.”

Papa Dia, founder and president, African Leadership Group

“This is very sad news. Susana always did a great job with community outreach. She reached out regularly to the African Leadership Group, and she always responded when we reached out to her. She attended our events and was always present for us. As the school board searches for a replacement, board members must make sure the new superintendent has no political affiliations with teachers unions or other interest groups. The new superintendent must represent the wishes of the community. This means being open to charter schools and parental choice, and placing a high value on engaging with the community. The community must be involved in the hiring of the next superintendent. It should be an open process, not something that takes place in the dark.”

Dan Schaller, President, Colorado League of Charter Schools

We thank Superintendent Cordova for her tireless efforts on behalf of all students in Denver Public Schools. Time and again, she has risen above politics to ensure that the children of Denver have access to the high-quality and innovative options they deserve. We wish her nothing but the best as she moves on to her new role with Dallas Independent School District.”

 

Here is Cordova’s departure announcement:

Dear DPS Community:

Having the opportunity to lead the school district where I started as a student and then became a  classroom teacher has been an honor–it’s an incredibly meaningful and important part of my life. The Denver community is where I grew up, where Eric and I raised and educated our children, and where I’ve spent my entire career as an educator. It has meant so much to me–as a student, as a teacher, as a mom and as a leader. And so it is with mixed emotions and a bittersweet feeling that I share the news that I have decided to accept a position in Dallas Independent School District as the Deputy Superintendent of Leading and Learning.

As the child of Mexican-American parents and a first-generation college graduate, I know that I owe a debt of gratitude to DPS, and I have been honored to spend the past 31 years as a member of Team DPS. Thank you for your support over the last two years as we have weathered many challenges but also seen great success. I’m so proud of how Team DPS and the entire community comes together–no matter how high the hill–to lift up our schools and our children. During the past two years, we’ve experienced a teacher strike, a “bomb cyclone” snowstorm, budget cuts and reorganizations, and a global pandemic. And throughout all of this, we’ve invested in our classrooms and our teachers; strengthened our connections and collaboration with our educators and leaders; elevated equity as the defining value driving all of our work; and been boosted by our community’s historic and record-high support of our 2020 Bond and Mill Levy initiatives on this past Election Day.

I am especially proud of the work we have done to position equity at the core of our identity. We have conducted training for educators in culturally responsive practices, established equity boot camps and the year-long Equity Experience. We have created school-based Black Excellence Plans that are designed to ensure that our students of color, and particularly our Black students, have the support they need to be successful in their academic and social-emotional development. In the most recent school year, despite the global pandemic and the sudden move to remote learning, we had record-high graduation rates, record-low remediation rates and more students than ever taking and passing rigorous courses. As a former teacher and school leader, I am also proud of the work I have led to change the tone and tenor of the relationship with our teachers and school leaders. We are a more collaborative district, and I have built systems and structures to sustain this work going forward. The historic passage of our 2020 Bond and Mill Levy, with the highest voter support in over 30 years, will also provide desperately needed resources to help our students thrive. We can collectively claim this success in the name of our students, and I’m so grateful to our community for that strong vote of confidence.

I am sad to be leaving Denver, but I will be eternally grateful to everyone I have worked with and learned from over the past decades. I will work with the Board and the senior-leadership team over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition, and I want you to know that Denver will forever be home to me.

I’ve always given my all to DPS. And it has given me so much in return. I will carry with me the memory of my first day teaching middle school in northwest Denver and the first student who walked through my classroom door–Hilda Contreras. And I carry with me the thrill I felt when Hilda reached out  to me, 25 years later, to share with me the success her son had at Emily Griffith High School, where he graduated with honors after struggling at multiple high schools around the Denver area. I will always be uplifted by the brilliance and dedication of the wonderful educators I’ve worked alongside and worked to bring to Denver. And I will always be deeply grateful for the chance to lead the schools that, throughout my entire life, have meant so much to me and my family.  DPS is all of us–a community dedicated to its children. Our schools are game-changers for Denver’s kids, and they will continue to make a difference in our students’ lives for generations to come, just like DPS did for me and my family.

Thank you for all that you do to make the difference for generations of kids in Denver.

Warm regards,
Susana

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