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Innovation zone director on DPS banning her from schools

On Monday, November 13th, I spoke at public comment (as I commonly do) as the Executive Director of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ). As I exited the room, Edwin Hudson, Chief of Talent for Denver Public Schools (DPS), asked me for a ‘word’ and escorted me to a corner of the lobby.

He said he had a letter and notified me that DPS took action to limit my access to students and staff, and any DPS building, including my NDIZ schools – McAuliffe Manual, McAuliffe International, and Swigert International. He said it was a response to what DPS says are the findings of an internal investigation.

Here are more details about this investigation.

DPS failed to undertake an independent investigation. Instead, DPS utilized DPS personnel to investigate a DPS school, DPS staff, and me, a non-DPS employee. There was no due process, no independence, no communication with stakeholders, and no attorney representation allowed. DPS has refused to provide NDIZ with any evidence to support its conclusions. Many employees at McAuliffe International report investigators have never contacted them.

I began this investigation in partnership with DPS. On August 2, 2023, I alerted the DPS Legal Team to a social media post that reported a sliding lock on the outside of a classroom door at McAuliffe.

In the subsequent weeks, my status changed from witness to respondent. I am not sure why. DPS denied my requests for legal representation in conversations with DPS investigators, and I declined to continue participating in this internal DPS investigation. Instead, NDIZ and I submitted a lengthy description of events through our legal counsel.

DPS never met with me about the results of their investigation, even though their letter was addressed to me. For nearly two months, I have had no communication from Grant Guyer, the Zone Leader Liaison in DPS, despite multiple phone calls and emails. Instead, DPS shared their investigation results with two members of the NDIZ Board. The letter had no evidence.

My summary of the DPS investigation letter is as follows:

  1. DPS found no evidence that I knew of a lock on the outside of any classroom door at McAuliffe.

  2. DPS found no evidence that I had any knowledge of the alleged discriminatory use of seclusion as a means of addressing escalated and disruptive student behavior.

  3. DPS concluded that I must have known about a de-escalation room because it was in my office. I have no office at McAuliffe International. The truth is, no one at McAuliffe International used the term ‘seclusion room,’ and I believe that term started on social media.

  4. DPS concluded that I must have heard about issues of seclusion when I met with my DPS special education team more than 30 times in the 2022-2023 school year. It was never discussed. I would have acted on such information.

  5. DPS said I answered a hypothetical question about DPS policy incorrectly and shared that they also found my DPS central office special education partner also answered the question on policy incorrectly.

  6. DPS found no discrimination related to student seclusion at McAuliffe International.

I am an educator with a 35-year career across districts including Cherry Creek, Denver, and Jefferson County. I have never reached out to the media about school issues. At my core, I think educators should come together to solve issues for students. Currently, DPS leans on investigation rather than collaboration. This is not good for our students.

In my opinion, this investigation is tied to DPS’ change in philosophy on Innovation Zones and possible retaliation for Kurt Dennis’ media interview–I was Kurt’s boss. The teachers, leaders, and staff at McAuliffe International, Swigert, McAuliffe Manual, and work incredibly hard for students.

The Innovation renewal process has distracted them and me from our most important job: our students.