Words fail me.
Kidding—you should be so lucky.
This week, it is embarrassing to be a teacher in the Denver Public Schools (DPS). Somehow, this district seems to find a way to flub up incredible opportunities.
And we only have ourselves to blame.
So, if you truly believe in working to inspire young people to find their identities, to encourage them to graduate high school, go to college and give back to their respective communities, now is the time for democratic revolution. Now is the time to hold DPS leadership accountable, to demand change, meaningful change, not the game of bureaucratic musical chairs that the district has played for years. Now is the time to elect an entirely new Board of Education, a body that lacks the courage to take decisive action for our kids when it matters most. And, finally, now is the time to start investigating other districts if you have children who will begin school any time soon. My baby daughter is only four months old, but at this moment, there is no way I will leave her education in the incompetent hand of the Denver Public Schools.
And, by the way, this is not about the teachers. My colleagues are good people who know how to teach, but they are running for the hills as this comedy of errors called Denver District One continues.
In case you missed it, after a secret tribunal of less than 24 hours, the Board of Education appointed Michael Bennet, Mayor John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff, superintendent to replace the dearly departed (no, really, dearly) Jerry Wartgow, whose legacy includes the flight of quality teachers to other districts, strained relations with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, and an increasingly centralized, top-heavy behemoth of a mess.
In case you also missed it, the Bored, er, Board of Education had the opportunity to appoint a woman of color. Check that, two opportunities. To boot, both of these impressive, well-spoken women were chock full of urban education experience. Both women had Ph. Ds. Both women would have answered the call with authority, advocated for the children of this district, especially children of color, and made DPS something to be proud of again. Imagine the impact a woman of color, in a position of authority, would have had on children of color, especially young women of color. It is positively mind-boggling.
In case you missed this also (man, where have you been?), Bennet has none of those credentials. He’s a Yale-educated lawyer whose most recent educational experience was Senior English class.
Oh, and he’s as white as the day is long.
Remember when the DPS school board, led by then-president Elaine Gantz-Berman fired Robert “Chip” Zullinger after less than a year? In case you missed that, he committed the egregious offense of accepting funds for the district without checking with the Board first. It was earmarked for ELA research and development, and came from a shady firm known only as the University of Colorado. The board, which has changed little since then, showed this columnist where it placed our children on its list of priorities on that day.
Adding to this farce, is the fact that two of the current school board’s members are also members of the Hickenlooper administration. Yeah, I know, jetting around on that cute little Vespa, he has duped enough of us to have some real clout. Hick told Channel 7 News that Bennet’s appointment was “a wonderful choice,” on “a very positive day for the Denver Public Schools and the city of Denver.”
Of course he said that! Sure beats, “we feel bad for these hyper-qualified women of color, but we are going to appoint a white guy with no experience. Thank you, goodnight!”
I have been accused of being a radical, a malcontent, a complainer, and other things that cannot be printed here. But this? This is like shooting fish in a barrel.
The Board of Education ought to be ashamed, especially since it voted unanimously to appoint Bennet. The idea that no one in the room even raised the possibility that a woman of color, highly qualified and experienced, would be a good fit for the Denver Public Schools, is preposterous. We, the voters should remember this the next time we have the chance to vote for our board members, some of whom have made a concerted effort to reach out to votes of color. No, that is not a typo.
I am certain that the words of a 29-year-old malcontent will fall on deaf ears. After all, leadership in the city of Denver is about self-congratulation, self-preservation and checkbook activism, not real work, and certainly not taking decisive, revolutionary action where it is needed. The DPS Board of education has once again failed to show that children of color matter.
But then, what else is new?
Gerardo A. Muñoz is an independent journalist.