Summer | Issue 13 | Date: August 18, 2021
Funding Great Schools. Rooted in Community. 
Community Welcomes Superintendent, Dr. Alex Marrero
It's back to school! RootED Denver welcomes back DPS educators, students, families, grantees and partners.

Education advocacy groups, families and students welcomed new Denver Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero at a community event at the Kepner Campus earlier this month.

During a moderated conversation with the community, Marrero emphasized the importance of shared, informed decision-making.

“The only way I know how to function is by being informed by the folks who are going to be impacted the most," Marrero said, noting that students, parents, community members and educators must be heard in the decision-making process.

He elaborated and said he’d like to have a “transition team” of advisors in the community to help him identify priorities for the district.

During the community forum, parents, community members and education advocates urged Marrero to invest more in teachers, expand after-school and extracurricular opportunities, and prioritize student mental health as schools return to in-person learning.

Advocacy Coalition Asks for More Transparency, Strategic Planning to Address Learning Disruptions
A coalition of advocacy groups is urging the Denver Board of Education to articulate its plan to provide academic support and interventions for students affected by learning disruptions during the pandemic.

They are also asking the board to be more transparent about how federal stimulus dollars will be spent to benefit students.

In a letter to the board, African Leadership Group, Latino Education Coalition, Our Turn, Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, Servicios de la Raza, Stand for Children Colorado and Transform Education Now have asked board members to:

  • Have a public discussion on academic outcomes that includes literacy and math proficiency scores disaggregated by race and income levels. 
  • Conduct a school-by-school analysis of student needs for academic intervention that is grounded in racial equity. This must include strategies to support students in Special Education and to provide English Language Learners with the language skills they need to meaningfully and equally participate in school.
  • Create and report out on a tiered support system to ensure that resources are going to students who need them the most.
  • Create and make public a protocol for the smooth re-entry of studentsa large percentage of whom have not taken part in typical classroom learning in over 18 months. This should include a trauma-informed approach developed and executed by every school.

The united organizations wrote that the board's adopted 2021-2022 budget is not transparent in how stimulus funds will be spent, and that the board has not conducted adequate community engagement on how the added dollars will be spent. They say the board must have a better grasp of how students are performing in order to be strategic in how the funds are spent.

In the delivery of the letter to the board members, Ariel Smith and Nicholas Martinez of Transform Education Now wrote, "As we head back into school, we want to express our gratitude for your service on the Board of Education and our enthusiasm for the onboarding of Dr. Marrero—we hope this is the beginning of many conversations that center our students and their futures."
Disrupting the School to Prison Pipeline
Two Denver charter schools are forming partnerships with local courts to keep kids out of detention centers and in school, working to flip the school to prison pipeline completely upside down.

Academy of Urban Learning (AUL Denver) is a small, trauma-informed campus with strong wrap-around, social-emotional supports. AUL is proud to support all students, including students who are court involved. Some students who reported having interactions with police as early as kindergarten, are thriving working with teachers trained in brain science to work past the impact of childhood traumas. Educators at AUL believe that the way to disrupt the school to prison pipeline is creating more trauma-informed schools and finding ways for schools like theirs to be a viable option to a detention center. 

This year AUL is creating a trauma informed instruction handbook as a way for other schools to replicate the work. The school’s freedom as a charter allows educators to be innovators. "We hope more traditional schools can use what we learned to continue to improve how schools serve kids,” said AUL Denver Principal Jennifer Jackson. Read more about AUL Denver's efforts.
Another champion building similar bright futures is 5280 High School, now working with the Denver Teen Drug Court to integrate teens into programs of recovery rather than juvenile justice. 5280 started an after-school program, 5280 REC (Recovery, Education, Community), serving students in the court system recovering from addiction by providing a strong pro-social peer community, specialized wellness supports, and an engaging educational environment. 5280 REC aims to expand to serve more students in Denver. Recovery Director Keith Hayes says the vision is for judges in Drug Court to regularly offer their school as the best option for teens in recovery to flourish.
CLLARO Earns an Impressive UnidosUS Nod
Congratulations to the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization (CLLARO), recognized as the Far West Affiliate of the Year during the 2021 UnidosUS Annual Conference Awards!

The honor for CCLARO is significant, as UnidosUS is a leading Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. RootED Denver is proud to support CLLARO, which aims to reduce systemic inequities in income, education, health, and policies that have limited opportunities for Colorado's growing Latino population.

In a post on its website, UnidosUS celebrated CCLARO's work, saying, "For years, CLLARO has worked to empower Latinos through leadership development, advocacy, and policy research to strengthen Colorado—strengthening civic engagement and advocacy programs in their community in order to empower and protect the Latino community."

UnidosUS also acknowledged CCLARO's work to register Latino voters and to address health disparities amid the pandemic, and to provide "bilingual, culturally competent and accurate information" about COVID-19 to community members.

DSST Elevate Opens at Full Enrollment With Waitlist
DSST: Elevate Northeast High School welcomed its founding class of ninth-grade students to its campus this week.

The newest addition to the DSST charter school network is starting the year with full enrollment and a waitlist, after families and educators pressed hard for the school to be allowed to open and serve DSST: Middle School @ Noel Campus students in 2021-2022.  
The Denver Board of Education voted in October to delay the school’s opening, leaving more than 150 middle schoolers without a clear path for their high school journey.

The Colorado State Board of Education intervened in November, ordering the Denver board to reconsider, and that ultimately prompted the Denver board to reverse course.   

Best of luck to the DSST: Elevate educators and the inaugural class of Bulldogs!
RootED Denver in the News
Broadcast media's Adam Morgan with KUVO, an independent, public radio station, talked with RootED Board Chair Dr. Brenda Allen and RootED Managing Director Pat Donovan last month and discussed the organization's mission and grantees, recovery from learning disruptions caused by the pandemic, and the ever-critical work around equity in education.

"The notion of equity comes up time and time again," Dr. Allen told Morgan. "One of the things that I appreciate at RootED is that we focus on equity and we strive to be clear about what we mean by that."

Allen encouraged listeners to become more familiar with what equity in education means and emphasized that student success should not be predicted by circumstance or race.

"That means working toward policies, practices and programs that are strategic, systemic and sustainable to ensure that everybody gets the resources, opportunities and skills they need, not only to survive but to thrive," Allen said.

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Allen and Donovan.
Supporting Innovation Zones
Innovation Zones are using a new newsletter to advocate for and inform about their work, while also connecting parents, educators and community members with resources and volunteer opportunities with the Zones.

Support by Zone parents was recently evident in an incredible display of conviction when collectively, the three innovation zones hosted an Innovation Community Circle that over 500 members of the community watched live.

Subscribe to the Innovation Zone Advocacy Newsletter for the latest updates.
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