Feb. 1, 2024
Celebrating Black History Month and Supporting Black Excellence
Dear Team DPS,

As Black History Month begins, it is important to take a moment to reflect on the rich tapestry of African American contributions to society as a whole as well as our DPS community. Black History Month is not just a historical tribute, it is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements, resilience and rich culture of our Black community. 

In 2016, Dr. Sharon Bailey -- extraordinary DPS educator, parent and alum -- wrote the Bailey Report, which highlighted inequities hindering the success of our Black students and educators. We still use this report to drive concentrated and intentional efforts around improving Black Success and Excellence in DPS.

In our ongoing commitment to celebrating Black Excellence and honoring the Black Experience in DPS, I am proud to highlight some of the initiatives and programs put into action to address systemic issues brought to light by the Bailey Report.

  • Black Excellence Resolution: In 2019, the DPS Board of Education put forth this resolution requiring the district to provide equitable education and opportunities to all our Black students. The resolution prioritizes targeted efforts to improve Black students’ academic achievement and an educational environment where Black Excellence can thrive.

  • Formation of the Black Student Success (BSS) Team: Led by Michael Atkins, former principal of Stedman Elementary, the BSS team focuses on analyzing the root causes of disparities in achievement and opportunities, as well as identifying the barriers that hinder the progress of our Black students. This work will aim to increase graduation rates, improve grade-level performance, boost enrollment in rigorous classes and ensure that our Black students feel safe and supported in our schools.

  • Black Family Engagement: Iyana Hunter, the Black Family Engagement Specialist on our Family and Community Engagement team, has been creating stronger and deeper connections with our Black families. Iyana is also working diligently to support schools in increasing their Black family engagement, sharing resources and much more. 
  • Additionally, we continue to work with the Black Family Advisory Council (BFAC), whose mission is to empower families of Black students to ensure informed decisions are made to positively impact students through advocacy, information and active community engagement.

  • Black Voices in Color Podcast: Students from three schools dive into the power of storytelling, addressing relevant topics and experiences from the eyes of our youth. This platform allows listeners to listen, learn and collectively work toward creating an inclusive environment that values diverse perspectives. Watch episodes on the DPS YouTube channel and on any podcast platform!

  • Black Student Alliance (BSA): The BSA Scholarship was created through the generosity of community members. This scholarship helps foster the college and career-bound culture within the state and will provide three scholarships to seniors. The deadline to apply is Feb. 17.
  • This year, the Second Annual BSA Banquet will be held on Feb. 22 at the Auraria Campus, where the Student Activities team will host all BSAs from around the district, facilitate workshops and present awards for Black Excellence. Watch last school year’s celebration here.

  • Culturally Responsive Books, Curriculum and Training: 
  • Curriculum – In alignment with our Know Justice Know Peace (KJKP) Resolution, we have developed content-specific, culturally-sustaining audit tools that are used to review curricular materials and inform revisions. These criteria are also used to inform future adoptions or development of materials. 
  • Books – Our Library Services Team is continuously developing Culturally Responsive, Inclusive and Linguistically Diverse eBook collections in Sora (our digital library). Additionally, we developed a book collection inspired by the KJKP resolution. The titles selected illuminate themes of anti-racism, Blackness, self-confidence, youth activism and Black Joy. 
  • Trainings – District trainings are available to employees, which address topics around equity and cultural responsiveness to foster healthy discussions and critical thinking.

Knowing that 14% of our 89,000 DPS students are Black, we must continue to be intentional in our work to support these students’ success. Throughout the month, we will continue to highlight the greatness and contributions of our Black students, educators and community, knowing that they make significant impacts all year long. Stay tuned to DPS social media (including my X and Instagram accounts) and the DPS newsletters for Black History Month highlights.

In collaboration,

Dr. Alex Marrero
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