Feb. 19, 2021
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
-- Mother Teresa
Rising to the Moment
Dear Team DPS,

We are going through a transition period in a variety of ways -- we are supporting our students as they transition back to schools in-person, supporting our staff in accessing vaccines and preparing for a post-pandemic world, and focusing on accelerating learning as a result of the disruptions we have experienced due to the pandemic. At the same time, we are preparing the district for a leadership transition as we search for our next superintendent. 

Once in a generation, possibilities arise that shape us as individuals, define us as a community, and bend the trajectory of our collective future. This may be a moment of great uncertainty, but this much is clear: How we rise in this moment will impact the life chances for young people in our district and the chance for a more prosperous future for us as a city.

Through all of this change, there are three main opportunities for us to grab hold of and rise to the challenge: 

Opportunities to adapt to changes in the K-12 environment that will greet us in a post-pandemic world. The departure of large numbers of students from our public schools is an example of the changes we can expect to encounter. DPS is like other districts from across the country that report enrollment declines in the range of 3-5% or more.

Opportunities to address learning loss that is impacting some students more than others. Like many urban districts, we know our DPS team members have our hands full coping with the ever-changing conditions that affect daily instruction. Remote learning has put a magnifying glass on existing inequities between high-income and low-income students, which has had a disproportionate impact on students of color and other historically marginalized students.

Opportunities to support our DPS team members. Life in the COVID world has taken a toll on our educators’ stamina and endurance, and DPS and the community need to be proactive in our support of our educators and team members. Early planning will need to involve outreach to and partnership with our educators and administrators. This outreach could include structured interviews, focus groups, surveys, town halls, and other suitable engagement techniques.

Each of these opportunities align within our focus on the Equity Cornerstone, our crisis priorities and our transition priorities in the 2021-22 school year. With equity at the center of our work, we can send a signal to the best national superintendent talent that DPS is the place to be; share an exciting vision with our DPS team members; give all DPS students a real fighting chance at recovering from learning loss and social emotional trauma; and collaborate with the Board of Education on this as a once-in-a-generation chance to shift how education happens.

More information about our priorities and the specific strategies we will undertake in 2021-22 to build on these opportunities will be shared in the coming weeks and months. I am honored to support this vision of a resilient DPS as we shift our focus to our transition priorities next school year, laying the foundation for the future superintendent to support a successful post-pandemic future.

Dwight Jones
Interim Superintendent
Our DPS Equity Statement
Racial and Educational Equity is our collective responsibility. We will achieve equity when we dismantle deeply rooted systems of oppression that have historically resulted in inequitable access and distribution of opportunities and resources for those who represent marginalized identities, including race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, language and ability. We will create conditions where we all belong, are included, have clear purpose (why) and have the autonomy to lead in our respective areas. By creating these conditions, we will eliminate the predictability of success or failure for our students and team members.
Spotlight on
Michael Christoff
Each month, we will highlight an equity champion and their story of how they came to DPS, what resources they've used to succeed and how they're making a difference.

"I want our kids to leave here feeling like they got a quality education and that someone really cared about them."

Read more about Thomas Jefferson High School principal Michael Christoff and how he's providing students with opportunities that will allow them to make positive impacts in the world.
Moving the Needle
Each month, we'll showcase celebrations big and small, and the work being done to create more equity for students and team members throughout DPS. Share what you and your team have been doing to make a change for a more equitable DPS here.
Data Shows The Equity Experience Changes Mindsets
Part of the Black Excellence Resolution calls for training all members of Team DPS in implicit bias and culturally responsive education -- and one way to meet this charge is through the Equity Experience. This nine-month journey of independent, self-paced learning aims to help participants identify and examine our individual and collective/organizational mindsets. Cohort 1, including members of Central Office, has completed its first year of the Equity Experience, and Cohort 2 for school leaders, ILT and others launched in October.

Now that Cohort 1 has completed its first year, we have learned how effective and impactful the Equity Experience has been. According to an analysis of pre- and post-mindset survey results, the DPS Equity Experience succeeded in increasing the asset-based and culturally responsive mindsets of Central Office team members. The most remarkable change was a significant reduction in team members’ adherence to color-blind ideology. Read more of the findings from the Research and Evaluation team here, and stay tuned for more Equity Experience cohorts coming soon.
New Affinity Groups For Equitable Career Mentoring
In an effort to provide more inclusive and intentional mentoring for middle and high school students, the Career Development Team's Coach Mentoring Program is shifting focus for the 2020-21 school year to include race, gender and language-based career mentoring for over 80 students. The Coach Mentoring Program matches students one-on-one with professionals in high-demand industries that align with the student's Career and Technical Education courses or their individual career aspirations, to explore careers and post-secondary options. 

Currently there are Spanish-speaking, Black Affinity and female-focused groups, and two middle school programs. Companies represented in the affinity spaces include Pfizer, Kaiser Permanente, Comcast, CU Boulder School of Engineering, Wells Fargo, United Airlines, DPS, Metropolitan State University, and Industrial Insights. 

These affinity groups aspire to help students see their identities represented in industry and to gain greater confidence and self-efficacy when pursuing their career and college goals. If you are interested in learning more, have questions or wish to become a career mentor, please contact Ericka Porter.
Project DIVERT to Address Equity and Promote Alternatives to Suspension
The DPS Substance Use Prevention Program was awarded a three-year grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment to address Shared Risk and Protective Factors for youth substance use, with a focus on racial justice. The DPS proposal will create the Project DIVERT (Prevention, Equity, and Discipline intended to Value, Educate, Renew, and Train) program, which will assist schools by providing training and resources for alternatives to suspension, with a focus on addressing the disparities that impact students of color. The grant will begin in July 2021. We look forward to sharing more soon!
Black History Month Curriculum Resources
February is Black History Month, a time when the nation reflects and pays tribute to the generations of African Americans who have fought -- and continue to fight -- against adversity. As we recognize this important cultural moment throughout our schools, the Academics Division has provided a range of teaching resources, and there are resources available from the National Archives, National Gallery of Art, and National Park Service. Visit the Black History Month page on The Commons to access these resources and learn more. 

Additionally, The Library Services team created a website where DPS educators and team members can browse Sora collections related to social justice and Martin Luther King Jr. by grade. This resource has been sent to all schools to support student learning while promoting equity and inclusion in the classroom. Check out the collections here.

The Board of Education also heard an overview of a course on Feb. 16, called "DPS - A Unique Racial History," developed by Dr. Sharon Bailey, Dr. Darlene LeDoux, Dr. Antwan Jefferson and Dr. Ramon Del Castillo. The course was designed to build awareness among students, community members, staff and leaders about the history of race and education in the city of Denver. View the full presentation here.
Hamilton Middle School Launches Accelerated CRE Cohort
What does it take to create an anti-racist school culture? As Hamilton Middle School set out to answer this question, they dove into the data and developed three Major Improvement Strategies to guide them through the school year. The first of those strategies was to build the leadership team’s capacity to coach teachers and support them in delivering culturally responsive education (CRE) learning environments. 

In order to execute this strategy, Hamilton’s Team Lead for Culturally Responsive Education, Gezaw Zion, launched an Accelerated CRE Cohort and a quarter-long module designed to deepen teacher understanding of how to teach BIPOC students, create stronger authentic relationships with BIPOC families, understand the best culturally responsive teaching practices in classrooms, and create in-school leaders on Hamilton’s faculty. 

The Accelerated CRE Cohort grounded their work in readings, journal prompts, and other work that guided them in weekly professional development meetings, and Gezaw conducted biweekly observations of the teacher participants to help coach them in applying what they learned in their classrooms. At the end of the quarter, the Cohort facilitate Hamillton’s Equity Experience small groups, and created an exemplary library of quarter-one exemplary materials to share with the entire staff. The teachers who participated in the first cohort are not only leading throughout the school but they have also helped develop and launch the Accelerated CRE Cohort 2.0 this semester.
Get Involved
Support Asian Students and Colleagues by Disrupting the Rise of Xenophobia

Reports of harassment and assaults have increased within the Asian community due to COVID-19 -- there was a rise in the spring of 2020, and reports of another increase are ongoing.

In May, educators came together to discuss ways to stop the rise of xenophobia and participated in a virtual discussion to define xenophobia; discuss basic cultural norms and myths surrounding our students, families and educators of Asian heritage; share resources for leaders and educators to teach students about acts of violence and culturally responsive teaching.

Learn how to support our Asian students and colleagues by watching the valuable discussion.
Promote Equity by Adding Pronouns to Your Email Signature and Virtual Meetings

One way to contribute toward equity for our LGBTQ+ community members is by adding your pronouns to your DPS email signature and virtual meetings. This act of solidarity is a simple way that everyone can help to normalize pronouns and open up space for gender diverse members of our DPS community to feel comfortable sharing their pronouns. Learn more about why pronouns matter here. LGBTQ+ Equity Initiatives Program Manager Levi Arithson created a video that shows how to update your signature on virtual meeting platforms -- watch here

Additionally, find updated email signature templates (see template option 3) and instructions through this email signature guide, which is also available on The Commons.
Join DPS’ First Black Family Advisory Council

The Black Family Advisory Council is for Black and African American parents, guardians, families and community members directly involved in the care of currently enrolled Black and African American DPS students. The purpose of the council is to give voice to the needs, goals and concerns of Black and African American students at the district level. Join us for the first meeting from 5-6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22. Click here to sign up and confirm your attendance, and join on Zoom.
This initial meeting is dedicated to outline the purpose and process of the district-level Black Family Advisory Council (BFAC), as named in the AAETF recommendations. Attendees are encouraged to bring their personal and community experiences as we engage with others across the district in conversations leading to solutions. Contact Sylvia Bookhardt if you have questions or would like to join future meetings.
Join Black History 365 Album Listening Party

Join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26, for a virtual listening party to celebrate the release of Black History 365: The Album. Black History 365 (BH365) is a new Black History curriculum and textbook that is currently used at DMLK.

In addition to the textbook, BH365 curriculum designers worked with Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum producer and artist, Khao, to produce an album containing over 40 original songs to accompany the textbook.

Join in to listen to the album and participate in discussions with Kaho and the BH365 authors, Dr. Walter Milton and Dr. Joel Freeman. Join via Zoom: http://tinyurl.com/BH365ListeningParty
Resources to Support Educators of Color
Black Girls Do Bike​
Brooke Goudy in DPS Nursing Student Health Services co-leads ​Black Girls Do Bike​, an organization that supports creating an inclusive and safe space for women of color. They host events to help ALL women stay motivated, healthy and physically fit, and they have national sponsors, including REI & Yeti! Learn more by contacting Brooke at 303-648-1530.
Educator of Color Chat: Celebrating Black History
Join us from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Feb. 24-25 and put on your African Attire if you’d like an evening of fun, fellowship and learning. We will begin with Leadership Nuggets from Branta Lockett, program manager and teacher leader, on “How to Chart Your Career Path.” Then we will have an opportunity to be inspired as we celebrate the legacy of our African American leaders. Prizes will be awarded for best African Attire, Through the Decades - Music Trivia, and Karaoke King or Queen. To join, register here.
Living Our DPS
Lauren Tauchman
Spanish Teacher, East High School

“Lauren actively demonstrates her commitment to equity, to LGBTQ+ issues, to Black Excellence, to high expectations for all, and to honoring the humanity of all her students through her daily lesson plans that center on the lived experiences of her students. Lauren champions Civil Rights by holding other adults in her building and in her community accountable for their words and actions in support of our BIPOC students and colleagues.”

-- Connie Navarro, Growth & Performance
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FEBRUARY | Black History Month
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