Friday, Oct. 21, 2016
 What Does It Mean to Focus on the Whole Child?
It means an eye on the horizon and the possibilities ahead, especially when things are hard.  It's a focus on "yet." There is no "I can't" or "I don't get it." It's, "I haven't figured it out yet."
Dear DPS Community,

When Doull Elementary School Principal Jodie Carrigan talks about what goes on inside her school, you don't see textbooks and worksheets. You see faces and feel friendships. Doull is first and foremost, of course, a place of learning, like all of our schools. But it's also a place that understands and gives close attention to our students' social and emotional growth: to what they need as students, and who they are as children.

DPS Supt. Tom Boasberg
As part of our Denver Plan 2020, we've put a priority on educating the whole child. This means that, in addition to supporting our students' academic development, we're also nurturing and caring for their personal development.  That is why the single biggest component of the 2016 mill levy proposal that is on November's ballot is dollars for schools to hire professionals (including counselors, school psychologists and nurses) to support the social and emotional growth and mental and physical health of our students.

At Doull, caring for the whole child means students are greeted every day by at least three staff members before they even get to their classrooms. It means caring teachers who go out of their way to make a jump-rope fundraiser more inclusive by rigging foam "water noodles" to the wheelchair of a student with a disability so that he is included. And it means an eye on the horizon and the possibilities ahead, especially when things are hard.  It's a focus on "yet." There is no "I can't" or "I don't get it." It's, "I haven't figured it out yet."

As part of our commitment to educating the whole child, we revised our student satisfaction survey to include questions that give us a sense about how we're doing in this area. We're one of the first school districts in the nation to make this a priority, and we are active in putting together a support and assessment system for our schools.

Jodie and some of our other exemplary school leaders joined us at our Board of Education work session on Monday to help in building that system and to review the initial feedback from our students. That discussion focused on the six components of educating the whole child, which prioritize making sure every child feels:
  • Challenged academically and prepared for success in college and career
  • Engaged in learning and connected to the community
  • Supported by qualified, caring adults
  • In environments that are physically and emotionally safe
  • Learning about and practicing a healthy lifestyle
  • Socially and emotionally intelligent
In addition to looking closely at the feedback from our student surveys, we keep a close eye on levels of chronic absenteeism, reports of bullying and frequency of out-of-school suspensions. All of it helps us understand the type of environments and care we're providing to our students.

And it all starts with the adults in our schools, with the faces that our children see every day. When they're struggling, when they're celebrating, when they're stressed and when they're silly. When they see caring, knowing and understanding faces looking back at them -- whether it's on the playground, in the classroom or in the lunchroom -- we are doing right by them. And we are educating the whole child.

Best,
Tom

Pictured above: Students at Doull Elementary in Southwest Denver, one of our schools exemplifying a focus on the whole child -- our students' academic and personal development.
Young Nobel Peace Prize Winner Surprises Denver South Students
Malala, center, with South High School students.
Denver South High School students today filled their auditorium to hear from three of their refugee peers. The audience of more than 1,500 was silent as they heard story after story about the harsh circumstances their fellow students had endured. As students listened to these stories, their emotions were palpable. Then, a refugee from outside the South High School family took the stage, Malala Yousafzai.
 
Shot by the Taliban in 2012, Malala, the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, made a surprise visit to South High School with her father. The surprise was Malala's idea. As Malala said, "South High School is rich in culture," which is the reason it was chosen as the last stop on her world tour.

Watch the 9News video of Malala speaking to South High School students.

South serves many families new to the United States. It is a Newcomer Center, with programs designed to help refugees and others who have come to the U.S. with limited or interrupted education in their home countries. More than 40 percent of students at South speak more than one language -- representing over 70 different countries from around the world.
 
Recently landing in Denver from Dubai, Malala took the stage at South to thank students for their enthusiasm and bravery in sharing their stories. She then shared stories about her own mission, passion and experiences. Malala and her father founded the Malala Fund with the goal of amplifying girls' voices and providing them with a platform to connect.
 
After the all-student assembly concluded, Malala and her father Ziauddin Yousafzai spoke with a smaller group of nearly 20 South students. Students had the opportunity to ask Malala and Ziauddin questions such as, "What is it like to be the youngest in the room of world leaders?"
 
"As I first began my journey, I thought I needed to know everything about everything," Malala said. "In time I realized, all you need to know is what you stand for, and all you need to do is have passion." 
DPS Students Cite Importance of Indigenous Peoples' Day
DPS students accompanied Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez to the Denver Board of Education meeting on Thursday as he presented the city's proclamation officially naming the second Monday of every October as Indigenous Peoples' Day.

Student Nizhonii Mitchell was among those thanking city and school district leaders on Thursday.
Denver City Council members unanimously approved the proclamation earlier this month to honor the vast contributions of indigenous peoples to the Denver community. The first official Indigenous Peoples' Day in Denver was Oct. 10, 2016.

Lopez, who authored the city's proclamation, presented the proclamation to DPS Board Member Rosemary Rodriguez, who called it a monumental day.

"On behalf of Denver Public Schools, we too recognize the contributions made by indigenous peoples in science, philosophy, arts and culture," Rodriguez said. "Denver and the surrounding communities are built on the ancestral homelands of numerous tribes."

Several DPS students also spoke to school board members, thanking them for their recognition in both Lakota and Navajo languages.

"I am honored that my people are being recognized every year for Indigenous Peoples' Day," said Nizhonii Mitchell, a sophomore at South High School and current Denver Indian Center princess. "In the future, people will wonder what Indigenous Peoples' Day is and that's when I will say, 'It's my people's day'."
Join Us to Talk Early Literacy at the Superintendent Parent Forum
You're invited to join Superintendent Tom Boasberg for the second 2016-17 Superintendent Parent Forum, where the focus will early literacy. The forum is 10 a.m. to noon, Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center, 15500 East 40th Ave. 
 
We'll discuss the Denver Plan 2020 goal of A Foundation for Success: Early Literacy, and answer questions about the November 2016 Bond and Mill Levy initiatives.
 
Interpretation, meals and childcare (ages 3 to12) will be provided at no cost to participants.

For more information, visit face.dpsk12.org or email face_events@dpsk12.org. Registering will confirm your attendance and will help us plan appropriately for seating, catering, childcare and interpretation services.
COMING UP...
Join the Conversation

Twitter   Facebook   Instagram   YouTube