Fall | Issue 4 | Date: November 18, 2020 
Funding Great Schools. Rooted in Community. 
Mission, Vision, and Values
Image credit: Denver Public Schools
RootED extends sincere thanks to the dedication of DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova and recognizes what a difficult decision her choice to accept a role in Dallas had to be. We appreciate her unrelenting optimism and collaboration in the face of significant challenges. Through it all, she showed up in the community and modeled for the thousands of DPS students and staff what it meant to be a positive and strong community-focused leader.

We believe deeply in supporting leaders of color from our community and Susana was the embodiment of a community leader having grown up in DPS as an alumni, teacher, administrator and ultimately as an admired Latina Superintendent of a majority Latinx school district.

With her unwavering commitment to fighting bigotry and promoting racial equity, Superintendent Cordova leaves a strong record of accomplishment: a passionate support for all of Denver’s schools, the transformation of services for multilingual learners, and innovative solutions resulting in improved outcomes for tens of thousands of students in academic achievement, high school graduation and college preparedness.

RootED is committed to working with Denver Public Schools to find a replacement who extends a willingness to engage with our community and grant families, students and community members greater voice in how to bring positive change to Denver’s public schools. We appreciate Susana and her 31 years of commitment to Denver Public Schools and wish her the best in Dallas.
Montbello Organizing Committee
Engaging Community to Define a Shared Vision
With the approval by Denver voters of ballot measure 4B, the Montbello community is a step closer to opening a comprehensive high school. The measure provides $795-million in funding for new Denver Public Schools buildings, and for maintaining and improving existing school buildings - with $130 million of this committed for a rebuild or remodel of the Montbello campus.

Montbello Organizing Committee (MOC) is pressing the school district to define the barriers and constraints DPS sees to engage in true co-creation of the new high school. Project Manager Kiera Jackson says the trauma the far northeast community has faced over the past decade is too great for DPS to realistically and productively lead the conversation. At a meeting last month, the school district presented a timeline for hiring two principals this winter, one for the comprehensive high school, and one for the feeder middle school on the Montbello campus, pledging to involve the community in the hiring.

But the release of the timeline - prior to engaging the community - was a trigger to many of those attending the session, including Strive Prep Montbello Teacher Gene Fashaw. “A leader can only lead a vision and mission they believe in...how can you choose a leader when that has not been established if that’s really a community-driven effort? So I’m a little leery. I grew up in Montbello. I teach in Montbello. It sounds awfully familiar,” he said. 

DPS Director of School Improvement Joe Amundsen responded, “We need to find somebody who the community can truly galvanize around, that loves the community, that loves the idea that the community is trying to create and can help envision that with the community.”

Jackson says MOC is working with its education partners and youth-led groups in the far northeast to define community values and a vision for the school. The organizing committee plans events to raise awareness and drive engagement in the coming weeks.

Board of Education Director Jennifer Bacon has said she’d like the community to focus not just on a comprehensive high school, but a comprehensive plan for the far northeast region. The Board of Education has resolved to unify the existing district-run schools DCIS- Montbello, Noel Community Arts School and Collegiate Preparatory Academy. Strive Prep Montbello, now on the campus, is committed to keeping its middle school option available for students in the community.
That's RAAD!
Radical Arts Academy of Denver
Another school option in the early stages of development for far northeast Denver is the Radical Arts Academy of Denver (RAAD). Boosted by Moonshot EdVentures, which supports a diverse pipeline of leaders to design and launch the learning environments of tomorrow, the arts-integrated, culturally responsive and enriched curriculum is the vision of Denver educators Alejandro Fuentes Mena, Kelly Okoye and Yuzo Nieto. RAAD is also collaborating with the nonprofit architecture and urban design group Radian to realize its vision. Radian is committed to advancing social equity by redefining how places are designed and built. Radian helps identify areas of educational need using geo-spatial tools to find potential parcels and buildings for schools. Key to the mission of both organizations is engaging the community in co-creating, designing and building out of the vision. RAAD’s Kelly Okoye said, “This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to be front and center and have their voices heard, where historically in Montbello there’s been a lot of decisions that have been placed upon residents.”

Watch the video below to learn more about this effort!
African Leadership Group
Supporting Students During the Pandemic
The African Leadership Group (ALG) understands deeply the challenges immigrant families and first generation students in Denver face when navigating a school system they view as complex and difficult to maneuver. With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating these challenges, many students are without the support they need to progress academically during remote learning.  
ALG member families worried how they were going to manage work while making sure their children remained engaged in schoolwork. In response, the leadership team at ALG stepped up to open an online learning pod serving students daily in the organization’s offices from 7:30am to 3:30pm. Masks are required, as are morning temperature checks and social distancing, so the pod is limited to 12 students. See a video on the African Leadership Group initiative here. “We commend the community for responding, for us to be able to provide this platform,” said ALG Program Coordinator Ousman Ba. ALG encourages parents, community members and educators to use their skills and networks to support other children in underserved communities during this time.
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