Great Schools Community Conversations

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1 Great Schools Community Conversations Meeting Notes: Far Northeast Region» Opening by Landri Taylor, School Board Member, Denver Public Schools Welcome and Introductions The goals for our meeting are to: Educate parents and communities about school decisions occurring at a district and a regional level. Engage parents and communities on important topics for their region that cross school-lines. And empower parents and communities to act upon the information and learning to make choices and advocate at the school or regional level. Great Schools Community Conversations This year we will hold three rounds of meetings: The first was held in December to engage around performance and school needs for new schools. In December, we heard from some community members that they wanted to talk more about existing supports to schools and an issue important to them in the Far Northeast: diversity in hiring. So we are doing that in every region over the next four weeks. In April, we will host conversations in regions that received proposals that meet the needs of those regions. I want to acknowledge the importance of the Denver Plan in framing this conversation: Goal number one of The Denver Plan is to have great schools in every neighborhood. That is why we are here today, and we need every person to participate in accomplishing this goal. By 2020, 80% of students in the Southwest will attend a high-performing school.» Bill de la Cruz, Director, Equity and Inclusion, Denver Public Schools Outcomes and Working Agreements Today we will share information about the current state of retention and hiring of teachers and school leaders. We will seek your feedback on how we can improve hiring school staff of color. Working Agreements No judgment that leads to blame and shame No side conversations Respectful use of electronics First, I d like to start by asking you to talk about the importance of hiring and retaining educators of color for you personally? Share out: Parent: To me, color is not important for the teacher. I think they should focus on the student and the services they need.

2 Parent: We need to open the hiring process to all in the USA and even internationally. I see my kid in sixth grade with less homework than I had in third grade in Mexico. Parent: Why are talented teachers chased out of the Denver Public Schools system? We are putting too many students in classes. Parent: As far as diversity, not just limiting it to the exterior qualities of diversity, but also diversity of perspective. But on those same lines, we need to make sure under all circumstances that the teachers can relate to students. So diversity as perspective, and then the lack of diversity to ensure we have capable staff even if that is at the cost of diversity. Parent: Some of the best teachers my students have come across has been in the math fellows program. I can name maybe ten teachers in the last two years that have made an impact on my students life, and none of them are around, so I think we need to talk about retention. Community partner and former teacher: As a teacher of color, that was a primary thing I was able to bring into the classroom to empathize with students but also with parents. Parents are the primary educator with their student for a lifetime. If I can build trust and relationship, having teachers reflective of background and experience can be powerful. Resident at Montebello: We need to make sure people are competent and aware. We need to retain teachers. I m also concerned about chartering every school in the community. Most of them have no connection to the community, they are making money here and going home. Educator: When you have teachers of color in the classroom, it helps teachers and parents, but also sets a role model for them. If students of color don t have teachers of color, they will never see themselves in that position. If we don t grow teachers of color, we will never have teachers of color. AmeriCorps member: With diverse groups and people, you get different perspectives and more dynamic environment.» Shayne Spalten, Chief Human Resource Officer, Denver Public Schools The importance of teachers that can relate and role models, is incredibly important. The view that diverse educational communities are better, and you learn more when exposed to different perspectives, is one we are interested in fostering. This is a deeply challenging issue, not just for DPS but also across the country. Not only bringing diverse teachers into DPS, but also retaining them and keeping them. The fundamental issue is presented just by looking at a comparison of DPS students to DPS educators. Parent: At what point has this been designated a problem? Is there an opportunity cost, or what? o Shayne: This is a problem and important challenge for us. We have established that it is a challenge and that is why we are here highlighting this issue tonight. Within the district, we have seen considerable progress in ensuring principals that are diverse. We have started to identify and prepare our own students, who are students of color, and preparing them through our own teacher preparation programs. To the extent we are not getting what we need from university partners, we have to be sure we know what we are doing. We are recruiting in several states, we are going to special recruiting events, we are focusing on finding ELA-S teachers nationally, and we are looking internationally as well. Those candidates are in high demand. Finally, there is a real interest in ensuring all our teachers are trained around cultural competency and that we are ensuring our teachers coming on board are prepared. The challenges: a small percentage of teachers are coming from our alternative routes. We are very selective. We sit down with university partners to talk about their own goals on diversity hiring and how we can advance partnerships. We have found little awareness of the richness of the Denver community. There is a perception that we have no diversity. We are going out to sell the Denver community. Retention is a challenge for our early career teachers there are schools that experience really

3 significant challenges around retention. We convened a group of teachers at schools that received high rates of turnover, they brought up a number of challenges, especially low compensation and the importance of strong professional development for new teachers. We ve thought about programs pairing teachers with new programs, such as our residency program that pairs new teachers with experienced teachers for a whole year before getting their own classroom. This is an issue we will continue to focus on. Parent: One of my observations based on the stats, is that it s hard to refute that we need more students to stay around. However, the correlation between the diversity and great teaching is not there. I don t see the challenges you laid out are right. The question is, if we corrected this, would we get better results of kids? Do you have that metric? o Community member response: There are major research records, policy and information, that students of color in particular, are more engaged, more connected, and their academics soar when they around people similar to them. However, there is research that we can make others competent similarly. When you don t have someone that looks like you and understands you, we find people that look different. Resident at GVR for 22years: I had a child at a traditional DPS school through high school; I have a child that went to DSST and graduated; I also taught for DSST. We fought a lot of battles for students. The bottom line is, what do teachers expect of kids? I had peers at DSST who had different attitudes. It s all about what you want to do and how you do it. We have some teachers that come to get a paycheck. No matter the color, we have to hold them accountable. Some of the best teachers my sons had did not look like them. We have to stand up and just allow teachers to come in and teach the same way they need to use technology, to be active. Everybody here, parent or not parent, our future will rely on these young people. We can t expect suburban teachers to automatically relate, we own that as teachers to help, DPS owns that aspect and must be more intense about the problem. You have to fight. We can be the greatest city in America. Community member: We aren t being consistent with how we re treating diverse teachers. At what point do we start looking at the quality of life of teachers of color. The quality of life of these teachers is not good if we don t help. We don t have good policy in how we treat them. We need to stop asking the limited services questions and get to the root of the issue and that is the policies. Community member: There s no accountability from the HR department. We are intentionally moving students out of departments. Parent (in Spanish): I have four children: for my oldest son I have been trying to find some help for him for four years. I don t understand a lot of the statistics, but as a parent I have been getting involved despite the fact I don t speak English. We need teachers with a willingness to learn about teaching. I ve learned a lot from white people and people of color too. I ve been trying to communicate to my kids that we don t all have the same ability to communicate. Many Hispanics don t always feel comfortable dealing with things at the schools. The teachers have a lot of problems and I m looking at it and thinking what can I do to help out and make things better as a mother. What s most important is that when parents go to work with teachers, that they are willing to do that and provide assistance to be involved. I m concerned that there are students that start to move ahead and they are recognized and incentivized. Throughout the last few years I ve seen that problem happen. I ve been trying to work with other parents and move forward and serve as a model. Shayne: It s been important to share the data. I mention challenges to be real about the fact that this will take concerted urgent effort from us as a community to make progress. There are a lot of promising projects taking place in Denver. We need a community effort to make processes.

4 Community member: We have ten schools here in FNE ten schools, ten principals and at least ten AP s. We re not getting good results compared to one principal at Cherry Creek. I m a supervisor and when I hire and evaluate, I need to know people. When we hire out of Atlanta, how will that occur? We have numbers and test scores falling, we have teachers and principals not getting the job done. Programs are coming from the community, not from DPS. We are putting colors on students backs with the SPF and now they are getting in fights based on colors from schools. We are paying too much money and not getting anything for that. Community member: Why was Montebello changed? The community was changed. Community member: We ask all kinds of questions but we don t get answers: time is running and I don t know if our students are getting the right education. Community member: There are many people without access to this information, so what will we do for them. When we started turnaround, we committed to getting quarterly updates through blueprint. Where is the $750,000 to blueprint schools to do this analysis? Where is the output of that? Verónica Figoli: Comcast has a program called Internet Essential, that for $9.99 they can get internet at home. Susana Cordova: We have continued our work to be sure that Blueprint is continuing their quarterly updates. But the things we aren t doing well is making it accessible. Community member: Computer access is one point, and computer literate is another. Community member: Would be great to have research around why this is important to have teachers of color and why the curriculum reflects students experience. The piece around the culture in the classroom and why it affects students and how important it is for a student to relate to a teacher. They don t need to come from the same background but need to relate. There is social, cultural research. Why is it important to have diverse teachers? Same thing around having diverse students and the pipeline of students of color to prison.» End of Meeting Written results from feedback forms (each bullet represents a different feedback form) My children both attend DSST: GVR. Not only is diversity an issue but the entire system is. I understand that it is a problem, but my kids are getting older and can t afford to wait until the problem is fixed. I want to know how we can retain the students. My son has never been an atrisk student until now. He has repeated the 9 th and 10 th grades. He should be graduating this year. Now he skips school and wants to drop out. Parents are not allowed to be involved at all! I have reached out to the DSST: GVR teaching staff (Jeanne Kaplan, Christine Nelson, Chris DeWitt, Landri Taylor and Bill Kurtz) only to be told that they are doing the best they can for my son! Communication is the key to success! Parent involvement is the solution. Higher Compensation. Training Programs or additional support for the traditional teachers. School Leader Support. More Denver teacher program in the FNE. Programming that supports students of color and universities with education majors. Possible scholarship fund for students of color who want to be teachers? Programs that students in DPS can shadow/apprentice a teacher and get school credit with a capstone being that the student gets to teach class for 1-3 days. Create education tracks within public schools that are geared towards building student interest in education. Stop firing and blacklisting them. Let the community be involved in the hiring process. Retain all excellent, experienced teachers of whatever color. Fewer alternative licensure placements in FNE. Send them to SE Denver. Require cultural responsiveness training for all teachers. Why are MI programs being moved? Why are the tenured teachers only three years? Why was Montebello High School changed?

5 Perhaps partner with universities and schools. Implement politics that allow colored teachers for X amount of colored children. First step should be to open hiring s nationally and internationally. Offer good salaries. Treat equally and from hearings change policy in DPS. Implement the goal of kids first than everyone else. They will be the future of our great nation. These are two different issues. Provide competitive compensation. Provide performance based recognition. Establish academic think tank to repurpose techniques used in other industries. Grow your own partnerships with local schools of education and alternative prep programs. Affinity groups and happy hours, community building structures for teachers of color across the district. Restorative justice conversations and actions with Far Northeast community members regarding massive firings of black teachers during turnaround. Recourse and timely appeals process within implementation of SB191 in DPS, with special attention for teachers of color. Create a welcoming and culturally competent school culture for teachers of color. It s not the job of teachers of color to teach staff how to be culturally proficient. Proper compensation for instructors who are expected to engage in challenging school dynamic i.e. failing schools. Place value on professions from early age. Encourage young people to be community oriented and to view the role of educator as important. Accountability for administration and educators. Making sure they are held responsible for going above and beyond within respective roles. Better support systems for educators and classrooms. Begin by asking DPS high school students if they would like to be a teacher. Have these students be mentored while in high school. Offer scholarships and mentorship in college for these students and incentivize them to work in DPS. Train teachers every year to get better in providing instruction as well as in cultural competence. Incentivize teachers to get to know students and parents to support them while a student. Are teachers passionate? Can you teach passion? Teachers who make sure students learn have a higher sense of accomplishment. Focus on student success, providing teachers with all tools needed to achieve student success. Incentivize teachers who teach our toughest students. Being accountable all the way around. Parent and student evaluation of teachers need to be done, a point of teacher performance review: pay for performance. Does not matter the color, but we need to hire quality people for every single field. What is our picture or what is our goal or vision or expectation? We need to reevaluate every month or every two months. Parent training: we need to train parents because students live with parents more than the teacher. Provide the school plan or picture to the school teacher team and take the feedback every month and review the results. Better regional preparation for what a new teacher in the FNE might expect. Perhaps the school shadowing for new school teachers would help. Should be required before hiring and final offer is made. Greater budget control at the individual school level with salary based budgeting vs the current model or schools using an average or fixed teacher salary. More leadership development for established leader s not just new leaders to help seasoned leaders stay in touch with trends of how to retain and motivate staff. Look at the large culture of schools. Incorporating students' lives and experiences in the curriculum. School loan programs for students of color, scholarships that help students of color through programs for teacher prep programs. Strong salary and school leadership programs. Support for teachers of color, more training on cultural responsive teaching. We need to heal the wounds from the turnaround and a frank assessment and ownership of what's going well and what's not working. I don't think that the color of the hiring will or should be a huge impact when I believe that if an individual regardless of the ethnicity has the qualifications of being 100% teacher of any school should be a priority instead of the color of her/his skin. To know and understand the individual hired as a teacher as to what are his and her priorities as a teacher. How important are the

6 students? And are they willing to engage with the students 100%? When should we expect answers to all of our questions and actions? Start with hiring practices and retention policies in place. DPS HR has a black list of individuals that won t be hired for minor infractions decades old. The school to prison pipeline is one way of limiting the hiring pool. Hold HR accountable for their practices and policies that remove quality teachers from schools that have high numbers of students of color. Have teachers from HBCUs. Hire people from the communities that have a relationship with the schools. Stop hiring teachers from the suburbs who fear our kids and don't understand them. Understand the dynamics of the community and kids served.

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