Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero, left, and Board of Education President Xochitl ‘Sochi’ Gaytan, during a news conference after the board finished its executive meeting at DPS headquarters on March 23, 2023. The school board went into an executive session to discuss bringing school resource officers back to school District schools and other concerns about the shooting Wednesday at Denver East High School. (Photo by Andy Cross/Denver Post)
In the aftermath of yet another school shooting, the Denver Public School Board has demonstrated that they do not have the judgment necessary to keep our children in a safe learning environment.
Board of Directors They have yet to apologize for their decision to remove school resource officials from Denver schools without a backup plan, ultimately putting students and staff at risk.
However, what the board members have done since the East High School shooting is evidence of their dysfunctional management and complete disregard for transparency.
Steve Zansberg, a well-respected First Amendment attorney and president of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, recently accused the board of directors of violating Colorado’s open-meeting laws, after the board deliberated in secret in a closed executive session for more than five hours before appearing and reading aloud portions of a memorandum. A new course that reverses the course and returns School Resource Officers to some schools. The Commission They voted unanimously To adopt a change of position without any public discussion.
Colorado law requires the DPS board to discuss public business or take formal action at meetings open to the public. Instead, the board members appear to have concealed their deliberations from the public. As a result, the relevant parts of the executive cycle should now be announced.
Exacerbating public distrust was DPS’s well-documented lack of transparency.
DPS schools do not notify parents when a gun has been confiscated at their child’s school or if there has been a closure, closure, or other credible safety concern raised at or near the school. Parents have the right to be notified in a timely manner regarding these issues and the data shall be widely available and simultaneously published on their website as well.
Remarkably, the district does not collect or track the following critical information from its 207 schools: the number of students subject to inspection protocols or the number of students in safety plans.
One would reasonably think that DPS schools would actually want to obtain and track all this data because it informs decision-making and is a critical measure for keeping students safe. This is more than a criticism of their deceptive management practices. In recent weeks, we’ve seen school principals speak as virtual whistleblowers about their safety concerns.
How long can we allow this to continue and believe we can recruit and retain professional administrators, teachers and staff?
If you want information from DPS, you will have to spend money and submit a formal request for information under the Colorado Open Records Act, known as CORA.
Even then, DPS management won’t make it easy.
DPS refused to release public photos of the guns confiscated by the district. DPS Open Records Coordinator Stacy Wheeler determined that the images did not add “anything meaningful to the public discourse” and “only serve to undermine confidence in the Denver Public Schools.” That last part is so laughable, there’s no confidence left to undercut it.
I spoke to a parent at a DPS school on the condition of anonymity, who filed a CORA request asking how many students were on a safety plan or are in a safety protocol. Because DPS schools did not collect this data, the parent was required to send CORA requests, at their own expense, to 28 of the 207 Denver schools to obtain that information.
How long are we going to allow DPS board members and board members to be unaccountable and play hide-and-seek from parents, students, and taxpayers alike?
And while all of this was hidden from you, the dysfunctional board whacked the efforts of Board Chairman Xochitl “Sochi” Gaytan to publicly criticize Vice President Oilay Anderson for violating board policies after the East High School shooting. The board of directors were collectively heard saying, “Nothing here is moving along” as they voted 6-1 to remove the item from their agenda. Anderson was previously criticized publicly in 2021 after an investigation concluded he flirted online with a 16-year-old student before learning her age and made forced and intimidating posts on social media.
Parents have reached a point of no return.
A newly formed group of DPS parents has created the Parents-Safety Advocacy Group, or P-SAG, which already has 950 members, and is calling for DPS to provide more data and transparency to keep DPS students safe.
Meanwhile, Heather Lamm, along with a diverse group of parents from across town, has begun a DPS board resignation petition campaign, which You can find it on the Internet, which calls for the removal of all seven DPS board members. Lam, the mother of a senior at East High, believes the shooting “could and should have been avoided if the council had listened to its leaders”.
Only three of the seven board seats will extend in November and some interesting potential candidates, such as Kwame Spearman, are beginning to emerge. Spearman recently stepped down as CEO of Tattered Cover.
However, winning these three seats would not give the new members a majority. To get the majority, another member would need to resign. Otherwise, the parents and the community can hold a recall election to remove one or more of the remaining members.
As for me, I support the “All of the Above” campaign. For the sake of our children, it’s time to hold this forum accountable.
Doug Friedenach grew up in Denver and is a partner at the Brownstein law firm Hyatt Farber and Schreck. He is the former chief of staff to Governor John Hickenlooper.
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