Board of Education Meeting Update – May 30, 2017 Work Session

Board Members Hear, Discuss Recommendations from African-American Equity Task Force 

At a special meeting of the Board of Education on May 30, 2017, the African-American Equity Task Force presented information about its process, recommendations and next steps. The board and superintendent commissioned the task force to respond to Dr. Bailey’s report regarding factors contributing to the opportunity gap that exists for our African-American students and educators.

Comprised of DPS and charter employees, community members, parents and students, the task force identified six areas of focus in which to develop recommended actions and resources. These included access, community and family engagement, discipline, instructional practice, human capital and the whole child.


The task force steering committee made an overarching recommendation that DPS provide funding for an African-American Equity Team to ensure the recommendations are implemented and evaluated on an ongoing basis.

The task force’s recommendations include:

  1. District and school structures to promote equity
    • Every school and department to create and publicly disseminate an Equity Plan.
    • Adapt and expand the School Performance Framework’s Equity Indicator.
  2. Culturally responsive instruction, engagement and communication
    • Develop and implement systems to support culturally responsive professional development.
    • Ensure curricular materials are culturally responsive.
  3. Targeted supports for students
    • Develop and implement an African-American Equitable Access Plan that increases student access to high-value learning opportunities.
  4. Community and family resources
    • Establish Community and Family Opportunity (CFO) centers that respond to African-American students and families in the Far Northeast and Near Northeast neighborhoods.
    • Create school-level and district-level Black Family Advisory Councils.
    • Design and disseminate a supportive assessment and planning tool that assists African-American students and families in successfully navigating the school process.
  5. Equitable employment practices
    • Create a district-led Human Resources Task Force responsible for development, implementation and oversight of equitable recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal and compensations processes and practices.
    • Develop systems and structures to attract and retain African-American educators.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg praised task force members for the candor of their discussions and their hard work. He also appreciated their efforts to prioritize their recommendations and suggestions on how to stage their implementation. “Figuring out how to focus so we can do the work really well is so important,” said Boasberg. He thanked the task force and acknowledged that the work ahead is difficult, but said he is excited about the opportunities it holds for closing the opportunity gaps that exist for our students of color.

The full task force recommendations are available here. Additional actions, work plan sequencing and priorities are available in the presentation here. Task force members prioritized the following recommendations for the first phase of work:

  • Creation of the HR task force.
  • Supporting culturally responsive education.
  • Creation of equity plans.
  • Establishing CFOs in Northeast Denver.

Panel Discussion

Several steering committee members participated in a panel discussion with the board about the findings and recommendations.

“I’ve been blessed to work under many great leaders in DPS,” said William Anderson, a teacher leader at Manual High School. “What interests me most about this work is its potential to build out and make the successful models I’ve experienced more systemic.”

“We needed to start with a conversation about hope and not about what we did or are doing wrong. This work started with community voices about people sharing their experiences, and there was no ‘us versus them’ mentality. We need our educators to just hear the experiences of our students,” said Reach Charter School Principal Moira Coogan. “In order to fix this, we want to work from a strengths-based model — not a deficit-based model — acknowledging what our educators are doing well, and focusing on how we confront institutional barriers, not individual faults. By doing so, we can really harness the passion and strength of our educators.”

DPS parent Michael Williams said he appreciated the district’s willingness to listen. “A lot of community members were saying they wanted a bigger seat at the table, including other patents, many of whom may not have the resources I have.” Williams said that he enjoyed getting to hear the perspectives of educators, but he was also glad that the task force moved beyond just listening. “I really liked that we moved into tactics and strategies and not just talking emotion because it makes me hopeful that we’re really going to see change.”

Board President Anne Rowe asked what systemic changes the panel found most promising. Williams called out the human resources goals and strategies as game-changing initiatives:

“Looking at how we’re hiring teachers and staff to ensure they understand the kids in the room is really exciting,” he said, “because … it’s addressing the long-term systemic change we want to see.”