At the November 29, 2018 Special Board meeting the Denver Board of Education named a finalist for the position of superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Susana Cordova.
Susana Cordova, currently the district’s deputy superintendent, is a DPS graduate who has spent her career in DPS classrooms as a bilingual secondary teacher, principal of a high-needs elementary school and administrator whose responsibilities now include direct supervision of all 165 district-run schools and an annual budget of more than $130 million. Cordova says she is committed to ensuring all students have caring, knowledgeable adults to support them as she was supported growing up in DPS. Her focus on equity has led to the transformation of services for students learning English and improved literacy rates for young learners across DPS.She is an extraordinary and accomplished educational leader. Read Susana’s full bio, cover letter and resume at supersearch.dpsk12.org.
The Board of Education sought to present multiple finalists and was on track to do so. However, prior to the selection of finalists, the only other candidates who matched the qualifications of Susana withdrew from consideration. The Board of Education voted 5-2 (Board Members Carrie Olson and Jennifer Bacon opposing) on a resolution to move forward with the process, believing it to be thorough, exhaustive and conducted with high integrity.
Board Member Lisa Flores said the board used extensive community input it received to help narrow the pool of high-quality candidates. “This was not our desired outcome — in terms of having just one finalist. We wanted to bring multiple finalists forward for community consideration, but we can’t control individuals and whether they wanted to come forward to complete the community engagement process the way we intended,” Flores explained. “We didn’t see other candidates to bring forward at this time that met the same quality and caliber, and we felt that the community would see through any false pretense to do so. Having said that, I’m really proud of the integrity of the process we went through and the quality of the finalist we have brought forward.”
Olson and Bacon both praised the process, as well, expressing great confidence in Susana as a finalist, but both expressed concerns about bringing forward only one candidate to the community, citing that as the reason they would oppose the resolution.
Board Member Angela Cobian said, “In the world we were striving for, we would have had multiple candidates; in the world as it is, we have one. In the world we were striving for, I had 100% confidence in all of the candidates we had planned to move forward as finalists; and in the world as it is, I remain 100% confident in the person we have to move forward.”
“We did not commit to bring through multiple candidates no matter what,” said Board Member Happy Haynes. “We said we would bring forward candidates we believe could do the job well and meet the criteria we set out and that our community asked for. We still have another step in this process and hope all of you will engage in that process.”
Next Step: Final Community Engagement
There will be a period of final engagement with students, families, educators and community members, which will inform the board’s final decision on Dec. 17. The community engagement with Susana will take place between Wednesday, Dec. 5 and Friday, Dec. 14. Additional details are forthcoming.
Multiple board members encouraged the community to remain engaged in the process, and to hear from Susana in the coming weeks. Bacon stated that “this is not an acceptance process; it is still an interview process.”
“We have an historic opportunity to imagine a path forward that builds on the solid progress this district has made, lots of lessons learned, and to hear from a finalist who has lived the work across the entire city,” said Board Member Barbara O’Brien. “I am very excited to see how our finalist does in a sustained community engagement process, where the multiple voices we know are across the community can engage with her. She is a candidate who, frankly, checks every single box the community desired and reflected the qualities we wrote in the narrative for conducting this search. She’s been a classroom teacher, in school leadership and district leadership. She’s managed multi-million dollar budgets. And it’s meaningful that she’s a woman, bilingual and Latina.”
“We were committed to bringing incredibly high caliber candidates forward, and we wouldn’t be here tonight if we didn’t have one,” said Board President Anne Rowe. “I look forward to Susana having the opportunity to present herself to the community and to have the chance to talk about her own vision for the future of this district.”
National Search Yields Strong Applicant Pool, Exceptional Candidates
Denver school board members reached out nationally following former Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s decision to step down after nearly a decade, contacting 95 potential candidates and hearing from another 27 interested people. Of those 122, 41 submitted applications by the Oct. 15 deadline.
All seven board members then reviewed each applicant’s materials and narrowed the pool to 14 before selecting seven candidates to interview. Following lengthy interviews with each candidate, board members chose Cordova to move forward as the finalist.