‘We need to collaborate’: Mayor Hancock speaks on resignations among Denver Public Schools leadership

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DENVER (KDVR) — More community leaders are weighing in on the Denver Public School Board of Education’s controversy following the resignations of three top leaders.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said, “You have a superintendent resign, the chief operating officer resign, a top deputy superintendent resigning in the middle of the school year. There’s something else going on here we have to pay attention to.”

When Superintendent Susana Cordova announced her resignation on Friday, she did not mention a hostile work environment as a reason for leaving, but other community leaders have raised that concern. 

Hancock and former Denver Mayor Federico Peña wrote a sharply critical letter to the school board, saying board members mistreated Cordova at board meetings and interfered in the day-to-day management of the school system.  

Hancock said, “We have confirmed more than once it was an untenable situation for the superintendent.”

Parents say they are tired of the politics. Joanna Rosa-Saenz has three children in DPS and has followed the developments with the board closely.

“Our students are the ones who are losing in all of this because they are failing and falling behind. That is not fair,” she said.

Many believe the board should let a committee of residents take the lead in recruiting the district’s next leader.

“It’s shocking and saddening at the same time. Obviously, there’s no way we can talk to her to keep her back with us. We need to focus on the solution, and the solution is, there needs to be community involvement to choose the next superintendent. I hope the board works with parents and community members to make this happen.” Rosa-Saenz said. “We are going to need somebody with very thick skin, somebody that is able to take this Titanic out of the sea.”

Hancock said, “I don’t think this is an opportunity to be missed. Instead of taking it personal, it wasn’t meant to be personal, what is seen as dysfunction and the fact we let a tremendously talented superintendent go in the middle of the school year. Our children are going to be the ones who are hurt. We need to collaborate and engage.”

He responded to allegations of his involvement being “overreach” by saying, “No one’s over-reaching. We don’t have a great city without great schools. We are here to preserve the best school system for all of our kids. We’re leaning in and we’re here to be involved, here to collaborate and we plan to stay here, to collaborate. This is not about bringing power to do anything, other than to encourage (the) board of education to work cohesively and collaboratively within their own organization as well as the community in the best interest of the children and the 91,000 children that interact with that district. We are here to be a partner.” 

School board members would not agree to any interviews, saying in a video statement Monday evening that responding to external claims takes time away from their priorities.

Board Vice President Jennifer Bacon said, “Like we say to our students, be kind to each other, we are community. We will need each other.”

The board hopes to name an interim superintendent by the first week of December.

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