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Changing priorities shaped Susana Cordova’s relationship with the Denver school board

The relationship between Cordova and the board is more nuanced than the open hostility implied by her supporters.

Superintendent Susana Cordova looks on as students work on laptops in a classroom in Newlon Elementary School early Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, which is one of 55 Discovery Link sites set up by Denver Public Schools where students are participating in remote learning in this time of the new coronavirus from a school in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, Special to The Colorado Sun)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat Colorado. More at chalkbeat.org.

In the weeks since Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova announced her resignation, powerful people have accused the Denver school board of pushing her out.

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the Denver board “bad” in a tweet. In a statement, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and former Mayor Federico Peña called it “dysfunctional.” Fourteen former board members signed a letter accusing the seven current members of interrupting, mistreating, and undermining Cordova.

The relationship between Cordova and the board is more nuanced than the open hostility implied by her supporters. No one shouts at board meetings and disagreements are mostly polite. But Cordova, who spent her entire career in the district, has served a school board majority that came to office with promises to take it in a dramatically new direction.

Board members have championed numerous initiatives but, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have yet to set a broad strategy. In an effort to be responsive to community concerns, they have asked new questions in more public ways — and yet, at times they have voted against community recommendations and pleas from parents and students.

“What does this board stand for?” said Theresa Peña, a former board president who signed the letter. “There’s a lack of framework for how they want to operate.”

Cordova herself has not blamed the board. She said she’s leaving Denver Public Schools — a district where she rose from student to teacher to superintendent — to take a job in Texas that she wasn’t seeking but that presents an exciting opportunity. She’ll be working for one of her mentors as a deputy superintendent in the Dallas Independent School District.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.


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