DENVER -- A well-known Denver school, with its roots in the fight for social justice, will close its doors July 1.
La Escuela Tlatelolco Centro de Estudios was founded in 1970 by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales and several other members of the Crusade for Justice.
“Escuela was born to give a quality education, (and) to instill the importance of social justice and what it means to our community as a whole,” said Trustee Jesse Ogas.
Ogas said the decision to close came down to financing.
Escuela had a partnership with Denver Public Schools for several years, but an advisory board had recommended, multiple times, that DPS terminate the contract because of academic performance issues.
Ogas told Denver7 there is ongoing discussion about academic testing “not always being fair to certain communities.”
He also said that the stories of success way outnumber those perceptions that Escuela wasn’t providing an academic curriculum that wasn’t successful.
District money made up 75 percent of Escuela’s total budget and when the contract ended, the school had difficulty paying its bills.
In May, some teachers told Denver7 they weren’t getting paid. Some went on strike.
Ogas said that as of 2 p.m. Friday, the staff has been paid, and that the building will be sold and the proceeds will be used to pay any other outstanding financial obligations.
The school issued the following news release:
For 46 years, Escuela Tlatelolco has been a model of education rooted in academic excellence and social justice. We have always been proud of our educational community; especially the success of our students.
The Board of Trustees along with Principal Nita Gonzales, have embarked on the sale of the building. As we began this process, several “unforeseen financial circumstances” surfaced which have resulted in serious financial challenges. As a result, the Board of Trustees and Principal Gonzales have made the difficult decision to close the school effective July 1st, 2017.
Gonzales, the founder’s daughter, said, “Escuela Tlatelolco has served over 7,000 children and families since its inception in 1970 and 72% of our graduates thrive in post-secondary education. Because of the support from the community, donors and funders, and with 90% volunteerism from parents, Escuela Tlatelolco has seen and adapted to many changes in its steadfast mission to provide its proven model of bilingual, experiential and social-justice-driven education. Tlatelolco thanks our community.”
Gonzales’ brother, Rudy, graduated from Escuela Tlatelolco in 1976. He said the school was a liberated zone for critical thinking.
“To graduate, students had to have 300 hours of civic engagement activity that was documented around organizing and leadership,” he said.
He said it established a heightened sense of self-confidence and self-esteem in students.
“It was very steeped in our history, our heritage, our indigenous spirituality of this hemisphere that predates any discovery,” he said. “It predates 1492.”
Rudy Gonzales said he is extremely saddened by the impending closure.
“It’s something that should sadden the entire Latino community in the southwest,” he said. “It embodies a very important, historical part of our lives.”
In a statement to Denver7, DPS said, “During the fall of 2014, DPS and Escuela Tlatelolco mutually agreed to end their relationship at the end of the 2015-2016 school year, allowing Escuela planning time to return to its private school status. Escuela Tlatelolco has continued to serve as a Denver Preschool Program provider.”
Rudy Gonzales said Escuela will be reborn.
“Father said it best in his epic poem, Yo soy Joaquin, ‘I shall endure, I will endure’ and we will bring Escuela back in some form or fashion.”