DENVER — Outrage is growing as Denver Public Schools will soon be without a leader in the midst of a pandemic.
Superintendent Susana Cordova suddenly resigned last week.
Her departure has left parents and teachers even more anxious as more and more schools begin to shut down with COVID-19 cases once again on the rise.
“Honestly, I would have to say that they failed," said DPS mom Joanna Rosa-Saenz. “Overall, I am very disappointed in what's happening and watching such a trailblazer, Susana Cordova, no longer be with us. We're already in a pandemic and at a panic, but this is adding even more stress."
On a Zoom conference call Sunday afternoon, multiple parents, educators and city leaders echoed Rosa-Saenz feelings and blasted DPS for Cordova's departure.
"I think the elephant in the room is that Susana was pushed out by the board," said one concerned teacher and grandparent.
"This is a sad day for Denver," said a city leader.
“It feels like we are on a ship without a captain," said another DPS parent.
While we still don't know exactly why Cordova left, some parents like Rosa-Saenz say she was never given a chance.
“She was forced out by the board,” said Rosa-Saenz. “From a Latina mom, who also is from the north side where Susana grew up — in my opinion, Susana never had a chance to lead. She was always navigating a crisis; the teacher strike, then COVID and there were powerful people who did not want to see her succeed."
Cordova did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, but said in a statement she was approached by the Dallas School District and felt like "I owed it to myself to consider it."
Parents call her a role model.
"She is the Cinderella story," said Rosa-Saenz. "The superintendent whose mom worked in DPS as a secretary."
Rosa-Saenz says she and others are now left to navigate the school year on their own, with even more questions about who, if anyone, is in charge.
"The principals are in charge of the school and they're playing this game where they send it back to the district and then the district sends it back to the school," said Rosa-Saenz. "And the parents are stuck in the middle."
Several DPS board members declined to go on-camera Sunday, but the board did provide Denver7 with this extensive statement Sunday evening:
"Just last Thursday, our Superintendent resigned. While she has had time to plan for this change, the Board of Education has not. We ask for a grace period as we organize ourselves, determine immediate next steps, and continue to manage the many pressing priorities of the district. These issues include rising COVID closures, issues at our schools, and long term district planning. We want to remind people that the way our students experience Denver Public Schools is through all the incredible people they interact with every day. This will not change. Students remain our top priority.
The Board is grateful for our neighbors across the city who are not shy in sharing their thoughts. We each represent thousands of voters who put us in these seats. These voters expressed their values and interests through their votes. The delicate interplay of managing the district with a Superintendent includes capturing the demands of the community, building vision from the Board of Education, and masterfully executing strategy led by the expertise of our chief executive and senior leadership team. Superintendents are incredible servants to the public, and the public is allowed to fluidly express itself in the interest of supporting the community’s children. While we represent a majority of voters, we must also, and will also, be attentive to all of our neighbors as we search for our next leader.
As is seen in our national climate, Denver too, as a community, deserves to focus on how we walk together through change. It is the intention of the Board of Education to do our part to also end divisiveness and bridge divides in our community. Our Superintendent accepted her position as the Denver community was looking for change. The last two years have been marked not only by expressions of frustrations, but also of hope. This Board has been proud to be open and to support, not suppress, voices. We are teachers, parents and community advocates.
A uniting theme of this Board is that we believe it is necessary for our communities to experience and confront honesty as we begin to grapple with determining what is next for Denver Public Schools. Managing change from ten years of a particular focus and infrastructure is hard. Still, we do know that all of the children matter. All of them deserve to be educated and cared for. Denver citizens have always been supportive of our children and schools. We must be bold now more than ever in prioritizing their needs. We must be collaborative on our road to greatness. There are more opportunities to exchange ideas when we work in partnership rather than in silos. We have learned what works and what does not in our landscape that we must accept and move forward in a new direction.
Partnership throughout this process will be our priority. Partners share goals and outcomes. They communicate with each other, even if there are criticisms. In addition, partnership requires respect and commitments from all parties, and that all involved are committed to work with, not against, each other. The Board makes this commitment and asks that all who would like to engage do so as well. For what we can control, we commit to being positive and to remain focused on our priorities. We will work to be proactive and, over the last two years, we have gathered an incredible amount of community insights (from our last Superintendent search, to those gathered while redefining school performance).
As we have updates and begin planning next steps, we will share more. Our vision is to hold regular press conferences to which all media will be invited. In addition, our intention is to partner through this process with individuals and groups across the city. This means that we hope to end the divisiveness that does not best serve our shared goal of educating our students. By doing so, these young people can thrive and grow to meet their educational dreams by creating strong public schools.
Thank you, and stay Denver strong. Please practice social distancing, wear your masks, and limit in person gatherings so that we can bring back all of our students to in person learning."