DENVER — In one month, Denver Public Schools will welcome back students — empty classrooms will once again bustle with life, and a new voice will echo the halls and lead the way. Newly elected Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero says he’s prepared to tackle a school year plagued with COVID-19 concerns.
Marrero grew up in New York, and is the son of a Cuban father and a mother from the Dominican Republic. He plans to use his life experiences, his cultural upbringing, and his professional background to connect with students and help identify their needs following a school year filled with highs and lows.
“Hablando se entiende y si se puede — so having a conversation we’ll be able to understand and support,” Marrero said.
Marrero grew up speaking Spanish at home. He learned English from his older brother. At a young age, he lost his mother, the woman he calls one of his biggest supporters.
“(I was) forced to be a man when I was a boy and that I think molded me and shifted me — my entire career trajectory into education,” Marrero said.
He credits educators for saving his life and helping him find his path.
Marrero said as a former guidance counselor, he’s committed to lending an ear and adapting to student needs to help them succeed. He plans to continue the plan set in motion by the interim superintendent while setting his own priorities, which include accelerating learning and creating appropriate goals for students, ensuring student safety and security, and addressing equity. One of the biggest decisions on the agenda is whether students will be required to wear masks or not. Marrero said he’s consulted health officials, other superintendents, and parents so he can make an informed decision.
“It’s been a tremendous amount of those who want to be masked universally and others who are saying, 'Please don’t do this to my child,' or 'I’m not going to send them in if you do this to my child,'” Marrero said.
Marrero’s choices as an assistant superintendent at the City School District of New Rochelle in New York during the height of the epidemic led to a federal lawsuit. He was named in a suit with several others for allegedly silencing and retaliating against a former school district health director.
“I am willing to defend the decisions we made because I’m very proud of what we have done in New Rochelle,” Marrero said. “In terms of silencing and the pandemic efforts in New Rochelle, we were the epicenter. We were the first school district on the East Coast to be closed by the governor and we led that charge. For the entire year, I led a whole lot of platforms, forums, and webinars even in terms of what we did to re-engage out the community.”
A DPS school board meeting is set for August.
Denver7 asked Marrero if he believes secretary Tay Anderson should attend following an ongoing investigation into claims of alleged sexual assault.
“In whatever capacity the board is represented, I’m excited to engage,” Marrero said.
School district leaders plan to announce their final decision on masks later this week or by early next week.