Julie Poppen, Rocky Mountain News (Denver), Mar. 23
Hispanic community leaders are pushing Denver Public Schools to hire a new superintendent who understands the complex issues facing an urban district that has grown increasingly diverse.
It is time, some say, for a Hispanic leader.
“There certainly are enough qualified Latinos in the field of education to run DPS,” said Veronica Barela, president and CEO of the NEWSED Community Development Corp.
“I think the school board members should make that an extremely high priority,” she said.
“The majority of children in (the district) are Latinos.”
The district’s next superintendent — the 24th in DPS’ 103-year history — will have to confront issues such as an alarmingly high dropout rate that is worse among students of color as well as minority student test scores that fall far below those of their Anglo peers.
Of the district’s 73,000 students, 57 percent are Hispanic and 19 percent are black. In 1998, 49.8 percent of DPS students were Hispanic and 21 percent were black.
For example: Only 22 percent of Hispanic seventh-graders scored proficient or above on the Colorado Student Assessment Program reading test in 2004, compared with 71 percent of Anglo students. In math, 10 percent of Hispanic seventh-graders scored proficient or above, compared with 45 percent of Anglo students.
The dropout rate among Hispanic students also is significantly higher than it is among Anglo students, said Polly Baca, executive director of the Latin American Research and Service Agency in Denver.