The school board overseeing Denver Public Schools will start a weeks-long review Tuesday of its governing policies, which have been at the crux of infighting among its members.
The meetings are part of an annual review that the Board of Education began earlier this year but come amid disagreements – including accusations of misogyny and racism – among directors over how to operate under a model called policy governance.
“In order for the DPS Board of Education to govern through policy governance we need to have a set of policies that are completed and that we can agree on to govern equitably as a board,” said board President Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán.
The policy governance model was adopted by the previous school board overseeing the state’s largest school district.
Policy governance, directors have said, is supposed to help the school board move away from issuing directives to the superintendent so that instead they are setting “end policies” – or goals – that they want the district to achieve. Under this model, the superintendent has a goal but flexibility on how to achieve it. The model also gives metrics that the board can use to determine whether the superintendent is meeting the goals.
The board will meet at least six times, starting Tuesday, to discuss policy governance, according to the district’s website.
All of the meetings will be held virtually via Zoom, although they will not be live-streamed. Instead, they will be recorded if more than two directors attend a session and the recordings will be posted afterward for the public, said Gaytán.
Not every director will be able to attend each meeting, which will be held during the day. The board also doesn’t have enough staff available on the days of the work sessions to live-stream the meetings, she said.
“We don’t have the tech crew to make these meetings go live,” Gaytán said.
The board will eventually review the policies that deal with how directors govern and work together, said Gaytán and board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson. (He is no longer going by “Tay”.)
“I believe that those are also subject to annual review,” Anderson said. “I personally look forward to having those conversations as I believe there needs to be modifications.”
But first on the agenda for the meetings is for directors to review the “executive limitations” that are laid out in the board’s policies. Executive limitations are statements created by the board to explain to the superintendent the expectations directors have, Gaytán said.
Executive limitations deal with a variety of topics, including how the superintendent is to communicate with the school board; how he should go about recommending textbooks and other learning materials; and what needs to be in a school safety plan, according to the board’s policies.
The directors will discuss their interpretations of the executive limitations and whether their understanding of the policies is in line with the superintendent’s views, Gaytán said.
This process will help members hold Superintendent Alex Marrero accountable during his performance evaluation next month, Anderson said.
Anderson also has plans to propose changes to one of the policies to codify resolutions that were passed by the board in recent years, such as one – called Know Justice, Know Peace – that passed in 2020 directing the district to teach curriculum that includes the experiences and contributions of people of color.
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