It shouldn’t be over ‘til the students really have a say

For months, I’ve been meeting with other student leaders about the search for a new superintendent of Denver Public Schools (DPS). We testified in front of the Board of Education multiple times, asking for two basic things: first, that the Board announce multiple finalists for a superintendent and second, that students be allowed to interview them before a selection is made. After all, students are the most important stakeholders in this whole endeavor. And yet, after much anticipation, the Board has announced Deputy Superintendent Susana Cordova as its sole finalist for the district’s next superintendent.

Although I am deeply proud that a Latina woman—who looks and speaks like me—was named as a finalist for superintendent, I am also disappointed and frustrated that the Board didn’t release several finalists as we had requested on multiple occasions.

Board member Happy Haynes said during the finalist announcement, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

While that might be technically true, from my perspective it seems as if the decision has already been made and once again student voice has been taken for granted.

In response, I and other members of the Colorado Youth Congress will not be attending any of the community engagement activities that may be planned between December 5th and the 14th. This is out of protest. Many of us believe the decision by the Board goes against the district’s own core value of “Students First” and we believe that students and families should have a bigger say over the direction of the district.

While Deputy Superintendent Cordova’s background matches with a lot of what my peers and I have noted as being important, I would have liked to compare the experience of multiple finalists. I say this not as a critique against our deputy superintendent, but instead as critical feedback in response to the Board’s decision to move forward with just one finalist.

If the deputy superintendent is confirmed as our new superintendent, there are certain things that my peers and I hope she will take into account as our new leader.

We’ve always known that we want our new superintendent to be a part of the community and to have a good relationship with both parents and students. Moving forward, we hope she will be more transparent with school communities when it comes to making decisions. We want her to use her background in education, particularly as an educator of color, to advocate for other students of color as well. We believe it is time for someone from a different ethnic background, and gender to take this important role in order to break repetition and prove what’s possible, especially for young women of color like myself. Having a woman take this position certainly allows young women to see what’s possible in becoming a leader in a society that is often dominated by men. It’s great that Deputy Superintendent Cordova meets many of these criteria. I just wish we had more of a choice.

In the future I hope that the Board and new district leadership take the voice of students more seriously.

That said, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to speak up with my peers throughout the superintendent search process and will continue raising my voice for the communities I love.


Mildred Gonzalez is a junior at STRIVE Prep – RISE. She is an active member of the Colorado Youth Congress, a youth voice organization supporting students across the state as they lead systemic change.


Photo Credit: Denver Public Schools

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