Dear Team DPS.
I had such a fun and inspiring start to the school year, and I just wanted to share a few thoughts and a whole bunch of pictures to recap the week.
I started Monday by riding our Success Express bus in Far Northeast Denver with students who are served by our unique shuttle service that we provide there and in other parts of the city to help make school choice more accessible to kids. We rode the bus to Maxwell Elementary, where I joined the amazing teachers and school leaders as well as Mayor Michael B. Hancock in welcoming students, families, and staff…and to ring in the new year. It was so wonderful to see the big smiles, the sharp haircuts, and shiny new shoes and sequins – lots and lots of sequins! And it was especially heartwarming to see excited kids running up to hug their teachers and the school staff they missed over the summer.
I spent the rest of the day Monday and all day Tuesday stopping by campuses and visiting classrooms across the city. In total, I was in 18 schools – where I saw students from all different cultures and backgrounds thriving, including at Bruce Randolph, where high school students were already taking college classes.
I visited with DPS alum in action across the district too, including Jareda Phenix, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and is now teaching fifth grade at Hallett. I even ran into one of my own former students, Arturo, who I taught at Horace Mann and who is now a part of the team at North High School.
We welcomed new students to school for the first time, including a kindergartener at Wyatt Academy who had a smile so big it was contagious as she showed off her breakfast. We also welcomed new team members, like Bochra Bendjebbar, who kicked off her first day as a teacher after completing her student-teaching residency at Lowry Elementary as part of DPS’ paraprofessional-to-teacher pipeline program.
I had a great time at each school I visited and wish I could’ve gone to more…which I’ll be doing as much as I can in the coming weeks. I know the first couple of days were hard for our schools that don’t have air-conditioning or cooling systems. I very much appreciate our staff working in these buildings and team members who are doing all that they can to make those schools as comfortable as possible. Thank you to our families with kids in these schools for their patience and understanding. While the funding from the 2016 bond that our community so strongly supported has cut in half the number of schools without AC, we still have 60 schools left that are not air conditioned. We’ll continue to help our schools manage the extreme temperatures we sometimes get in August as best they can and focus on long-term funding solutions to keep our classrooms cool.
I hope you had a great start to the school year, and I look forward to more opportunities throughout the year to be out in our classrooms and our community…and to connect with you.