While no one knows who will be the next superintendent of Denver Public Schools, several facts are coming to light as to how the search will go:
The new hire almost certainly will not be anyone currently employed by DPS. And it may not be a current superintendent or educator, either.
“I don’t think we have any candidates in-house,” said school board member Bennie Milliner. “I think we need to go on a nationwide search.”
No search timetable
Other board members agreed and said they have set no timetable yet. Superintendent Irv Moskowitz told them Thursday night he was resigning, effective June 30.
Moskowitz’s successor will have lots to catch up on and plenty to do. The district must implement a new bilingual education program approved last week, continue the push to improve minority students’ test scores and navigate upcoming teacher contract negotiations.
In a unique twist, the school board is exploring the possibility of bringing in a “nontraditional” superintendent, similar to school districts that have hired ex-military personnel to run their operations.
“Some, including me, would like to step out of the mold,” board member Rita Montero said. “I’m not so concerned about getting someone who was a superintendent somewhere else. I’d like to look at a wide range of ability.”
That could be someone from the business community or even the military, Montero said. Seattle, for instance, appointed an Army general who won rave reviews. He died from cancer late last year.
Board member Elaine Berman said she supports hiring someone with a “unique” background; someone she hoped would be more representative of the school district, which is about 50 percent Hispanic, 25 percent black and 25 percent non-Hispanic white.
“If we would find a person of color who meets the criteria the board is looking for, I’d be thrilled,” Berman said.
Moskowitz’s resignation comes at a crucial time. Just as the district was starting to make serious academic gains, its leader is leaving. School board members say they want someone who will continue Moskowitz’s commitment to improving literacy – and someone who won’t try to make too many changes.
“We want someone who is going to stay on the same track Irv has put us on,” board member Sharon Macdonald said.
Contract negotiations with the teachers union have already started and probably won’t be finished until after Moskowitz leaves.
Andrea Giunta, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said the uncertainty surrounding the superintendent’s successor could be a factor in the negotiations. However, she was hopeful it would not hamper the discussions.
“Something that would be good for the district as a whole would be to have a superintendent in place as soon as possible,” Giunta said. “I’m optimistic we can proceed with the negotiations with a positive outcome.”
While the contract talks are a short-term challenge, implementing the new bilingual education program is more pressing. The district endured a long battle with the federal government before agreeing to a program that would mainstream most students in English classes within three years. In the meantime, the district promised improved resources and teacher training for non-English-speaking students.
And while test scores have improved marginally among black and Hispanic students, neither their achievement nor improvement has equaled that of non-Hispanic white students.