DENVER, Colorado — A beloved Chicano teacher at North High School will not be returning next year after Denver Public Schools made the decision not to renew his contract.
Tim Hernández teaches literature with a specific focus on Latinx books. North High School is two blocks from where he lives. He said he chose to become a teacher and work at the school to represent the students who live in the neighborhood and face gentrification.
"My class is dedicated to inclusion and making sure that the kids from my neighborhood can feel powerful in the school that serves their neighborhood," Hernández said.
At North High School, 67% of students are Latinx. They continue to live and grow up in a neighborhood defined by gentrification. Hernández's goal has been to make the Black and brown students' voices elevated in the classroom.
"What I do is not a job. What I do is a duty to preserve our history, to preserve our stories and to give our students a foundational understanding of where we come from," Hernández said.
Hernández was hired as a traditional teacher during the 2020/2021 academic year. During the 2021/2022 school year, he was only offered an associate teaching position, which included a one-year contract. The district had the choice to renew that contract or let it expire without new terms of employment. All associate teachers have to undergo an interview process with DPS.
After going through one interview with North High School, Hernández said, he was told in a five-minute meeting that he would not be on staff next school year. He was told the reason was that he did not interview well enough for the role, despite having interviewed twice for positions at the school.
Hernández also said he had high performing scores based on his teacher observance and student perception.
"I was let go for retaliatory reasons. I have clashed with the administrators and leaders of my school over what I think equity looks like for my neighborhood," Hernández said.
DPS said over email that associate positions don't qualify for automatic renewals. They wouldn't discuss the matter in depth because it is a "personnel issue."
In response, students are staging a walkout on Friday. There is also a parent meeting Monday night to address the situation.
"To lose a teacher like Tim, not only does it have a profound impact on the students, but it has a profound impact on the community.," said Manuel Aragon, a parent with one child currently at North and another who will be attending.
Aragon was looking forward to at least one of his students being able to take a Latinx literature class at their neighborhood school, defined by the Chicano culture and movement in a strongly gentrified neighborhood.
"I don't think you can understate that when you speak of Tim, that not only is it somebody who's passionate about books, who's passionate about students, but it's someone who's passionate about the same culture," Aragon said.
A change.org petition is circulating to ask the school to keep Hernández
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