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Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg stepping down

After a year that's been marked by controversy, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced he's stepping down to spend time with family.
Tom Boasberg speaking to 9NEWS (Photo: File)

DENVER — Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg will step down from the position after nearly 10 years on the job.

In a lengthy letter, which focuses mostly on the district's accomplishments, Boasberg announced Tuesday that he will "pass the torch" to someone new:

"I am grateful for the progress Denver's children have made and keenly aware of the work still ahead of us. After much reflection, I have decided it is time for me to step down to fulfill my commitment to my family and pass the torch of leadership. As you know, DPS has an experienced and committed Board of Education and leadership team, including our talented deputy superintendent Susana Cordova, and I am confident that the transition to new leadership will be successful and DPS will continue to move forward. I have committed to serve for another three months to help lead through the transition."

Boasberg will continue to serve as superintendent for the next three months, as the school board searches for a replacement.

He told 9NEWS in a sit-down interview that his decision was based around personal reasons.

"I'm finishing my tenth year [as superintendent]," he told 9Wants to Know's Jeremy Jojola. "When I started, my kids were 6, 4 and 2 - our oldest graduated from high school. And I think it's time now for me to have the opportunity to fulfill my commitment to my own family."

Boasberg said he felt very confident in the direction DPS was moving but that personally, the decision to leave his post was very hard.

"I admire and love the people I get the chance to work with every day," he continued.

He originally accepted the job when he took over for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) in 2009, when Bennet was appointed to fill Ken Salazar's vacant seat.

Boasberg's last year as superintendent has been filled with controversies:

  • In August 2017, Denver police investigated incidents involving multiple cheerleaders and the cheer coach at East High School following a 9Wants to Know open records request for videos that showed the coach physically forcing girls into the splits – in some cases eliciting cries of pain. The cheer coach was fired, East Principal Andy Mendelsberg retired and the athletic director resigned in the month following the reporting.
  • Former Manual High principal, Nick Dawkins, stepped down in March 2018 after what he called “traumatic” events during the previous school year, including a Confederate flag controversy involving Weld County students and the deaths of two Manual students, among other events.
  • Five current and former East High administrators are facing criminal charges alleging they failed to report an alleged sexual assault of a student. According to court documents, the five repeatedly failed to take action after learning of a student’s report that she was raped by a classmate. Despite repeated contacts with the girl and her parents over more than a year – including multiple meetings where the student said she was harassed and bullied for reporting the alleged assault – none of the administrators told police, according to court records. District officials contend that police were notified – and none of the five court cases has been resolved.
  • Antwan Wilson, a former DPS official, was brought on as a consultant and slated to be paid $60,000 for three months of work – but the arrangement was scuttled after questions arose about the contract. Officially, the district’s spokesman, Will Jones, said the deal was ended because Wilson “has other contracts that require his full attention.”

The most recent Board of Education annual superintendent evaluation, approved by the school board in February 2018, recognized multiple strengths and accomplishments within the district, including the superintendent’s strengths in professional development for staff members, culturally responsive education and investment in early learning.

It also listed some accomplishments under community engagement, but later the evaluation stated community engagement is “the biggest area of needed improvement” - which was also the board’s stated position in 2016.

“The perception of a lack of transparency in District decisions and community processes continues to be common feedback received by the Board from community members. We need to pay much more attention to public communication and we need to constantly earn the public’s trust and support,” the annual evaluation read in part.

“We believe this is more important than ever,” the evaluation said, and laid out goals including “improving quality, breadth and transparency” in engagement with staff and the community as a 2018 priority.

Other “areas for growth” according to the school board included supporting students “who have significant needs,” and coaching senior leadership.

Boasberg is one of the longest serving urban school district superintendents in the country. According to a report compiled by a group called The Broad Center in May 2018, the current average tenure of an urban superintendent is 3.7 years. Boasberg has been on the job for more than nine years.

Boasberg oversaw a period of progress for Denver Public Schools. Colorado Department of Education statistics show that in 2008, DPS had a graduation rate of 43.5 percent. In 2017, that rate was at 67 percent. Enrollment grew by about 30 percent since 2005, according to DPS, and the drop-out rate went from 11 percent to about 4.2 percent in that same period.

He also supervised the move of the district's headquarters from 10th and Logan to 18th and Lincoln. That move allowed the district to combine the headquarters with the Emily Griffith Technical College.

According to his district biography, Boasberg worked as the group vice president of corporate development at Level 3 Communications prior to becoming superintendent. He was also the legal advisor to a former FCC chairman, and he played semi-pro basketball in Hong Kong.



Denver DA calls forced splits video 'painful to watch,' declines to file charges

East HS principal retires, athletic director resigns in wake of 'forced splits' investigation

Former East High cheerleading coach visited school after being fired


High school accused of displaying Confederate flag calls claim 'significantly inaccurate'

Investigation deems allegations of improper conduct against ex-Manual principal credible

Dawkins resignation: Holes in Denver principal's letter leaves unanswered questions


5 East High administrators accused of failing to report sexual assault

DPS uses some unusual language to describe reporting alleged assault to police


Denver teachers ask superintendent to 'come to the table' for higher pay

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