DENVER — Latino community leaders gathered Monday at the headquarters of Denver Public Schools (DPS) to voice their support for a new strategic plan unveiled by the district. They said it will help give Latino families a voice in a district where more than half the students are either Latino or Chicano.
There’s now new optimism for the new leaders pledging to give a voice to a community that said it's been ignored for too long.
"We have approximately 52% Latino, Mexicano, Chicano community of students across the district. We’ve had underrepresentation on this board," Xochitl Gaytan, president of the Denver School Board. "I am the first naturalized Latina to be president of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education."
This is the first full school year Gaytan will lead the district’s board.
She said the district’s new strategic roadmap gives Latino students more opportunities to succeed by doing things like expanding ethnic studies, hiring more teachers of color and increasing mental health services. Only 20% of teachers right now are Hispanic or Latino while more than half the district’s students are.
"This roadmap within every building will have a student experience that will allow every student from every identity and with a focus on our most marginalized students, the opportunity to make a place in the world," said Gaytan. "We’ve been underrepresented, our voices have not been heard as strongly as they should have, given the numbers."
Last week it was announced that DPS has the largest gap in test scores between white and Hispanic students in both literacy and math. Those test scores raised new questions about whether the district was doing enough to serve all of its students, regardless of race or ethnicity.
In a district where Latino students’ four-year graduation rates lag behind the average by 4%, the school year begins with a plan to change that.
"It allows every learner in every school from all ages, all identities and abilities, to feel a sense, a strong sense, of belonging," said Gaytan. "To be emotionally supported in every school."
Read more of the DPS strategic roadmap here.
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