DENVER — Denver Public Schools (DPS) Superintendent Susana Cordova is leaving the district after three decades and 9NEWS sat down with her to talk about her decision to take a new job in Dallas.
"Grew up in southwest Denver, I went to Barnum Elementary School and of my fondest memories of my childhood are walking to school with my friends," said Cordova, who has worked as a teacher, administrator and superintendent.
Cordova said she is proud that the district has grown academically and increased enrollment since she's been working as the district's chief academic officer and superintendent for the last two years.
On Dec. 31, she will leave the district to start a new job as deputy superintendent for the Dallas Independent School District in Texas.
After she announced her departure, Mayor Michael Hancock and former Mayor Federico Peña wrote a letter to the Denver school board with accusations of dysfunction and accusations that Cordova was mistreated.
Cordova spoke about all of it for the first time.
(Editor's note: Responses have been edited for context and clarity.)
9NEWS: If Denver is your home, why are you leaving?
Cordova: To have been able to rise up to the position of superintendent would've been unthinkable to me as a kid growing in DPS.
Denver has changed a lot, but I think of the things that really haven't changed about Denver is it's a big city, but in so many ways a small town.
I'm at my 31st year in the Denver Public Schools and have loved really almost every minute of the time that I've been in DPS. I'm so excited with a lot of mixed emotions about leaving because I've really admired the superintendent in Dallas for a long time.
How much of a factor is your relationship with the school board and accusations of dysfunction which board members deny?
Cordova: Frankly, I think we're at a point where we need to move past labels and I think it doesn't help the work to point fingers.
In any job, I think it's important for people to have the kind of relationships that feel like they are supportive, that feel like they've focused on common goals and common beliefs of what's possible.
I think it's really important that the board, you know, seek a superintendent that they feel completely aligned with.
What happens if the Denver School Board continues on its current path?
Cordova: It's really important that all of our school districts are served by boards of education that focus on goals that measure the progress of the district.
The way a school district goes is the way a city goes and so I think it's really important that our school district be served by a board of education that is focused, that's aligned, that agrees to and follows norms, that sets a vision.
As we think about the changes that are in front of us, it's going to be important for our school board, for our city, and for the future superintendent to really dig into a lot of the hard work that's in front of the district.
Were you unhappy working at DPS in the end?
Cordova: Just like anybody and just like any job, there are good days and there are bad days.
Really, leaving at this point is probably not how I anticipated leaving and ending my career -- incredibly proud of the 31 years and can look back and honestly say I loved every job that I've had in DPS.
I don't think I came into this job for vindication. I came in because I really love education. I know in a very personal and real way what difference school made for me.
I can walk into any building and I have personal connections, memories from being a student.
Denver has always been my home and I'm going to have to practice (saying) that it's my hometown.
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