After seven months, recommendations due from Denver task force on African-American equity issues

The Denver Public Schools African-American Equity Task Force will reveal its recommendations at a public meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Bruce Randolph School

Allen Smith of DPS’s Culture, Equity and Leadership Team talks about the formation of the task force at a press conference last year. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)
Allen Smith of DPS’s Culture, Equity and Leadership Team talks about the formation of the task force at a press conference last year. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)
Allen Smith of DPS’s Culture, Equity and Leadership Team talks about the formation of the task force at a press conference last year. (Melanie Asmar/Chalkbeat)

By Melanie AsmarChalkbeat

After a critical report documented concerns about how African-American educators and students in Denver are treated, Denver Public Schools assembled a task force of more than 100 parents, teachers, community members and district staff to brainstorm ways to respond.

The group, which has been meeting for the past seven months, will reveal its recommendations at a public meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Bruce Randolph School, 3955 Steele Street in Denver. Attendees will have a chance to review and react to the recommendations before they are presented to the Denver school board, which is scheduled to happen next month.

The Denver Public Schools African-American Equity Task Force was formed last fall in the wake of a report commissioned by the district. Summarizing conversations with 70 African-American educators, the report noted black teachers felt isolated and unaccepted, and passed-over for promotions. The educators also reported that black students were being left behind academically and disciplined more harshly than their white peers.

District statistics show black students are suspended at higher rates than white students and earn lower average scores on state English and math tests.

“We have institutional racism,” school board president Anne Rowe said at an October press conference about the formation of the task force. She said that while DPS is committed to equity, “we have a lot to do.”

The task force was comprised of several layers, including six working groups that each tackled an area of concern. For example, one group was charged with examining the causes of disproportionate student discipline and coming up with recommendations for alternatives to suspension. Another group looked at how to better recruit and retain black educators.

Allen Smith, associate chief of the district’s Culture, Equity and Leadership Team, who led the efforts, noted Monday that the task force has identified “a number of possible next steps.”

“I know the root causes impacting our community are broad, deep and interconnected,” Smith wrote in a statement.

He added that, “We are excited about building trust by sharing the results of this first phase of work and [getting] feedback on how the African-American community’s experiences will be different once we are successful.”

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.