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District 4 Candidate Rachele Espiritu

Website: www.rachelefordenver.com

Biographical information

Rachele Espiritu is a parent of two DPS students. She was appointed last year to fill an opening on the board and is running for her first full term. She lives in Stapleton with her husband and two sons. Espiritu received her B.A. from the University of California at San Diego and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

When looking at the past four years, how would you describe DPS’ legacy?

The legacy of the past four years in DPS is one of systems transformation. DPS has made strides towards greater equity across the district, has given schools more autonomy and flexibility, and has continued to work towards the goal of giving all parents a choice of high-performing schools in every neighborhood. The number of DPS graduates who are college-ready has increased by more than 80 percent in the last four years, and two of the top three highest-performing schools in Colorado are DPS District 4 schools (DSST: Stapleton & KIPP Denver).

What should be DPS’ top four priorities in the next four years?

I believe that the schools in our district are headed in the right direction, and we should continue the policies that have led to this progress. There is room for change and the issues that I believe are most important to prioritize are closing the opportunity gap, expanding early literacy programs, focusing on the whole child, and making sure that families have their choice of and access to great schools in every neighborhood.

Many families enjoy the ability to “choice” into a desired school. This benefit, however, comes at a price. Please describe some of the negative repercussions of the “choice” system and ways to mitigate those repercussions.

Though DPS’ choice program has been largely successful, there are always areas for improvement. One challenge is that not all families have access to high performing schools because of transportation or distance, so they don’t feel that they have real choice. I support the Success Express (an innovative transportation approach to increasing access) and a proposed partnership between the Regional Transportation District and the city to expand transportation options for high school youth, while ensuring the safety of our students while on public transit. Ultimately, the goal is true choice for high quality programs in every neighborhood.

 

A July 2017 report by the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education reiterated its call for a moratorium on new charters until there is accountability and transparency in their operations. What will you do in response to this, if elected?

Every state and district governs charter schools by different rules. In Denver, we have accountability and transparency for all of our schools – district-run, innovation, and charter schools–and have seen great success with that system. We are pursuing the goal of having high-performing schools in every neighborhood, and charters have been important partners in achieving that goal. The board is always working towards greater transparency and accountability for all of our schools, and I am very proud of the progress that we have made. I reject the creation of for-profit charter schools, which are against local policy and state law.

What are the pros and cons of allowing people who do not have a formal teacher education to teach Denver’s students? For example those trained by the Teach for America program or the Relay Graduate School of Education.

It’s no secret that the country is experiencing a teacher shortage, and Colorado is no exception. Given this shortage, we need different strategies to get effective teachers into our classrooms. These systems use tools to ensure effectiveness and are accountable to the same performance standards. The greatest challenge is that these programs, particularly the TFA model, are designed to be short term. I applaud the work that TFA is doing to increase the tenure of teachers in their program and believe that the district can do more to support their professional development and make teaching a viable long term career.

Who do you expect will be the three top funders to your campaign? Are there any organizations or individuals from which you will not accept contributions?

My fundraising strategy has primarily focused on friends, family, and professional contacts. My top funder is currently my mother. Like most candidates, I spend a lot of time making fundraising calls, and am grateful for every dollar I have received. I can state with absolute certainty that I will not take any money from Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers, or any other right-wing group.

On a grade of A to F, rate Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s performance over the last four years.

Superintendent Boasberg has lead important systems transformation, but could stand to improve authentic community engagement. B.

What is your position on vouchers?

I am firmly against the use of vouchers with public funds for private institutions that don’t abide by the same accountability measures as DPS schools.

What is your position on “choice?”

School choice can result in greater school integration, expanded curricula, and more options for parents to send their kids to the school that is best for them.

What is your position on enrollment zones?

Enrollment zones are a way to increase school inclusivity and a possible solution to the segregation problems the city and schools faces due to rapid demographic shifts.

What is your position on high-stakes testing?

I believe that as a district we can be working to reduce the number of district mandated assessment to more closely align with state and federal requirements.

Have you been in a minority vote on any issue since being on the board? Please explain.

The board members work to move and change each other’s minds during work/study sessions. Though often unanimous, our votes don’t reflect the time and effort spent coming to a consensus decision.


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