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Opinion: Efforts Underway For Equity In Education

Strengthening Neighborhood Event Is Jan. 27

By Laura Lefkowits

Special to the GPHN

Over the past six months, I have served on the Denver Public Schools’ “Strengthening Neighborhoods Initiative.”

As I wrote in these pages in August, the initiative established a citywide committee charged with making recommendations to the board that will “drive greater socio-economic integration in our schools.” Since the return to neighborhood schools in 1996, following the end of court-ordered busing for desegregation, integration in Denver’s schools has decreased. Research indicates that high-quality, integrated schools offer improved educational outcomes for all students and serve a vital role in promoting vibrant neighborhoods.

The committee’s recommendations were presented to the Board of Education on Dec. 18. They include four overarching themes which set the stage for about 10 more detailed proposals.

The first recommendation is that DPS establish a quantitative target for increasing socioeconomic integration in every school. The target would identify the ideal percentage of students in poverty in every school, and progress toward reaching that goal would be reported annually to the Board and the public. Although the goal will be quantitative, the committee also recommends monitoring measures of equity and inclusiveness in schools to ensure that an integrated school is one in which all students feel welcome, safe and valued.

The second recommendation is that the district provides resources, incentives, and supports for schools to use in creating a more integrated and inclusive environment. These could include assistance with school design and/or marketing to attract underrepresented students, creation of additional enrollment zones that offer transportation of students to more integrated options, and the inclusion of new equity measures in the School Performance Framework.

The third recommendation is for DPS to address the impacts of gentrification on Denver families by partnering closely with relevant city agencies and by advocating for affordable housing, access to public transit, and inclusive economic development.

Finally, the committee recommends that DPS launch a meaningful public engagement effort to increase awareness of the benefits of socioeconomic integration, current and projected enrollment trends, and the committee’s recommendations.

Public engagement by the committee over the last six months made it clear that more needs to be done to ensure the community is engaged in solving these critical challenges. The goal is for change to happen “with” the community, not “to” the community. For more information on the Strengthening Neighborhoods Initiative, go to

A group of Park Hill neighbors, the Park Hill Neighbors for Equity in Education (PHNEE), has been meeting during this same time period to address similar issues evident in Park Hill’s elementary schools.

On Jan. 27, PHNEE will host a community event featuring presentations from experts and neighbor-to-neighbor discussion. It will highlight Park Hill’s history of fighting for diversity, inclusion and equity; the benefits to all children of attending socioeconomically integrated schools; and the current level of segregation in our neighborhood schools. It will also be an opportunity to learn about some of the great things happening at our schools.

The solutions to these issues aren’t easy but, by working together, Park Hill neighbors can find solutions that work for us all. Join us on Jan. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon at McAuliffe International School at 2540 Holly St. Speakers will include Nita Mosby Tyler, Ph.D., Chief Catalyst, The Equity Project, LLC, and Alan Gottlieb, longtime journalist and director of  Write.Edit.Think, LLC. The event is free and lunch and childcare will be provided.

This is the beginning of a conversation that could benefit generations of Park Hill children to come.

Laura Lefkowits served on the Denver Public Schools board from 1995 to 1999.  She is a nonprofit management consultant to educational organizations and an expert on the history and impact of desegregation efforts in DPS.

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