Experience to Lead
The first thing to know about me is that I am not a politician. I have been an educator for 35 years in Denver, Aurora, Breckenridge, and Cherry Creek schools. I am a Denver Public Schools graduate, parent, volunteer, former teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent, and I am running for a seat on the DPS Board of Education. In my heart I’m a principal. I’ve been a principal for 18 years and for every day of those 18 years I walked up to the school asking myself two questions: Have we done all of the work necessary to make certain that we are safe today? Have we done all of the work that we need to do to ensure that our children will learn well today?
That first question is the most important one in Denver Public Schools right now. I am the parent of two girls at East High School. I got called to the school four times last year because of threat events and shootings. I waited outside in the park like many parents after my friends Wayne and Eric were shot. When my daughter found me and hugged me she asked, “Why are you shaking?” I said, “Because I am so sad.” I was sad that the work hadn’t been done by the district. The most important work is not being led by our district on safety, on teaching and learning, and providing a transparent and responsive organization for our community.
Over the past two years, I wrote five letters to the district asking for new safety guidance and I was one of 17 principals who wrote a letter to the Superintendent asking that the School Resource Officers not be removed from schools yet, without the presence of a plan and putting other supports in place. What we need on our Board of Education right now is somebody who has implemented safety and mental health supports their entire career, driven student outcomes for communities across the region, and somebody who engages with the community on a deep level.
I’m the son of a preacher and a nurse. I grew up a student in the Denver Public Schools during bussing, went to Merrill Junior High, and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School (where I became a teacher), after attending four schools in four years. I graduated from CU Boulder with a degree in psychology and started my career serving youth as a counselor in group homes. After successfully completing the teacher licensure program at CU Denver, I obtained an MA in School Leadership and earned my Professional Principals License with the State of Colorado.
This led to one of the most inspiring moments of my career: I became the principal of Newlon Elementary School in West Denver. My experience at Newlon proved to me the power of teachers and teacher leadership. Our staff and our community worked together and, through six years together, we were celebrated with my recognition as the Colorado National Distinguished Principal (Principal of the Year 2000).
My career continued with other elementary principalships (Upper Blue in Breckenridge and Smedley in North Denver), and with two five-year runs as the principal at East High School. In all of these places, I found the heart of the school to be in our teachers. The teachers with whom I worked were personally and professionally determined to make every difference possible in the life of every child. Several times, I have left Denver, professionally, and returned and several times I have worked in positions in district offices. I served as Director of Principal Talent Management in Denver, preparing developing leaders to become effective principals for our school communities, Area/Assistant Superintendent in Denver serving the communities of Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast Denver, and as the Chief Academic Officer in the Aurora Public Schools (where the graduation rate improved from 46% to 68% while I was there, and I removed all unsupervised seclusion rooms).
Currently, I serve as President of PrincipalEd Consulting, coaching principals and partnering with school districts on strategic action and change. I’m also the part-time Chief Operating Officer for the Denver Youth Program, also known as the Gang Rescue and Support Project, a nonprofit working to reduce youth violence in our community.
I know what it is like to teach in our classrooms, to lead in our schools, and to support principals as a supervisor, coach, and mentor. Doing those things brings me great joy. School board leadership requires a heart for service. Integrity is at the heart of public service. A school board director should be a leader, someone who will make hard decisions, own the outcomes, and work to improve our district into the future. That’s the work that I’ve done my whole career and I ask that you allow me to use my experience at almost every position in education to lead our district to a better future.