Why I must vote ‘NO’ on the new Superintendent contract

Dear Denver Public Schools Community,

I hope this letter finds you in the best of spirits. I am writing to you today to express my vote on a matter of high importance: the proposed amendments to Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero’s contract extension and compensation increase.

First and foremost, let me make it clear that I am an unwavering believer in the importance of a fair wage. I champion the notion that we should pay individuals wages that reflect their hard work, dedication, and responsibility. This applies to all members of our community, including our Superintendent. However, I firmly believe that the timing of this proposal is not right, given the multiple pressing issues we are currently grappling with as a board.

Our students and staff are facing significant challenges related to safety, mental health, and ensuring academic success. As a Board, our undivided attention should be dedicated to resolving these immediate problems. We should be focusing our resources, time, and energy on providing the highest quality of education and safety to our students. Unfortunately, the timing and process of these contract amendments divert our attention away from these critical priorities, even if we have been having conversations for the last few months.

Furthermore, it is important to note that the proposed contract does not sufficiently protect our Superintendent from potential shifts in ideology following elections. We have seen alarming trends across Colorado, where changes in the Board of Education resulted in significant alterations to superintendents’ roles and responsibilities. It’s crucial to establish a contract that guarantees stability and continuity, irrespective of changes in the Board’s composition.

This contract amendment also reminds me of a recent situation in Douglas County. The Superintendent’s contract was altered without all board members being properly consulted or a full board meeting being conducted in executive session. In this case, the process has occurred primarily via email, with unrealistic deadlines and without full transparency. This method of operation bypasses the thoughtful, comprehensive deliberation that should accompany decisions of such gravity.

Moreover, I firmly believe that such matters should align with our evaluation cycle, which is scheduled for October. It seems premature to authorize a compensation increase without the necessary data to justify the decision, thereby disconnecting it from the performance review process. Also, transparency is of utmost importance, and the use of executive sessions to negotiate and finalize such decisions is paramount. When we operate outside of these frameworks, the public has the opportunity to pursue the recordings of our deliberations through the courts, ensuring the accountability of our actions.

Let me be clear — I am not inherently opposed to a compensation increase for our Superintendent. I genuinely believe that when the time is right, a raise may be entirely justified. However, at this particular juncture, it is my conviction that our focus should be on the pressing issues at hand. I am committed to ensuring that our decisions, as a Board, are made with utmost transparency, inclusivity and with the best interests of our students and staff at heart.

In conclusion, it is with deep consideration and respect for the role of our Superintendent that I vote ‘NO’ to the proposed contract amendment. I welcome open and robust conversations on this matter with my fellow board members and the community at large.

Auon’tai Anderson

Vice President, Denver Board of Education

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The Honorable Auon’tai M. Anderson

The Honorable Auon'tai M. Anderson, is a former Denver School Board Member and CEO of the Center for Advancing Black Excellence in Education.