Dr. Olson's Priorities for Denver Public Schools

HOLDING THE DISTRICT'S ADMINISTRATION ACCOUNTABLE TO STUDENTS, PARENTS, TAXPAYERS, AND TEACHERS

Holding the superintendent and the administration accountable to students, parents & families, teachers, and taxpayers is an important job of the school board. Dr. Olson spent more than 150 hours working on the superintendent search because ensuring we have the best possible leader for our future is critical to students’ academic  success and well-being.

SCHOOL CHOICE

Parents and students should be able to attend the public school of their choice. Whether it’s a neighborhood, innovation, or charter school, making sure families are able to make their own decision is crucial to creating the best outcome for kids. 

KEEPING RESOURCES IN THE CLASSROOM

Successful outcomes inside the classroom is what matters most. Dr. Olson leads with the insights she learned over 33 years teaching in DPS classrooms.  Along the way, she earned a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, became a National Board Certified teacher in 1999, and earned a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Holocaust and genocide studies from the University of Denver.  Her mixed methods dissertation represents 27 years of traveling with over 800 students to Washington, DC and Europe.  The findings of this work not only reflect the importance of educational travel but also the deep relationships students and teachers created when they have the resources to experience life beyond the classroom together.

ELIMINATING OVERTESTING 

Too often, we evaluate our kids on a single test, forcing educators to teach to the test instead of teaching kids to learn. Eliminating Over-Testing and focusing on creating lifelong, well-rounded kids should be the focus of our public schools. 

KEEPING THE COMMUNITY ENGAGED

Authentic community engagement has been a fundamental aspect and key priority of Dr. Olson’s time on the board. Community-led and district supported decision making is key to successful outcomes inside and outside of the classroom. Community meetings and interactions that don’t just check a box, but foster collaboration and partnerships have driven her decisions and will continue to be a crucial aspect of her process of decision making on the Board. People need to see that their comments are reflected in how their board members represent them.

BIPOC TEACHER AND STAFF REPRESENTATION 

We know that when students of color are taught by teachers of color, they have better academic performance, improved graduation rates, and are more likely to attend college. We also know that BIPOC educators report isolation, retaliation, lack of mentorship and more as reasons why they leave. Dr. Olson believes   DPS needs to listen and learn from what BIPOC educators have been telling us about what they are leaving and why others stay. Recruiting BIPOC staff for DPS is essential to successful outcomes for DPS kids and Dr. Olson will continue to work towards this important goal. 

CO-LOCATION OF SCHOOLS WITHIN THE SAME BUILDING

Dr. Olson taught at a co-located school for almost 4 years and her experience having schools compete for space in co-located facilities contributed to lack of community cohesiveness and lack of belonging.  The increase of competition for students by the two schools and a confusion for the families and their children when pushed to choose one school over the other. The competition for shared spaces (library, gym, cafeteria, etc.) further alienates the community and creates unnecessary stress on the schools and extra administration creates an extra financial burden while also necessitating that the administration have a strong cooperative relationship which takes more of their precious time that would be better used serving students.  For these reasons, Dr. Olson supported the reunification of West and Montbello and will continue to support more reunifications in the future.

FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY

During her tenure on the Board, Dr. Olson supported the creation of the Budget Advisory Committee, a huge step forward in keeping the district accountable, as well as the DPS Financial Transparency website.  Involving community members in matters related to the finances of the district provides greater oversight and understanding of the huge $1.3B annual budget. Broadcasting these meetings via Vimeo has also helped create a more transparent process.

LISTENING TO, AND LIFTING UP, STUDENT VOICES 

While this questionnaire didn’t ask about it, I’d like to add that student voice in a critical part in improving our school system.  I have served as the Board Liaison to the Student Voice and Leadership Executive Team during my board tenure.  This is an important part of my service as I believe we need to always listen to and learn from what our students are saying.  I believe that our students’ voice should be lifted up to hear what they want in our schools.  The Students’ Bill of Rights is an example of where we need to look for how to strengthen our public schools through the lens of what the students are asking for.  In part, they demand: