The Denver faculty board president, who was a bilingual instructor within the district for 33 years, is working for reelection to symbolize central-east Denver on the board.
Carrie Olson was elected to the board in 2017 and became president in 2019. As president, she led the district’s latest seek for a brand new superintendent, and helped helm its response to COVID-19, together with by answering dad and mom’ questions in English and Spanish dwell on Fb.
Olson, 59, was a Denver instructor from 1985 till shortly after she was elected, when she resigned consistent with a district coverage that bars workers from serving on the board. In her greater than three a long time within the classroom, Olson taught at elementary, center, and excessive colleges, and introduced college students from low-income households on area journeys to Washington, D.C., and Europe. She now works as an adjunct training professor on the College of Denver.
“That perspective of so a few years within the classroom is invaluable to have main our district,” she mentioned, including that she’s devoted to the work of the board.
In all, 12 candidates are working for 4 open seats within the Nov. 2 election. The winners will oversee the new superintendent, craft a brand new strategic plan, and grapple with a number of long-simmering points, together with declining enrollment and continued disagreement over the function of impartial charter schools and semi-autonomous innovation schools.
Politically, Olson was within the minority when she was elected to the college board in 2017 with the backing of the Denver academics union. Olson and the union opposed the reform insurance policies put in place by earlier boards, corresponding to closing colleges with low take a look at scores.
Then, within the 2019 election, the board majority flipped in favor of union-backed members. Olson was elected president, and beneath her management, the board made massive modifications.
Previously two years, the board has taken a softer tone with low-performing schools, giving them an opportunity to indicate enchancment. It additionally voted to reopen two complete excessive colleges in communities of shade — West High and Montbello High — that earlier boards had dismantled.
The board authorized a new labor union for principals, got rid of the district’s controversial faculty rankings system, and removed police officers from colleges. It additionally attempted to delay the opening of a brand new constitution highschool and did delay the expansion of two autonomous innovation zones. In response to the advocacy of Black college students, the board voted to make the district’s curriculum more inclusive of Black, Latino, and Indigenous historical past.
Olson has handled controversy in her time as president. Most not too long ago, she led the board by way of an investigation of member Tay Anderson, which did not substantiate claims of sexual assault. Olson voted to censure Anderson for different conduct uncovered by the investigation.. Final 12 months, metropolis leaders blamed a “dysfunctional” school board for pushing out former Denver colleges Superintendent Susana Cordova.
Olson is happy with the method she led to rent Cordova’s alternative, Alex Marrero, which included a student-led town hall with the finalists. If reelected, Olson mentioned considered one of her priorities could be guaranteeing Marrero is profitable. She mentioned she’d additionally concentrate on strengthening conventional district-run colleges, lifting up pupil voices, and recruiting and retaining academics of shade.
The board has lengthy supported diversifying the instructor workforce, however the district has struggled to make a lot progress.
“One of many issues that I see that occurs is we as a board set ahead a imaginative and prescient and a mission about one thing after which we stroll into the colleges and we speak to individuals they usually’re like, ‘Uh-uh, that’s not occurring,’” Olson mentioned. “I don’t suppose that there’s individuals actively working in opposition to the board’s imaginative and prescient. I simply suppose that we’re a big faculty system, and there’s a lot of institutional racism. … So how can we higher bridge that hole?”
Denver Public Colleges is Colorado’s largest faculty district, serving about 90,000 college students. Slightly greater than half of scholars are Hispanic, 26% are white, and 14% are Black. Its faculty board has seven members — 5 regional and two districtwide.
The central-east a part of Denver Olson is vying to symbolize stretches from Capitol Hill to Lowry.
We requested her about a number of key points the district will face in coming years.
Declining enrollment and a rising variety of small colleges: Olson was a instructor at Kepner Center College when the district closed that faculty. She mentioned her voice as a instructor, and the voices of scholars and households, weren’t heard. She desires the district to work with neighborhood members now to provide you with options.
“I simply actually need to see what individuals in that scenario are interested by, what’s on their minds, and the way can I raise up what they’re saying as a result of individuals know their communities finest,” she mentioned.
Constitution and innovation colleges: Whereas she has been skeptical of publicly funded, privately run charters, Olson mentioned the scholars who attend them are Denver Public Colleges college students. Her job as a board member is to ensure charters are serving their college students properly, she mentioned.
“Beneath my board tenure, seven constitution colleges have closed, a whole lot of them resulting from enrollment,” she mentioned. “However I haven’t purposely gone out and mentioned, ‘You want to shut,’ as a result of it’s traumatic.”
Bettering training for Black and Hispanic college students: Olson is enthusiastic about bilingual training and mentioned if reelected, she’d look into increasing widespread twin language applications.
“I might like to see college students having the ability to proceed … to develop their different languages apart from English together with English — and valuing that,” Olson mentioned.
Olson mentioned she absolutely helps a Black Excellence resolution handed by the board, however colleges want extra help in finishing up the directive to enhance training for Black college students. “How are we supporting every faculty to say, ‘What does that imply for you?’” she mentioned.