Alumni Highlight: Allen Smith, Change Leader
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumnus and Denver Public Schools (DPS) graduate Allen Smith has led a highly successful career in education administration that has taken him across the country and back again. Currently serving as the Associate Chief of the DPS Culture Equity & Leadership Team, Smith—who earned his M.A. at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and completed the ELPS Ritchie Program for School Leaders Certificate program—credits his education at the University of Denver as a major influence in his success.
A Colorado native, Smith has served as Principal at multiple schools in DPS, Executive Director of Denver Summit Schools—where he was honored by President Barack Obama for his commitment to the district’s community—took on superintendent work in North Carolina and California, and finally returned to Denver to serve in his current role. Smith says that the opportunities in the ELPS program helped to establish a larger career trajectory, and as a result enabled him to more effectively create a lasting impact. To this day, he translates the tools and lessons acquired in the program into his work.
Allen Smith founded the Skyland Community High School—which serves at-risk students in Denver—and graduated its first senior class with 100% graduation and 100% college acceptance rates. In addition, he has also worked at Barrett Elementary School, where he worked to reduce discipline rates and increase student achievement, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College (MLK), which, under his leadership and a turnaround initiative, improved from one of the nation’s lowest-ranked schools to one of the top schools in DPS and recognized with two “Distinguished School Awards” from the Colorado Department of Education. According to Smith, his education in the ELPS program helped him to influence MLK’s success and his impact on the school. Furthermore, he had the support of fellow ELPS graduates—serving as Assistant Principals—with shared values and vision to make a lasting impact in the environment.
Smith says that being able transform the lives of students and teachers is his calling, and that the ELPS program has prepared him to transition successfully into any role within education leadership. Additionally, the strength of relationships within his cohort and with the program’s faculty has provided a strong support network that has lasted beyond his enrollment at MCE.