The Goal: To learn how to replicate DU’s successful university-school district partnership.

The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and Denver Public School (DPS) District played host to university educators from across the nation who were on campus to learn about the unique 16-year partnership developed by MCE’s Educational Leadership & Policy Studies (ELPS) department.

The study visit was sponsored by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) and featured a three-day experience that included panel discussions with DPS leaders, ELPS faculty, alumni, and current students. The program is identified as one of the most successful university-school district partnerships in the nation. According to Dr. Susan Korach, ELPS dept. chair, there are several things that sets the ELPS program apart from other principal and leadership development programs.

“From the beginning of the program, we’ve been committed to leading differently. That means we’re not a program that focuses on static readings and classroom assignments. We believe in the power of experiential learning. That puts our students into very challenging, courageous spaces where they can bring about real, disruptive change.”

A hallmark of the ELPS program is the DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders. This cohort was originally created to address the need for highly competent and socially responsible school leaders; namely principals and superintendents. Today, graduates of the program refer to themselves simply as “Ritchies,” but their mission is anything but simple.

“Being a Ritchie was transformational to me. We are a cohort of souls that are serious about changing kid’s lives,” says Anthony Smith, graduate of the 4th Ritchie cohort and DPS Instructional Superintendent. “What Ritchie has helped us do is, first off, identify who you are authentically and how you lead from that. . . . How are you leading for change and what is the status quo for these kids you say your care so much about?”

Susana Cordova, DPS Deputy Superintendent, explains how the ELPS value-based leadership model impacts her daily work.

“I’m not going budge in this school or in any other school because I know what is important to me now and I know how to lead for what’s important to me. I know how to, in tough times, go back to what motivates me to take a stand. To say, ‘It’s not OK to lower standards’ . . . or whatever it is, because I know my values as a leader say the most important thing that I can be doing is to level the playing field for kids who only get that at school.”

Phrases like “leveling the playing field,” “challenging the status quo,” and “leading for change” are not just words for ELPS graduates, but rather commitments they are taught to embody while still students. So it’s not surprising that one of the highlights of the study visit included a trip to the Denver Green School (DGS), a DPS innovation school that started as a class project in ELPS.

Mimi Diaz and Craig Harrer, original founders of the school, were challenged to create their dream school as part of their ELPS course work. What exists today is a K-8th grade, high-achieving school in southeast Denver with a student population from 33 countries, speaking more than 25 different languages. A core value of the Denver Green School is sustainability – evident, not only in the on-campus community garden, but also through its shared leadership model.

Now nine years old, the Green School, has been identified as a “high performance,” “high growth” school, and a National Green Ribbon School award winner for the last seven years.

For graduates of the ELPS/Ritchie program, the results of such innovative leadership is not the exception, but rather the expectation of those who “lead differently” – and one of the key reasons the program was selected as a study site for the UCEA visiting professor team.

If feedback from the study participants is any indication, the ELPS leadership model will continue to drive educational change on a national level.

“What I learned at DU will inform how we prepare school leaders at the University of Texas at Austin,” said Dr. Terrence Green, assistant professor from the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy at UT.

Dr. Jada Phelps-Moultrie from Michigan State agreed, “I absolutely learned so much and was intrigued by this esteemed partnership . . . I too am excited how we can make so much of what was shared applicable to our own institution.”

Dr. Susan Korach, ELPS Dept. Chair, explains what makes the educational leadership program so unique.
Craig Harrer, ELPS PhD student, (R) leads visiting professors on a tour of the Denver Green School he helped create.
Culture Fest at the Denver Green School celebrates some of the 33 different countries represented in the study body.

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies EdD student Geraldine “Gerie” Grimes was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Grimes is the President and CEO of Denver-based nonprofit, The Hope Center, a community-based agency dedicated to meeting the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental delays, and persons in need of specialized educational or vocational services. She was nominated to the CWHOF because of her life’s work and dedication to the needs of others, especially women and women of color of all ages, building community and using her voice to be a strong advocate for the voiceless.

Kaleen Barnett is not your average PhD student. In 2016 she was selected to run the Colorado High School Charter, a school for students who thrive in an alternative academic environment. In a previous life, she was a catering sales manager for the Hyatt. In 2018, she was named a Fellow by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). And somewhere along the way, she earned a welding certification.

Barnett knows that a traditional approach to academia is not for everyone. She knows that success is defined by your goals. And she wants more academic institutions to recognize that technical certificates, community colleges, and other post-secondary options are excellent paths to a successful career. Her 2018 Fellowship from the ACTE fits into her long-term goals to tackle systemic challenges in education. The fellowship is specifically designed to develop leadership skills for careers in technical education (CTE) educators. In this way, CTE schools can develop organic leaders to meet their specific needs. The fellowship program is a one-year calendar commitment to network, learn, and represent the ACTE as an advocate for career and technical education.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this particular fellowship,” Barnett said. “There is so much opportunity to change the narrative of education.”

Barnett is on track to graduate from Morgridge College in August 2019. Currently, her doctoral dissertation focuses on the impact of climate change on U.S. school children.

“Right now, national data shows that less than 30 percent of school buildings have access to air conditioning in classrooms,” she elaborates.  “The issue is not just a matter of student or teacher comfort, recent research shows that students score lower on tests taken on very hot days and have a harder time learning overall during school years with higher-than-average temperatures. Climate is having a major impact on education and we need to start taking note.”

Once finished, she would like to take her research further and explore how students with a technical education can be the answer to an aging academic infrastructure. What if technical students can install the air conditioning in the schools? It is a way to mobilize education and allow both traditional and technical students to thrive. Barnet plans to use the mentorship and connections made through her fellowship to advance her research and practice.

On Monday, February 19, 2018 the University of Denver (DU) Black Alumni Affinity Group (BAA), in conjunction with the Leadership Insights program, celebrated Black History month at Cableland, the official residence of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, with a reception and conversation with Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumni Nick Dawkins (ELPS MA ’16). Dawkins is a principal with Denver Public Schools (DPS) at Manual High school, a historically black school in the Whittier neighborhood in Denver. His public conversation with Dr. Frank Tuitt, professor of Higher Education at Morgridge and Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Inclusive Excellence, was preceded by remarks from Denver Councilman Albus Brooks (MBA 16’), attending on behalf of Mayor Hancock.

This annual event is meant to engage DU’s communities of color by giving them an opportunity to ask questions and provide them with information regarding how the University is addressing issues of inclusive excellence through DU’s leadership and DU Impact 2025. Dawkins was the night’s featured conversationalist.

According to Dawkins, his education at Morgridge prepared him for his current role. He firmly believes in creating a culture of happy kids in his school. Many of his students face familial or personal deportation, homelessness, trauma, and other challenges in their daily lives. He worked hard to create a culture of access where his students know they can come to him with any trouble they are facing.

Recently, Dawkins himself was facing an exceptional challenge. In the fall during a high school football game, reports of racism and a rebel flag catapulted Dawkins and Manual High into the spotlight. As the he-said-she said grew, Dawkins discovered an ally in Morgridge and in DPS. Both the district and MCE stood by Dawkins as an exceptional leader who has the best interest of his students at heart.

Dawkins is a change agent. It is something he takes very seriously and he relentlessly challenges the status-quo in order to build better a future for his students.

“If I’m not in trouble,” he says, “I’m not doing my job.”

The University of Denver’s (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and Denver Public School (DPS) System celebrated 15 years of one of the most successful private college–public school partnerships in the nation with a reunion held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, November 14th. The DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders, was originally created to address the need for highly competent and socially responsible school leaders; namely principals and superintendents.

In its 15-year history the innovative partnership has been credited with producing the majority of Denver’s public school leaders, including:

  • 82 principals
  • 107 assistant principals
  • 4 instructional superintendents

In the current 2017-18 academic year 38 principals and 71 assistant principals in DPS are graduates of the DU Ritchie program. Many of whom have the longest tenure in DPS, have successfully led turnaround efforts, and were the first to achieve innovation status in their school leadership.

In addition to recognizing such milestones, the commemorative event reunited program graduates, professors and mentors from across its 15-year history. Individuals instrumental with founding and sustaining the leadership program were presented with a custom piece of artwork created by West Leadership Academy 11thgrader Julian Urbina-Herrera, and his assistant principal Cris Sandoval, a 2005 Ritchie Program graduate.

Among those individuals recognized for their leadership and support:

Program founders:

  • Ginger Maloney, former dean, MCE at DU
  • Jerry Wartgow, former DPS Superintendent
  • Tony Lewis, Exec Director Donnell-Kay Foundation

Program Namesake:

  • Dan Ritchie, former DU Chancellor

Co-creators of the program:

  • Maureen Sanders, former director of leadership development, DPS
  • Dick Werpy, former DU professor
  • Susan Korach, dept. chair, MCE at DU

More information about the DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders is available here.

More photos from the event can be found on our Flickr album.

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) graduate Lara Jackman  (MA’16) has recently accepted  the position of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator with Summit School District in Frisco, CO. Jackman, who leaves her position as Literacy Resource Teacher and Reading Recovery Teacher at Upper Blue Elementary School in Breckenridge, CO, will step into her new role for the 2017-2018 school year.

Jackman was in the Mountain Cohort of the Morgridge College of Education’s principal certification program, Executive Leadership for Successful Schools (ELSS). The Mountain ELSS cohort expands opportunities for educators and administrators to benefit from the program’s expertise and earn Certification for Colorado Principal Licensure. ELPS—which earned a top 20 ranking in Best Education Administration and Supervision by the U.S. News and World Report in 2016—launched the Mountain cohort of ELSS in the 2014-15 academic year to support leadership development within the rural mountain communities of Colorado and to meet the needs of region’s district superintendents. Since that time, the cohort has seen 13 graduates accept leadership positions within their districts, six of which are now in assistant principal or lead principal roles.

According to Morgridge Assistant Professor of Practice, Ellen Miller-Brown, Ph.D., the cohort provides a “high-quality, hybrid face-to-face and online program without the need for extensive travelling.” Face-to-face classes are held at locations in the high mountain region where the majority of the students reside.

Miller-Brown is incredibly proud of Jackman’s recent promotion.

“She [Jackman] is very knowledgeable about curriculum and this is the dream job she wanted with the certification she received through our program,” Miller-Brown explained.

The Morgridge Mountain ELSS Cohort will kick off another class in fall 2017 and is accepting applications now for the 2017 – 2018 academic year.

Morgridge College of Education alumna Kendra Carpenter (ELPS, ’16) has been selected by the Colorado Association of Elementary School Principals (CAESP) and the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE) to be the 2017 recipient of the Reba Ferguson Memorial Rookie of the Year Award. The award is given annually to a Colorado administrator in his or her first three years as an elementary school principal and honors elementary school principal Reba Ferguson, who tragically died in a traffic accident on her way to work in 2008. Carpenter is in her first year as principal of the Dillon Valley Dual Immersion Elementary School in Dillon, Colorado.

“I feel honored to be recognized in the name of Reba Ferguson,” said Carpenter. “Although I did not have the privilege of knowing her, I have heard what an amazing leader she was and know I have big shoes to fill to live up to her name.”

To win the award, Carpenter needed to be in her first three years as a principal and demonstrate remarkable leadership qualities, allowing her to make a positive impact as an instructional leader, community leader, and/or innovative leader.

Carpenter has worked for Dillon Valley Elementary for over 15 years, with a focus on diversity with its dual language model. Her passion is working with families and teachers to create an engaging environment where all learners will be successful.

According to Carpenter, the support she receives from both The University of Denver and her Morgridge Mountain Cohort is invaluable.

“These two entities continually help me grow my leadership skills,” she said.

Her goals for the future include continuing to work to create inclusive learning spaces where the whole child is honored, individualized professional development for teachers, and maintaining high expectations for all learners.

Carpenter will receive the award on Thursday, July 27 at the CASE Summer Convention in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The CASE Winter Leadership Conference, taking place Feb. 2-3, 2017, has a significant presence from students, faculty, and alumni from the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) department. Additionally, the Morgridge College of Education is a Bronze-level sponsor of the conference.

Congratulations to all ELPS faculty, students, and alumni presenting!

Faculty

Ellen Miller-Brown, Assistant Professor
Title:
Lessons from the Field: Fresh Research from Doctoral Candidates

Alumni

Dr. Tricia Johnson, Ed.D. Graduate, Vice President, Academic Affairs, Community College of Aurora
Title: Leading for Change: Developing Equitable College and Career Guidance Systems

Dr. Danny Medved, Ed.D. Graduate, Principal and Lead School Designer, Denver School of Innovation and Design, Denver Public Schools
Title: Enacting Vision and Navigating Change Case Study: A Technical Report to New School Designers and Stakeholders

Dr. Matthew Weyer, Ph.D. Graduate, Senior Policy Specialist, National Conference of State Legislatures
Title: The Every Student Succeeds Act and Redesignation: Implications for School Leaders

Students

Rana Razzaque, Ed.D. Student, Learning Partner, Social and Emotional Learning, Denver Public Schools
Title: The Enlightened Educator: Exploring the Influence of Mindful Self-Awareness on the Culturally Responsive Practices of Teachers

Lorna Beckett, Graduate Assistant and Ph.D. Candidate, University of Denver
Title: Predictors of Colorado Urban Principal Turnover

Co-Presentations

Rana Razzaque, Ed.D. Student, Learning Partner, Social and Emotional Learning, Denver Public Schools
Dr. Ellen Miller-Brown, Assistant Professor
Title: Leadership Matters: Leading for Civility, Cultural Responsiveness and Community Engagement


Dr. Doris Candelarie
, Clinical Assistant Professor
CJ Cain, M.A. Student
Theresa Gilbreath, M.A. Student
Title: Design Thinking for School Leaders

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 earned him national  recognition. Smith, who earned his MA 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 DPS schools, as well as filled superintendent roles in North Carolina and California. He was honored by President Barack Obama for his work as the executive director of Denver Summit Schools where he implemented innovative community engagement efforts. Smith currently serves as the associate chief of the DPS Culture Equity & Leadership Team.

Smith says that the opportunities in the ELPS program helped to establish a larger career trajectory and enable him to more effectively create a lasting impact. To this day, he translates the tools and lessons acquired in the program into his work.

Career Achievements

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. He also worked at Barrett Elementary School, where he reduced discipline rates and increased 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. The MLK Early College was also recognized with two Distinguished School Awards from the Colorado Department of Education. Smith acknowledges the support of fellow ELPS graduates, who served as assistant principals at the school, with helping to make a lasting impact on the environment.

Kaleen Barnett—Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Ed.D. student—has been selected to run the Colorado High School Charter (CHSC) satellite campus serving Denver’s Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.

CHSC is a charter school for students who need an alternative academic environment to succeed and to achieve post-secondary goals. The satellite campus, which opened in August 2016, supports a low-resource area with a high underserved population. Barnett’s goal with the new campus is to “create a tailored curriculum in an inclusive environment that values community partnerships” and to “empower students to succeed in their life and positively contribute to their families and community.”

The campus has partnered with the Colorado Construction Institute to provide vocational training, infusing the curriculum with individualized skill-building to help students reach future goals. Barnett says there is nothing like it in Denver for a school to run an outsourced model which utilizes existing, strong, established training already rooted in the community.

Barnett cites her education in the ELPS program as something that has prepared her for this opportunity, saying that “because of DU I’m better equipped to utilize a cultural leadership lens and continue to help create a community that values inclusivity.” The infusion of turnaround leadership into all ELPS coursework has prepared Barnett to step into a leadership role responsible for transforming a community.

This story is featured in our 2016 Dean’s Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

The Educational Leadership Policy Studies (ELPS) Program at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) is a nationally-recognized leader in the field, and is ranked in this year’s Top 20 programs for Educational Administration and Supervision by U.S. News and World Report.

According to Susan Korach, Ed.D.—ELPS department chair—“Our systems of support and coursework embedded in school and district contexts prepares transformative leaders who positively impact the educational outcomes for all students. Institutions of higher education across the country have consulted with ELPS to redesign their programs and to build partnerships with schools and districts.” The infusion of turnaround leadership into coursework and the drive of students, faculty, and alumni to innovate propel program success.

One leading example of the program’s innovative impact lies in Denver Public Schools, which has approved the creation of an Innovation Zone called the Luminary Learning Network where educators have more autonomy to influence student success. Three of the schools in the Network—Denver Green School, Ashley Elementary School, and Cole Arts & Science Academy—have been founded by, or are currently run by, ELPS alumni. Denver Green School, founded by alumni Mimi Diaz (2008), Craig Harrer (2008, current Ed.D. candidate), and Andy Post (2008) and currently co-led by alumni Prudence Daniels (2007), is unique in this group for infusing project-based learning and environmental sustainability into its curriculum.

This story is featured in our 2016 Dean’s Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program (ELPS) offers a Mountain cohort option in its Executive Leadership for Successful Schools (ELSS) Certificate program. The cohort expands opportunities for educators and administrators to benefit from the program’s expertise and earn Certification for Colorado Principal Licensure. ELPS—which earned a top 20 ranking in Best Education Administration and Supervision by the U.S. News and World Report in 2016—launched the Mountain cohort in the 2014-15 academic year due to increasing interest from the region’s district superintendents.

Because the communities are far from higher education institutions on the Front Range and Western Slope, options for educators looking to expand their skills can be scarce. The cohort was created to address the unique needs of growing mountain communities and their schools, and to enable them to invest in school leaders who were already part of those communities. According to Assistant Professor of the Practice, Ellen Miller-Brown, Ph.D., the cohort provides a “high-quality, hybrid face-to-face and online program without the need for extensive travelling.” Face-to-face classes are held at locations in the high mountain region where the majority of the students reside.

Members of the 2015-16 cohort had great success; three graduates—Kendra Carpenter, Laura Rupert, and Robin Sutherland of Summit School District—applied for, and were accepted to, principal positions in their districts after completing the ELSS Certificate. Additionally, cohort members Hank Nelson and Clint Wytulka served as interim principals at their Nucla, CO schools during the program and were promoted to full principals after completion, and cohort member Will Harris was appointed the Education Technology Specialist in his Eagle County district school after completing the program.

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Ph.D. student Isaac Solano was selected by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as a 2016-2018 Jackson Scholar. The Jackson Scholars Network provides students of color with opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and networking in order to elevate their careers in educational leadership.

Solano is thrilled to become a Jackson Scholar, saying that “various scholarship organizations have made it possible for me to continue my education up to a PhD. I am just so grateful for the unwavering and constant support I have from my DU family.” Solano’s mentor for the program is Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig of California State University, Sacramento.

Solano will participate in professional development and networking opportunities designed to enhance his doctoral experience. He will represent the Morgridge College of Education (MCE)—along with fellow MCE student Rana Razzaque, 2015-2017 UCEA Jackson Scholar—at the UCEA Convention in November.

About the Jackson Scholars Program

The UCEA Barbara L. Jackson Scholars Network began in November 2003 after a vote of the members of the UCEA Plenum. The two-year program provides formal networking, mentoring, and professional development for graduate students of color intending to become professors of educational leadership.

UCEA facilitates the development of a robust pipeline of faculty and graduate students of color in the field of educational leadership. As a result, Barbara Jackson Scholars and Alumni enhance the field of educational leadership and UCEA with their scholarship and expertise.

Several Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumni, all of whom lead schools in DPS, are banding together to create an “innovation zone.” Chalkbeat Colorado reports that this zone will consist of several innovation schools which already operate in Denver. Innovation schools are defined by the high level of autonomy given to school leaders. This autonomy allows leaders to create unique and effective learning environments.

Ashley Elementary School became an innovation school in 2013 after principal Zach Rahn (MCE class of 2010) was hired as part of a turnaround effort. Since then, Ashley has seen progress in academic achievement as well as in school culture. Rahn strives to “inject joy into each day” at Ashley Elementary.

The Denver Green School is co-led by MCE alumna Prudence Daniels and serves students in K-8. This innovation school has its own produce garden, where each class tends a plot. The school uses solar panels for energy, providing unique learning experiences for students.

The Cole Arts & Science Academy, which is led by MCE alumna Jen Jackson, has focused heavily on early literacy. The school’s Kindergarten through third-grade currently ranks among the top in the state for literacy.

The leaders of these three schools – along with the leader of Creativity Challenge Community – are seeking the creation of this innovation zone, governed by a new nonprofit organization. This proposed zone will provide the innovation schools with even more autonomy, further allowing them to meet their separate needs while sharing in the common goal of promoting individualized learning. It’s all about “going from good to great” says Rahn.

The ELPS program specializes in training individuals capable of implementing positive change in the institutions they lead. Graduates like Rahn, Daniels, and Jackson learn to apply their skills, transforming low-performing schools into effective learning environments.

The department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) at the Morgridge College of Education hosted a colloquium on November 30 that focused on the challenges and experiences of turnaround schools in the greater Denver area. The event featured a panel discussion between principals of current turnaround schools as well as district administrators working with turnaround schools.

The colloquium’s panelists, all of whom have graduated from, or are current students of, the Turnaround Success Program, included:

  • Peter Sherman, Executive Director of the District & School Performance Unit at the Colorado Department of Education
  • LaDawn Baity, Instructional Superintendent and former principal of Trevista at Horace Mann
  • Ivan Duran, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, a graduate of Denver Public Schools, and a current EdD candidate at the Morgridge College of Education
  • Nick Dawkins, principal at Manual High School
  • Lisa Mahannah, principal at Oakland Elementary
  • Julie Murgel, principal at DCIS Montbello
  • Jésus Rodríguez, principal at Trevista at Horace Mann and current doctoral candidate at the Morgridge College of Education

The panelists held a discussion about the realities of providing leadership in turnaround schools and the many factors, internal and external, which can contribute to a school requiring turnaround services. Pre-conceived notions about communities, the difficulty of providing adequate mental health services, and disparities in low-income and disadvantaged communities all contribute to a lack of student success.

Culture was an important theme of the discussion; panelists talked about how important it is to create a structure and provide high expectations and accountability to change students’ perceptions of learning.

A second, and significant, theme of the evening was innovation. The ability to innovate varies between each school due to differences in priorities. Despite this, panelists all agreed that having the ability to take initiative to get results in schools is of the utmost importance.

After the panel discussion, attendees engaged in a design thinking activity in collaboration with the Daniels College of Business. Jennifer Larson, a student at the Daniels College, led a brief presentation describing design thinking – the experience of “how” rather than just “what,” and asking “what if we?” or “why can’t we?” – in relation to solving a challenge. The activity included participants breaking out into groups to learn from each other about unique experiences with challenges in their educational work.

Susan Korach, the ELPS Department Chair, closed the event by asking what the audience heard and did not hear from panelists and fellow participants. Attendees noted that they did not hear discussions about test scores or practicing for assessments, nor did they hear pessimism or excuses from their colleagues about the work they do. They did hear an emphasis on relationship-building in their communities, honesty about equity and oppression, and hope and optimism regarding the future.


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