Denver Bar Association
February 2009
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Denver Public Schools Office of the General Counsel


Feb. 2, 2009

Dear fellow DBA member,

We need your help.

These days, a lot of people are watching Denver Public Schools. Our district’s innovative reform efforts received the highest compliment when Superintendent Michael Bennet (a graduate of Yale Law School) was appointed last month as U.S. Senator. Some of DPS’s notable reforms so far include:

  • a pay-for-performance agreement with the teacher’s union, hailed as a national model:
  • the Denver Preschool Program benefits 1,000s of Denver’s youngest children and
  • increased student achievement and enrollment show that DPS is on the proper course.

Yet, we remain a long way from our city’s shared goal of making the Denver Public Schools the best big-city school district in the country. Despite these achievements, the undeniable truth is that we will continue to fail the vast majority of the 75,000 children who attend DPS absent our ability to sustain this momentum in a meaningful way.

Initial successes have helped us better understand how to reform an urban school district. One conclusion is irrefutable: our ability to drive reform and higher student achievement is directly correlated to our ability to engage the broader community in these efforts.

At DPS, we’ve worked the past three years to get people in Denver to recognize what’s at stake and to demand accountability on the part of our administrators, teachers and students. To sustain our momentum, we need to enlist the professionals of Denver to step into the classroom.

In a school district where 66 percent of the students qualify for "free and reduced lunch" (a proxy for at or below poverty level), where 48 percent of students who begin ninth grade will never graduate, and where 18 percent of all students are English Language Learners, having professionals step into the classroom brings a wealth of expertise and modeling capable of profoundly influencing children who rarely, if ever, have had the opportunity to meaningfully interact with attorneys, physicians, or the business leaders of Denver. When professionals come into the classroom, they have the potential to inspire students to set goals toward entry into the profession.

This is why we are so excited about the deepening relationship between DPS and the Denver Bar Association. The DBA has long been a good friend to DPS. Initiatives such as Mock Trial, Court Tours, Constitution Day, and We the People, amongst others, have been tremendously successful in bringing attorneys directly into the classroom. The DBA’s legacy of community involvement is among the most extensive of any professional group in Colorado. While stepping into the classroom clearly benefits Denver’s children, doing so also accomplishes some of the most basic personal and professional goals we share as attorneys: to improve and enhance the image of the legal profession in the eyes of the public; to engage in programs that educate the public about the law and the legal system; and to inspire children and young adults to become future attorneys through an example of professionalism. So how do you, as an attorney, step into the classroom?

Last spring, Superintendent Bennet called on the Denver community, especially professionals, to come into the DPS classrooms from time to time as substitute teachers. We are renewing that invitation now, directly to the attorneys of Denver. DPS has a shortage of higher degree substitute teachers. We need between 300–400 substitute teachers each school day, and often find ourselves short.

In late 2008, the DBA Board of Trustees overwhelmingly agreed to support the DBA/DPS attorney–substitute teacher initiative. We could not be more grateful that Denver’s attorneys are willing to engage themselves in our city’s biggest challenge — making the Denver Public Schools the best big-city school district in the country.

Please contact DPS Legal Assistant Tiffany Lambalot at (720) 423-3398 to take your first step toward a DPS classroom.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

John Kechriotis

General Counsel

DBA Member, Since 1997

 

 


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