City-School Committee (Re)Hits the Ground Running

By Kathryn White 

A revived City-School Coordinating Committee (CSCC) met for its first time March 22 after being legislated back to life last November by City Council members Amanda Sandoval and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez.

The CSCC is intended to bring the city and school district together and is written into the city’s Revised Municipal Code.

“As a parent of kids attending North Denver elementary, middle and high schools,” Gonzales-Gutierrez said, “and as a former Northside DPS alum, I am hopeful that this collaborative committee will create better communication between our school district and city partners, as we all have the same goal in mind, which is ensuring our kids and families are having their needs met here in Denver.”

The 10-person group, guided by a professional facilitator, uncovered several priority opportunities for coordination: response to new-to-country students and families; support services and resources provided by multiple entities and collaborations; youth safety and violence around school communities; and student mental health.

Denver North High School graduates Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, an at-large member of Denver City Council, and Adella Arredondo, executive director of Family and Community Engagement at Denver Public Schools, meet at the first session of the recently revived City-School Coordinating Committee on March 22. Photo by Kathryn White

Denver North High School graduate Adella Arredondo, now executive director of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) at DPS, spoke to The Denver North Star after the meeting, saying that gentrification in North Denver meant her family wasn’t able to remain in the area. 

“It’s really important for me to be at this table today, to think about how we advocate for our communities as Denver is changing,” Arredondo said.

“I’m proud to have graduated from North High School, to have that Northside pride,” Arredondo continued. “And how do we make sure that Denver is affordable, so that our families and our students can take advantage of the many resources that both the city and Denver Public Schools have?”

Michelle Quattlebaum, DPS school board member, proposed the group undertake an immediate discussion of the impact reduced recreation center hours could have on summer meal program availability. Mayor Mike Johnston echoed the concern, admitting he hadn’t been aware recreation centers were used for the program. By meeting’s end, the group had agreed to map out summer meal program hours and locations, and consider the importance of geographic access by foot and public transportation. It had set a goal of ensuring no community would be left without access to summer meals.

Rose Martinez, a DPS parent and community engagement coordinator at a DPS school, raised the question of how families will learn about changes to the summer meal program and other opportunities relevant to families as the committee begins rolling out its recommendations.

Quattlebaum suggested the group use the “fist to five” voting technique to determine whether to move forward on a recommendation. In this method, a fist signals “no support” while a full five fingers say “all in.” The approach allows voting members to display their degree of support — or concern — for an idea by putting up one, two, three or four fingers. A variation of fist to five, which gauges understanding (versus support), is used by teachers for feedback on whether a topic has been mastered by students in class.

Wrangling between the city and school district that characterized the CSCC’s reformation in the fall was absent during the March 22 meeting. The school board had bristled at City Council’s approach to circulating early bill drafts, and the district countered with changes to the types of members who would comprise the group (and who would appoint them). Ultimately, the entities found common ground, City Council moved forward with the measure, and the Mayor signed the bill into law Nov. 16.

The committee, first written into city ordinance in the 1930s, fell out of use over a decade ago. Now resurrected, its mandate requires it to meet at least once every two months. Members will serve for two years and may be reappointed for successive terms.

Gonzales-Gutierrez and Quattlebaum will co-chair the CSCC.

CSCC meetings are open to the public. Agendas and location can be found at under “City Council Committees.”

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