Former President Barack Obama’s education secretary labeled as “bad” Denver’s school board while sharing an opinion article online about the departure of Superintendent Susana Cordova.
“It’s incredibly harmful to children’s education, and destabilizing to school districts, when good superintendents get undermined by bad school boards. Denver’s children deserve better,” wrote Arne Duncan on Twitter. “I am so tired of seeing this happen”.
Duncan, a member of Obama’s cabinet from 2009 through 2015 and the previous head of Chicago’s school system, referenced an opinion article published in Westword from 14 former Denver Board of Education members. The former officials blamed Cordova’s announcement of her departure earlier this month on “a hostile work environment.”
“In community meetings, through their political campaigns, and on social media, some board members were painfully disrespectful, undermined her leadership, and treated her in a way that was neither fair nor democratic,” the op-ed reads.
The current school board has a majority of members that opposes many of the reform policies enacted under previous administrations. The ideological shift occurred after the November 2019 election, in Cordova’s first year as superintendent.
Tay Anderson, one of the board members elected with the backing of the teachers’ union, took issue with the characterization of the school board as the cause of Cordova’s departure.
“Do you have facts [to] back up that she was undermined,” he asked in reply to Duncan’s tweet. “I’m on the school board you’re calling ‘bad’”.
The former board members also wrote that they believed Cordova was treated “differently and unfairly” because she was a woman of color. Cordova, who is leaving for a job with the Dallas school system, has indicated she was not actively looking for another job when the offer presented itself.
“Thank you Sec. Duncan,” responded Alexis Menocal Harrigan, one of Anderson’s general election opponents in 2019. “Denver has long been a model for ed equity & innovation. Denverites need to show up and hold the board accountable to hire a student focused supt. We have lost a strong WOC, equity forward, homegrown educator.”