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'Representation Is Not Enough': Parents Voice Concerns Over Hiring Teachers Of Color In Denver Public Schools

DENVER (CBS4)- It was a crowded room at the Denver Public School board meeting on Thursday. Community members showed up in droves to make their voices heard about the retainment and hiring of teachers of color in the district.

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"Our district continues to silence the voices of the most marginalized," said Michael Diaz-Rivera, a former DPS teacher.

On Zoom and in a conference room that many people were turned away from because of overflow, several students, parents, and teachers shared their grievances with the board.

"Representation is not enough," said Elizabeth Campbell, a high school teacher in the district. "Are we uplifting teachers of color who support white systems or those who challenge it?"

The main topic of the night for the community was BIPOC teacher retainment. This comes after it was announced outspoken North High Chicano teacher Tim Hernández would not be renewed at the school.

"The only community I've ever known is with Mr. Hernández," said North freshman Veneno Quezada-Montoya.

Parents told CBS4 they're concerned, and the lack of representation is taking a toll on the education of their students.

"Mr. Hernández has brought a fire back into my son," said Jessica Castañon, a North parent. "Mr. Hernández has taught my son so much about our culture, and he's taught our entire family honestly, through my son."

The district said having diverse educators is a priority, but parents said what they're seeing inside classrooms does not reflect that. They believe the district is giving them lip service.

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"I don't believe them, I don't believe what they say," said parent Martin Castañon. "We need change, we need change in our school systems and the way they educate our students."

Under the watchful eye of the DPS chief of Talent Edwin Hudson, the board's president Xóchitl Gaytán spoke to CBS4 about the retainment of teachers of color.

"The Denver Public Schools board of education is listening to those concerns, and we are talking to our superintendent, and we're encouraging that we work through some of these issues, and continue to increase our BIPOC representation in every school," Gaytán said.

But when CBS4 asked Gaytán about Hernández' situation, Gaytán was escorted away.

"We have no comment on that, we'll release a statement," Hudson said.

Beyond Hernández not being renewed, CBS4 has also reported on a baseball field going unfinished at JFK High school, and the JROTC program being moved from Manual High, all issues some said are tied to the district failing to support communities of color.

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On Thursday, several students and parents also addressed the Manual JROTC program being eliminated, which for the last 14 years, was run by a Black teacher, Sergeant Eric Posey. Parents told the board they believe he's being targeted, but the district said the that program is being moved to Northfield because of low enrollment.

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