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Pause Denver schools superintendent vote, Latino coalition urges

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A group of Latino community leaders is calling on the Denver school board to delay its vote to confirm Alex Marrero as the next leader of Denver Public Schools after he was named in a lawsuit filed against his previous district.
The Denver school board announced Wednesday that Marrero, most recently the interim superintendent in New Rochelle, New York, was its choice to serve as the Denver district’s next superintendent. On the same day, the New Rochelle board selected an outside candidate, Jonathan Raymond, to be that district’s next leader, passing over Marrero.
A vote to finalize the decision is scheduled for Thursday.
Latino community leaders had previously expressed concerns about the experience level of the superintendent candidates and called on the district to pause and reopen the search. In particular, they worried that none of the finalists had enough experience serving English language learners. After Marrero was named, those leaders said they were willing to work with him.
But the lawsuit raises new concerns, they said in an open letter Tuesday.
“Now that we have learned about the impending lawsuit in New Rochelle, New York, we are once again asking the board to halt the confirmation of Dr. Marrero pending a more thorough investigation into this lawsuit,” they wrote. “Without commenting on the merits of the case, this is especially important given that the lawsuit relates to the way in which Dr. Marrero allegedly handled the response to the COVID-19 [pandemic] in his previous school district.”
The letter is signed by Kathy Escamilla of the Congress for Hispanic Educators, Virginia Castro and Milo Marquez of the Auraria Historical Advocacy Council, Elsa Bañuelos of Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, Tania Hogan of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education, and Mike Cortes of the advocacy group CLLARO.
The New York lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court by the former medical director of the New Rochelle district and names a number of top administrators, including Marrero. She accused them of overlooking her medical expertise in their COVID response, sidelining her, and retaliating when she complained. The Denver Post first reported on the lawsuit.
On Friday, school board members said the lawsuit does not change their intention to approve Marrero.
“The complaint was filed against New Rochelle district leadership and not Dr. Marrero alone,” board President Carrie Olson and Vice President Jennifer Bacon said in an emailed statement. “We have reviewed the information contained in the complaint that involves Dr. Marrero, and we have been in contact with New Rochelle School District about the matter.
“We have full confidence in Dr. Marrero, and we stand behind our choice for superintendent.”
A Denver district spokesperson did not immediately respond to a question about whether the board’s view has changed since Friday.
The members of the Latino coalition said they continue to have concerns that the search process didn’t produce the best candidates to lead Colorado’s largest school district.
“We once again call on the board to reopen the search, and we reiterate our concerns that none of the three current candidates has the depth and breadth of experience to lead a district the size and stature of DPS and that the search committee did not do its due diligence in vetting potential candidates,” the community leaders wrote.

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