Reader’s view: Denver Public School’s chief schools officer on Cheltenham Elementary

Denver Public School’s Chief Schools Officer Susana Cordova wrote the following in response to Nat Stein’s article “Parents complain Denver elementary school principal humiliates Latino students.

To the editor:

We take very seriously any allegations of racism or inappropriate actions with the students we serve. We are investigating the concerns raised by parents at Cheltenham Elementary, both in our meetings with them and in a recent article published in The Colorado Independent.

District officials learned of parent concerns about children eating lunch on trays on the floor of the school’s main office in April, when parents requested a meeting with the principal and her supervisor, Instructional Superintendent Jermall Wright. Principal Rao has been clear that her intent was not to punish students by having them eat on the floor; instead, she said students referred to the office during the lunch hour would bring their food to the office while waiting to speak to the school dean. Because there is limited seating, some students sat on the floor to eat.

Regardless of the intention, it is clear these actions greatly upset parents and families at Cheltenham and struck a chord in the Latino community with those who recall an incident 23 years ago in which students at another Denver elementary school were forced to eat lunch on the cafeteria floor as punishment. We deeply apologize for this. Principal Rao agreed in April to stop this practice.

We are working with the families at Cheltenham to build the school their children and our community deserve.

— Susana Cordova

Photo credit: Dvorty Girl, Creative Commons, Flickr.


  1. Obvious deflection, albeit a well-written one.

    Let’s nit pick a little:

    This matter was brought to the district’s attention in April, yet the community showed up, still complaining and upset in June… that begs the question of what action has been taken in that intermediate time, as well as how that action has been communicated to the vested families; obviously, something was not done to the community’s standards.

    ^^^ THAT is the real issue. Serving the students? Please. Move some tables around

    This seems to run deeper, though. Did Ms. Cordova read the comments regarding Dr. Rao, in the past and present?

    I encourage those commenters to continue to reach out and speak up. If we don’t address the underlying issues, then incidents like this will be lost amidst PC statements that seem to pick one aspect and toss other concerns to the wind

  2. Wow! Let’s nitpick one issue and blatantly ignore the “rule by fear, intimidation, and humiliation” elephant in the room that is addressed in the comments on the original article. This is the issue that represents the “last straw” and has some documentation, so it’s gained some traction – but really? Is DPS blind to everything else going on with this principal? Or is she truly a psychopath in her skills at self-promotion and preservation?

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