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3 questions for Jeffco Schools Superintendent Dorland

New Jeffco Schools Superintendent Tracy Dorland will officially begin work this Monday, April 19.

The Jeffco School Board approved her contract on April 14, after naming Dorland the sole finalist for the superintendent position on March 25.

Dorland has long been a part of the Denver metro community, growing in up in the area and graduating from Denver’s Mullen High School. Her two children currently attend Jeffco schools.

She has spent more than a decade working in local school districts, serving for the past three-and-a-half years as the deputy superintendent of Adams 12 Five Star Schools. Prior to that she served in leadership and educator roles in the Adams 12 and Denver Public School districts.

Jeffco PEN had the opportunity to interview Superintendent Dorland this week.

Why Jeffco?

Jeffco PEN: You’re not just the new incoming Jeffco Superintendent, but you’re also a parent to current Jeffco students. What drove you to apply for the top job? 

Dorland: There are several positions open in the Front Range for superintendents and the only one I applied to was Jeffco. I grew up here and I raised my family here and it really is home for me.

The board’s process for superintendent selection was a lot of community engagement, seeking input on what do we want from our next superintendent, and I feel like there’s a strong match. The categories that emerged there around advocacy for students and a focus on equity, a strong communicator who builds relationships and instructional leadership knowledge, those are part of my skillset and experience.

So I’m thrilled to be a superintendent in a district where I think the community is looking for a leader like me. I love Jeffco, I have a vested interest and I’m hoping to spend a really good amount of time serving my community as superintendent.

Using federal COVID funds to support students

JPEN: The past year has been especially challenging for public education. Jeffco is eligible for $30.4 million in ESSER II funding. What investments can the community expect to see in these dollars to help students recover from learning loss this summer and into the fall? 

Dorland: The ESSER II funds are allocated really to support three big buckets. The first one is child care services that we provided this year related to the pandemic. The other is to support food service that we’ve increased due to the pandemic, and the third is to support teachers with additional planning time and preparation time to support students. Of course, those are still some ongoing budget conversations that the board’s having with me and our financial services team, but in general, that’s what it’s aligned to now.

There’s also another fund, sometimes referred to as ESSER III, that has been provided to us as a federal stimulus money to support the district moving forward. The conversations are still happening in regards to how we will apply those funds to support students, families and our district with pandemic needs. We’re still trying to understand some of the guidance that’s come out and make sure whatever we decide to do with those funds aligns to that guidance.

I have a briefing meeting some time next week around summer learning opportunities. I believe that we need to really take a close look at some student data from district assessments around what do we mean by learning loss.

While I do believe some students have been impacted academically by the pandemic, there are also students who have been impacted social-emotionally by the pandemic. We really need to be looking at end-of-year data this year and beginning-of-year data next year so that our plan really addresses the needs that the data is showing our students have in regards to their academic supports, and we’ll see what the real definition of learning loss is as we dig into our data – both this spring and as we bring kids back in the fall. 

How Superintendent Dorland plans to get to know Jeffco

JPEN: In Jason Glass’s first 100 days he toured Jeffco and got to know the community to form Jeffco Generations. What is your first 100 days plan?

Dorland: We will be publishing an entry plan in the coming weeks. One of the things that is such a gift right now is that Adams 12 has been gracious enough to allow me to start early. The start date was initially contemplated as July 1.

Because I’m able to begin early, I am thrilled for this head start. In this beginning portion of my time here, my priority is definitely going to be getting into schools and beginning to build relationships with principals and other key stakeholders — central office leaders, cabinet, community superintendents and other community groups who really are passionate about our district.

I also know we have an Early Literacy resource adoption that’s happening, our budget is a priority for me, our negotiations with our teachers association is a priority for me, and so those are some early pieces that I’m going to be digging into.

Katie Winner

Katie Winner has been a productive nuisance in public education and community advocacy ever since arriving in Jeffco from New York in 2014. With a Masters degree in higher education, an MBA, and a professional certificate in college counseling from UCLA, Katie began her service for Jeffco schools by volunteering with her local school accountability committee. Katie enjoys spending time with her husband and kids, playing or watching hockey, exploring the open spaces of Colorado, and getting back to the East Coast as often as she can. Please visit our "About Us" page to learn more about Katie and our other writers.

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