The state of Colorado’s education as two prominent leaders leave their positions

Bruce Benson and Tom Boasberg have made a lot of changes over the last 10 years to the state’s education system. Benson as the president of the University of Colorado system and Boasberg as the superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

DENVER — From the classroom to the boardroom, Bruce Benson and Tom Boasberg have made a lot of changes over the last 10 years.

In Denver, Boasberg serves as superintendent over schools from kindergarten through high school. Over the years, he welcomed charter schools and treated them as equals to district-run schools even though charter schools are governed by their own boards and directives. Boasberg said he just wanted to provide the best options for kids no matter who is running the program. He said it worked.

“We had twice as many Latino and African-American students graduate from [Denver Public Sschools] and got to college than when I started,” Boasberg said.

When Benson took over as president of the University of Colorado system, he said he found it in disarray and inefficient until he worked to fix it.

“We’re guilty all over the country on this one,” Benson said. “We need to go through and make these places more efficient and more accountable.”

In 2007, parents held DPS accountable for floundering schools leaving the district by the thousands for better options. Boasberg said he worked to create an equal chance for all to get a good education.

“We have shown more student growth than any other district in Colorado,” Boasberg said. “We’ve had the fastest enrollment growth of any city in the country as our schools have dramatically improved.”

Within the entire CU system, Benson said the minority enrollment rate improved by 50 percent since he took office, according to university statistics. Diversity has long been an issue on Colorado campuses.

“We have to take care of every citizen in this country and if we don’t, we’re going to be in deep trouble,” Benson said.

In Denver, gentrification caused trouble by creating racially isolated schools. Boasberg changed the enrollment process by giving families enrollment zones allowing students to flow more freely to different campuses.

“I think integrated schools benefits everyone,” Boasberg said.

With state funding changing every year for CU, Benson wanted to create a more financially stable system fueled in large part by donation drives with the help of his wife.

“The next drive, Marcy and I chaired it, we raised a billion,” Benson said. “The third drive, Marcy and I chaired and we raised $1.5 billion.”

Money issues didn’t stop Boasberg from changing the way teachers develop in Denver.

“We have the largest teacher leadership program in the country,” Boasberg said.

Perhaps, Benson’s proudest achievement is working to have a more balanced viewpoint taught on campus instead one that he says tended to skew liberal.

“You’ve got to have all points of view out there and you got to teach kids how to think not what to think,” Benson said.

Two leaders with two different responsibilities worked to change Colorado’s education landscape for 10 years and possibly beyond.

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