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Boasberg’s Battles

Posted 04/10/2009 by Vince Crespin

New Superintendent inherits district facing immediate problems.


Tom Boasberg addresses DPS student reporters at special press conference. photo by Kevin Fleming

New DPS Superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is no stranger to the district’s problems and achievements, but the new challenges he is facing could have the district headed for some significant changes.

Boasberg, who was unanimously selected by the Board of Education to replace former colleague and long time friend, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (Dem. Colorado), was the financial consultant to Bennet during his time as the DPS Superintendent. In their work together the two accomplished many things, such as an improvement in CSAP scores district-wide, recruiting more qualified teachers, achieving an increase in student enrollment, and creating the DPS Framework Evaluation for each school to make sure they are on the right track.

However, with more economic problems, multiple standardized tests, and addressing the issue of teachers leaving the district, Boasberg has his work cut out for him. After five years and $83 million in cuts, the DPS budget reached a balance; that is until the recession hit. Due to a lack of federal funding, the district had to make a 2% base budget cut for all schools within the district to make up for the lost revenue. At a recent press conference exclusively for DPS student news reporters, Boasberg remained optimistic about the current state of the district. “Our main concern regarding the budget is to keep the cuts away from the schools. We are trying to give each school financial responsibility over their budget, enabling them to provide for their own needs instead of coming to us for every expense. We did have to make cuts for each school, but we are hoping with some help from president Obama, we will be able to even it out again,” he said.

With the new stimulus package having sections written specifically for public education, DPS is banking on seeing some of that $787 billion.
Another issue that will be facing the new appointee will be the fact that the district now has two standardized tests for which they are paying, and which are also taking a significant chunk out of teacher instruction time each year. “We are weighing the possibilities of reducing it to one test a year; each has its advantages and disadvantages in measuring kids’ progress, but right now we are looking at the possibility of taking the CSAP out high schools,” commented Boasberg at his acceptance address earlier this year.

Boasberg says his biggest concern in his administration will be focused on one thing: people. With top teachers choosing other districts for more high paying teaching jobs elsewhere, he is confronted with the problem of finding ways to attract and retain them. “I have always felt that teachers are the single most important thing in any student’s learning. We want to do everything we can to keep our best teachers in the district and recruit more talent to give kids the best learning experience that we can provide,” said Boasberg.

One way the Superintendent plans to do this is by continuing the ProComp pay system that was established under Bennet. Put simply, under ProComp teachers can earn bonuses for circumstances that include teaching at a “hard to serve school” (schools in at-risk neighborhoods etc.) or teaching hard to fill subjects such as math, will receive a bonus. Under this program teachers also receive yearly bonuses for achieving their professional objectives and receiving positive appraisals.  This is opposed to the normal pay scale where all teachers receive step raises at the beginning of each school year up until their 13th year on the job, after which time their pay rate becomes essentially frozen, with cost of living increases but less frequent step raises.

A graduate from Yale College, Boasberg earned Summa Cum Laude honors and continued on to get a Law degree from Stanford University. As for his professional career, Boasberg served as a Chief of Staff to Lee Chu-Ming, the Chairman of Hong Kong’s largest political party. During his time there, Boasberg contributed to the authorization of Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights as well as taking part in the writing of the country’s election law. He also taught High School English in his time in Hong Kong.

Boasberg then worked as a legal advisor for Reed Hundt, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. While working for the FCC Boasberg played a leading role in helping build the E-Rate Program, which has since given $2 billion per year to schools rated as “high poverty” throughout the country, and helping them purchase telecom and internet services. Boasberg then moved on to Level 3 Communications (a fiber-based communications service), as a Vice President of Corporate development, after which he came to Denver to work for DPS with Bennet.