Denver Public Schools is losing one of its top leaders.
Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, a former DPS charter school principal who now serves as the district’s chief academic and innovation officer, is leaving her position. Superintendent Tom Boasberg announced the news Thursday in an email to staff.
Whitehead-Bust said she’s committed to staying on full-time through the end of January. After that, she’ll gradually transition out of the position, providing support to the district until the end of April.
“I came to the conclusion that we have a lot of good work underway here in Denver,” she told Chalkbeat. “I have a huge passion for helping to create vision and strategy and high-quality, intentional teams.” She said she has confidence in the senior leadership team at DPS and the path the district is on.
“It inspires me to want to go make a difference in a new system,” she said.
Asked what she plans to do next, Whitehead-Bust said she has “a bunch of different things in the hopper, none of which I’m yet at liberty to confirm.”
The news comes amid other changes in district leadership. Boasberg is planning to take six months of unpaid leave from January to July to travel with his family. Just last week, the DPS school board chose another top leader, chief of schools Susana Cordova, to serve as acting superintendent while he’s gone.
Whitehead-Bust said her decision to leave was the result of a long, deliberate process and was not related to the board’s decision. She added that she’s excited for Cordova and optimistic about her own future. “I’m really looking forward to remaining a cheerleader and champion of team DPS,” she said.
For the past five years, Whitehead-Bust has played a key role in DPS’s reform efforts. Boasberg’s email lists several of her accomplishments, including creating the Imaginarium, DPS’s research and development lab.
Whitehead-Bust has served in her current position since 2014, when Boasberg reshuffled his senior leadership team and re-assigned some duties. As chief academic and innovation officer, she leads the team that authorizes the district’s charter and innovation schools.
Her team has several other duties as well, including designing and choosing curriculum and tests used by all DPS schools, and creating and putting in place professional development opportunities for teachers. Whitehead-Bust also helped complete DPS’s strategic academic plan and its more specific soon-to-be-launched early literacy plan.
In his email to staff, Boasberg credited her with “seeing beyond traditional silos” in order to focus on getting the best results for kids.
“Her thoughtfulness and her strategic contributions and her deep caring and passion for the kids of Denver have been terrific,” Boasberg told Chalkbeat.
Whitehead-Bust said she’s most proud of her team and the progress it’s made toward creating a system that embraces all types of schools and “creates an environment where schools are hearing from and learning from one another.”
Whitehead-Bust has a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was the founding principal of Highline Academy, a successful DPS charter school that opened in 2004. Prior to working as a DPS administrator, she was a consultant who helped start more than 15 charter schools across the country.