The History of Denver Public Schools Volume One – Phil Goodstein



Denver historian and author Phil Goodstein speaking at Mutiny Information Cafe on April 5, 2019 on his latest book: “The Denver School Book: The History of Denver Public Schools Volume One – 1859-1967”

ABOUT THE BOOK:
Denver Public Schools (DPS) have been in the news lately. A strike recently convulsed the district, shortly after it had hired a new superintendent. But the schools are always in the news. From the time of the Pikes Peak gold rush in 1859, residents have insisted that schools are at the heart of the city’s vitality. The school system has reflected the hopes, passions, and fears of the community.

All of this comes across in a fascinating survey of Mile High public education, The Denver School Book, 1859–1967, by veteran historian Phil Goodstein. It traces the origins of Mile High schools to the arrival of the city’s first schoolmaster, Owen J. Goldrick, in 1859. From there it traces how Denver was soon home of numerous different school districts. This eventually led to their consolidation in 1902 as District #1 of Denver Public Schools of the City and County of Denver.
This is only the beginning of this sweeping, well-illustrated volume. It explores superintendents, members of the board of education, and the district’s facilities. The Denver School Book emphasizes that DPS once took immense pride in the architectural distinction of its schoolhouses. The study further explores how the Chamber of Commerce, working with the PTA, essentially gained control of the school board in 1917, dominating it for the next 50 years.

The first volume of a planned trilogy, The Denver School Book observes 1967 was a crucial turning point in the operations of District #1. That year Kenneth K. Oberholtzer retired after 20 years as superintendent. Under him, DPS had the reputation of being a model district. Even so, by the early 1960s tensions grew, especially on whether DPS was operating an illegally segregated, dual system whereby it had one set of schools for whites and another for blacks. This exploded in 1969 in a federal lawsuit challenging District #1’s racial policies. That subject will be the focus on volume two, The Denver School Busing Wars, 1967–1995.

Volume three will bring the story into the end of the second decade of the 21st century. In passing, the undertaking examines the character of public education as a whole and the relationship between the schools and the community.

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