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Denver Superintendent Going on Leave to Learn Spanish, Travel With Family

Denver Superintendent Tom Boasberg will take six months of unpaid family leave beginning in January, the school district announced Monday.

Boasberg, who became superintendent in 2009, will spend the time with his family learning Spanish, and traveling and living in Latin America, he wrote in a letter to the school community.

The school board said it will meet on Dec.1 to name an acting superintendent to take over in Boasberg's absence.

"We believe it is a sign of the health of our district that, with such a strong team and dedicated school board, we can grant this opportunity to Tom and his family," Happy Haynes, the board president, and Anne Rowe, the vice president, wrote. "We have every confidence in the DPS leadership team and staff to continue to drive our work forward under our Denver Plan 2020 during these six months."

The district cited gains during Boasberg's tenure, including increasing enrollment by more than 15,000 students and graduating an additional 1,000 students each year.

The unusual leave drew praise from Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, which represents nearly 70 of the nation's largest school districts. He said the agreement was a vote of confidence in Boasberg's leadership. (The district distributed Casserly's statement.)

A 2014 report by Casserly's group found that urban school superintendents had extremely short tenures, lasting, on average, 3.2 years.

Boasberg joined the district nine years ago as its chief finance officer before becoming superintendent. With seven years on the job, he far exceeds the average urban superintendent's stay.

"The announcement by the Denver superintendent that he will be taking a six-month sabbatical is an outstanding way for him to take a much-needed break from the day-to-day responsibilities of running a major urban school system in order to reflect on the future of the district," Casserly said. "It is also a vote of confidence in the superior leadership and teamwork of the school board and staff, and is a creative way to sustain the city's educational progress for years to come."

In his letter, Boasberg said that he was confident that the board and district would continue to move ahead in his absence. He is expected to return to work in July.

Boasberg, who met his wife Carin while studying Chinese in Taiwan, said that they both wanted their children to experience living overseas. The time off, he said, will also allow him to spend more time with his family—including his children, ages 15, 13, and 11—than he has spent with them during his time as superintendent.

From his letter:

"I am fully confident during these six months we will move forward full steam ahead in DPS with our teachers and school leaders, our DPS leadership team and our board. I am proud of the progress we have made together. And, while our progress has become a model for many other school districts nationally, we all know we have much further to go to achieve our goals of closing our opportunity gaps and ensuring Every Child Succeeds.

As eager as I am to spend these six months starting in January with my family, I am equally eager to return to the job in July and continue to push our mission forward. There is no work more important than this, the opportunity to improve the lives of more than 90,000 kids. And there is no team more dedicated, more passionate or more capable of making it happen."

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