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DENVER, CO, May 19, 2022 – It is with great enthusiasm that the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ) Board of Directors and school leaders announce the hire of a new Executive Director, Dr. Colleen O’Brien. Dr. O’Brien brings over 30 years of experience in education including time in the classroom as an educator, as a school leader, and most recently as the Executive Director of Teacher Learning in JeffCo. She is a-twice certified National Board Certified Teacher and holds a Master of Education in Instructional Technology and a Doctor of Education in Leadership for Educational Equity.


Dr. O’Brien has worked across elementary, middle, and high schools and within multiple school districts in Colorado, including Denver Public Schools (DPS). During her time as Assistant Principal at Manual High School, Dr. O’Brien developed learning and monitoring systems that led to the highest secondary literacy growth in Denver Public Schools. She led teachers, instructional coaches, and other school leaders to create, implement, and monitor the school’s innovation plan. Together with the leadership team, she took specific actions to recruit and retain teachers of color through partnering with Harvard Teaching Fellows, and Manual enjoyed one of the highest percentages of educators of color in DPS as a result. 

“All of us on the NDIZ Board of Directors are excited to welcome Colleen. She is an accomplished educator and leader who brings a wealth of experience and passion to the work,” Board Chair Anne Rowe shared. “She believes in the power of innovation within public schools and will lead for equity in Northeast Denver.” 


New NDIZ Executive Director Dr. O’Brien remarked, “I am thrilled for the opportunity to lead the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone and tell the story of how NDIZ educators collaborate and connect to spark breakthrough ideas and practices that result in deeper learning for each child in the Zone. I am excited to learn from the families in the community as we work together to build equitable and innovative schools that meet expectations and hopes of NDIZ families.” Dr. O’Brien is the mother of two DPS graduates and was an active parent, resident, and DPS leader in the northeast community since 2005. “My equity journey is rooted in my immigrant family from the Bronx, New York and growing up in Aurora with my 8 siblings, widower father, and grandfather. My actions for equity in education started in my first teaching role 32 years ago where I examined gender inequities in my classroom. I engaged deeply in classroom-based equity work in the three school districts I served focusing specifically on multi-language learners, access to honors classes, culturally responsive teaching, and equitable discipline practices. I continued my equity journey through my doctoral work in Leadership for Educational Equity at UCD where I continued to inspect my own privilege and power structures in classrooms and school systems. My most valuable equity understanding comes from the thousands of students and families I have learned from in the last three decades in education. I cannot wait to learn with the students and community in the NDIZ zone.”


As Executive Director, Dr. O’Brien will support and advise the four innovation schools that make up the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone through instructional leadership and strategic planning, operational support, Board governance, and advocacy. Dr. O’Brien will start her new responsibilities with NDIZ in mid-June. 


An NDIZ school leader at McAuliffe Manual Middle School, Suzanne Morris-Sherer, expressed her excitement over the selection of Dr. O’Brien as the new NDIZ Executive Director saying, "I know her as an educator who is passionate about making learning accessible to all students and one who works with teachers to provide them the tools and confidence to provide quality instruction through scaffolds and accommodations to reach each student. She was instrumental in supporting Manual HS in writing its innovation plan a number of years ago, so I feel confident that she will be able to help us leaders in renewal write strong plans that will meet the needs of our schools and communities as we navigate what innovation will look like in the era of the District's new Executive Limitations.” 


About NDIZ

The Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ) was established in 2018 and is made up of four innovation schools in Denver Public Schools (McAuliffe Manual Middle School, Swigert International, McAuliffe International, Northfield High School). NDIZ strives to empower leaders and educators, in partnership with their communities, to deliver an authentic and relevant education to students in schools that are unwaveringly committed to inclusivity and equity.

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