Sharon Bailey remembered as Denver Public Schools’ “moral compass”

Denver Public Schools lost its moral compass with the passing of district Ombudsperson Sharon Bailey on Friday, according to friends and colleagues. A straightforward critic of the institutional racism she saw in the district, Bailey was also a compassionate leader who believed the system could change and was willing to help, they said.

In 2016, Bailey authored a seminal report about the treatment of Black educators and students in Denver that served as a catalyst for the district’s current Black excellence efforts. The report has a long name, but everyone simply calls it the Bailey Report.

“She knew all the research, all the data, all the negativity going on, but Dr. Bailey had this hope in her that things were going to be better, that we could do this,” said Vernon Jones Jr., a longtime Denver Public Schools educator and former school leader.

Her husband, John Bailey, said of his wife, “She was the smartest one here.”

Bailey, 68, died at home Friday, the district said in a statement. Three days earlier, on Tuesday, she spoke at a meeting honoring outgoing Denver school board members. She urged the incoming board members to focus on three things: recognizing the history of institutional racism in Denver schools, changing mindsets so that creating equity becomes a collective responsibility, and sustaining those efforts through a mix of transparency and accountability.

“She was whatever the word is for compass, stake in the ground, directional,” said state Rep. Jennifer Bacon, who left the Denver school board Tuesday after four years of service.

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