AURORA | After spending his entire educational career in Cherry Creek Schools, Michael Giles will be moving one district over this summer.
Giles was named as the next superintendent for Aurora Public Schools at a special board meeting Thursday evening by a unanimous vote. He was one of three finalists for the role, along with APS chief academic officer Nia Campbell and former chief academic officer Andre Wright.
“This is a community that I’ve lived in for 25 years, and I’m very engaged in it, and to be able to lead our students and our community forward in this school district is really humbling and exciting for me,” Giles said when contacted after the announcement. “There’s a lot of brilliance. There’s a lot of talent and a lot of opportunity for our community. So, all of that being said, I’m just extremely excited. I can’t wait to get started.”
The board deliberated for just 10 days after hearing final interviews from the three candidates on April 17. Few policy differences separated the candidates, who all have long careers in public education and who emphasized the importance of supporting teachers and valuing the district’s diversity during interviews and public meetings.
On Thursday, board president Debbie Gerkin said Giles embodied “the knowledge, skills, leadership traits and competencies that our community identified as priorities.” Gerkin also thanked community members, district staffers and fellow board members for the time they invested in picking the right man for the job.
“The most important job that a board of education has is to hire a superintendent who will uphold the community’s vision and values, improving what students know and are able to do while behaving in ways that will uplift the organization,” Gerkin said. “This is a job you each took seriously. This is a job you each took to heart.”
She said the board would vote on Giles’ contract as soon as possible, once negotiations conclude.
Giles was born in Queens, N.Y. and moved around frequently as a child while his father was in the military. The family moved to Colorado when he was in high school and he has lived in Aurora for the last 25 years.
“The opportunity to be able to lead the district in my home, it just really speaks to me,” Giles said during last week’s board interviews. “So that’s why I wanted to put my name in the hat and to apply to be the next superintendent of this district.”
After working as a juvenile corrections counselor in Grand Junction and the Denver area, Giles joined the Cherry Creek School District in 2002. He began as a counselor at Falcon Creek Middle School and moved through myriad roles in the district throughout the years.
He became an administrator in 2014, and in 2018 joined the cabinet as assistant superintendent of performance. He assumed his current role as assistant superintendent of diversity, equity, culture and community engagement in 2021.
In a Cherry Creek news release from when he joined the cabinet, Giles said he initially had no aspiration to being an administrator.
“I always feared the political game of administration, but the more I started to travel down that path, the more I saw an ability to have a systemic impact and to have more leverage to create access and opportunity for all students,” he said.
At Cherry Creek, Giles has been at the forefront of the district’s attempts to boost achievement for students of color, a priority he signaled would continue at APS. During interviews last week, he also highlighted the importance of rebuilding trust, improving teacher recruitment and retention and making sure the district has an effective safety plan.
“I believe there is great potential for the Cherry Creek School District and the Aurora Public School District to enhance partnerships that strengthen and expand opportunities and outcomes for all students in the city of Aurora,” he said in a statement from Cherry Creek schools. ” I look forward to exploring those partnerships once I assume the new role.”
His tenure at Cherry Creek was lauded by officials there.
“He is an exceptional leader and will be a tremendous asset for Aurora Public Schools,” said Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Christopher Smith. “I will miss watching him interact with and inspire the students and adults he meets.”
He also said the move enhances possibilities for cooperatioon between the neighboring districts.
The board began the search for a new superintendent after former superintendent Rico Munn announced in December that he would not be seeking to renew his current contract, which expires at the end of June.
A survey conducted by the firm the board contracted to lead the search found that a background in public education, experience in a large school district and a proven track record with diversity were some of the top characteristics that people wanted the next leader to have.
Giles’ first day as superintendent will be July 1.