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Veteran charter leader to be new head of DSST schools

Nella García Urban, a Texas charter school leader, was named Feb. 9 as the next CEO of DSST Public Schools.

She said she is driven to lead and was excited when she got to visit DSST schools and learn about the network’s mission.

“I’m very much called to the space,” García Urban said. “Every experience I’ve had thus far has left a real mark on me.”

Current DSST CEO and founder of the charter network in 2003, Bill Kurtz.
DSST’s current CEO, Bill Kurtz, who had been with the network for 20 years starting as a founding principal of the Denver School of Science and Technology, announced in the fall that he would be stepping down at the end of this school year.

In a news release, the organization said it had been searching for a new leader that showed “alignment with the DSST mission and core values and had a proven track record of leading high-performing schools.”

DSST serves over 7,000 students at 16 schools across eight campuses in Denver and Aurora. The schools have a science focus and aim to get all students into four-year colleges. Four DSST schools are in Central Park: Montview middle and high school, and Conservatory Green middle and high school.

García Urban was most recently a chief external officer for YES Prep Public Schools in Houston.

Kurtz will help García Urban as she starts in March. He said in a statement that he is “excited about the future of the organization and the leadership and perspective García Urban will bring.

“She is an incredibly talented leader, and I believe will lead DSST to a very bright future serving students and families in Denver and Aurora.”

While enrollment in Denver schools, including many charters, and other nearby districts, has been dropping, the DSST network has continued to have steady enrollment.

A portrait of a woman with dark hair, suit jacket and white blouse.
Nella García Urban was named the next leader of DSST Public Schools. (Photo courtesy DSST)
Part of the work García Urban has been responsible for in her past roles with YES Prep, has been growing enrollment. She said that work was about primarily working with families to understand their options and the dreams they have for their kids.

“One family at a time,” she said was her common reminder to her team.

For now, she says she’s eager to learn and get to know the schools, students, and families.” That is bringing me so much joy, thinking about meeting the community,” she said.

Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at

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