Denver Public Schools to cut 157 central office positions next year in attempt to tighten budget

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Melanie Asmar on January 19, 2016

Denver Public Schools will eliminate 157 central office jobs for the 2016-17 school year, partly because the gentrifying district expects to receive less state funding for at-risk students. School districts get more money to educate kids living in poverty, but rising housing costs mean DPS will likely have fewer and fewer of them, officials said at a school board meeting Tuesday.

Forty-two of the eliminated positions are currently vacant. The other 115 are filled with employees. None of them are teachers or principals. Rather, they work for central office departments, such as community engagement, technology services and human resources.

The biggest reduction will be in the number of teacher effectiveness coaches and peer observers, who are employed by the central office but work in schools evaluating teachers and giving them guidance on how to improve. There are approximately 120 employees in those positions now, but the proposed budget will eliminate all teacher effectiveness coaches and reduce the number of peer observers from roughly 28 this year to 20 next year.

In place of the teacher effectiveness coaches, the district will provide funding to high-needs schools to hire 49 new teacher-leaders or instructional deans, who will take over the role of coaching teachers. In the end, there will be approximately 50 fewer people doing that work but the majority of them will be hired by the schools in an effort to provide schools more autonomy.

“It’s clear that our schools with the most intensive needs need additional support, but it’s also really clear that schools are in the best positions to hire, to direct and to shape those roles according to their unique school needs,” said acting superintendent Susana Cordova.

The affected employees were notified Friday. Their positions are funded through June, but district officials said they wanted to give enough advance warning so those employees could apply for open positions during the hiring cycle for the next school year.

The layoffs will trim $20.2 million from the proposed 2016-17 budget. However, the proposal calls for those cuts to be offset by $7.6 million in increases, including money to hire more teacher-leaders and expand professional development for principals.

Taking both into account, the proposal represents a 6 percent reduction in the central office budget. DPS could not immediately provide the number of employees who currently work in the central office.

In a presentation to the board, DPS chief financial officer Mark Ferrandino laid out the factors expected to contribute to declining district revenues over the next five years. They include an increase in the so-called negative factor, the difference between the amount of state money school districts should get and what they do get; slower enrollment growth due to lower birth rates and gentrification; and a decrease of up to 2 percent per year in the number of at-risk students attending Denver schools.

Chalkbeat Colorado is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

Photo credit: Chalkbeat