Inside the reorganization of the Denver school district’s central office

Photo by Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado
Photo by Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado

The people losing their jobs as part of a reorganization of the Denver school district’s central office range from literacy fellows who worked with students in small groups to instructional superintendents who supervised principals.

After Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova announced she had cut more than 220 jobs in the district’s central office, Chalkbeat submitted an open records request for a list of the cut positions, as well as new positions Cordova is creating and current ones she is reclassifying. The net reduction is about 150 positions.

The information obtained through the request shows the full breadth of the reorganization thus far; there will be further reductions, additions, and reclassifications as the district finalizes next year’s budget, a district spokesperson said.

The cuts, being made in part to pay for higher teacher salaries, represent what Cordova called a “real elimination of services.” Priority for access to things such as literacy and math specialists will go to schools where students have the highest needs, officials said.

The reorganization will save Denver Public Schools about $17 million next year. But saving money wasn’t the only reason for the cuts; Cordova has said they are meant to eliminate redundancies and narrow the district’s focus. One of the priorities identified in Cordova’s “entry plan” for her first several months on the job is improving instruction for the district’s black and Latino students.

The reorganization will take effect June 1.

Some notable cuts include:

  • Eliminating 28 “literacy fellows,” who worked for a salary of $23,100 each, tutoring small groups of students in reading. The literacy fellow program was based on a similar program for math that started in 2013. But the literacy program, which began in 2016, has not shown the same level of success as the math program, which is why it’s being discontinued, officials said.
  • Reducing the number of people who help teachers integrate instructional technology into the classroom. From the district: “Instead of dedicated coaching for a single school or two, ‘digital coaches’ will serve a portfolio of schools. The exact number of those positions is not determined yet.”
  • Reducing the number of people who supervise principals.
  • Eliminating more than 40 managers, directors, executive directors, and assistant superintendents who made between $66,000 and $171,000 a year. The goal, officials said, was to make the district more efficient and focused on fewer priorities.

Some notable additions include:

  • Six people who will help schools ensure their curriculum is responsive to the needs of diverse students. From the district: “We heard repeatedly from our board, from our community, and from our teachers that we did not have direct supports for schools around culturally responsive education. This is an area where we understood we needed to make deeper investments.”
  • Four people who will focus on “adult self sufficiency,” providing services to families to help improve the lives of students.
  • A person who will provide coaching and support to school-based initiatives to create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students and staff.
  • A new person who will coordinate teacher training. That job will include updating and monitoring processes for how teachers complete classes, or “professional development units,” which can be used to earn raises under the new contract.

For a complete list of positions cut, added or reclassified, please visit Chalkbeat Colorado here.

Originally posted on Chalkbeat by on March 13, 2019. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.