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

Denver Public Schools will eliminate 157 jobs in the central office because of state budget pressures and citywide gentrification that is reducing revenues, officials said.

School districts get more state money to educate kids living in poverty, but rising Denver housing costs are driving low-income families out of the city and taking a bite out of the district’s budget.

The cuts, revealed Tuesday at a school board meeting, will take effect next school year. 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 employees who observe, evaluate and guide teachers. Those positions include teacher effectiveness coaches and peer observers who are employed by the central office but dispatched to schools. There are approximately 120 employees in those positions now, and the proposed budget will eliminate all but 20 of them.

However, that doesn’t mean teachers won’t be getting help. 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 on Tuesday could not provide the number of employees who currently work in the central office.

On Wednesday, DPS chief financial officer Mark Ferrandino said there are 3,791 full-time equivalent positions funded through the central office budget. In addition to people who work in the central office, that number includes custodians, bus drivers and other centrally funded employees.

In a presentation to the board Tuesday, 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.