Denver school district hires safety chief from Aurora schools, filling 6-month vacancy

Police cars and ambulances are parked close together in front of Denver’s East High School.
Denver Public Schools has been grappling with violence inside schools and in the community. The district announced Thursday it has hired a security chief from Aurora schools. (Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post)

Denver has hired longtime Aurora Public Schools safety chief Greg Cazzell to be the district’s next chief of climate and safety.

The key position has been vacant for more than six months as Denver Public Schools grapples with rising community violence and shootings both inside and just outside school buildings. Superintendent Alex Marrero is developing a new safety plan, the school board is debating the role of police in schools, and community groups are advocating for competing visions

In a press release announcing the hire Thursday, the district said Cazzell would be responsible for overseeing and implementing the safety plan set to be finalized later this month. Cazzell is scheduled to start July 10.

Greg Cazzell (Courtesy Denver Public Schools)

“I am very proud to accept this role with Denver Public Schools,” Cazzell said in the press release. “I am very aware of the work in front of us, and I am excited to get started on implementing the safety and security features of the new plan in support of our students, staff and community.”

A district spokesman said Cazzell is on a family trip and not available for interviews.

Cazzell has worked as Aurora Public Schools’ director of safety and security for eight years. Before that, he spent 22 years with the Glendale, Colorado, police department. He also has been an adjunct professor teaching criminal justice classes at Johnston & Wales University. 

The neighboring Aurora school district has dealt with similar challenges with community violence. In 2021, within weeks, nine students were shot and injured in two incidents, one in the parking lot of Hinkley High School and the other in a park near Aurora Central High School. 

Aurora, though, has maintained school resource officers throughout social justice protests and student advocacy. Then-Superintendent Rico Munn said the district put its own money toward mental health supports and restorative justice, while the city paid for police salaries, striking a good balance.

During his tenure, Cazzell implemented ID check procedures at Aurora schools that raised concerns among advocacy groups that work with immigrant parents and faced questions about the use of drug-sniffing dogs in schools.

“I know that Chief Cazzell will help DPS move forward in our ongoing commitment to providing a safe environment for every student to thrive,” Marrero said in a press release. “He will play a pivotal role in safeguarding our students and building trust among parents and staff.”

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at emeltzer@chalkbeat.org.

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