Denver Public Schools receives $14.4 million in federal money to improve six struggling schools

Six struggling Denver schools were awarded $14.4 million in federal money to help them "turn around" -- which is education-speak for raise test scores and graduation rates.

The schools -- Montbello High School, Rachel B. Noel Middle School, Gilpin K-8 School, Greenlee Elementary School, Lake Middle School and North High School -- each have a specific improvement plan, laid out in the district's grant application.

The grant money will also go toward closing three underperforming district schools: Rishel Middle School, Skyland Community High School and Philips Elementary School. The DPS board of education voted in November to close Skyland, Philips and a few other schools -- including P.S. 1 charter school, whose closure was the subject of a Westword feature. But P.S. 1 won't get any federal money to help it close because it chose not to participate in the grant, says DPS spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong.

The grant supports President Obama's goal to "turn around" the nation's worst schools. The bulk of Denver's money will go toward six schools that will each get a cut of the $14.4 million for the next three years. Montbello, in northeast Denver, will get the most per year: $1,129,450. Gilpin, a northeast Denver school that was transformed into a Montessori program in 2008, will get the least at $420,011.

A press conference to announce the grant was held this morning at Greenlee in northwest Denver, which will receive $752,172 a year. New principal Laurie Grosselfinger says she plans to spend part of the money on training the school's teachers to teach a comprehensive reading and writing curriculum. "They're going to become experts in reading and writing," Grosselfinger says. "It's more teacher expertise than buying a box with a reading program in it."

This fall will be the first at Greenlee for Grosselfinger, an experienced principal. As part of the school's turnaround plan approved by the DPS board last year, nearly all the staff at Greenlee has been replaced. The school was previously the second lowest-performing elementary school in the city. "Our new staff is a dedicated staff," Grosselfinger says. "This (grant) is going to grease the wheels and give them an incentive for their hard work."