Education

More Than 2,000 Denver Area Public School Jobs Open as Classes Start

Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash
Even as the 2022-2023 academic year gets underway for public schools in metro Denver, many districts are desperately trying to fill open positions — well over 2,000 of them.

On August 8, the same day most students arrived for their first day of classes, the Douglas County School District listed 481 available jobs, ranging from full-time teachers and paraprofessionals to behavior specialists and child-care managers.

Of course, the Douglas County School District has been a lightning rod for controversy since the February firing of superintendent Corey Wise, and the subsequent resignation by Sid Rundle, DCSD's much-respected special education services officer, was seen as an indication that a mass exodus of teachers concerned about the situation could soon take place.

Still, the Douglas County situation is hardly isolated. Aurora Public Schools, which welcomes back first- through twelfth-graders today, August 9, listed 240 open jobs on August 8. And this morning, Jefferson County Public Schools will host what's described as a "Special Education Hiring Event" in an effort to find people to fill 482 positions.

Jeffco is seeking to bring aboard learning specialists at the kindergarten, elementary and secondary levels; center-based experts in working with affective needs, autism-spectrum disorder and students who require significant support; mental health providers; para-educators; speech-language pathologists and more. Its pitch notes that "benefits-eligible positions" are available, complete with "PERA retirement," the "opportunity for growth" and the chance to "be an integral part of educating and enriching the lives of students."

Another potential selling point: Last week, Jefferson County Public Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association reached a tentative agreement for a new contract. While final ratification by JCEA members and the Jeffco board of education is pending, the pact includes a new salary schedule that begins at $50,000 and ends at just over $100,000, as well as what the union describes as "movement toward equity in planning time between elementary and secondary educators" and "improvements to the contract that protect the workload of the staff that work with our most vulnerable students."

Support staffers receive much less compensation, and the lack of interest in such positions had significant repercussions last year. Back on November 12, Boulder Valley School District, Adams 12 Five Star Schools and Adams 14 all had to cancel classes, and three Denver Public Schools facilities temporarily switched to remote learning for the day because of staff shortages. Among the reasons for the shortfalls cited by educators at the time were the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in combination with terrible pay rates for paraprofessionals and substitute teachers, who could often make more money serving burgers at In-N-Out than doing the often difficult, consistently stressful work of educating the next generation of metro Denver residents.

This situation may improve at Denver schools, thanks to a deal late last month to bump up starting pay for paraprofessionals, classroom aides and custodians to $20 an hour as of August 1 — a significant increase from the previous $15.87 for most of these positions. But the district still has plenty of openings; its search tool caps those it will display at 350, and it reaches that limit quickly.

Here's more information about job openings at other districts in metro Denver as of August 8, along with school schedules and links:

Adams 12 Five Star Schools
First day of school (K-9): Tuesday, August 16
Job openings: 310

Adams County School District 14
First day of school: Tuesday, August 9
Job openings: 138

Littleton Public Schools
First day of school: Wednesday, August 17
Job openings: 90

Boulder Valley School District
First day of school (K-5, sixth and ninth grades): Wednesday, August 17
Job openings: 124

Cherry Creek Public Schools
First day of school: Monday, August 15
Job openings: 268

Add together the job openings for these five districts as well as those in Dougco, Jeffco and Aurora, and the total comes to 2,133 — and that's not counting Denver.

The Jefferson County Public Schools hiring event runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today, August 9, at 13300 West 2nd Place in Lakewood; click for more information.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts