Students from East High School and West High School join forces to call for gun control measures to be considered by state lawmakers Thursday, March 23, 2023, during a rally outside the State Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Denver Public Schools will soon have a new chief of climate and safety: Greg Cazzell, who served for eight years as the director of safety for neighboring Aurora Public Schools.

The DPS position had been vacant for six months when the district announced it had hired Cazzell, who spent 22 years with the Glendale police department before working in Aurora.

School safety is top of mind for many Denver students, families, and educators right now. Shootings in and around high schools this year have led to student protests, the formation of a parent advocacy group, calls for the school board to resign, a debate about whether to reintroduce school resource officers, and the development of a long-term safety plan

Chalkbeat spoke to Cazzell Tuesday about his priorities and approach to safety before he officially starts the job on July 10. Here’s what he had to say.

You’re coming to DPS from Aurora Public Schools and a community that also has grappled with youth gun violence. What did you learn in Aurora that you’ll bring to Denver?

Community partnerships. Schools can’t do it alone. We have our students for about 7 hours and 40 minutes a day. And that’s just not enough time. So community partnerships, family partnerships, bringing all the stakeholders together to tackle some of the challenges. 

If it’s violence in the community, it’s impacting our schools. So there’s no really differentiating between the two. Our students are in the community, they see the violence, they’re impacted by the violence. And so it takes not only the school district but nonprofits, community organizations, cities. It’s all-encompassing.


Melanie Asmar has covered Denver Public Schools for Chalkbeat Colorado since 2015. Asmar previously worked at Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she covered education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit...