DENVER — After months of searching, Denver Public Schools is getting a new chief of climate and safety next month.
Greg Cazzell will fill the position at a pivotal time, as the district develops a long-term safety plan.
On Tuesday, DPS provided the media an opportunity to talk with Cazzell for the first time since the district announced his appointment earlier this month.
The new DPS chief of climate and safety says keeping students safe is a never-ending job.
“Safety and security do not stop at 5 p.m. It is a 24-hour-a-day job,” Cazzell said.
He spent the last eight years as director of safety and security at Aurora Public Schools (APS).
“Very similar districts as far as student needs,” Cazzell said. “There's a lot of similarities other than size that I felt that was a good fit to make the move.”
He says all schools face threats of violence, and those threats have only gotten worse in recent years.
“It’s definitely gotten worse. It's definitely become more of a challenge than it was in 2014 and 2015,” said Cazzell. “Some of the violence that we're seeing in the community… some of that violence that we're seeing is spilling over into our schools.”
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Cazzeel will start his new job as the district continues to deal with the fallout of two shootings surrounding East High School.
In February, 16-year-old Luis Garcia, a student at East High, was shot near campus. He died a couple of weeks later.
The following month, a student shot and injured two school administrators.
For students, parents and community members, the March shooting at East High School was the last straw.
Cazzell will be tasked with helping to implement a new long-term safety plan, which is currently in development.
“It will be a challenge, no doubt,” said Cazzell. “But as I stated earlier, school safety is a challenge, you know, every day.”
The DPS Board of Education directed Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero to develop the long-term plan. Marrero released the second draft of his plan in late May. A final draft is expected at the end of June before it’s submitted to the board for approval.
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Cazzell says he has been able to provide input.
“It was shared with me early on in the process. I've provided feedback,” he told the media. “I've provided some success that I think we had found in APS. Again, these are policy decisions. What may work in APS might not be the right fit for DPS, even though there's a lot of similarities there."
Denver7 asked Cazzell about his thoughts on school resource officers, which the DPS school board is considering bringing back.
“In Aurora, we've had them in our schools for over 20 years. Two SROs at every high school, along with armed campus safety officers,” he said. “But it's important to make sure that the SRO fits in, that it’s part of that school community, understands that culture, understands that population."
He says SROs are only one component of a comprehensive school safety plan.
“[SROs] are getting a lot of attention,” said Cazzell. “But mental health is probably at or above some of the most important aspects of it.”
Prior to his current role at APS, Cazzell spent 22 years with the Glendale Police Department.
“I know that Chief Cazzell will help DPS move forward in our going commitment to providing a safe environment for every student to thrive,” Marrero said in a district news release. “He will play a pivotal role in safeguarding our students and building trust among parents and staff.”
Cazzell’s last day in Aurora will be June 30, and first day at DPS will be July 10.