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Gaps Left by Denver Retirees May Be Hard To Fill

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Almost 600 teachers and administrators have taken advantage of an early-retirement program offered by the Denver school district, raising fears that the system will have trouble finding enough experienced replacements.

The biggest impact may be at the elementary-school level, where 25 of 81 elementary principals opted to leave at the end of the school year.

"There really aren't a lot of people in the pool who have a lot of experience,'' Carol Genera, the president of the Denver Elementary Schools Association and the principal at Bromwell Elementary School, said last week. "For the most part, they're going to be brand-new, virgin principals.''

The retirements are expected to save the district about $6 million, but the amount depends on how many of the administrators--some of whom worked in the central office--are replaced, according to Max Bartram, who directs the program.

Superintendent of Schools Evie Dennis has said she wants to reduce the size of the central administration and put more money into the schools.

The plan attracted potential retirees by adding five years of service and five years of age to their records for the purpose of calculating retirement benefits. More than 500 of the district's 4,000 teachers took up the offer, while a total of 65 administrators will retire early.

Classified employees were also eligible for the program, but they are being processed after teachers and administrators. Mr. Bartram said he expects more than 200 classified staff members to take advantage of the incentives.

Bringing In New Talent

In addition to saving the district money, Ms. Dennis has pushed the plan as a way to bring new talent into the schools.

The retirements come as the Denver schools are implementing an array of reforms. These include "collaborative decisionmaking'' committees formed at each school this year as part of a teachers' contract drawn up by Gov. Roy Romer of Colorado, who intervened in a dispute over the contract last year. (See Education Week, April 3, 1991.)

Ms. Genera said many schools have struggled this year with the issue of who is actually in charge with the new management set-up.

In addition, some parents have charged that the district's central office has not paid enough attention to their advice on hiring decisions. The school board retains the power to approve all staffing assignments.

The district's personnel office is interviewing candidates in the hope that many of the new openings can be filled before the end of the school year.

The school committees will be sent lists of prospects and will be able to make recommendations about whom they would like to see hired, Mr. Bartram said.--D.G.

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