DPS superintendent Alex Marrero gets a 10% pay raise in new contract

Despite leading the largest school district in the state, Marrero had ranked 12th in the state in terms of pay compared to other district superintendents.
3 min. read
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero sits on a DPS Board of Education special session on violence and safety. March 23, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In a 4-to-3 vote, the Denver Public School board has approved a pay raise for superintendent Alex Marrero who had two years left on his existing contract.

Marrero was hired at $260,000 a year, but it rose based on inflation to more than $275,000 this year. His new salary will be $305,000, about a 10 percent base pay raise. It also includes additional performance pay up to 12.5 percent if he meets all of the goals laid about by the school board.

The board hired Marrero in July 2021. In December of that year, the board chose to extend his contract to four years in order to provide stability to the district. Although his contract wasn't up until 2025, some board members wanted to amend it now because Marrero, despite being the leader of the largest school district in the state, ranked 12th in the state in terms of pay compared to other district superintendents.

"This pay raise in this contract better aligns with his compensation when we look at his peers across the state," said board chair Xochitl Gaytan.

Board members Scott Esserman, Auon'tai Anderson and Michelle Quattlebaum voted against the pay raise. Anderson and Quattlebaum said they disagreed with the process for negotiating the amended contract or the timing.

Anderson said he believes Marrero should have fair compensation but said it should happen during his October evaluation or when his contract expires.

"I just think that right now with the things we are dealing with, this is not the appropriate time," he said. 

He said the board faces multiple issues: safety, mental health and academic success. School safety, in particular, is in the spotlight now as the district gathers public input for a long-term safety plan after several violent incidents in or near schools, including student deaths.

"Unfortunately, the timing of this process and these contract amendments divert our attention away from these critical priorities," he said.    

The board has met in executive session several times over the last year to discuss his contract. But Quattlebaum said she received an email asking for input into a version of the contract that was being negotiated between the district's lawyer and Marrero's counsel. She said she was told the matter of the superintendent's contract was moved forward because four board members wanted it to.

"I find it difficult to vote on something I was not authentically or transparently involved in," she said. "I cannot agree with the process that was used. I fail to see how this process was transparent."

The compensation proposal was not posted publicly before the meeting.

"Denying an employee the right to see a change in the compensation doesn't sit right with me," she said.

The performance pay section of his contract is unique, said board member Scott Baldermann, who voted for the pay raise.

"It could set the stage for not only how we hold the superintendent accountable as well as the board to the public. This compensation package is a commitment to our students and their outcomes."

Though all board members appear to support Marrero's work, some of his plans haven't been well received by all members of the board. Marrero proposed closing 10 schools and then suddenly altered the proposal to two schools, which the board rejected. The district later closed three.

After a March 21 shooting at East High School where two administrators were shot, Marrero called for placing police officers in schools, acknowledging that it violated existing board policy.

Marrero's contact goes through June 30, 2026, unless he is terminated or has poor evaluations.

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