Records Request Reveals Denver Public Schools Struggling to Accommodate Migrant Students


As reported by mainstream news outlets, Denver Public Schools (DPS) has received an influx of migrant students, creating a projected $17.5 million budget shortfall.

Public records obtained by Parents Defending Education through a CORA request reveal internal deliberations in the school system that highlight some of the strains on the system.

On October 19, 2023, Deborah Staten, deputy chief of staff for the superintendent, asked DPS Chief of Schools, Cesar Cedillo, and Chief of Academics, Dr. Simone Wright, for bullet points to pass along to a board member on “what we are doing to address the issue of our new students in our buildings? … They have heard that our new students are impacting the enrollment cap. They have heard that teachers need more support in classrooms. They have heard that we need more support with language services in some of our schools.”

Twelve hours later, Staten passed along bullet points to the board president:

On November 6, 2023, Evan Dreyer, deputy chief of staff to Denver mayor Mike Johnston, contacted Staten and Deep Badehsha, DPS government political liaison, to propose using DPS buildings for “a series of legal clinics in November and December to help new arrivals apply for Temporary Protected Status and Employment Authorization Documents,” an initiative in partnership with “the Governor’s Office, the Colorado Office of New Americans and the feds.”

Atim Otii, director of the Denver Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs (DOIRA), specifies that “the ask is for space, admin (staff to open and close, printers, 50 to 100 people and 4 to maybe even 6 hours with open and closing times.  We’d like to see what availability you have in both November and December.”

Dreyer’s email also notes that the Mayor’s office is working “on the Wildcat Gymnasium as a possible migrant shelter” – a fact which appears to be previously unreported. “Wildcat Gymnasium” seems to refer to the former Johnson & Wales University property purchased by DPS in 2021 ostensibly to expand the nearby Denver School of the Arts. In May 2023, another portion of the campus broke ground on an affordable housing project.

On December 4, 2023, Director of DPS Enrollment and Campus Planning Russell Ramsey emailed Superintendent Alex Marrero (cc’ing Wright, Staten, Cedillo, Chief Financial Officer Chuck Carpenter, Executive Director of Multilingual Education Adrienne Endres, and Chief of Equity and Engagement Anthony Smith about adjusting boundary lines to accommodate migrant students.

On December 14, 2023, Dr. Simone Wright scheduled a zoom call with Ted Thompson, associate chief of academics, regarding “New to Country/Migrant Students Conversation.”

On January 10, 2024 – two weeks before a board meeting on the topic –Grant Guyer, DPS Associate Chief of Strategic Operations, scheduled a zoom meeting noting that he has “been tasked to explore regulatory and legislative solutions around getting a temporary pause state testing implications for DPS schools that have experienced a large increase of Migrant students.” We interpret this to mean that the district wants to pause/delay its annual testing of students.

The privilege log provided by the district lists 101 documents that were withheld from production under the deliberative privilege excerpt on the grounds that “Public disclosure of this document would stifle honest and frank discussion within the government.”

Notable withheld documents include:


  • 2 emails from Troy Garner (Executive Director, Construction & Planning) to Trena Marsal (Deputy Superintendent of Operations) regarding “possible use of DPS buildings as temporary shelter for migrants” on September 20, 2023;

School Support/Funding:

  • 12 emails regarding “how to possibly support school needs for new to country student/family arrivals” between October 6 – December 11, 2023;
  • 16 emails regarding “possible costs to partner with the city to support new arrival families” between November 1-20, 2023;
  • 2 emails regarding “possible budget forecasts” between Katie Hechavarria (Executive Director, Finance), Chuck Carpenter (Chief Financial Officer), Paola Segura (Senior Financial Analyst), and Chris Kampe (Manager, Finance) on January 5 and 7, 2024;


  • 2 emails between Simone Wright (Chief of Academics), Ted Thompson (Associate Chief of Academics), Jennifer Begley (Director of Humanities) and Katie Custer (Manager, Secondary Humanities) regarding “feedback on the 7th grade ELA assessment and student results” on November 8, 2023;
  • An email from Grant Guyer (Associate Chief of Strategic Operations) to Deep Badhesha (government political liaison) “[d]iscussing and providing feedback on state guidance on assessments” on January 18, 2024;
  • An email from Grant Guyer to Mackenzie Lane (Director, Assessments) and Pamela Wong “[d]iscussing possible next steps related to CDE state assessments” on January 18, 2024;


  • An email regarding “preliminary enrollment projections” from Jennifer Troy (Associate Chief of Schools) to Bobby Thomas (Director, High School Collaborative 1), Melissa Boyd (Director, High School Collaborative 2), Michelle Wright (Director, Pathways Collaborative 1), Ann Cobb (Director, Pathways Collaborative 2), Hillary Niebauer (Director, Middle School), Jenn Zinn (Interim Executive Director, Secondary Schools), Drew Coleman (Associate Chief of Schools, Elementary), Kevin Greeley (Executive Director, Elementary), and Cesar Cedillo (Chief of Schools) on December 6, 2023; and
  • An email regarding “enrollment projections and space needs for McMeen next year” from Russell Ramsey (Director, Enrollment and Campus Planning) to Troy Garner (Executive Director, Construction & Planning), Yolanda Ortega, Cesar Cedillo (Chief of Schools), and Trena Marsal (Deputy Superintendent of Operations) on January 5, 2024.