Office of Schools
In the Office of Schools, we have prioritized hiring for the roles most directly supporting our schools as we know that these decisions are top of mind for our school leaders. The caliber of candidates and of the team that is coming together to lead our Schools Department is inspiring and further confirms the enormous impact that these organizational changes can have for our students. We hope that all of us begin to build more hope and inspiration about the collective impact of the changes we are navigating as we share updates to leadership roles and follow with more department level information in the coming weeks.
We are thrilled to share with you the following positions which have been hired.
Drew Coleman - Associate Chief of Schools, Elementary
Drew Coleman currently serves as the Associate Chief of Schools, Elementary in Denver Public Schools. Before joining DPS, Drew served as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development for Alamogordo Public Schools. In addition to serving as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Drew also supervised principals; elementary, middle and high, while also supervising, supporting and leading district teaching and learning specialists. Under his umbrella of duties, he was also instrumental in leading and implementing New Mexico’s Early Childhood Education program and leading the English Language Learners Department. Prior to serving with Alamogordo Public Schools, Drew served in the roles of principal, assistant principal, instructional coach and classroom teacher, serving in two school districts in northern Louisiana; Bossier Parish and Caddo Parish Schools. Drew brings a unique skill set to the role of Associate Chief.
Drew received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Louisiana State University Shreveport. In addition, Drew has received training through the University of Virginia in school turnaround and systemic change. He is also a recent graduate of the District Administration National Superintendent’s Academy. Drew enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.
Jennifer Troy - Associate Chief of Schools, Secondary
Jennifer Troy is a values-driven leader focused on supporting educational equity and student achievement through coaching and developing strong leaders. She has served in a variety of roles in the Bronx and Denver, in both a charter and district, ranging from teacher to district leader for almost 20 years. She recently returned to Team DPS as the Regional Instructional Superintendent in the Northwest.
In her free time, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her 6 year old son (Ethan), (almost) 3 year old daughter (Tilley) and husband (Elliot), cooking, brunching, reading and traveling. Jen’s passion is building systems and conditions that allow our schools to do their best work, combining rigor and relationships, and working to connect the adaptive and technical aspects of leadership to ensure our schools provide a healthy, happy and holistic environment that ultimately ensures endless choices and opportunities for our students’ futures. Jen is collaborative and a connector, and brings joy and levity to the work. She is so excited for the opportunity to serve as the Associate Chief of Schools, Secondary, and to learn and grow with the District. Together we will do great things!
Jennifer Zinn - Interim Executive Director, Secondary Schools
Jenn Zinn is starting her seventh year at DPS. Dr. Zinn studied at Trinity University and the University of Southern California. She first worked as a math teacher and basketball coach. She has served in magnet schools, charter schools, and traditional schools and has focused for many years addressing systemic inequities, including through her dissertation focused on ensuring students of color earn advanced academic credits. She was the founding principal of a high school in New York City and the CAO of KIPP San Antonio. In DPS, Jenn has worked with leaders and ILT members across the district in a number of different roles and has experience as a building and district leader. Jenn has developed expertise in instructional leadership, change management, and school improvement.
Julie Rottier-Lukens - Executive Director, Exceptional Student Services
Julie began her career in education as a Special Education teacher for 10 years before she transitioned into various central support roles. She served as an Assistant Principal at Farrell B. Howell EC-8 where she instituted structured literacy and intervention programming across the school. Following this, she effectively led the Denver Teacher Residency, in partnership with the University of Denver, as an internal pipeline of teacher candidates dedicated to serving students in our Title I schools. Most recently, Julie was the regional Special Education Instructional Specialist (SEIS) for the past 4 years serving the Far North East region. She is in the final year of doctorate in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Denver. Julie, along with her husband, are proud parents of two DPS students at Samuels Elementary.
Kevin Greeley - Executive Director, Elementary
Kevin Greeley has had many diverse experiences in education over the last 25 years.They have ranged from being a Special Education teacher in Hawaii to a Regional Assistant Instructional Superintendent in the Southwest Region (RAIS) of DPS. He has been blessed with the opportunity to serve the students and community of Denver for the last 10 years as a Principal, Manager of Leader Development, and a RAIS.
Kevin is passionate about creating systems that allow adults to learn from one another in service of enabling all students to become independent learners who dream big and have the skills to reach those dreams. Specifically, he is committed to making this a reality for our Black and Brown students. He knows that we learn best by doing the work together, giving one another feedback, and always striving to be a little better today than we were yesterday. He is extremely humbled and excited to serve as the Executive Director of Elementary Education.
Priscilla Hopkins - Executive Director, Early Childhood Education
Priscilla Hopkins has been an educator for over 30 years. Her teaching career began in California where she taught in bilingual classrooms in Southern and the Central Coast of California. She began her work in early education in 2010 and has since served as Director and Executive Director of Early Education in DPS. In the past four years, Priscilla has focused on supporting high-quality early education through the variety of programming that DPS offers and striving to ensure that families in Denver have access to the preschool program of their choice. Her love of education began when she started Kindergarten as a recent immigrant and English learner in South Pasadena Public Schools. That is where she learned that teaching and learning were founded on strong and authentic relationships!
Samantha Haviland - Executive Director, Career and College Success
Dr. Samantha Haviland served as the Executive Director of Career Development and Student Success for Denver Public Schools for the last two years. Previously the Director of school counseling in DPS and a school counselor in various rural, suburban, and urban school districts, Samantha has a passion for the Denver students and their families. In her current work today she supports all work-based learning, student engagement and dropout prevention, college success and school counseling, so students dream, plan, and achieve greatness in their own path after high school.
Sandy Lochhead - Director, K-8
Dr. Sandra Lochhead joined Denver Public Schools over ten years ago and she is thrilled to be serving as a Director of Schools supporting eleven ECE-8 schools. She came to Team DPS as the Program Director of Leadership Preparation and Development where she was able to leverage her creativity to design and implement the Learn to Lead principal residency program, the Denver Lead Today Alternative Principal License program, and redesign the school leader mentor program as principal pipeline initiatives. In 2016, she began serving as the Director of School Leader Performance and Development and facilitated efforts to revise the school leader competency framework to support performance evaluation, manage the overarching talent strategy for leaders in DPS, and design and implement development opportunities across the leader career continuum bringing the Cahn Fellowship to DPS. During this time, she became involved in a partnership with the University of Denver and the Carnegie Foundation that sparked her interest in improvement science and innovation and she joined the Strategy Office to lead the Innovation and Improvement Team. In this role, she collaborated with K-12 schools, central teams, and external partners to use improvement science, liberatory design thinking, and networked improvement communities with a focus on dismantling inequitable systems and supporting schools and the school district to “get better at getting better.”
Prior to joining DPS, Sandra served in the District of Columbia Public Schools and in Arlington Public Schools in Virginia. Her experiences as a special educator, a general education teacher, and a Nationally Board Certified Teacher deepened her commitment to working side by side with families, communities and students to improve outcomes. She worked in the central office as the Early Childhood District Supervisor and Director of Leadership Development and returned to school-based leadership to serve as an Assistant Principal and Principal. As a principal, she transitioned her school into an Expeditionary Learning School model, increased enrollment by 49% and her school achieved the Virginia Board of Education Competence to Excellence Award and The Virginia Board of Education Title I Distinguished School Recognition. Her central and school-based leadership experiences have supported her in building individual capacity through coaching and professional development with building organizational capacity to tackle the most persistent problems. Dr. Lochhead earned her doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, focusing her research on “Transforming Systems by centering antiracist practices in continuous school improvement” and completed an executive coaching certification. With 35 years of experience in education and as a mom of two teens, Sandra is committed to achieving equity in public education so all students can thrive.
Eric Love - Director, Early Childhood
Eric Allen Hamilton Love is a leader who is passionate about improving the quality of schooling that students receive. For the past 20 plus years he has served students in the Syracuse City School District, Prince George’s County Public Schools, and Denver Public Schools as an educator and leader. Eric believes his 20-plus years of experience with providing educational opportunities to diverse students in urban schools and leadership opportunities he has encountered throughout his career has adequately prepared him to maintain high and relevant standards for academic success. Eric consistently and continuously thrives on doing what is best for students and he is always looking for creative and innovative ways to achieve this goal. He works hard to ensure that each and every student learns in an environment that is safe, nurturing, challenging, and joyous. For the past almost 8 years, he has served as the Principal of Escalante-Biggs Academy with Denver Public Schools in the Montbello community. His passion for our earliest learners, drives his fuel to show up daily as an advocate for high-quality education.
Eric has received numerous awards throughout his career, including a proclamation from the city and county of Denver given by Mayor Michael B. Hancock that has declared June 3rd as “Eric A. Hamilton” Day. Eric has earned degrees from Long Island University in Long Island, NY and LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY. Eric is currently working towards completing a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Early Childhood Leadership & Advocacy. He has family connections in Fort Pierce, FL, Syracuse, NY, and now Denver, CO. When Eric is not working, he enjoys traveling, learning about new things and cultures, and spending time with family and friends.
Kayla Grayson-Yizar - Director, Elementary Collaborative 1
Kayla Grayson-Yizar was born in Wichita, Kansas. She attended Newman University, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction and School Accountability, an ESOL Endorsement, and a Master’s degree in School Leadership/Principalship. She taught in Wichita, KS for 12 years before relocating to Denver, Colorado in 2014. She served as a MLE Network Partner from 2014-2015 and became Assistant Principal of Florida Pitt Waller ECE-8th grade in the 2015-2016 school year. Kayla became Principal of Florida Pitt Waller in the 2017-2018 school year and has remained the proud principal of the amazing Florida Pitt Waller school since. Kayla leads with an energetic, service-minded, and equity-focused approach. She takes pride in the work she has done to ensure students always come first in all decisions that are made through a transformational leadership mindset. Kayla is a devoted mother to her 3 children - all DPS students - Kaliah, Khloe, and William George.
Drew Schutz - Director, Elementary Collaborative 2
Drew has worked for DPS for almost two decades, as both an ELA-S teacher and school leader. He was a 5th-grade teacher at McMeen Elementary and supported the school in receiving a multi-year Distinguished rating on the School Performance Framework. After transitioning to an assistant principal role at Sabin Elementary, he became principal at Valverde Elementary. At Valverde, Drew led the school through a comprehensive community engagement process and a successful turnaround effort. More recently, he was the principal at Place Bridge Academy. At PBA, he worked to strengthen the school’s Newcomer program and launch the largest DPS Community Hub. Drew was part of the original DPS Cohort in the Partnership for Leaders in Education Program at the University of Virginia. He is also a member of the Cahn National Fellowship of Distinguished Principals, in partnership with Columbia University.
Drew is a proud DPS graduate and parent, who is grateful for the ongoing opportunity to work with the district’s students, families, and staff.
Dana Williams - Director, Elementary Collaborative 3
Dr. Dana Williams is a proud product of the Denver Public Schools where she attended K-12 and graduated as a Lincoln Lancer. Graduating from Goshen College with a BA in Communications and Intercultural Studies, Dana led work at nonprofits in Chicago and Washington DC before her heart brought her back to Denver and education. After earning her MA in Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Colorado at Denver, she returned to the southwest Denver community of her childhood where she was a teacher and instructional coach at Goldrick Elementary. After leading as an assistant principal at Slavens K-8, assessment partner to 15 elementary schools, and principal at University Park Elementary, she has had the honor of coaching and developing more than 200 rising leaders over the last seven years - many of whom lead as assistant principals and principals today. Dana earned her PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Denver.
Dana strives to build a culture where each individual is seen, heard, and celebrated for their unique gifts and is able to lead from their strengths, so that collectively we can create a more just and equitable world. She is a life-long Bronco fan, cherishes traveling and time outside with her husband Tim, and is elated to see her daughter Grace thrive as a 2nd grader in DPS.
Jason Krause - Director, Elementary Collaborative 4
Jason grew up in the Park Hill Neighborhood in Denver. He started his journey in DPS at Phillips Elementary as a kindergarten student. He accepted his first teaching position in DPS as an ELA-S teacher at Columbine Elementary. While there, he taught ELA-E/S in grades 2nd-6th and met his wife of 13 years, Jodi. Jason began his school leadership journey serving Valdez and Knapp Elementary. In 2010, he returned to his childhood stomping ground in Park Hill as principal of Smith and has been leading Columbine as principal the past eight school years. His unwavering belief in the impact of healthy, focused school teams to positively influence the lives of children resulted in the transformation of both Smith and Columbine and he is eager to support school teams in his new role. Jodi and Jason live in Park Hill with their two children Norah (13) and Leo (9). As a family they spend time outside in all the Colorado ways with their two dogs; hiking, biking, disc golfing, playing in rivers, camping and road-tripping.
Leticia Jara-Leake - Director, Elementary Collaborative 5
With an accomplished 24-year career dedicated to education and leadership, Mrs. Jara-Leake has consistently prioritized access to quality education within Denver Public Schools. Collaborating with stakeholders, she has worked to drive positive change and uplift student outcomes. Her journey has encompassed a range of teaching and leadership roles within DPS, reflecting her steadfast commitment to fostering student growth. Notably, Mrs. Jara-Leake is a distinguished graduate of The Cahn Fellows Program for Distinguished Principals, a recognition of her exceptional leadership. With an enduring commitment to education and transformative leadership, she continues to shape a brighter future for Denver Public Schools students.
Araceli O'Clair - Director, Elementary Collaborative 6
Araceli del Carmen O’Clair is a seasoned educator with 20 years experience. As a proud Latina connected to her roots, she cherishes being bilingual and bicultural especially when she can connect people cross-culturally. From a young age helping her immigrant parents run the family business, she was a leader. Now that her leadership has evolved, it is firmly grounded in dignity and nurturing human potential.
She is thrilled to lead Denver Public School’s network of Montessori schools. She is a former principal of a dual language Montessori school that she led for 9 years; she gained a keen understanding of the complexities that exist for Montessori education in the public sector. Our Montessori schools are a treasure not only because of their holistic nature, but most importantly because the work of having Montessori pedagogy accessible to all, is an act of social justice.
As a first-generation college graduate, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Urban Studies from Worcester State University. She then obtained a Master's Degree in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education from the University of Colorado. She completed the Whole School Leadership certificate program and is now a trainer for the organization whose mission it is to develop leaders for Montessori schools worldwide.
In the words of Maria Montessori, “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” In this role, she strives to unite Montessori practitioners who are committed to equitable practices starting here in our humble part of the universe.
Christian Sawyer - Director, Elementary Collaborative 7
Dr. Christian Sawyer brings over twenty years of experience in education as a classroom teacher and urban school principal. As a teacher, Christian helped found a new International Baccalaureate Program in Metro Nashville Public Schools and, for his teaching in the IB Middle Years Programme, was named the National Social Studies Teacher of the Year. Having served as an urban school principal in Metro Nashville and in Denver, Christian led his schools to center equity and whole child-centered learning. Here in Denver, Christian and his team led the unification of Hamilton Middle School and its authorization as an official International Baccalaureate Program. Of his tenure at Hamilton, he is proud to have been part of a team named as one of two middle schools in Denver to have closed achievement gaps in giftedness and special education as part of their Black Excellence Plan. Dr. Sawyer earned his doctorate in K-12 Education Leadership, Policy, and Organization at Vanderbilt University.
Hillary Niebauer - Director, Middle School
Hillary Niebauer is in her 22nd year of education and her 21st year in Denver Public Schools. All 22 years have been in middle schools. She was a 7th grade Language Arts teacher for 10 years before moving out of the classroom to serve as an instructional coach and Dean of Students. She eventually moved into school leadership and served as an Assistant Principal and Principal for 10 years.
Hillary has a husband and two teenage daughters. One daughter is at Gannon University in Erie, PA, and the other daughter attends East High School. We spend all our free time watching our girls play soccer. She enjoys reading, movies, fishing, and watching the Colorado professional sports.
Bobby Thomas - Director, High School Collaborative 1
Bobby Thomas was born in Denver -- the youngest of five, with four older sisters. After graduating from Englewood High School, Bobby went on to be the first and only of his siblings to graduate from college. His father was a landscaper and janitor, and his mother cleaned houses. He attributes his work ethic and devotion to helping others to his parents; his black father and hispanic mother modeled hard work and caring for others. After high school, he played collegiate football at Lake Forest College, before transferring to Metropolitan State University where he earned a Bachelor's degree in History. He earned his Master's degree in Special Education from the University of Colorado at Denver. Bobby’s 21 year instructional background is extensive, and includes teaching Credit Recovery, Career and Technical Education, Social Studies, and Special Education, and then leadership roles as Dean and Assistant Principal in Cherry Creek and Englewood school districts. In 2011 he became principal of Rachel B. Noel Middle School in the far northeast for two years, where he created a culture of continuous improvement and accountability. After Rachel B. Noel Middle School, he wrote the innovation plan for Legacy Options. In 2013, Bobby was selected as Summit Academy’s principal located in southwest Denver, where he led for five years transitioning the red pathway school to green.
In 2018 Bobby became principal of Denver South High School. His leadership contributed to the development of multiple equity-focused initiatives and systems, a culture of continuous improvement, and increased student achievement. He has been recognized for his encouraging and innovative leadership, along with advocacy for high expectations. Bobby focuses on support for all students in need, ensuring academic excellence and paving the way to post-graduate success. He is deeply committed to dismantling systemic and structural racism in education, creating academic access, and facilitating success to all students -- especially Black and Lantix students. Some of his equity initiatives include collaboratively leading the work to change the historically oppressive mascot name of Rebels to Ravens, and instituting an embedded honors system for all core classes, thereby creating equitable rigorous access for ALL students.
Bobby is a proud husband of 17 years and father of three amazing kids Jalen, Keteyia, and Jerasiah. He is a huge fan of the Denver Nuggets and Broncos, as well as CU Buffs and Colorado School of Mines Orediggers!
Melissa Boyd - Director, High School Collaborative 2
Melissa Boyd has been a proud member of team DPS for 14 years, and has served each of those years at Bruce Randolph School. In her work at Bruce Randolph School, Melissa served as a middle and high school teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal and principal. As a leader, Melissa believes in the power of strong school culture, relationships with students and families, and strategic teacher and leader support and coaching to impact student learning. Her work as a leader demonstrates her commitment to providing communities with rich college and career readiness experiences through hands-on, rigorous, and joyful learning. Prior to her tenure in Denver, Melissa was an educator in New York City and Connecticut where she utilized her background in mathematics and Reading Intervention to serve students with a variety of academic needs across the K-12 continuum. Melissa received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Saint Joseph University and a Master of Arts from Columbia University - Teachers College with a focus as a Reading Specialist. Outside of her role as a leader, Melissa is the proud parent of a current DPS third-grader and rising first-grader.
Michelle Wright - Director, Pathways Collaborative 1
Michelle Wright has most recently been serving as the Regional Assistant Instructional Superintendent in the Northwest Region this school year. Previously, she served as the principal of Florence Crittenton High School for 5 years where she worked to support the academic and social-emotional needs of teen mothers. As a DPS graduate from East High School, she has been a long-time advocate for and employee of Team DPS. Michelle began her teaching career overseas in both Mexico and Venezuela before becoming an ELA-S teacher at Skinner Middle School in 2002. As a school leader at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, she has worked to design innovative strategies and use “out-of-the-box” thinking to support the unique needs of all students. She believes school leaders and educators achieve their greatest potential through teamwork, collaboration, and support for their vision, and she looks forward to supporting the amazing teams in the Pathways Collaborative. She has one daughter (18) who is a Senior at East High School, and also enjoys time with her pug Otis.
Ann Cobb - Director, Pathways Collaborative 2
Ann Cobb joins the Schools Team as the second Pathways Collaborative Director with over 20 years of experience with Denver Public Schools. She started her career at DPS as a first-grade literacy para and since has served as a Math/Science Facilitator, Data and Assessment Partner, Dean of Instruction, and School Improvement Partner (including supporting the Pathways Network). For the last four years, she served as the very proud principal of Respect Academy, a DPS Pathway School located in the garden level of Abraham Lincoln High School, where she joyfully watched DPS’s most resilient, brilliant, and delightful students cross the graduation stage ready to pursue their post-secondary dreams. She is married to a man who is an amazing cook and partner. They have three children, her oldest son is closer to 30 than 20 and lives in North Carolina; her daughter is a proud graduate of DPS School of the Arts and is an artist and community farmer; and their youngest son is a proud Denver South Raven!