School Leader Compensation and Benefits

Exceptional leadership is a hallmark of any successful school, and it’s a key strategy of our Denver Plan 2020. That’s why DPS has chosen to lead the Denver metro area in school leader compensation. The goal of our school leader compensation system is to attract and retain exceptional leaders – especially in our high-poverty schools.

In order to meet the goal of the Denver Plan 2020, having great schools in every neighborhood, Denver Public Schools is committed to making school leadership a top priority.

The school leader incentive program is designed to reward high performing leaders, provide incentives for working in highest-needs schools, and offer competitive wages at all levels (elementary, middle and high).

Salary Setting and Salary Increases

DPS uses market data from neighboring school districts to determine our salary ranges. Salary setting is based on experience and school level (elementary, middle, and high).  Work experience credit is given for comparable leadership roles.

Click here for current DSLA Salary Schedule.  Principal and Assistant Principal salaries will be determined by leader role, school level and years of experience. A maximum of twenty (20) years of experience credit will be applied.

Base pay increases for all school leaders are based on LEAD evaluation score, the salary range quartile in which the school leader’s salary falls, and the district budget for the following school year. For more information on the school leader growth and performance system, view the LEAD website.  Salary increases are typically paid in the spring.  

School Leader Incentives

DPS has five different incentives to recognize and retain great leaders.  Descriptions are available below. To learn more, view current DPS Principal and Assistant Principal incentive amounts.

There are three different school designations at DPS.  Incentives are only paid to school leaders at a school with one of these three designations.  Only one incentive is awarded to a school leader at a school with multiple school designations.  Highest Priority supersedes Pathways which supersedes Title 1.

  1. Highest Priority – 30 schools (20 based on academic performance and 10 chosen by the district) are designated as “Highest Priority” for a 5 year duration.
  2. Pathways – Schools identified by Tiered Support Services as alternative or pathway schools.
  3. Title 1 – Schools identified annually by ESSA Title Programs with ties to FRLs (free and reduced lunch percentage).

Paid to Principals who stay for continuous years at the same school that has a school designation of Highest Priority, Pathways, or Title 1.  The Principal must have a satisfactory LEAD rating of Effective or greater to be eligible for this incentive. Assistant Principals are not eligible for Continuity.

Paid to Principals who have an official student enrollment count of 750 or higher.  Assistant Principals are not eligible for Student Enrollment Incentive.

Paid to Principals and Assistant Principals who worked at a school that achieved the Top Performing status of “Blue” or “Green” based on the “overall indicator” of the School Performance Framework.

Paid to Principals and Assistant Principals who worked at a school that achieved High Growth status of “Blue” or “Green” based on the “growth indicator” of the School Performance Framework.

Incentive Eligibility

To receive incentive payouts, each Principal or Assistant Principal must meet the district’s predetermined eligibility criteria.  Please click below to view incentive eligibility requirements.

  1. You must have been in an eligible position (Principal, Assistant Principal, or Principal Resident) during the school year.
  2. You must still be employed or have retired at the end of the most recent contract year in an eligible role at time of payout.
    1. Employees who have recently retired with PERA are eligible for any applicable incentives, based on the eligibility guidelines listed below.
    2. Employees who finish the current contract year and then transfer to a non-school leader role within the district but are still employed at time of payout are eligible for any applicable incentives associated with the respective school year of their school leader role.
    3. If you transfer to a non-school leader position (a job other than Principal, Assistant Principal, or Principal Resident) before the end of the contract year, you will not be eligible for any incentives.
  3. You must have started in the job no later than March 1st of the respective school year.
  4. You must have a total school leader FTE of 0.5 or higher to be eligible.
  5. Payments will be prorated by FTE and time spent in the school.  Only the months August – May will be considered for proration eligibility.  For late hires, you must start on or before the 1st of the respective month to count towards eligibility.  
      1. September 1st = 100%
      2. October 1st = 90%
      3. November 1st  = 80%
      4. December 1st = 70%
      5. January 1st = 60%
      6. February 1st = 50%
      7. March 1st = 40%
  6. Employees transferring from one school to another mid-year will receive prorated incentives for time spent in each school.
  7. Unpaid leaves of absence during the school year will be prorated and will not count toward incentive eligibility.

Employees who leave DPS for any reason other than retirement and are not employed at the time of payout are not eligible to receive the incentive.  

Year Zero Principals are eligible for all incentives except Top Performing and High Growth

Interim Principals are eligible for all incentives except Continuity.

The following roles are not eligible for School Leader incentives:

  • POSA (Principal on Special Assignment)
  • Hourly Principals
  • Principal Intern (Ritchie/ELL)
  • Instructional Director
  • Teacher Admin Assistant
  • Dean of Operations, Instruction, Student Services, or Culture
  • Admin Intern

For IMO schools, incentives are pooled and the Executive Principal is given the discretion on incentive allocation.  Eligibility guidelines stated above do not apply to IMO schools. For further questions regarding the IMO incentive pools, please talk with your Executive Principal.


We recognize that we can only reach our commitment to supporting the Whole Child if we collectively support the members of Team DPS. Our Benefits and Wellness programs support the health, engagement and enrichment of the whole employee.

What does this look like in practice?

  • Health options with the flexibility you need – DPS is committed to providing you and your eligible dependents with a variety of high-quality, affordable benefit selections to support your health and well-being.
  • Retirement plans that honor the effort you’ve put in – Through the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) and a variety of partners, DPS offers a competitive pension plan and a robust selection of retirement plans that provide the flexibility in retirement you are looking for, while meeting your financial situation today.
  • Ongoing development opportunities that grow your career – We are a community of lifelong learners committed to personalizing careers at DPS. We do this by providing ongoing feedback, coaching and support, coupled with opportunities for professional and personal growth.
  • Personal wellness as a top priority – Our robust wellness program provides employees access to a variety of activities, from fitness facility discounts to energy management classes to cooking seminars.
  • Time when you need it most – While each employee group has a slightly different work calendar, DPS values providing employees the time they need to show up happy, healthy and engaged every day for our students with a mix of personal, vacation and sick days provided.
  • Solutions and Support – Trying to find the best doctors in your area, planning a move or looking for discounts? Our robust employee assistance and discount programs provide you with support, resources and services for personal and work-life issues. Also, see the Cost of Living Toolkit for housing resources in the Denver area.
  • Support when you have questions – Whether it’s signing up for benefits or understanding our retirement options, our HR Connect team is on hand to answer your questions.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us at