DENVER — Twelve candidates are vying for four open seats on the Denver school board, but the election is unlikely to shift the balance of power away from members backed by the teacher’s union.
The board has seven directors who are elected to four-year staggered terms. Five of the directors represent districts within Denver, and two represent Denver at large.
Seats in Districts 2, 3, and 4 and an at-large seat are up for grabs on Tuesday. All Denver voters can vote for the at-large seats, but only residents of a specific region can vote for the regional seats.
Key issues for the school district include school consolidation and closures for schools with low enrollment, education outcomes for Black students, school safety, coronavirus relief money, and reviews of autonomous charter and innovation schools.
The current at-large seats on the board are held by Barbara O’Brien and Tay Anderson, who was elected in 2019 and whose term expires in 2023.
The following five candidates are vying to replace O’Brien, who is ineligible to run again due to term limits.
- Marla Benavides: Her campaign focuses on literacy, and she believes the district doesn’t have a clear strategic plan or vision, according to her website.
- Scott Esserman (endorsed by DCTA): According to his campaign website, he hopes to “prioritize” student needs and wants to transform the current system and replace it with a Community School Model, which he says better services students and families.
- Vernon Jones Jr.: His priorities include increasing equity, achievement, and wellness among students. According to his campaign page, everyone from parents, to staff and students must work together to solve the present and future challenges.
- Jane Shirley: She touted herself as the most experienced candidate with 34 years in education. Her priorities focus on creativity, which she argued should be held as high as math or literacy in schools.
- Nicky Yollick: She hopes to focus on shifting resources from the Central Administration to classrooms, particularly of Title I schools. She also hopes to require district staff to undergo training in cultural understanding to retain teachers of color.
During his tenure on the board, Anderson was accused of sexual assault but prosecutors declined to press charges and a separate investigation, conducted by a law firm hired by the Denver Public Schools board, also failed to substantiate claims that Anderson had sexually assaulted anyone.
However, investigators did substantiate claims that Anderson engaged in flirtatious social media messages with a 16-year-old while he was a board member. That prompted the school board to vote to censure Anderson in a vote of 6-1. The lone no vote was Anderson.
Some have called for him to resign, but Anderson has vowed to complete his term through 2023.
District 2 (southwest Denver)
- Xochitl Gaytan: (Endorsed by Denver Classroom Teachers Association) According to her campaign website, her priorities include working to put more dollars into the classroom and reducing unnecessary testing so that teachers can focus more on learning. She also wants to reduce class sizes and make curriculums more “culturally relevant.”
- Karolina Villagrana: She supports more meaningful metrics to gauge where students are and also the creation of community partnerships to enrich student academic programming and wellness.
District 3 (Central-east Denver)
- Dr. Carrie Olson (Incumbent, current board president) (endorsed by Denver Classroom Teachers Association): Her priorities include ensuring all schools have what they need to best serve students, according to her website. She also touted her educational background and experience as a current board member. She also wants the board to direct the superintendent to provide more school nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors to our schools and to prioritize reducing class sizes.
- Dr. Mike DeGuire: He hopes to find a better way to measure student achievement than standardized which he said aren’t “reliable or fair.” He’d also like to see more transparency when it comes to funding and how money is spent and thinks that employees and community members should be more involved in the decision-making process.
District 4 (northeast Denver)
- Gene Fashaw: He’s a current teacher, who according to his website wants to put kids and the community first. As a person of color, he also said he’s focused on breaking down stereotypes and bias that he experienced first-hand.
- Michelle Quattlebaum (endorsed by Denver Classroom Teachers Association): Her current focus is to create and lead community, staff, and student programs increasing culturally responsive education and engagement, according to her website. She also supports more resources for mental health and other wrap-around services.
- Dr. Jose Silva: His priorities include wellness for the whole child and a focus on the budget as the district deals with the potential impacts of decreased enrollment. He’d also like to see more work done to increase equity.
- Andrea Mosby, has withdrawn, though her name was still on the ballot. Votes for her will not count.
To get more election results, go to 9news.com/elections.
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