Denver school board elections

A voting guide for the three open positions on the November ballot

Posted

There are three open positions on the Denver School Board for the upcoming November ballot: an at-large position, as well as one each for Districts 1 and 5. To see a map of the Denver school districts, go to http://board.dpsk12.org/dps-board-district-map/.

Board members are eligible for two four-year terms. Elections for the seven-member board are staggered by district so that no more than four seats are open at a time.

Each candidate has also written a statement of intent, which can be found on the Denver Public Schools website: http://board.dpsk12.org/2019-board-of-education-election/.

District 1

District 1 covers southeast Denver. Anne Row currently represents the area, but is termed out after this year.

Scott Baldermann

Grew up in Aurora, has lived in Denver since 2002.

Profession: Self-employed/entrepreneur

Campaign website: www.scott4schools.org

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

I’ve had enough of Denver Public Schools disrespecting teachers, mismanaging tax dollars and experimenting on our kids with failed reforms. Current policies are leading to 20% teacher turnover and 35% turnover for paraprofessionals. We need to review educator compensation and benefits, so we avoid future strikes like the one that disrupted the entire Denver community and economy in February. Too many taxpayer dollars are being diverted to central office bureaucracy. We need to get back to basics and properly fund classrooms where it really matters — for the direct benefit of students.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

The role of the board is to govern — to direct major decisions of the school district — and to monitor the performance of management and committees. The board also acts as the direct supervisor of the superintendent, taking ultimate responsibility for the actions of the administration. The board should serve as a representative that is engaged with the community. This means actively consulting the community — engaging parents, students, teachers and elders. With that wisdom, board members can implement policy changes to serve all students better.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

My plan will ensure every student is supported in and out of school by providing equitable funding, resources, staff, services and curriculum. I believe our first steps should be to:

• Introduce school board resolutions to require comprehensive mental health programs, as well as to require rich music and art programs.

• Increase funding allocations for free and reduced lunch and English language learners.

• Introduce funding allocations for students with individual education plans or 504 plans, as well as gifted and talented students and twice-exceptional students.

• Strategically locate schools and community zones that host family opportunity centers throughout the city of Denver.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

I began attending DPS/DCTA Pro-Comp bargaining sessions in late 2017. That was my first experience seeing the disconnect between the teachers and the administration. I got involved supporting teachers because of bad-faith bargaining. Inadequate proposals were delivered by the district, which prolonged the process and ultimately led to the strike.

The district and teachers association must reconcile to benefit students. This begins with getting both parties communicating immediately to prepare for the 2022 Master Agreement. The district must also work closely with the city of Denver and neighborhood associations to provide affordable housing options for teachers and paraprofessionals.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

I want to equitably fund every school with core resources, staff, curriculum and services regardless of their zip code.

Approximately half of DPS schools are waiving various teacher rights, which leaves them unprotected. Unsurprisingly, teachers then look to neighboring school districts for better opportunities. We must provide teachers and paraprofessionals with support, resources and professional development they need to be successful.

I want to see DPS become an integral part of Denver’s neighborhoods. If we want strong schools in every neighborhood and for teachers to be able to afford living in Denver, we must work with local communities.

Diana Romero Campbell

Denver native, DPS graduate and parent.

Profession: President of Scholars Unlimited

Campaign website: www.DianaforDPS.com

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

I am running because I love our Denver community, and have a deep commitment to education. I want to ensure that all our students achieve their full potential and thrive. I know that my lifelong experience with early childhood education and policy, and my experience as a parent and nonprofit leader, will be an asset to the board, the district, and the students and families we serve. I’ve spent my life working on improving early childhood education for our youngest children. I will work to ensure excellent education for every student in District 1.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

As an elected leader, I will be a public servant who represents the people of my district, by listening to and working alongside parents, students, educators and community members to ensure that DPS is providing excellent education to all students. As someone who has served on multiple boards, I know my first responsibility is to be accountable and transparent.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

Given today’s national climate, it is my top priority that our students and families know they are coming to an environment where they can thrive, can succeed, and are safe. This is not a time to take human rights for granted. I am focused on ensuring that all DPS students have a warm and welcoming environment where they can learn and grow. As a board member, I will work to increase support of social, emotional, and mental health support in schools across District 1 and throughout DPS.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

I am the daughter of public school teachers, and when I was a young girl, I walked picket lines with my father when he was on strike. This past school year, I watched educators, parents, students, and community members navigate a strike. For many, it was a unifying experience to lift up the voices of teachers. I still believe that more work can be done to ensure that their voices are heard. I will work to shift the mindset of division between the district and educators, and work toward an environment within DPS that respects teachers by providing them with the resources they need.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

I believe that in a district of 95,000 students, we can and should recruit our future teacher leaders, particularly teachers of color, from the brilliance that exists within our community. Specifically, we must build a recruitment pipeline that builds leadership to prepare students and community leaders to become educators.

I will also work to elevate community voices in board decision-making. I will respect the autonomy of each school’s culture while also holding them accountable to ensuring high expectations for all students.

My third priority will be expanding college and career readiness. Students need support throughout their school experience to be exposed to multiple pathways for success.

M. Radhika Nath, Ph.D.

Denver resident since 2010, and Colorado resident since 2001.

Profession: Policy and analytics

Campaign website: www.RadForEd.org

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

Ever since my sons joined kindergarten, I have had to make time to support them at school. Both my sons are on an individualized education plan. English language learners are falling behind, black children are being disproportionately disciplined, children with disabilities are being pushed out of inclusion and children with trauma or poverty are not receiving resources that would allow them to overcome challenges.

My policy expertise, my experience as a former foster parent and my disabilities advocacy make me well prepared to take on the mantle of overseeing DPS and ensuring that public funding is reaching and serving our children first.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

Oversight of DPS policies and budget are the most important duties of the school board. These policies must (a) first serve our children, ensuring equity and their success; (b) strengthen and stabilize our educators and workforce, and; (c) be transparent and manage public funds with integrity.

In the past 15 years, the number of non-traditional schools which are exempt from many regulations that traditional public schools are subject to has grown exponentially; they are now over 50% of all schools.

If it is a public school and receives public dollars, it must be subject to full public oversight.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

Choice is an illusion if only those who are hustling the hardest or winning a lottery can access a high-quality education. Choice has created winners and losers. We need all our kids to succeed and be included and accepted. We need every school to be a high-quality school rather than create a choice patchwork.

We need smaller class sizes where children are learning, playing, creating, communicating, resolving conflicts and bonding with teachers and trusted adults. We need dedicated mental health nurse and other specialists (OT, speech, PT) in our schools to help our children.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

Teacher empowerment is an issue in our system. Many of our schools have exempted themselves from collective bargaining with DPS administration approval. This has created a destabilized work setting for traditional public schools which are not exempt from collective bargaining rules. We need teachers to be better paid so they can aspire, at least, to a middle-class life, living in the communities they serve and feeling accomplished rather than overworked and underappreciated. We need to remove the stress of teaching to the test and allow teachers the time to teach kids to be curious and learn a variety of content and subjects.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

In District 1, schools serve children with higher needs. We need these schools to receive additional resources and more compassionate schooling for the children with the most needs.

Secondly, we need to remove the high-stakes testing which has become the basis of the school performance. This has led to resources being diverted to teaching to the test rather than a focus on high-quality, holistic education.

Our tax dollars don’t make it to the classrooms. The elected board is unable to fully oversee our schools because 53% have appointed layers of management that prevent a free flow of data about students and teaching coming before the elected board.

District 5

District 5 covers northwest Denver. Lisa Flores currently represents the area, but decided not to run for a second term.

Julie Bañuelos

Has lived in Denver for most of her life.

Profession: Freelance bilingual education specialist and assessor, and former District 5 teacher at DPS

Campaign website: www.juliefordps.com

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

The families in my district deserve a representative who will be a champion for all our students, especially our English language learners, our students with disabilities, and our LGBTQ+ youth. The teachers in Denver deserve a representative who understands the rewards as well as the challenges of being in the classroom on a daily basis.

As a school board member, I am committed to supporting teachers and students by: (1) advocating for the teachers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively, and (2) advocating for financial transparency, ensuring that taxpayer dollars entrusted to DPS are making their way to the schools and classrooms as intended.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

As an elected official, a DPS board member is entrusted with representing the values of its constituents; demanding transparency and accountability in fiduciary policies and practices; drafting and garnering support for policy that is culturally responsive and affirming; listening and collaborating with all stakeholders, specifically students, families, and the teacher and support staff unions; fostering an organization that fights injustices and discrimination of all forms; and above all is safe and trustworthy.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high quality education in a healthy environment?

1) Class sizes of 25 students;

2) Teaching staff ratio that matches students and neighborhood demographics; trained and experienced in cultural competency, anti-bias training and trauma-informed practices; and trained in restorative practices and de-escalation strategies

3) Comprehensive and sustained funding for neighborhood schools with a full-time nurse and social worker or psychologist;

4) Licensed and experienced teachers that are respected, paid livable wages, trusted and retained every year;

5) Authentic parent/family engagement inspired by culturally affirming activities;

6) Focus on student’s love of learning instead of standardized testing;

7) A school that complies with consent decree and mandated instructions for students on specialized plans and an Orton-Gillingham team.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

If we learned anything from the strike, it was that our teachers and special service providers can’t afford to live in the city where they work.

A major reason why the district sends less than 50% of total funding directly to schools while also cutting wages and benefits is the mismanagement of its budget. The district is failing to hire and compensate teachers and staff, maintain and upgrade buildings, and provide well-resourced classrooms for all students in Denver.

It starts with aligning priorities with stated values, which would then be reflected in all budgeting decisions. It will also require ongoing recognition of teachers as respected professionals.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

With a program-planning-budgeting system of accounting, people can be assured that classrooms will be resourced comprehensively. Likewise, our teachers, special service providers and students must be valued more than an assessment score.

Protecting students and educators from guns is critical, but at the forefront is safety inside schools. Safety in our schools is critical for trust to exist between students and teachers, and between the district and families.

Too often, schools with a high number of English language learners and students of color are the ones that experience school closure. Hiring teachers of color with similar backgrounds to students is critical for progressive education.

Tony Curcio

Has lived in Denver for 21 years.

Profession: Engineer

Campaign website: www.tonycurciofordenverkids.com

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice? 

My parents were teachers. They instilled in me, at an early age, the importance of attaining an education. I have three kids: Hazel, Olive, and Gabriel. When Hazel was a baby, I became involved with Northwest Parents for Excellent Schools. We hosted community conversations to determine how we could help improve education at our local schools. This experience underscored for me the truth that we learn best when we listen. I went on to serve on the Collaborative School Committee for about six years. I also served on the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee for the 2016 bond, and I currently serve on the Bond Oversight Committee.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board? 

Essentially, there are three core duties to serving as a board director: policy creation, financial oversight, and superintendent partnership/accountability. I add to those duties my belief that an elected representative should represent all voices (not just the loudest or wealthiest). I also believe that Susana Cordova can be a great superintendent. I want to be a thought partner with her to develop and implement a plan that delivers on our promise to DPS kids. Understanding where we are as a district, as well as developing and implementing a plan to promote the ongoing improvement of our school district, is critical to achieving the Denver Plan 2020 goals.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

I’d like to focus this response on our LGBTQ+ students. All students must feel safe and have a sense of belonging in their place of learning. While our society has made incredible strides since the days of the Stonewall riots, we still have a long way to go towards ensuring that all of our students — especially our LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming students — feel safe and respected for who they are. Towards our shared goal, DPS policy and culture must have:

No place for hate.

Mental health supports.

More LGBTQ+ affinity groups.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

People who care about children receiving a quality education cannot afford to be divided. We must do everything we can to rebuild trust and healthy relationships, and then turn our collective energy towards advocacy for increased state funding. Colorado remains $2,700 below the national average in per-pupil funding. Imagine if Colorado got closer to the national average? Perhaps then, teachers would not have to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets! Plus, we could look sooner to raising the minimum wage for all classified employees to $15/hour.

What will be your top three priorities once elected? 

1. We must attract, retain, and support great school leaders and fantastic teachers in all of our schools, especially educators of color. In study after study, quality leaders and teachers are the number one factor impacting school and student success.

2. DPS has the third largest achievement gap in the country. Every student, no matter their zip code, should be getting a world-class education from DPS.

3. We need safe and supportive school environments for our students and teachers. We need to ensure our schools are safe, provide mental health services, and protect the most vulnerable communities in our schools, including our LGBTQ+ community.

Bradley Laurvick

Has lived in north Denver for seven years and in the metro area for 25 years.

Profession: Pastor at Highlands United Methodist Church

Campaign website: www.BradForDenverSchools.com

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

I’m a DPS parent and classroom volunteer. As pastor of Highlands United Methodist Church, we have fed the hungry, housed the homeless, and built relationships that matter. The opportunity to further serve students, teachers, and the community led me to run for school board. I can bring the change our community is longing for, like I heard in the chants of teachers. This election is that moment for change.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

The board’s primary role is bringing the voice of the community into action through oversight and vision. My work will be guided by the people of my district. Academic success relies on a system that honors the potential of every student by giving them: a strong foundation through early preparation with an emphasis on reading; nurtured curiosity through teaching to learn instead of to test; and preparation for both academic and professional possibilities after they graduate. We must do the hard work to make sure there is no gap between who receives these keys to success and who does not.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

Students must be provided resources to be successful in their learning. What side of the street you live on should not determine the resources available to you. Teachers must have classroom resources, a deep team of support and intervention professionals, and culturally responsive curriculum. Our education teams must represent the diversity of our students. We must recruit and retain teachers of color for the benefit of every student and our system as a whole. These resources can only be made available by changing our budget structure away from the institution and toward the mission and values we claim.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

The district’s work with the teachers must be collaborative and proactive in identifying problems and monitoring progress. Working with a shared vision to care for students and teachers must be facilitated by a transparency and follow-through that builds trust. We must handle differences in ways that do not create an “us versus them” mentality. We must work together to ensure our students receive the best DPS can offer them. As the District 5 candidate endorsed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, I actively supported our teachers during the strike.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

My leadership is driven by the community’s voice, financial transparency, and providing adequate resources to all students. Students must be provided the resources they need to be successful in their learning and development. We must also have the difficult conversations necessary to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in how we equip students for success. This is not a problem of their achievement, but a failure of our system. Another need is a review of how the flaws in our choice model and rating system undermine neighborhood schools. Our choice model should provide access to variety, without being a search quality.

At-large

At-large board members represent the city as a whole. There are two at-large seats on the board, currently held by Barbara O’Brien, whose term ends in 2021, and Allegra “Happy” Haynes, whose term is up at the end of this year.

Tay Anderson

Has lived in Denver for six years.

Profession: Restorative justice coordinator at North High School

Campaign Website: www.tayanderson.org

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

I am the son of a single mother who didn’t go to college because she had me in her senior year of high school. It was educators who invested in me that helped me find my passion and my path.

I want to serve the students because I was once one of them and understand their struggles. It is one thing to talk about what is best for black students. It is another to have recently been that black student with that lived experience. This campaign is about the lessons I have learned as a student and educator, and applying them to make policy that works for everyone.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

The most important duties of a director on the school board is to demand transparency and accountability of DPS, provide values-based leadership for DPS and the community, and carefully build towards meaningful policy solutions while creating the coalitions needed to implement them in order to ensure the success of every DPS student.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

It is my priority to address the school-to-prison pipeline. We can’t expect our black, brown and indigenous students to succeed while we criminalize behavior their white counterparts get a pass on. I will ensure that our differently-abled students have a place in the regular classroom. I will support our students by focusing on mental health counselors and supports. I will call for accountability and solutions for our student achievement gap. I will carefully review the budget and I will ask questions about it until we all understand and can have our voices heard.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

As a professional trained in restorative justice, I know that working through conflict is an opportunity for growth. Teachers did not want to strike earlier this year, but felt like they had to in order to be heard and respected. As a member of the school board, I will take a leadership role and use my professional skills to ensure that moving forward DPS and its teachers have ongoing productive conversations based on transparency and doing what is best for students.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

My top three priorities are 1) School safety and mental health; 2) Equity among students of all races, genders, etc.; 3) Supporting our educators with resources and respect. If we do these three things, we will be well on our way to creating a platform for our students to learn how to thrive.

Alexis Menocal Harrigan

Profession:

Campaign Website:

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice?

Right now, there are no DPS parents on our school board. I am a mother, a lifelong educator who has worked in schools across Denver and an experienced policymaker. I have worked in Denver Public Schools, advised former Gov. John Hickenlooper on education policy, I was a student in DPS and first-generation high school graduate. I believe deeply in the power of our communities and our children. I have the experience, the passion and the willingness to demand change to serve as the at-large representative in Denver Public Schools.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board?

The DPS Board of Education is responsible for overseeing 232 schools and a billion-dollar budget. The stakes are high and experience is necessary. Our schools need leadership that is thoughtful, mature and prepared to ensure that all students across DPS have access to consistently high-quality programming that nurtures their brilliance, sparks their curiosity and keeps them safe.

Our school board has to ensure that we are responsible for our budget — I am committed to being fiscally responsible and fighting for our dollars to be directed closest to the classroom and have the most impact on student progress.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment?

Currently, in Denver Public Schools, we do not meet the American Psychological Association recommendations for student mental health support. I am committed to adding additional counselors to our schools, bolstering the trauma-informed practices program and increasing resources to our classrooms to ensure that our students experience joy in learning every day.

Right now, Denver has one of the worst achievement gaps in the United States: 8 out of 10 white students are meeting college readiness expectations whereas 4 out of 10 students of color are ready for college. We must ensure that we are creating equitable systems where ALL our students are prepared for a life of opportunity.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year?

Great teachers change lives. I was proud to support the pay increase for teachers during the strike and march with my own sons’ teachers. I believe that we should always be improving how we recruit and retain the best teachers — which is something I am committed to exploring.

I am committed to giving our teachers the freedom and support that they need to help our students make progress. Too often, we hear from our teachers that the district’s bureaucracy gets in the way of innovation and ability to adapt. I believe that when communities are given the power to build solutions, our children benefit.

What will be your top three priorities once elected?

1. Safe and welcoming schools: My son described the stress and anxiety he felt after experiencing a lockdown drill. Students who have undocumented family members are coming to school every day fearful that their parents could be picked up while they are at school. As the daughter of undocumented immigrants, I know this fear intimately. Our schools need to be places where students are nurtured and well.

2. Community empowered schools: Our schools and communities deserve control over decision making and the ability to be creative with the programming we offer.

3. Letting our teachers lead: Teachers deserve the respect and resources that they need to help students succeed.

Natela Alexandrovna Manunkseva

Profession: Vocational school instructor and businesswoman

Campaign Website: www.natelaforcolorado.com

Why are you seeking this office and what makes you the best choice? 

To create better schools for all. As a non-native English speaker, businesswoman and refugee, I know how important education is to be successful. Education is so important to me that I have been a part-time instructor at a vocational school for over 12 years. I see what students and teachers are going through in DPS. We need to cultivate an environment where teachers feel supported, students feel motivated and parents are empowered to create better schools for all.

What are the most important duties of a district director of the Denver school board? 

The most important duty for a director on the school board is to raise pride in the community and cultivate an inclusive environment for our schools to thrive. With that, we will address the burnout experienced by our teachers, students, and parents who are all working hard to succeed.

What should be done to ensure that Denver students receive a high-quality education in a healthy environment? 

We need to take a look at all the underlying issues affecting everyone in the classroom and get creative to make DPS a place where Coloradans want to send their kids — by providing the tools necessary to make better schools for all.

How should the district be moving forward with teacher relations after the strike earlier this year? 

It is imperative to make sure that teachers feel empowered and respected within the community, providing them with resources they are in need of. We need to make sure that teachers are able to be solely focused on teaching our children and preparing them for the future. Often, the system as a whole puts stress on a teacher to handle problems that a family or government entity is more able to address. I want to work with teachers to get them the resources they need so they don’t feel they have to strike just to draw awareness to problems in the classroom.

What will be your top three priorities once elected? 

I want to make sure every student feels that school is a safe place to learn, grow and thrive as an individual without boundaries.
I want to incorporate the involvement of the immigrant community.
I want to provide the necessary tools for teachers to feel confident and supported in teaching our future generations the knowledge they need to succeed.

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