DENVER (KDVR) — Eight candidates are vying for three open seats on Denver’s school board.
Voters have the chance to decide whether they want fresh perspectives with new board members or incumbents with board experience after a year of controversy.
As the clock counts down to Election Day, members of the Denver Families Action group are making final calls to voters.
“It really is an election of the status quo versus a fresh start, and I believe on Nov. 7, we’re going to have a fresh start,” said Clarence Burton Jr., CEO of Denver Families Action.
The pro-change group is endorsing three new candidates: John Youngquist, Kimberlee Sia and Marlene De La Rosa. Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, a former principal, endorsed the same three candidates.
“John Youngquist’s been a teacher and a school principal for more than 30 years, the principal of East for a long time, has deep family connections and community connections here,” Johnston said. “Someone like Kimberlee Sia is both a teacher and a school leader and a union president, has done all sides of the work.
“I think she can be a great leader for the city,” Johnston said. “And Marlene De La Rosa, who’s been a longtime community voice, really represents the needs, I think, of some of our most affected communities.”
Current Denver Public Schools teachers with the Denver Classroom Teachers Association want Kwame Spearman over Youngquist for the at-large seat.
“We really felt like Kwame wanted to be a thought partner with educators,” DPS educator and DCTA fund committee member Darlene Rivera said. “He didn’t walk in and have all the answers. Instead, Kwame wanted to come in and hear what our thoughts were as well as give some of his own innovative ideas for tackling some of the really pressing issues we have.”
DCTA’s also endorsing two incumbents: Charmaine Lindsay and Scott Baldermann.
“Scott and Charmaine are levelheaded collaborators, and I think that they rightly have our endorsement,” Rivera said. “All of those candidates really stand out as being strong supporters of public education and strong supporters of teachers.”
Many teachers want to keep experienced board members. Many parents want reform to end the in-fighting.
“There’s been widespread frustration across the city that the current board hasn’t been able to work together to solve hard problems and deliver outcomes for the city,” Johnston said.
“Denverites right now, when they think of our Board of Education, they have seen that there’s a lot of dysfunction, unfortunately,” Burton Jr. said. “They’ve asked the question, are they focused on the right issues?”
A controversial issue before the school board surrounds bringing in school resource officers to address violence on high school campuses.
“Kwame came in with a really innovative approach, and that is considering the current climate and where things are at, we need these SROs in the schools for a year, and in that time frame, we need to come up with a better plan for what we’re going to do in our schools,” Rivera said.
Denver Families Action says the candidates they endorse — Youngquist, Sia and De La Rosa — have a comprehensive plan when it comes to SROs.
“We heard each one of them say, ‘Yes, you need to have a conversation about trained school resource officers in the role that they play in keeping students and teachers safe. But you also need to focus on things like mental health resources in our schools,’” Burton Jr. said. “So, you’ve got to have this comprehensive plan. It’s not just one thing to ensure that our schools are safe.”