With the bitter cold months descending upon Denver, the autumn school board elections are underway as three open seats hover between nine candidates.
Every year, the Denver Public Schools District holds their own election to fill any empty board spots, given there is enough competition. For the 2019-2020 school year, nine members of the Denver school community rival over three open seats. First call to nominations began August 7th, and Election Day lands on November 5th. Nine contenders in total are competing for the At Large, District 1, and District 5 director positions. The seven current members on the School Board are Barbara O’Brien, Lisa Flores, Jennifer Bacon, Allegra “Happy” Haynes, Carrie Olson, Angela Cobián and Anne Rowe. However, Haynes, Flores, and Rowe have reached the limit of their terms and therefore are stepping down this year.
As all members prepare for the big night, Tay Anderson, Natela Alexandrovna Manuntseva, and Alexis Menocal Harrigan are running for the At Large seat, while Scott Baldermann, Radhika Nath, and Diana Romero Campbell are hoping to land a District 1 director position. District 5’s spot is hounded after by Julie Bañuelos, Tony Curcio, and Bradley Laurvick. Each candidate comes from diverse, separate backgrounds, and all possess a different topic they would like to bring to light by gaining a stronghold in the School Board.
Baldermann, one of the candidates for District 1, is a self-employed entrepreneur who has lived in Colorado his whole life. He hopes to provide equal funding for all schools, increase support for teachers, and form a stronger connection between DPS schools and their surrounding neighborhoods. He currently possesses 19 endorsements (public approval from local business people and companies). Read more about his action plan on his website.
Campbell is the current president of Scholars Unlimited, a program founded in 1991 which provides elementary students with summer and after school tutoring, particularly in literacy. She is also the parent of a DPS student and hopes to recruit more teachers of color, elevate community voices in board-decision making, and increase college/career readiness. She currently holds 14 endorsements. Campbell graduated from Thomas Jefferson and is attempting to grab the Director District 1 position. For more information, visit her website.
Rhadka Nath, a policy expert, is running for office once again. Her base foundation is to remove high stake testing, focus on helping children with higher needs, and make sure classrooms receive the proper amount of money they need, as teachers should not have to pay for supplies out of pocket. She would also prefer smaller classes, as the current student to teacher ratio is 35:1. Nath, much like Campbell and Baldermann, is hoping to receive the District 1 spot. Her endorsement count holds 44. To find about more about her background and vision, make sure to check out her website.
The only available At Large seat has three admirers, one of those being Anderson. The position is currently occupied by Haynes, who will be stepping down this year, as it is his second term. Anderson is a graduate of Manuel High School, and holds a position as a restorative justice coordinator at North High School. His three primary concerns are school safety and mental health, equity amongst all students, and supporting teachers with necessary resources. Anderson has 49 endorsements, and believes that demanding full accountability and transparency from DPS is very important. Visit his website for more details.
Manuntseva is an immigrant from Uzbekistan, causing one of her main focuses to be the incorporation of the immigrant community into DPS. She would also like to ensure that all students feel safe in school, and that teachers have their essential tools required for teaching. She has been a vocational school instructor for over 12 years, and hopes to raise pride within the DPS district. For more information on her vision, check out her website.
Harrigan works for a nonprofit organized called Code.org, a website dedicated to expanding students’ access to computer science. She also is running for Happy Haynes’ spot, and holds 33 endorsements. Her main focuses are to improve the safe and welcoming aura of schools, community and personal control over decision making, and insurance that teachers receive the respect and resources they need. To continue reading up on her views, visit her website here.
Bañuelos is not only a freelance bilingual education specialist, but a former District 5 teacher as well. She hopes to dedicate her time to improving the classrooms by allowing teachers to carry firearms, hiring teachers of color to help students in similar situations, providing well resourced classrooms, and devaluing test scores. She also believes a classroom size of 25 students is more appropriate, half of what the current ratio is. Bañuelos believes that having access to DPS’ budget is a must, as parents and teachers deserve to see where their money is going. For more information, take a look at her website.
Curcio is an engineer with three kids, which caused him to become involved in the Northwest Parents for Excellent Schools. He also has served on the Collaborative School Committee, the Citizens Planning Advisory Committee, and is currently a part of the Bond Oversight Committee. He holds 23 endorsements. Curcio states that his three top priorities are to hire more colored teachers, ensure that students everywhere in DPS are receiving the same level of effort of their education, and to ensure that all schools provide mental health services. For more information on his goals, feel free to check out his website.
Last but not least, Laurvick has lived in Colorado his whole life. He currently holds a position as a Pastor at Highlands United Methodist Church. He is a DPS parent, and currently holds 23 endorsements. Laurvick supported teachers during the 2019 strike last school year, and repeatedly emphasizes how important it is that teachers receive the classroom resources they require. To find out more about Laurvick, visit his website here.
In a recent interview with Anderson, one of the three At-Large candidates, he admitted that “the most important issue facing our schools right now is safety.” The current generation of students endure active shooter drills and lockdowns every month, which shouldn’t be necessary or as real of a threat as they are. Not only is safety from the outside world an issue, but protecting children from what occurs inside the school walls is prevalent as well. Bullying has led to Colorado having the highest increase in youth suicide this year. Anderson links this to a required change in the “education structure, culture, and [need to] put more mental health professionals in school.” Bullying in the 21st century extends outside of school through the widespread use of technology, therefore placing it as one of Anderson’s top concerns for the School Board to tackle.
All candidates bring important issues to the table, along with solutions on how to solve them, but unfortunately only three will land a spot on the DPS School Board. Election Day occurs on Tuesday, November 5, so be sure to vote.
Result Update as of November 6:
Tay Anderson, Scott Baldermann and Brad Laurvick all successfully won the race against their other opponents. Voters also chose to create the Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, turning streets into a cabinet-level concern and paving the way for better transportation changes within the city.