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DPS candidates on stage at Bruce Randolph

Some chairs on stage were empty. But five of the eight expected candidates for Denver Public Schools’ board of education answered questions for more than an hour Wednesday night at Bruce Randolph School in northeast Denver.

One candidate even sang.

Metro Organizations for People, a community advocacy group, was the host of the candidate forum also sponsored by A+ Denver, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado League of Charter Schools, Ed News Colorado, Padres Unidos and Teach for America.

Bruce Randolph is located in School Board District 4 and four of the five candidates for that seat were in attendance. The forum also included candidates for an At-Large seat. Only one of the three candidates attended.

Christopher Scott, an at-large candidate, announced last week that he would not be participating in any of the three forums sponsored by the seven groups because some accept funding from two foundations – Donnell-Kay and Piton – that also support charter schools.

The third at-large candidate, Deborah Fard, recently withdrew from the campaign.

Here are the participating candidates:

District Four – Jacqui Shumway; Vernon Jones, Jr.; Nate Easley and Alton Clark.
At-large – Mary Seawell

Here are the questions asked by members of Metro Organizations for People or MOP:

1. Will you actively support the expansion of autonomous and innovation schools following the example of Bruce Randolph, Manual, Cole Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Montclair? Please respond yes or no and then explain why or why not.

2. Do you support DPS’s move to a student-based budgeting model? Do you support moving more funds to the student-based portion of the budget and creating weights for English Language Learners and low-income students? Please respond yes or no and explain why or why not.

3. If the economic downturn in Colorado continues and cuts in the DPS budget are required, where will you cut the budget?

4. How will you get to know the schools, parents and students in District 4 and, if you do not speak Spanish, how will you work to communicate with Spanish-speaking parents who make up a large portion of the parent population in the district?

5. Researchers in a study commissioned by the A+ Committee, Colorado Children’s Campaign and Metro Organizations for People recently described student performance in Denver as “unacceptable on all measures,” including graduation rates around 50 percent and achievement gaps between children in low-income families and their more affluent peers that are greater than 30 percent. As a school board member, how would you respond to reports like this in the future?

6. Students involved with MOP and Padres/Jovenes Unidos have led efforts in the district ranging from pushing for concurrent enrollment programs, state legislation in support of tuition equity and changes in school discipline models. How would you incorporate youth voice and respond to students in your role as a school board member?

7. Does DPS currently have an appropriate balance of school options for students and parents? Why or why not? And, specifically, does DPS currently have an appropriate balance of options for low-income families?

Candidates also were given two minutes to explain why they are running for the Denver school board.

Click here to download a podcast of the DPS candidates’ forum at Bruce Randolph.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at nmitchell@pebc.org or 303-478-4573.

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