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Opponents homing in on Haynes

Her opponents are increasingly painting Happy Haynes as a candidate who would represent the voice of her former employer, Denver Public Schools, if she is elected to the citywide at-large seat she’s seeking on the school board.

The tone of candidate forums has remained mostly civil in all three DPS races, with the five candidates vying for the at-large seat appearing particularly reluctant to raise any personal attacks.

But with Haynes widely perceived as the front-runner, she is in the sights of some of her opponents. Roger Kilgore, by sounding a theme advocating a “good governance” model over a “corporate” governance model, is spending the most time working to contrast himself to Haynes.

In every appearance, Kilgore bemoans what he sees as a “top-down” management culture in DPS, rather than the “school-centered” approach he favors.

Haynes spent five-and-a-half years in the DPS administration as its chief community engagement officer, before stepping down from that post in May after she announced she was running for school board.

Haynes and Kilgore are seeking the at-large seat being vacated by the term-limited Theresa Peña. Also vying for that seat are John Daniel, Frank Deserino and Jacqui Shumway.

Four of the five came together for the second time in two nights Thursday, for a forum at Bruce Randolph School sponsored by Metro Organizations for People. Daniel was absent.

They were joined by the two candidates for the District 1 southeast Denver seat, Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota, as well as the two candidates for the District 5 northwest Denver seat, Jennifer Draper Carson and the incumbent, Arturo Jimenez.

Kilgore confirmed Thursday night that he is focused on setting himself in opposition to Haynes, who has been endorsed by Mayor Michel Hancock and two major education reform groups, among others.

“She (was) a top administrator implementing that corporate model, the top-down decision making model,” Kilgore said. “That model relies on competition exclusively to raise standards, and that’s definitely a distinguishing feature.”

Kilgore is not the only candidate criticizing Haynes.

Deserino, a civics and history teacher at South High School, continued Thursday night to work his theme, that those in the trenches – teachers, principals and community members – need to be heeded more by the DPS administration.

“The top-down approach doesn’t work,” Deserino said. “Autonomy does.”

But Haynes used a question Thursday night concerning the district’s increasing number of “innovation schools” to emphasize what she sees as its potential for an expression of school-centered control.

“Most definitely I would support more” innovation schools, Haynes said. “Any time a school has an opportunity to have control over its time, its budget and its staffing – that gives it the tools to make decisions about what’s best for the children in that school. I think innovation is a way for every school to do that.”

The MOP forum mixed its format through the evening, occasionally throwing in questions to which candidates were given 10 seconds – while the “Jeopardy” theme song played –  to hold up a small placard reading “Yes” or “No.”

The final such question was whether they would vote within their first six months on the board to fire DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. All eight candidates on hand promptly raised cards that read “No.”

Denver school board candidates and links to their websites

  • At-large/citywide:John Daniel, 54, is a computer systems administrator and resident of the Baker neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Frank Deserino, 49, is a social studies teacher at South High School. Campaign website.
  • Happy Haynes, 58, is director of civic and community engagement for CRL Associates, Inc. and a resident of the Park Hill neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Roger Kilgore, 54, is a water resources engineer and consultant, and a resident of Park Hill. Campaign website.
  • Jacqui Shumway, 52, is a health educator and resident of Park Hill. Campaign website.
  • District 1, Southeast Denver:Anne Rowe, 51, a small business owner who lives in the Cherry Hills Heights neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Emily Sirota, 32, is a social worker who lives in Virginia Village. Campaign website.
  • District 5, Northwest Denver:Jennifer Draper Carson, 42, is an education activist and full-time mom, living in the West Highlands neighborhood. Campaign website.
  • Arturo Jimenez, 39, is an immigration attorney who lives in the Highlands neighborhood. He was first elected to the northwest Denver seat in 2007. Campaign website.