Candidates for Denver school board Tuesday gave Superintendent Tom Boasberg grades ranging from D+ to B+, but they didn’t all provide much explanation for those marks during a candidate forum at Thomas Jefferson High School.
In the first of three forums organized by Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation and the League of Women Voters of Denver, the first two candidates to go before the crowd of some 200 were Anne Rowe and Emily Sirota, running in southeast Denver’s District 1.
Perhaps the one moment that best distinguished the their viewpoints came when moderator Beverly Weaver asked them to assign a grade to Boasberg’s performance.
“B-plus,” said Rowe.
“C-minus,” countered Sirota.
But the two were not asked to explain their grades of Boasberg, who was awarded a $17,500 bonus last week on a unanimous vote by the DPS board. He received a $20,000 performance bonus a year ago.
Sirota did explain her grade for Boasberg after the event had ended.
“If you look at the shape that the board is in, it’s dysfunctional,” said Sirota. “I think he’s shown a lack of leadership.” She went on to say that the atmosphere in the DPS community currently as one of “fear” instead of “excitement and collaboration.”
Rowe, by contrast, referenced several times her visit to University Park Elementary School on Monday for a DPS press conference/celebration held to mark that school’s jump from “meets expectations” to “distinguished” in the DPS School Performance Framework (see story).
“We are making progress,” Rowe said during the forum. “Now is not the time to derail where we’re going. For our kids in Denver, now is the time to learn from our success and to learn from our mistakes.”
Sirota, who stresses her background as a community organizer, rarely missed an opportunity to stress what she sees as the importance of community involvement in improving schools.
“Our schools are in trouble, and I am bringing the community with me to fix them,” said Sirota. “I hear your call for accountability, community and transparency in our schools. It’s time that we leverage our greatest resource, our parents.”
Rowe and Sirota gave way to the five candidates for the at-large seat. They are John Daniel, Frank Deserino, Happy Haynes, Roger Kilgore and Jacqui Shumway.
At one juncture, the candidates were permitted to ask questions of one another. Several aimed questions at Haynes. With the endorsement of Mayor Michael Hancock and two local reform groups and with strong name recognition from her years on the Denver City Council, Haynes is perceived by some as a front-runner in the at-large race.
Kilgore pointed that that she often speaks about putting “kids first.” Is there any candidate, he asked, whom she believes is not doing the same thing?
“I can’t speak for how other people on this stage will make decision,” she said. “I can only talk about how I’ll make decisions. … It would be foolish to judge how somebody else is going to decide.”
The citywide candidates also were asked to grade Boasberg. The answers: Haynes, B: Kilgore, B; Shumway, B-; Daniel, C; Deserino, C-/D+.
Again, the candidates weren’t offered a chance to explain their ratings. Deserino, however, did so afterward.
“There have been some things that Tom has personally said would be done that he has not done,” said Deserino, a South High School civics and history teacher. He specifically said Boasberg has told him there would be an expansion of the student responsibility component in the Denver Plan. That hasn’t happened yet, he complained.
“I expect my superintendent to be forthright and do what he says he’s going to do.”
Candidates for District 5 in northwest Denver, the third DPS race on this year’s ballot, didn’t participate in Tuesday night’s forum. They are Jennifer Draper Carson and incumbent Arturo Jimenez.
Other sponsors of the Tuesday event were Thomas Jefferson Student Leadership, Thomas Jefferson Partners, South Student Senate, South PTA and the Partnership for Southeast Denver Schools.
It was recorded by Denver’s Channel 8 and will be broadcast this weekend. The at-large forum will be shown at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. The District 1 portion will be broadcast at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The next forum looming on the candidates’ calendars is set for 9 a.m. Saturday at Denver Community Church, 1101 S. Washington Ave. It is to be hosted by Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, Denver8TV and the League of Women Voters. The first hour of Saturday’s program is devoted to the at-large race, with the southeast district race featured at 10 a.m. and the northwest district race at 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 3 is the final day that Denver residents can register to vote. Ballots in the all-mail election are being sent out on Oct. 12 and must be returned by 7 p.m. Nov. 1.