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DPS board narrows candidate list

The Denver school board managed to whittle down its list of 25 applicants for Nate Easley’s empty seat to nine names, one of whom will become the seventh member and a critical vote on the board.

File photo of Denver school board president Nate Easley

Now that Nate Easley has left the DPS board, a push is on to find his Northeast Denver replacement. EdNews file photo

Here’s the list:

  • Sean Bradley, a former staffer for state House Democrats and the Colorado League of Charter Schools
  • Fred Franko, who has served on the board of Great Education Colorado
  • Taggart Hansen, a Denver lawyer
  • MiDian Holmes, chair of Stand for Children’s Denver chapter
  • Antwan Jefferson, a CU-Denver educator instructor
  • Vernon Jones Jr., a Manual High School administrator
  • Lisa Roy, executive director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation
  • Mary Sam, a retired DPS teacher
  • Landri Taylor, CEO of the Denver Urban League

This seat is important because of the pervasive split on the board over the school reform agenda driven by Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

With Easley stepping down to take over the helm of the Denver Scholarship Foundation, the board is evenly split on such key issues as charter schools, school choice, programs for English language learners and school co-location.

It’s also clear that whoever gets the seat will have a leg up when the seat comes up for election in November.

On Monday, each board member anonymously selected his or her first, second and third choice. The top choices were awarded five points, second choice three points and third choice one point.

More meetings to come

The nine candidates will be interviewed by the board from 1 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Each candidate will have 40 minutes to respond to the same set of six questions they will have received in an advance, one question from each board member. In addition, board members will each be allowed to ask one “free-for-all” question of each candidate.

Candidates will have three minutes to respond to questions. They will also be allowed a few minutes for introductions and closing statements.

Board member Andrea Merida made it clear that she wants to hear from each candidate about cultural competency and race and class, for instance.

A community forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20, most likely at Smiley Middle School, followed by another board meeting Feb. 27 aimed at narrowing the list to one. At that time the board may employ its anonymous numerical ranking system.

Sam, the only one of the nine who attended Monday’s meeting, said the process seemed “fair.”

“It sounds like the right kind of process,” said Sam, who taught in DPS for 41 years and was involved a recall campaign against Easley.

The discussion meandered for a while Monday before the board figured out a strategy for voting on the candidates and the whittling-down process. Board member Arturo Jimenez, as he has before, said he would not participate until he was more clear about what board President Mary Seawell would do if the board is unable to reach consensus.

Under state law, if a school board cannot reach consensus and fill an empty board seat within 60 days of a resignation the board president has the prerogative to appoint someone.

Jimenez agreed to participate after Seawell agreed, in the event of an impasse, to name a winner from the pool of nine candidates.

Kaplan suggests eliminating Stapleton residents from mix

Board member Jeannie Kaplan tossed out the idea of narrowing the big list by eliminating anyone who lived in the Stapleton neighborhood, saying those residents already have enough representation. That idea did not sit well with other board members, such as Anne Rowe, who said rather that eliminating people based on zip code, the board should focus on people they want to know more about.

“I want to focus on reaching consensus in a positive way,” Rowe said. “Taking out a whole area of the Northeast area doesn’t even make sense to me. It is quite unfair to those” people.

Board member Happy Haynes echoed those sentiments.

“Our job is to select someone,” Haynes said. “I’m very opposed to de-selecting anybody. Where somebody is living doesn’t represent how well someone represents an area.”

At the end of the day, Haynes said she didn’t want to greet the new board member by saying, “Welcome to the board. You’re the least objectionable person.”