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Tables turn (briefly) on DPS board

Three members of the Denver school board Thursday demanded equity for a charter school. Nothing new there – except the three members were Andrea Merida, Arturo Jimenez and Jeannie Kaplan – all vocal charter school critics.

In this case, though, the three board members – in addition to newcomer Landri Taylor and board member Anne Rowe – voted to amend a placement for Justice High School so that the new location, at 300 9th Ave., would have a working kitchen.

Principal Gary Losh said right now, food gets driven over to the school and students and staff are faced with eating chicken four days a week and stuck with dirty pans that attract cockroaches after hours. The facility also lacks an outlet for a refrigerator that is up to code for milk products. Losh said he could install the kitchen himself if he could just get help from the district to pull a permit.

However, it was unclear whether the landlord would allow a kitchen to be added. After a vigorous – and most unusual – debate, the board agreed to pursue a kitchen and get one built – assuming the landlord would allow it.

Jimenez, a known critic of what he perceives as elitist charter schools, asked why Justice High wasn’t given any room at the new building on Lincoln that will house the DPS administration along with an expeditionary learning charter school. He pointed out what he sees as a disparity in terms of how the district treats alternative charter schools vs. elite ones. Justice High serves youth who have been adjudicated.

Board President Mary Seawell, though, was reluctant to approve a kitchen until she knew how much it would cost or how long Justice might be in this particular location. After a couple voting rounds, Rowe also quietly joined the majority, which resulted in a 5-1 vote as member Happy Haynes was absent.

Merida’s eyes popped open when Taylor, selected by Seawell to replace Nate Easley when he resigned, voted in her camp…briefly turning the board minority into the board majority.

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