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Merida bows out of Denver board race

Andrea Merida, who represents District 2 on the Denver Public Schools board, announced Thursday that she is ending her re-election bid, citing her displeasure with the influence of national campaign contributions to board races and the increased role of federal policies in district-level decision-making.

Merida, who was elected to the board in 2009, said in her announcement that the decision not to run was made after “heart-wrenching deliberation.”“I believe that high-stakes standardized testing is destroying public education today. Simultaneously, giant dollars from outside Denver and outside Colorado flood into local school board races,” Merida said in a statement. “I cannot, in good conscience, continue to be a part of this system.”

Merida, who has been among the most vocal members of the three-member board minority that has opposed many of the policies of Superintendent Tom Boasberg, becomes the third sitting board member who will exit after the November election. A second open seat is also currently held by a board minority member, Jeannie Kaplan,who is leaving her seat because of term limits. And board president Mary Seawell announced in April that she would not seek re-election.

The District 2 seat is one of four up for grabs in the upcoming election and is a race that will be closely watched. The other two open seats are held by members who typically vote in support of Boasberg.

Merida’s withdrawal leaves union organizer Rosario C. de Baca battling former City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez for the southwest Denver board seat. In June, de Baca won the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association over Merida, whom the union had endorsed in her initial run. Rodriguez is a well-known Denver figure who is currently the state director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the former DPS superintendent who launched a slate of reforms now championed by Boasberg.

In an interview with EdNews, Merida said that she will consider endorsing a candidate in the race but has not made any decisions yet.

Instead of seeking re-election, Merida said that she would shift her focus to organizing parents to opt out of standardized testing. Because of federal mandates and the state’s adoption of Common Core standards, she said, the board of education has little authority over the district’s testing policies, which she described as harmful to low-income students and communities of color. Merida said she believes she can make more of a difference by helping parents understand their rights to pull out of the tests.

“The power really rests in the hand of the parents,” she said.

In her announcement, Merida encouraged parents to attend a meeting she is organizing in February to launch her advocacy efforts.”I’m a very experienced community organizer,” she said. “I know how to get this done.”