A wide field of candidates that includes both supporters and critics of Denver Public Schools’ brand of reform have applied to fill a vacancy on the school board to represent northeast Denver.
Former board member Landri Taylor resigned last month, citing his wife’s health issues and plans to move to Aurora to be closer to family. His term was set to expire in 2017.
Twenty-two people have applied to finish out his term representing District 4, which is DPS’s most racially diverse region. It includes the neighborhoods of Whittier, Cole, Stapleton, Montbello and Green Valley Ranch.
(Update: As of Tuesday afternoon, two candidates had withdrawn, according to district officials. Mark Brown and Ronald Wooding are no longer in the running.)
Taylor was a key supporter of controversial turnaround strategies in the far northeast part of the city that included closing low-performing schools and opening new charter schools.
His resignation leaves Happy Haynes as the sole African-American board member. Among other factors, the race and home address of the candidates are likely to be closely watched.
The six remaining DPS board members are scheduled to name a successor on April 12.
The candidates will get a chance to introduce themselves to the public at a forum Tuesday night. They include several people with high-profile ties to education organizations, according to their resumes and applications:
Jennifer Bacon is an attorney and the regional director for Leadership for Educational Equity, which aims to help Teach for America alumni become school leaders. She’s also the board chair of Padres y Jovenes Unidos, an advocacy organization that has been critical of some DPS policies, and a former employee of the DSST charter school network.
Another candidate, Adrienne Tate, is also affiliated with Teach for America. Tate, a DPS parent, worked for the organization for 11 years before founding her own education consulting business.
Priya Burkett is a director with Xcel Energy who sits on the board of the DPS Foundation, which raises money for the district. She has three children; the youngest two attend a DPS school but the oldest goes to private school. In her application, Burkett explained that her family made that decision “mainly because there were no ‘good’ options for middle school in our home area and we did not want to gamble her middle school education in the choice system lottery.”
MiDian Holmes is a DPS graduate who currently has three children in the district. She’s been active with the pro-reform organization Stand for Children and sits on several district committees, including the 2016 Community Planning and Advisory Committee.
Some of the candidates have vied for seats on the DPS board before, including Roger Kilgore, who lost to Taylor in the 2013 election. Kilgore is the current co-chair of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee. He has criticized some of the district’s strategies.
The field also includes teachers. Arnetta Koger teaches social studies at the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello and Dexter Korto is a writing teacher at DSST: Cole.
Candidate Makisha Boothe is director of strategic school design for the Imaginarium, the district’s innovation lab.