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DPS parent MiDian Holmes spoke at a Thursday rally supporting the district's reform proposals.

DPS parent MiDian Holmes spoke at a Thursday rally supporting the district’s reform proposals.

Denver parent activist and Montbello High alum MiDian Holmes appointed to school board

A Montbello High School graduate and longtime parent activist was appointed Tuesday to fill a vacant seat on the Denver school board.

MiDian Holmes will represent northeast Denver and finish out the term of former board member Landri Taylor, who resigned in February. Her term will expire in the fall of 2017.

Holmes works as a regional operations manager at Randstad Technologies, a nationwide staffing organization. She’s the mother of three DPS students: two attend George Washington High School, which is district-run, and one goes to DSST: Green Valley Ranch charter school.

Holmes was for years an active member in the school reform advocacy group Stand for Children. She currently sits on two district committees, including one that is crafting a request for a tax increase this fall.

Board members voted by secret ballot to appoint Holmes. Beforehand, they lauded her track record of participating in difficult community conversations about school culture and closures.

“I feel like she’s almost a board member already, she’s been so involved in the district for so long,” said board member Mike Johnson.

Holmes wasn’t at Tuesday’s meeting due to a prior commitment. Reached afterward, she said she’s humbled, excited and “very anxious to get started.” She will be sworn in at the board’s April 18 meeting.

Holmes will represent DPS District 4, a large geographic area that includes older city neighborhoods such as Whittier and Cole and newer areas such as Stapleton. The district also includes the neighborhoods of Montbello and Green Valley Ranch, which are arguably home to Denver’s most ambitious and controversial school turnaround efforts.

Holmes, who lives in Green Valley Ranch, supported the district’s plan, which included shuttering her struggling alma mater.

“Something had to really change to ensure the quality of education was something we could be proud of,” she said of the turnaround efforts.

But the district’s actions upset some residents, who felt their concerns were ignored. Holmes said her first order of business will be repairing the relationship between DPS and the far northeast Denver community.

“The ambition and drive of the district is definitely strong,” Holmes said. “But because that vision has been so heavily focused on results, I don’t think anyone is turning their eyes to the community and saying, ‘We want this to happen with you, not to you. How can we bring your voice to the table?'”

District 4 is DPS’s most racially diverse region. Holmes is African-American.

Twenty-two candidates initially applied to fill the vacant seat on the seven-member board. Last month, the board members narrowed the field to 10 finalists, one of whom withdrew.

On Tuesday, the board took an initial vote to winnow the finalists down to three: Holmes, Jennifer Bacon and Rachele Espiritu. After discussing the merits of all three, the board voted a second time to appoint Holmes.

For years, the DPS board was divided between members who supported the district’s aggressive school reforms and those who didn’t. That’s changed over time.

Last November, voters elected three pro-reform candidates — two incumbents and one newcomer — making it so all seven seats were occupied by members who support strategies such as paying teachers based on performance and closing chronically struggling schools.

Holmes’s appointment likely won’t upset the board’s calculus.

“My position is that I’m going to support students first,” she said. “My hope — and what I’m assuming — is that we do have a like-minded board, and that’s a great thing.”