Ten candidates for the Denver school board will appear on November’s ballot. The Denver Elections Division has verified that all 10 turned in enough valid voter signatures to run.
Four of the seven board seats are up for election. All seven seats are currently held by members who support Denver Public Schools’ reforms.
If candidates who oppose those reforms prevail, it could change the direction of a school district nationally known for closing low-performing schools, pushing school choice and encouraging school autonomy.
Candidates had until 5 p.m. Friday to turn in petitions signed by 50 eligible voters to qualify for the ballot.
Each of the four races is contested, with three incumbents running for re-election.
Here’s a rundown of the candidates in each race:
Incumbent Barbara O’Brien, who formerly served as Colorado’s lieutenant governor, is running for re-election. She has two challengers: Former Denver teacher Julie Bañuelos and parent Robert Speth, who ran for an at-large seat in 2015 but narrowly lost.
The Denver teachers union — which opposes many district reforms, has fought against school closures and called for a moratorium on new charter schools — has endorsed Speth.
The union’s small donor committee is a major contributor to board candidates it supports. Conversely, pro-reform candidates have in past elections attracted major donations from individuals and organizations inside and outside Colorado who agree with the district’s direction.
District 2 (southwest Denver)
The board member who currently holds the seat, Rosemary Rodriguez, is the only incumbent not running for re-election. But she has endorsed a candidate: Former teacher Angela Cobián. Parent Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán is also running for the seat and has been endorsed by the union.
District 3 (central east Denver)
Incumbent Mike Johnson, a school finance lawyer whose three daughters graduated from DPS, is running for re-election. He’s being challenged by current Denver social studies and English language development teacher Carrie A. Olson, who received the union’s endorsement.
District 4 (northeast Denver)
Incumbent Rachele Espiritu, a parent of two DPS students who works in behavioral health, is running for re-election after being appointed last year to fill a vacancy on the board. Two candidates are running against her: Recent high school graduate Tay Anderson and community organizer and former teacher Jennifer Bacon. The union has endorsed Bacon.