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Debora Scheffel wants to fill State Board of Education vacancy ‘as a matter of service’

State Board of Education member Debora Scheffel at a campaign event in 2016. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)
State Board of Education member Debora Scheffel at a campaign event in 2016. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

Update: Debora Scheffel was chosen by unanimous acclamation Saturday, Feb. 17. She faced no competition for the seat.

A former State Board of Education member whose defeat in 2016 handed control of the board to Democrats could be on her way back.

Debora Scheffel, who once represented Colorado’s 6th Congressional District and who now lives in the 4th, has thrown her name into consideration to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Pam Mazanec at the end of January.

Scheffel, dean of education at Colorado Christian University, said she wants to continue Mazanec’s work on behalf of rural schools and in support of student and parent choice. The two share similar views on many issues. Scheffel was known as a strong supporter of data privacy for students, and she said she looks forward to working on that issue again.

“Pam Mazanec has done a great job,” Scheffel said. “I’m interested in helping her complete her term, but I would just be doing it as a matter of service. … If I could finish her term and follow in her footsteps, that would be a great honor.”

A vacancy committee made up of roughly 100 Republicans who hold either elected office or party positions in the 4th Congressional District is scheduled to meet Saturday in Limon, in eastern Colorado, to pick Mazanec’s replacement.

It’s not clear if Scheffel will face any competition for the spot. Other candidates could submit their names up until the last minute.

The district takes in all of the eastern Plains, as well as the cities of Longmont, Greeley, and Castle Rock.

Scheffel said she has not decided if she would run for re-election in November. Mazanec’s term ends in January 2019.

The 2016 race between Scheffel and current board member Rebecca McClellan was one of the most high-profile state board elections in recent memory and saw significant investment from outside groups. McClellan’s victory gave Democrats a 4-3 majority on the board for the first time in 46 years. Scheffel’s appointment would not change that balance because she would be replacing a fellow Republican.

“We had a pretty pleasant relationship and pretty easy interaction with one another on the campaign trail,” McClellan said. “We both have a mature attitude about the fact that we have some different policy positions. … If she ends up being the choice out of the Republican vacancy committee, I think you’ll see some contrasting votes from us but not any unpleasantness.”

The State Board of Education is in the midst of reviewing standards across a range of subject areas and is still waiting for federal approval of Colorado’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The board also faces decisions on how aggressively to intervene in low-performing schools. Under Colorado’s accountability system, this is the second year that the board has to take action on schools that have run out of time to fix themselves.

Scheffel most recently ran for Douglas County school board and lost in an election that saw a slate of anti-voucher candidates take control of that board.

This post has been updated to include comment from Rebecca McClellan and to reflect the outcome of the vacancy committee process.

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