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Union-backed candidates take spots on Adams 14 school board overseeing outside managers

Students study in the Eagles Nest at Adams City High School Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.
Students study in the Eagles Nest at Adams City High School Monday, Feb. 4, 2019.
Michael Ciaglo/Special to the Denver Post

Three candidates backed by the teachers union have won seats on the Adams 14 five-member school board.

Ramona Lewis and Reneé Lovato have the most votes by a wide margin, while Regina Hurtado took a narrow lead over incumbent board member Harvest Thomas.

Lewis and Lovato both said Wednesday afternoon they were excited.

“It’s an absolute honor to be elected to the Adams 14 school board,” Lewis said. “I’m a true believer in the strength and potential of our kids so I’m prepared to get to work.”

Thomas, the only incumbent seeking re-election, had held the lead throughout Election Day and into the evening, but additional votes counted early Wednesday put Hurtado ahead by less than 20 votes.

Adams County elections officials are done counting ballots, with the exception of ballots that may need to be cured or that may have come into other counties.

Thomas said Wednesday morning he has conceded, though Hurtado said she didn’t want to comment until the results are made official, which could be more than a week away.

More votes were cast this year in Adams County than in the previous election in 2017.

Voters in the Adams 14 school district across Commerce City and parts of Thornton had to pick three new school board members from five candidates.

The Adams 14 board is up for big changes, especially if the results hold after they are certified.

The five-member board has had several resignations in the past two years. Currently, four seats are open, instead of the usual two or three per election.

The fourth seat is only a two-year term to fill a vacancy, but it drew no candidates. That means that the new board will have the chance to appoint someone later this year.

The Adams 14 school district this year became the first in Colorado to have been forced to give up much of its authority to an outside manager. The state order came after failing to improve academic achievement on its own enough to raise its state ratings. The board signed a contract with Florida-based MGT Consulting for four years.

The teachers union, which opposed the external management order, backed the three leading candidates: Lewis, a Denver school board secretary, Lovato, an employee of the state education department, and Hurtado, an active district parent.

Currently the district is operating without a superintendent. MGT hired local educators to help turn the district around and one of them, Don Rangel, is serving as acting superintendent. It will be the new school board’s responsibility to oversee the MGT contract and a hiring process for a superintendent to gradually take back control of the district.

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