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Denver school board candidates answer 8 questions about their priorities

Young students work at school desks.

Denver Public Schools serves about 90,000 students. Four seats on the seven-member school board are up for election Nov. 2.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite

Twelve candidates are vying for four open seats on the Denver school board.

Denver Public Schools is Colorado’s largest school district, serving about 90,000 students. The winners of the election will oversee a new superintendent, craft a strategic plan, and grapple with several long-simmering issues, including declining enrollment and continued disagreement over the role of independent charter schools and semi-autonomous innovation schools.

2021 denver school board candidates

Chalkbeat is also profiling each of the 12 candidates for four seats on the Denver school board. We will be publishing the profiles in the runup to the Nov. 2 election.

At-large


Marla Benavides

Scott Esserman

Vernon Jones Jr.

Jane Shirley

Nicky Yollick

District 2


Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán

Karolina Villagrana

District 3


Mike DeGuire

Carrie Olson

District 4


Gene Fashaw

Andrea Mosby - withdrawn

Michelle Quattlebaum

José Silva

To read the candidates’ answers to questions about their priorities in their own words, check out Chalkbeat’s candidate questionnaires.


The Denver school board has seven members — five regional and two at-large. All Denver voters can vote for the at-large seats, but only residents of that region can vote for the regional seats. This year, one at-large seat and three regional seats are up for grabs.

Five candidates are vying for the at-large seat. Two candidates are competing to represent District 2 in southwest Denver. The District 3 race in central-east Denver also has two candidates. The District 4 race in northeast Denver has four candidates, one of whom, Andrea Mosby, has withdrawn, though her name will still appear on the ballot.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association has endorsed four candidates: Scott Esserman for the at-large seat, Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán in District 2, current board President Carrie Olson in District 3, and Michelle Quattlebaum in District 4. Olson is the only incumbent in the election.

Meanwhile, the education reform advocacy group Stand for Children Colorado has endorsed Vernon Jones Jr. for the at-large seat, Karolina Villagrana in District 2, and Olson in District 3. Stand has not yet endorsed a candidate for the District 4 seat.

Another education advocacy group, TEN Collective Impact, endorsed Jones for the at-large seat, Villagrana in District 2, and Gene Fashaw in District 4. It did not endorse a candidate in District 3. TEN co-founder Nicholas Martinez is married to Villagrana, who said TEN’s endorsements were made by Denver parents involved in the organization, not its staff.

To help voters weigh the candidates, Chalkbeat sent the same set of questions to each one. Below are their answers. We’ve edited them lightly for clarity.

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