DPS campaign giving tops $600,000

Updated Oct. 17 – Contributions to candidates in the Denver Public Schools board races have reached $600,117, according to reports filed with the Department of State. The filings are the first financial reports since the races heated up after Labor Day.

DPS logoNine candidates are vying for four seats on the seven-member board. The pace of fundraising by those candidates seems to be on a similar pace to that of 2011, when candidates in three DPS races raised more than $845,000.

The bulk of the money raised so far this year, about $480,000, has gone to the four candidates generally supportive of Superintendent Tom Boasberg and the majority of the current board. The lion’s share of those donations come from wealthy, influential education reform advocates in Colorado and across the country.

Three candidates who’ve been more critical of the administration have raised about $126,000 in cash and received some $122,000 in non-monetary contributions, primarily campaign services from teachers union groups.

The pro-administration slate includes former Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien running at-large, former Denver Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez in District 2, lawyer Mike Johnson in east Denver’s District 3 and Urban League executive Landri Taylor in northeast Denver’s District 4. Taylor currently serves on the board, having been appointed to fill a vacancy.

That group is opposed by software company manager Michael Kiley in the at-large race, community organizer Rosario C. de Baca in District 2, activist and school volunteer Meg Schomp in District 3 and water engineer Kilgore in District 4.

A third at-large candidate, former DPS paraprofessional Joan Poston, doesn’t fall into either camp.

The candidates have spent a total of about $432,000, much of it on printing, campaign flyers, other advertising, political consultants and staff.

Most candidates reported significant numbers of individual contributions, several hundred in some cases. The pro-administration candidates also reported major contributions from wealthy donors, both local and out of state. The opposition group has received significant funding and non-monetary services from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association Fund and from the Public Education Committee, a small-donor committee connected to the Colorado Education Association.

Here’s a look at what each candidate has raised:


  • Kiley – Raised $32,360 and spent $23,360. He also received $59,046 in non-monetary contributions from the DCTA Fund and the PEC for canvassing and staff.
  • O’Brien – Raised $173,324 and spent $125,048. Some small contributors of interest included former Gov. Dick Lamm and his wife Dottie, State Board of Education member Jane Goff, former First Lady Jeannie Ritter and former Gov. Roy Romer.
  • Poston – She doesn’t have a campaign committee and reported spending $212 of her own money on mileage.

District 2

  • C. de Baca – Raised $18,165 and spent $6,580. Received non-monetary contributions of $18,604.
  • Rodriguez – Raised $89,210 and spent $376. Among her contributions was $1,800 from the Stand for Children Political Committee.

District 3

  • Johnson – Raised $146,135 and spent $109,168.
  • Schomp – Raised $31,949 and spent $28,329. She also received $24,592 in non-monetary contributions from DCTA and PEC.

District 4

  • Taylor – Raised $72,105 and spent $57,425.
  • Kilgore – Raised $33,269 and spent $23,701. He also received $20,327 in non-monetary contributions from DCTA and PEC, including staff support and voter outreach.

The DCTA’s spending filings reported give the four candidates a total of $32,500 in cash contributions from April 1 through Sept. 30.

The donor lists for O’Brien, Rodriguez, Johnson and Taylor are a who’s who of Denver’s business, political, legal, non-profit and lobbying establishments. Here’s a look at the biggest contributors to the group. (Unless otherwise noted, the donors gave to all four candidates.)

  • Bruce Benson – The University of Colorado president and former oilman gave $35,000.
  • Denise O’Leary – The wife of DaVita CEO Kent Thiry contributed $33,000, and Thiry gave $8,000.
  • Sam Gary – The head of the Gary Community Investment Co. contributed $28,000.
  • Dan Ritchie – The head of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and former chancellor of the University of Denver gave $18,000.
  • Charles and Rebecca Ledley – The Boston couple gave a total of $16,500. He’s with a company named Highfields Capital. She used to work with the Philanthropy Roundtable.
  • Philip Anschutz – The Denver businessman and billionaire contributed $16,000.
  • John Freyer – The senior executive of Land Title Guarantee Co. gave $12,000.
  • David Younggren – A philanthropic executive, he contributed a total of $9,000 to O’Brien and Rodriguez. He’s vice president of Gary Community and president of the Piton Foundation.
  • Steven Halstedt – The Centennial Ventures executive gave $10,000.

Nine other businessmen gave between $5,000 and $10,000 to the four candidates, or combinations thereof. They included San Francisco financier Arthur Rock, Silicon Valley financier Greg Penner, Pat Hamill of Oakwood Homes, Scott Reiman of Hexagon Investments, former National Western Stock Show chief Pat Grant, oilman Ron Williams, John Fox of MarkWest Geophysics and Dave Goldberg, CEO of the Internet company Survey Monkey.

And Democratic U.S. Rep Jared Polis of Boulder split $4,000 in contributions among the four.

The next financial reports from school board candidates are due Nov. 1, just days before the Nov. 5 election, and final reports are due Dec. 5.

This article was updated Oct. 17 to change some totals because of C. de Baca’s late filing and correct some figures.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.