changing of the guard

DPS board vacancy: Landri Taylor, representing northeast Denver, announces resignation

Landri Taylor talks in 2010 at a hearing on school reforms in far northeast Denver (Hyoung Chang/ The Denver Post)

A Denver school board member who was instrumental in advancing controversial school reforms in the far northeast reaches of the city announced his resignation Tuesday, creating an unexpected vacancy with uncertain implications.

In breaking the news to colleagues, Landri Taylor cited his wife’s health struggles and imminent plans to move to Aurora to be closer to their grandchildren.

Taylor’s departure will not shift the balance of the power on the governing board of the state’s largest school district, which unanimously supports the policies of Superintendent Tom Boasberg. Still, the board’s looming appointment of a replacement means a new voice will represent a part of the city that has long been a focal point for efforts to lift student achievement.

“I look forward to this next chapter in my life, my family’s life,” Taylor told colleagues Tuesday at a board work session. “At the same time, as I will say on Thursday, I am not invisible. I will be around.”

The school board will vote Thursday on a resolution accepting Taylor’s resignation, which will be effective that night. Under state law, the board has 60 days to choose a successor. Board president Anne Rowe said DPS soon will lay out details of how would-be candidates can apply.

Rowe said in an interview that Taylor shared his plans to resign about a week ago. While Taylor is not as vocal as other board members, “when he speaks and when he particularly speaks impassionately, it really moves you. He seems to have a true understanding of the community,” Rowe said.

“His legacy is extraordinary,” she said. “His commitment to serve Denver, its citizens and its children has been nothing less than remarkable. His impact is seen in so many ways, not just in our city at large, but particularly northeast Denver.”

Taylor, 65, was appointed to the District 4 board seat on an interim basis in 2013 after his predecessor, Nate Easley, resigned to run the Denver Scholarship Foundation. The board was divided when Taylor joined, and his seat often represented a swing vote on district policies. Taylor won election later in 2013, and his term was set to expire in 2017.

Last November’s election shifted the votes in favor of the Boasberg administration from 6-1 to 7-0 — though the board has pushed back at times, too.

Taylor has been a reliable supporter of DPS school reforms, although he chafed at the suggestion that he was simply a Boasberg yes-man. Boasberg in January began a six-month unpaid leave with his family in South America.

A longtime ally of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Taylor helped press the case for DPS reforms in Far Northeast Denver before he joined the school board.

Arguably the most ambitious school improvement effort taken on by DPS, the blueprint involved closing low performing schools, extending school days and opening charter schools.

Taylor previously served as head of the Urban League of Denver, and before that worked for the company that redeveloped the former Stapleton airport site into a nationally recognized mixed-use development. He has taken on a variety of civic roles, serving on board and commissions covering issues ranging from transportation and libraries to higher education.

The city’s northeast quadrant Taylor represents has long been diverse — it includes the heart of Denver’s African-American community — and has been gentrifying in recent years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: DPS board president Anne Rowe is married to Frank Rowe, Chalkbeat’s director of sponsorships. Frank Rowe’s position is not part of Chalkbeat’s news operation.

Here is the text of Taylor’s resignation: 

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.