25 DPS board hopefuls to be whittled to nine

More than two dozen people are vying for the seat vacated by Nate Easley on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education, including parent activists, community leaders and previous school board candidates.Logo for Denver Public Schools

The board will whittle that list to nine at what is sure to be an action-packed meeting Monday at 4:30 p.m. at the district headquarters, 900 Grant St. Then an afternoon’s worth of interviews will be held with finalists Thursday.

Easley, who represented District 4 in Northeast Denver, recently resigned stating that his new job of executive director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation would chew up too much of his time.

Whoever is selected will fill the remainder of Easley’s term and face election in November.  The deadline to submit an application was 5 p.m. Friday. Under state law the position must be filled within 60 days of his resignation, which was officially accepted Jan. 18.

If the board is unable to select a replacement, board President Mary Seawell has the authority to name a new board member. That not-so-small detail caused a flare-up during a special meeting by the board early last week, with board members Arturo Jimenez and Andrea Merida raising questions about how Seawell would pick Easley’s replacement if consensus could not be reached. (Watch the meeting video).

“Will you commit to choosing someone from that final pool?” Jimenez asked Seawell.

Seawell declined to define the process should the board fail to reach agreement.

Merida asked her pointedly, “Why don’t you want to commit?”

Seawell said, “I want that not even in our heads … Let’s just try and let’s all come together.”

“We’re going to vote as many times as we need to and we’re going to come together.”

Jimenez said he felt the whole board is not listening to its two Latino members, who initially asked for veto power over the final board pick. That notion was not embraced by a majority of board members. Once the discussion about the board vacancy process wrapped up, Jimenez said, “It feels racist. It feels like the Latino voices on the board are not being heard.”

To that, Seawell said, “To say that this is racist is highly damaging.”

Arturo said, “Well that’s how it feels. It does not seem proper there would be an undefined process.”

Here are the 25 contenders:

  • Rebecca Adams
  • Sean Bradley (worked for Andrew Romanoff and the Colorado League of Charter Schools; now works for the American Federation for Children)
  • Billy Brown
  • Tim Camarillo
  • Alton Clark (ran against Easley in 2009)
  • Kari Cummings
  • Jesus Escarcega (chair of the Colorado Association of Latino/a Administrators and Superintendents)
  • Fred Franko (served on board of Great Education Colorado)
  • Jon Goldin-Dubois (executive director of the Colorado Rapids Youth Soccer Club)
  • Taggart Hansen
  • Jane Hartgrove
  • MiDian Holmes (chair of Stand for Children’s Denver chapter)
  • Antwan Jefferson
  • Vernon Jones, Jr. (a Manual High School administrator who oversees community partnerships)
  • Patricia Ann Kaurouma (former DPS teacher)
  • Roger Kilgore (ran for at-large seat won by winner Happy Haynes in 2011)
  • Ben Kornell (former teacher and member of the board of directors at Get Smart Schools and a member of the advisory council for Colorado Succeeds)
  • Travis Luther
  • Barbara Medina (recently retired head of DPS’s ELL programming)
  • Karen Ray (worked as paraprofessional in DPS)
  • Lisa Roy (executive director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation)
  • Mary Sam (retired DPS teacher who supported Easley recall)
  • Jacqui Shumway (ran unsuccessfully against Haynes in 2011 for Theresa Peña’s seat)
  • Landri Taylor (president and CEO of the Denver Urban League and former member of the RTD board who was intensely involved with NE school turnaround plan)
  • Sharla Williams
Most of the candidates participated in a board candidate forum Wednesday evening at the Evie Dennis campus. Watch a video of their presentations here. 

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”