State Rep. Leslie Herod, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handed out critical endorsements for the Denver School Board Saturday morning, throwing her support to Tay Anderson and Diana Romero Campbell.
Herod's endorsements speak for a group of activists called Flip the DPS Board, which is seeking to elect board members who are "more supportive of teachers and who oppose charter schools and school closures," she said.
Three seats are open on the board, Allegra “Happy” Haynes and Anne Rowe, face term limits, while Lisa Flores from North Denver opted not to run for re-election.
Anderson is running for the at-large seat currently held by Haynes. SFER endorses Diana Romero Campbell, who is running for the seat currently held by Anne Rowe.
Herod noted that Anderson and Romero Campbell are "supported by opposing interests," but she chose to endorse them in their respective races, nonetheless.
"It’s not their differing views, but willingness to work together for Denver’s kids that makes them ideal candidates," she said. "Both agree on this: they want better opportunities and a high quality education for all kids. I am not looking at these candidates through the eyes of education reform or not. In other words, what side of these issues and the buzz words these candidates line up or use is not the point. Their commitment to Denver and the education it provides to all kids is the issue."
Anderson faces Natela Manuntseva and Alexis Menocal Harrigan in the at-large race. Romero Cambpell is running against Scott Baldermann and Radhika Nath for the District 1 seat.
The remaining race in District 5 includes Julie Bañuelos, Tony Curcio and Brad Laurvick.
Herod pointed out that the current makeup of the DPS Board is missing an African-American male. "Indeed, many of our elected offices are similarly missing such a voice," she said.
Herod chairs the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus. She pointed out that of 100 legislators, only three are black men — Reps. Jovan Melton and James Coleman of Denver and Tony Exum Sr. of Colorado Springs. The 13-member Denver City Council has only one, Chris Herndon.
"Bottom line is we are severely lacking in black males in leadership positions and, as a result, black males lack proper role models," Herod said Saturday. "I have heard it said, 'Kids cannot be what they cannot see.' I know firsthand, just how true that is."
She said Anderson's race and gender were not the sole reasons for her endorsement, however.
"Rather, it is his perspective that is much needed on the board," Herod said. "His campaign emphasizes ridding of the school-to-prison pipeline and the need to replace police in schools with counselors and mental health wellness programs. Police in schools feeds the school-to-prison pipeline and disproportionately affects students of color. It deprives kids of a quality education. Although not strongly opposing school choice, Tay challenges us “to think bigger” and to do more to provide high quality schools in all Denver neighborhoods. Tay is a recent graduate of DPS, close to the students and brings to the Board a racial equity lens and youth voice that is sorely lacking."
She cited Romero Campbell's experience working with nonprofits and her "lifelong" history in early childhood education as the daughter of teachers who grew up in the southeast Denver neighborhood she would represent on the school board.
"Diana speaks loudly and with pride about the need to close the achievement gap and to do so through school choice and retention of good teachers," Herod said.
"She, too, brings to the Board the perspective of racial equity because, as a Latina, she knows perfectly well that Denver has one of the largest achievement gaps by income and ethnicity in the nation. Diana understands the impact that this has had on our Denver community and will fight hard to ensure that low income and kids of color have the same opportunity for success. She may differ from Tay in her support for school choice, but it’s her means to the same end, namely closing the achievement gap."