No board member backed Hispanic candidates

Two Denver school board members backing an advocacy group’s protest against the lack of Hispanic finalists for a board vacancy did not themselves vote to make any of the three Hispanic candidates finalists, records show.

Tally sheets obtained by EdNews Colorado show that none of six Denver school members, including Arturo Jimenez and Jeannie Kaplan, voted for a Hispanic candidate to be among nine finalists for a vacant northeast Denver board seat. On Monday Kaplan and Jimenez sent an email to other board members urging the selection process be reopened, as has been requested by the Colorado Latino Forum.

Arturo Jimenez, Lisa Calderon
DPS board member Arturo Jimenez (left) was among elected officials speaking to the Latino Forum on Feb. 12. At right is Lisa Calderon, co-chair of the Denver chapter of the Latino Forum.

The Denver metro chapter of the forum held a meeting Tuesday to discuss the lack of Hispanic finalists for the seat vacated by the recent resignation of Nate Easley.

“If we can’t be in the boardroom by appointment we will get there by election,” Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez told the group.

He was among of gaggle of elected officials that attended the meeting of about 40 people at Escuela Tlatelolco in north Denver.

Kaplan and Jimenez also addressed the group.

Asked Tuesday evening about why they didn’t vote to make any of the Hispanic candidates finalists, both Jimenez and Kaplan declined to discuss their votes, saying the selection process was a secret ballot. Both said they objected to what they called a “flawed” process. Kaplan claimed that board president Mary Seawell changed the selection process at the last minute.

During the Feb. 4 meeting the six board members filled out tally sheets that listed the 25 candidates. Each board member was allowed to select three candidates, assigning five points to their first choice, three points to their second and one point to their third choice.

The nine finalists were those who received the highest number of points.

Education News Colorado requested the tally sheets from DPS and examined them. The six sheets were not identified by board member, but no board member selected Hispanic applicants Tim Camarillo, Jesus Escarcega or Barbara Medina. Of the nine finalists, eight are black and one is white. Six are male and three are female. The current board has two Hispanics, one black and three whites.

Also making a cameo appearance at the meeting was board president Mary Seawell. She told the group, “I’m just here to listen” and said she welcomes emails or phone calls from anyone concerned about the process to fill the vacancy.

EdNews later asked Seawell if she would consider reopening the selection process, which must be completed by mid-March. She explained that the board has been taking “baby steps” in that process, deciding what to do at each step along the way. She indicated that the board might discuss reopening the process when it next meets on Feb. 19.

Kaplan told EdNews that she believes the best course would be to select an “interim” board member who wouldn’t run for election in November. If the board doesn’t go for that – which she expects it won’t – Kaplan said she will advocate for reopening the process to look for additional Hispanic candidates.

Also attending the meeting was Denver Council member Debbie Ortega. Her comments were less emphatic than those made by Lopez, and she said, “This is a very important issue” and that community input on board candidates is “a critical part of the process.”

And also making an appearance was unsuccessful applicant Medina, a former administrator at both DPS and the Colorado Department of Education who was greeted with applause. “I was very disappointed that I wasn’t given an interview,” Medina said. “The board’s in a tough place. … I’m not here as a spoilsport. I will support whoever the board selects.”

Hispanic forum first raised the issue

The lack of a Hispanic candidate for the vacant District 4 seat first was raised last week by the Denver chapter of the forum. Chapter leaders Lisa Calderón and Rudy Gonzales sent an open letter to Seawell criticizing the list of nine. Calderon said Tuesday she hadn’t yet received a response.

They wrote that the three Latino applicants on the original list of 25 applicants had “extensive backgrounds as educators in early childhood education and/or bi-lingual education, and had advanced graduate degrees including one Ph.D.”

Jimenez and Kaplan sent an email to other board members on Monday, writing, “community members are asking that the process be extended so there can be serious consideration given to Latino candidates, including interviews with the board of education like those held last Thursday for the other nine candidates.

“We are writing to let you know we support the Colorado Latino Forum’s desire to include Latino candidates in the selection of the representative from District 4. We are asking that we meet expeditiously to see how this can best happen.”

The board originally set Jan. 25 as the application deadline for District 4 residents interested in the seat but later delayed that until Feb. 5. Any interested person who was a registered voter in the district for 12 months could apply. (The residency requirements are set by state law.)

A community forum featuring the nine candidates currently is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 20, at Smiley Middle School, 2540 Holly St.

Under state law the position must be filled within 60 days of Easley’s resignation, which was officially accepted Jan. 18. If the board can’t agree on a replacement, Seawell has the power to name a new member. She has said she’ll pick that person from among the nine finalists. Whoever is selected will have to run in next November’s election if they want to serve a full term.

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.”