19 October 2005

The Denver School Board At Large Race.

The Denver Democrats have taken the unusual move of endorsing a candidate in the non-partisan at large school board race now underway in Denver. The language of the endorsement (Hat tip to SoapBlox Colorado) bears mention here:

For immediate release
Thursday, October 20th

Contact: Sharron Klein (303) 667-0415

Denver County Democrats Endorse Jill Conrad for Denver Public School Board, At-Large

On Tuesday October 18th, the Denver County Democrats unanimously endorsed Jill Conrad for Denver Public School Board At-Large at their monthly Executive Committee meeting. A longtime Democratic activist, Jill Conrad is currently the only Democrat running for this seat. "The Denver Democrats are excited to announce our endorsement of Jill Conrad for the at-large position on the Denver School Board,” said Sharron Klein, Chair of the Denver County Democrats. “Jill has proven her leadership skills through her work on our Executive Committee and of all the candidates is certainly the most knowledgeable on the issues so important to our public schools."

An educational consultant, Jill has dedicated over ten years of her professional life to educational reform at the local, state and federal levels. Jill currently serves as the Director for the Colorado Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a statewide effort that prepares students for a lifetime of civic learning and participation. “I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Denver Democratic Party,” said Jill Conrad. “As an active Democrat myself, I know how hard the party works to create a better quality of life and better opportunities for all Denverites. I share those values and look forward to extending that leadership and opportunity as a Board member for Denver Public Schools."


Susan K Shepherd
Secretary, Denver Dems
303 960 9783

Ms. Conrad has also received endorsements from the Rocky Mountain News and DPS employees. The Rocky said:

At large: Jill Conrad. Conrad is an educational consultant, working on a doctorate, and would bring to the board broad expertise in the issues facing Denver. She has also been active in statewide and national education reform groups.

Take for example ProComp, Denver's plan to compensate teachers according to their accomplishments. She does support it, but more to the point, she's been following it for the six years it took to move from a pilot program to a fully developed plan. That's the kind of in-depth knowledge that typically only incumbents have.

The Rocky notes in an earlier article that:

Denver school board candidate Brad Buchanan has raised nearly $70,000 for the at-large race, leading all DPS candidates who filed campaign finance reports Tuesday.

Also today, Buchanan, a Denver architect, will begin airing TV commercials in support of his candidacy, an unusual step in a school board race.

Jill Conrad, an education consultant who is opposing Buchanan, said she was not surprised by his monetary lead. Her campaign reported raising $44,712 to Buchanan's $69,129. . . .

A third candidate for the Denver Public Schools board at-large seat, Dave Lewis, reported raising $225. . . .

Buchanan and Conrad boast political heavy hitters among their many contributors.

Conrad has been endorsed by a coalition of DPS unions, including classroom teachers, and has received $20,000 along with their backing. She also received $4,000 from the political action committee of the Colorado Education Association, the statewide teachers union.

Buchanan's list includes numerous city officials, from City Council President Rosemary Rodriguez to Helen Thorpe, the wife of Mayor John Hickenlooper, who gave $500. He also has received checks from six of the seven current DPS school board members.

"I think I've got really broad and really diverse support actually," Buchanan said. "Yes, some of those folks are community and civic leaders and I'm awfully proud and humbled by that."

Conrad, whose campaign chair is Rico Munn, an attorney who represents Denver on the state Board of Education, said money doesn't translate into votes.

The DPS employee endorsement article notes that:

Buchanan's list of supporters includes nine Denver City Council members, veteran DPS board member Elaine Berman and Bruce Benson, the affluent Republican oilman who is chair of the DPS Foundation.

Profiles of the candidates have been very thin on substance here and here, and here, for instance.

Given a lack of real information on how the candidates differ, I'm inclined to rely on the Denver Dems for guidance. When I learn that no one else in this race, in highly Democratic Denver is a Democrat, I have reason to be suspicious.

UPDATE: The Denver Post has endorsed Brad Buchanan in the race, saying:

Buchanan, an architect and parent of two DPS children, has strong ties to the community and understands the link between better schools and a thriving economic future. He would bring a results-oriented management style. He'd like to see students given more relevant tests more often to gauge what's working in the classroom, rather than just looking at CSAPs in the rear-view.

One of DPS's goals is to get more business support for schools, and Buchanan can help foster that. He has good ideas, such as turning more schools into community centers. If citizens are more involved in their schools, including spending more time there, those schools will thrive.

He believes in investing in early childhood education and, given the tight budget, has innovative ideas to create more pre-kindergarten education without traditional funding. Buchanan has been endorsed by a wide swath of community leaders, including conservatives and liberals, members of the current DPS board and 10 members of the Denver City Council.

His chief opponent, Jill Conrad, is bright and has some excellent ideas as well, given her background in education. She's the teachers' union candidate, having accepted more than $20,000 from the Colorado Education Association, which could make it more difficult for her to push for reform with a free hand.

Given the Post's reasoning, i.e. unions endorsements bad, conservative endorsements good, it looks like Jill Conrad is still the right choice.

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