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An end to Denver’s school reform era? Teachers union-backed school board candidates win big

Tay Anderson, Brad Laurvick and Scott Baldermann all appeared poised to win

Tay Anderson, who helped coordinate the Denver Protest to Protect Robert Mueller on Nov. 8, 2018, speaks to the crowd gathered on the west steps of the statehouse. He won a Denver Public Schools board seat on Tuesday night. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

The Denver school board is on the verge of a historic shift, with two candidates backed by the teachers union scoring decisive wins and a third holding a narrow lead.

This marks the first time in a decade that candidates supported by proponents of education reform won’t have the majority on the Denver school board. For years, Denver has been a national model for a certain brand of education reform. Tuesday’s election results could mean a departure from long-standing reform policies opposed by the union, including approving new independent charter schools and closing low-performing schools.

In a three-way race for an at-large seat representing the entire city, candidate Tay Anderson had 49% of the vote followed by 38% for Alexis Menocal Harrigan and just 13% for Natela Manuntseva, according to results updated at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

MORE: Here’s a roundup of the most important 2019 local election results in Colorado

This was Anderson’s second attempt at winning a board seat. Just 21 years old, he’s a recent graduate of Denver Public Schools who now works at a Denver high school as a restorative justice coordinator, helping students resolve conflicts. He’ll have to leave that job because district policy bars employees from serving on the school board.

After the first results came in at 7 p.m., an emotional Anderson called his mother on speaker phone and told her he was a school board member. About three hours later, with Anderson’s lead holding steady, Menocal Harrigan conceded the race.

“We have made history here today, not by just flipping the board,” said Anderson, who said he was told a young black man could not win a citywide race.

In a three-way race for the District 1 seat representing southeast Denver, candidate Scott Baldermann, a father of two Denver students and past PTA president of his children’s school, had a commanding lead with almost 50% of the vote, according to the 11:30 p.m. update. Candidate Diana Romero Campbell had 31% of the vote, while candidate Radhika Nath had 19%.

The three way-race for the District 5 seat representing northwest Denver was closer. As of noon Wednesday, candidate Brad Laurvick, a Methodist pastor who played a prominent role in supporting teachers during a strike earlier this year, was leading with 36% of the vote. Candidates Tony Curcio and Julie Bañuelos each had 32%.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

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