No matter where you stand on public education issues, there is little doubt that this fall’s school board elections in Denver represent a watershed moment. The current board is split 4-3 on whether the current direction of reforms should continue, and whether Superintendent Tom Boasberg should keep his job.
Three seats are up in November. Theresa Peña and Bruce Hoyt, strong supporters of the current regime and direction, are term-limited and cannot run again. Arturo Jimenez, who lines up against the Boasberg agenda on most issues, is up for reelection. As an incumbent, he has a leg up in winning his seat.
So for the current 4-3 split in favor of Boasberg to stand, both Peña’s at-large seat and Hoyt’s southeast Denver seat would have to be won by candidates who support the district’s current direction. All that could change, of course, if the current effort to recall board President Nate Easley, a Boasberg ally, succeeds. If Easley loses his seat this spring to a candidate who opposes current choice and turnaround initiatives, Boasberg won’t be in his job come November.
So the stakes couldn’t be higher. And given Colorado’s vanguard positions on teacher effectiveness, school innovation and growth model data, the outcome of Denver school politics will reverberate nationally.
It is for these reasons that Education News Colorado has just hired a reporter to cover the DPS elections and related issues. We believe that people interested in schools and the politics of education will be keenly interested in following these races closely. At the same time, we do not want to sacrifice our coverage of important issues elsewhere, be they state policy initiatives, vouchers in Douglas County, Jeffco budget woes or Aurora innovations.
Our new reporter is Charlie Brennan, a familiar name to people interested in Colorado journalism.
Brennan has been a journalist for nearly 30 years. He has reported on subjects as diverse as the University of Colorado’s anthropological investigation at Gran Pajaten deep in the Peruvian Andes, the launch and explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the JonBenet Ramsey case, the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq and the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Brennan reported for more than 20 years at the Rocky Mountain News, covering a wide array of beats, starting in the newspaper’s Boulder bureau, where his coverage included a strong focus on the University of Colorado. He returned to CU in 2000 and 2001 as an adjunct instructor in journalism ethics. Brennan’s time at the Rocky Mountain News saw him win numerous statewide and Scripps-Howard honors for his reporting on a variety of beats. He also spent two years as an assistant city editor, supervising a team of reporters.
Brennan took a one-year leave from the Rocky in late 1997 to collaborate with author Lawrence Schiller on a definitive account of the JonBenet Ramsey case, “Perfect Murder, Perfect Town,” a New York Times best-seller which stands today as perhaps the authoritative book on the early days of that legal saga. Brennan also served as a frequent commentator on the case for CNN’s Larry King Live, and as a consultant to ABC News.
In 2007, Brennan left the Rocky to join KDVR Fox31 News in Denver, where he spent more than two years as an on-air general assignment reporter, covering a broad range of stories, with emphasis on Denver’s preparation for, and hosting of, the 2008 Democratic National Convention and inauguration of President Barack Obama. And in 2010, Brennan was the director of communications for Boulder District Attorney and former Boulder Valley School Board president Stan Garnett, in Garnett’s campaign for Colorado attorney general.
No one doubts that this fall’s elections will be bruising and, by education politics standards, big-money affairs. Brennan is a tough and fair reporter who won’t accept easy answers from anyone on any side of these issues.
So to get the low-down on what’s happening in these pivotal board races, check the EdNews website frequently. It’s going to be an interesting ride. Climb aboard with us.
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