Oct 18, 2021 - Politics

Meet the candidates: Denver school board at-large seat

Denver School Board candidates

From left to right, Marla Benavides, Jane Shirley, Scott Esserman, Nicky Yollick, Vernon Jones Jr. Photos courtesy of campaigns

The state's largest school district is holding elections in four of nine districts, our education reporting partner Chalkbeat writes.

Let's meet the at-large candidates in the order they will appear on Denver residents' ballots.

Marla Benavides, 49, home-school parent

  • Her focus: improving the district's literacy rate.
  • She supports more choice when it comes to where kids go to school. "Parents have the absolute right to train their kids," she says.
  • Backs the district's mask mandate but doesn't want it enforced.

Scott Esserman, 55, consultant and former educator

  • Leads the district's accountability committee and worked to keep two schools open.
  • Believes too much money is going to the school choice system and wants dollars sent directly to all schools.
  • Supports implementation of "Know Justice, Know Peace" resolution to add more diversity to history curriculums.

Jane Shirley, 61, retired teacher and principal

  • She says the district's current model allows some schools to fail and needs to be changed.
  • Argues the school choice model is an illusion and needs an overhaul.
  • Didn't support the decision to remove police from schools because she contends it was a one-size-fits-all mandate.

Nicky Yollick, 35, hospice volunteer coordinator

  • Believes the district's biggest problem is the "bloated central administration" that "continues to propagate corporatist and segregationist policies."
  • Focused on addressing learning loss with one-on-one tutoring for those in need and child care for low-income families.
  • He wants to stop the competition between schools to attract students.

Vernon Jones Jr., 44, former educator

  • He stepped down as director of the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone after the district expressed concern about its operations.
  • He says the district's most pressing concern is its failure to serve all children, regardless of race and income levels.
  • Regarding police officers in schools, he wants to make sure children are "not learning in a police state."

Read more about the candidates from our partners at Chalkbeat


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