Two incumbents, one newcomer win Aurora board seats

Incumbents Dan Jorgensen and Cathy Wildman, as well as conservative candidate Monica Colbert, won seats on the Aurora school board Tuesday.

The winners beat out four other candidates for the at-large seats on the seven-member board. Jorgensen got 10,497 votes, Wildman got 10,405 and Colbert got 9,628.

The Aurora teachers union backed Jorgensen and Wildman, as well as candidate Billie Day, who finished fourth with 8,508 votes. Jorgensen also had the support of the Colorado branch of Democrats for Education Reform — and seeing that group agree with the union on a candidate is rare to say the least.

Colbert, who works at a foundation, won support from Ready Colorado, a Littleton-based nonprofit tied to conservative charter-school activist Margo Branscomb.

Besides Day, the defeated candidates were conservative Grant Barrett, community activist Linda Cerva and business owner Michael Donald.

Though the Aurora race didn’t get as much attention as other races, the outcome could prove important to the direction of the struggling suburban school district.

The addition of a conservative-leaning board member, coming in the wake of a recent scathing report on the district’s performance, could push Superintendent Rico Munn to be bolder than he’s been in his first three years on the job. The report from a coalition of 17 nonprofits charged that Munn and other district administrators have failed to deliver on the promise of improving district schools.

It’s a tenuous time for the 42,000-student district, which has struggled with overcrowded schools, wide achievement gaps and high teacher turnover. In addition, the state has deemed 18 schools failing and the district could face the loss of accreditation.

The next board will likely consider several key proposals over the coming year, including a bond issue for new schools on the 2016 ballot. They’ll also be asked to sign off on the details of Munn’s plan to create an Innovation Zone in the Original Aurora neighborhood. Such schools — common in Denver but not Aurora — free the schools from certain state laws and give them more flexibility.

Besides Day