Aurora school board up for possible big changes with only one incumbent seeking re-election

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that the district verified an additional candidate over the weekend, bringing the total to nine.

Nine people will vie for four seats on the board of education for Aurora Public Schools this November.

The school district confirmed the field Friday, the deadline for candidates to submit required petition signatures. One additional candidate had signatures verified over the weekend.

Eric Nelson, an Aurora school board member who was censured last year for exaggerating and fabricating his military service and his education degrees, among other things, is not running.

Only one incumbent, Barbara Yamrick, is running for re-election to the seven-member board. Board president Amber Drevon is not seeking a second term. Board member, JulieMarie Shepherd is term-limited.

Aurora’s current school board has generally supported superintendent Rico Munn’s reform efforts, though board votes aren’t always predictable.

Drevon said Friday afternoon she is pursuing other opportunities and said she feels proud of what has been accomplished during her time on the board.

“I feel really good about the position of the district, especially now having the district coming off the clock,” Drevon said, referring to Aurora scoring well enough on preliminary state ratings to pull itself off the state’s accountability clock for poor performance.

Eight candidates in addition to the incumbent turned in enough signatures to get on the ballot, according to the school district.

Among the candidates is Jane Barber, who previously served on the Aurora school board; Debra Gerkin, the former principal of Crawford Elementary School; and Kevin Cox, who was previously running for a seat on the Aurora city council, but dropped out to run for school board.

Five of the eight new candidates have cited an opposition to charter schools, either in interviews with Chalkbeat or in campaign material. The others either could not be reached or their positions were not immediately available.

At Munn’s urging, Aurora’s school board voted this summer to approve a charter application for DSST, a high-performing charter school network based in Denver. (Yamrick, the incumbent running for reelection, voted no).

Superintendent Rico Munn invited the charter school to apply while offering to provide half of the funding for a new building through money from a bond. Voters approved the bond request last November. Several teachers and some community members spoke to the board in the months prior, asking the board not to approve the charter school application.

The school district is now negotiating the contract for DSST and the school board must vote on it this month.

The next school board would have a chance to vote later on a contract for a second DSST sixth-through-12th grade campus.

The charter approved this year lays out certain requirements the charter school must meet for the school board to give final approval to the second campus that would open in 2021.

The new school board also will face decisions about the district’s budget and facilities. Although some schools in southeast Aurora are crowded because of new city development, the district overall has been experiencing a historic decline in enrollment.

Aurora school board candidates are all at-large members. Voters will select four of the nine names and the four candidates with the most votes will win a seat.

The district will hold a drawing on Wednesday to determine the order of the names on the ballot.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct information about candidate Kevin Cox’s previous run for city council.