Denver father is the first contender for a wide-open school board seat

A Denver father who has been active in raising money for his children’s elementary school, and who supported teachers during a recent three-day strike, is the first candidate to enter the race for a wide-open school board seat representing southeast Denver.

Scott Baldermann is the father of two students at Lincoln Elementary School in the Washington Park neighborhood. He said he is seeking the endorsement of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, as well as a coalition of groups who want to “flip the board” in November. If he doesn’t receive those endorsements, he said he will drop out of the race.

That promise aligns with the political strategy of those who want to change the direction of Denver Public Schools, which is known nationwide for its robust school choice process and its adherence to the “portfolio strategy” for managing district-run and charter schools.

The political strategy calls for coalescing around a single candidate for each of the three open school board seats. Coalition members hope that will avoid splitting the vote among candidates who support a change of direction, as happened in 2017.

Baldermann’s website says he grew up in Aurora and graduated from Rangeview High School. He worked as an architect and then started a technology company that developed a web-based tool for the construction industry. After selling that company, Baldermann was a stay-at-home dad. When his daughter started preschool at Lincoln Elementary, he became involved with the Parent-Teacher Association there, serving as president of the group from 2016 to 2018.

“I always say it was the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Baldermann said.

On the PTA, Baldermann said he helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the school, $88,000 of which was spent on the salaries of four teacher’s aides. The PTA also raised money to buy math curriculum, iPads, yoga mats, sunscreen, and window fans for hot classrooms.

“A lightbulb went off in my head that this just doesn’t seem right,” he said. “We were having the discussion of, ‘Other schools in the Baker neighborhood, they don’t have that ability to raise money like we do.’ While I’m super happy we were able to do that, it did not sit right.”

Drawing on his business background, Baldermann has been dissecting the district’s budget. He said he is concerned with the amount of debt Denver Public Schools has — and the millions of dollars the district spends to pay interest on that debt.

Baldermann notes that district financial documents show Denver Public Schools spent $162 million on interest on long-term debt last year. He said that number is especially worrisome given that Denver teachers went on strike in February to push the district to invest a much smaller amount, about $30 million, into educator pay.

“I’m trying to figure out how we got to this point,” he said.

Baldermann supported teachers during the strike, helping to raise $10,296 to cushion the financial impact for teachers at his children’s school. Teachers were not paid for the days they were on strike. He and his family also attended several public bargaining sessions, and offered up a vacant rental house near Lincoln for the school’s teachers to use as a home base.

His experience during the strike cemented for him the idea of running for school board.

“It had been in the back of my mind for a while,” Baldermann said. “Having younger kids was the only thing concerning me about doing it. Now I’m in a position where I’m not working and can commit the next eight years to this being my full-time job.”

The school board seat representing southeast Denver is currently held by board President Anne Rowe, who is barred by term limits from running for re-election.

Too much elementary school homework, too-early secondary school start times, and a lack of district support for struggling schools are among the issues Baldermann said he wants to tackle. He said he understands why some families like being able to send their children to schools outside their neighborhood, but he worries about “a lot of unproductive time in buses and cars.”

“My dream would be that every kid would be able to experience walking to school — and know that school is going to be good,” Baldermann said.

Three of the seven school board seats are up for grabs in November. Candidates must file at least 67 days before the election. No incumbents are running.

Thus far, three candidates are vying for the at-large seat held by Happy Haynes, who is barred by term limits from running again. Three other candidates are competing for the seat to represent northwest Denver currently held by Lisa Flores, who is not running for re-election.