Denver school board vacancy draws 5 applicants

Men and women in business attire and masks sit at a long table in a conference room. They have microphones and name plates in front of them.
The Denver school board has set a June 9 vote to appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the board. (Melanie Asmar / Chalkbeat)

Five people have applied to fill a vacancy on the Denver school board. They include two former Denver Public Schools teachers, the founding principal of a Denver charter school, a college administrator, and a family law attorney.

The applicants’ resumes and letters of recommendation were posted on the school district’s website Wednesday. The board is aiming to appoint a new member on June 9. The appointee will serve the last 17 months of member Brad Laurvick’s term. If they want to continue serving after that, they will have to run for election in November 2023.

Laurvick, a Methodist pastor who represents northwest Denver, is resigning from the board because his job is relocating him to serve as pastor of a church in Fort Collins.

The five applicants are:

Julie Bañuelos, a former bilingual teacher in Denver Public Schools who ran unsuccessfully for school board in 2017 and 2019. Bañuelos lost the school board seat representing northwest Denver to Laurvick in 2019 by just 302 votes. Bañuelos is active in education advocacy, and she currently works as a general accounting supervisor at Cold Front Distribution in Westminster, according to her resume.

Leonard Darnell, the assistant dean of academic services and extended studies at the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning. Darnell is also a board member of A.C.E. Mentor Colorado, which mentors high school students interested in careers in construction and design, according to his resume.

David Diaz, who owns a personal training studio called Fitness Together in Edgewater and coaches Denver youth sports teams. Diaz has three daughters who attend northwest Denver schools. His wife is a physical education teacher at Lake Middle School. Before opening his fitness studio, Diaz worked as a math teacher and baseball coach at North High School and Martin Luther King, Jr. middle school, according to his application

Adeel Khan, a managing director of schools for the homegrown DSST charter school network. According to his resume, Khan was the founding principal at DSST: Conservatory Green High School, a charter high school in northeast Denver. School board policy prohibits district and charter school employees from serving on the board, so any DSST employee would have to resign to take the position.

Charmaine Lindsay, a family law attorney whose specialities include divorce, custody, and child support cases, according to her resume. Lindsay is currently a pro bono attorney and board member of My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper Colorado, an organization that helps youth of color graduate. Her resume notes that she represented the mother of a child with disabilities charged with educational truancy.

The school board has already begun reviewing the applications. Residents of Laurvick’s board district, District 5, will be invited to participate in a session with the applicants on May 16 at CEC Early College, 2650 Eliot St., from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

The board will publicly interview the finalists on June 2 and provide an opportunity for the wider community to weigh in before voting on the appointment on June 9.

To be appointed, applicants must live in District 5, have been a registered voter for at least 12 consecutive months, and never have been convicted of certain crimes against children.

Melanie Asmar is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado, covering Denver Public Schools. Contact Melanie at masmar@chalkbeat.org.

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