Adams 14 appoints new board member after withholding applicant names

Students walk through the hall at Adams City High School Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 in Commerce City.
Adams 14 will now have a full school board after a Tuesday appointment. (Michael Ciaglo/Special to the Denver Post)

The Adams 14 school board appointed a new board member to fill a vacancy Tuesday night in a process that lacked transparency compared to previous years.

The district refused to release the submitted letters of interest or publish the names of the people who applied to the board vacancy. Instead, the district invited the public to a community forum at the high school to hear from the people interested in the board vacancy — without naming who they might hear from.

At the start of the meeting Tuesday night, the district leaders announced that only one of the two applicants showed up to the forum: Lucy Molina, a bilingual mother, business owner, and community organizer who had applied to previous board vacancies.

Lucy Molina and her children pose for a portrait outside of their home in Commerce City in 2020. (Rachel Ellis, The Denver Post)

Last month, the board said only one person, who they never named, had applied for the vacancy. The board reopened the application process in the hopes of getting more applicants and received one more. 

Tuesday, the board did not name who the other applicant was and did not clarify if Molina had been the initial sole applicant, or the second person to apply after the board reopened the process.

After the forum, the board approved the appointment of Molina in a unanimous vote after noting disappointment that the other unnamed applicant didn’t show up.

Reneé Lovato, the board vice president, thanked Molina for her community engagement.

“Every meeting, any school board thing that has gone on since I can remember, I’ve always relied on you being there and being the voice for our community, so thank you for stepping up for this,” Lovato said. 

Molina will serve out the remainder of Ramona Lewis’ term, which was to go to November of 2023.

Lewis, who had been the board president, left her position earlier this year citing personal reasons and refusing to elaborate. On Tuesday, the board also approved the hiring of Lewis as the executive assistant for the board and the district’s lawyer.

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District leaders said during the meeting that the board’s longtime executive assistant Monica Avina is now in a different position.

Adams 14’s five-member school board has had approximately one vacancy per year as members leave their positions prior to serving out their terms. 

In prior years, the district published letters of interest from those interested in serving on the board as soon as the deadline to submit them had passed, allowing for public inspection long before a vote. 

Most recently when board member Janet Estrada was appointed to serve on the board in March 2021, four people expressed interest in the position and all were named publicly prior to the vote. 

The Denver school board, which also had a board vacancy earlier this year, published the resumes and letters of interest of their five applicants about a month before taking a vote to appoint one of the applicants.

Yesenia Robles is a reporter for Chalkbeat Colorado covering K-12 school districts and multilingual education. Contact Yesenia at yrobles@chalkbeat.org.

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