Mayor Mike Johnston endorses Youngquist, De La Rosa, Sia for open Denver school board seats

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston speaks at a podium.
Denver Mayor Mike Johnston speaks at a press conference Thursday about a proposal to boost collaboration between the city council and the school board. (Melanie Asmar / Chalkbeat)

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Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, who called the current school board “a public embarrassment” earlier this year, endorsed three candidates Tuesday for open board seats in the Nov. 7 election. 

These are the first school board endorsements that Johnston, a former educator, has made as mayor. His picks signal that he wants to see change on the board.

For an at-large seat representing the entire city, Johnston endorsed John Youngquist, the former principal of Denver’s East High School and the parent of two East High students. The at-large seat is currently held by board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson, who is not running for re-election.

“When I first became a school principal, John was one of my role models for what a great school leader can do, and I know he is the right leader at the right time to put DPS back on track,” Johnston said of Youngquist in a statement.

For a seat representing northwest Denver’s District 5, Johnston endorsed Marlene De La Rosa, a longtime Denver Public Schools volunteer whose two children are DPS graduates. 

“Marlene De La Rosa has dedicated her life to lifting up and giving voice to Denverites on the Northside and across the city through public service,” Johnston said.

For a seat representing southeast Denver’s District 1, Johnston endorsed Kimberlee Sia, a DPS parent and former CEO of the KIPP Colorado charter school network.

“I have known her for decades and admire how she has proven again and again that every child in every community can achieve academic excellence,” Johnston said of Sia.

Johnston did not endorse the two incumbents in the race: Charmaine Lindsay, who represents District 5, and Scott Baldermann, who represents District 1. 

Lindsay and Baldermann have been endorsed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. In the at-large race, the teachers union endorsed candidate Kwame Spearman, a DPS graduate and co-owner of the Tattered Cover bookstores, which recently filed for bankruptcy.

All seven members of the current school board were backed by the teachers union. With just three seats up for grabs, November’s election won’t shift the balance of power on the board. But the election could change the board’s political and interpersonal divisions and shape its policies on controversial topics including declining enrollment and school safety.

In addition to gaining the support of the mayor, Youngquist, De La Rosa, and Sia have been endorsed by Denver Families Action. The group is the political arm of Denver Families for Public Schools, an organization formed with the backing of several local charter school networks.

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

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