GOP outspends AFT in Dougco races

Nearly $50,000 has been raised by candidates in four hotly contested Douglas County school board races.

StockCashPile92309The Douglas County Republican Party has given about $13,000 of in-kind services for mailings by four candidates, while $7,500 in contributions to opposing candidates has come from sources connected to the American Federation of Teachers. (District teachers are represented by an AFT affiliate.)

But the biggest single contributor is Denver investor and artist Ralph Nagel, who’s made a total of $15,000 in contributions to three conservative candidates. Nagel is a regular contributor to GOP candidates, a trustee of the University of Denver and board chair of the Alliance for Choice in Education.

Doug Benevento, Dan Gerken, Meghann Silverthorn and incumbent John Carson are running as a conservative bloc, promoting more parental choice, more charter schools, more transparency in district spending and less autonomy for district administrators.

Sue Catterall, Kevin Leung, Kristine Turner and Emily Hansen (the latter two are incumbents) are running with the endorsement of the Douglas County Federation, which represents district teachers.

(See this previous EdNews story for more background on the candidates and the issues.)

While the differences are sharp in the contests, most of the candidate spending so far has been on routine board race expenses like yard signs, brochures, websites and the like. And, the total spending is modest compared to Denver, where just one candidate, Mary Seawell, has raised nearly $80,000.

Here’s a rundown on candidate fundraising by district:

DISTRICT B: Most the western part of the county, not including Highlands Ranch

Carson: $9,289 contributed in cash, $3,358 in non-monetary contributions, $999.46 spent and $8,351.11 on hand.

Contributions of interest include $500 from former GOP Sen. Bill Armstrong, $3,222.45 in-kind from the country Republican Party, $5,000 from Nagel and $50 from state GOP Chair Dick Wadhams.

Catterall: $5,515 contributed plus $395 in non-monetary donations, $4,665.88 spent and
$774.70 on hand

She’s received $2,500 from the AFT-Douglas County Federation and $395 from the Colorado Democratic Party.

DISTRICT D: Southeastern part of the county, including Castle Rock

Gerken: $3,694.99 raised, $3,242.25 in non-monetary contributions, $2,332 spent and $1,361.89 on hand.

Contributions include $500 from Armstrong, $1,000 from real estate investor Josh Taxman of Boulder and $3,242.25 in-kind from county Republicans.

Leung: $300 has been raised, he’s loaned himself $2,824.26 land spent $2,824.26.

DISTRICT E: A north-central slice of the county, west of Interstate 25 and north of Castle Rock east of I-25

Benevento: $14,751 contributed plus $3,242.25 in-kind, $2,482.83 spent, $12,157.99 on hand

In addition to $5,000 from Nagel and $3,224.25 from county Republicans, he also has raised $1,300 from the political action committee of Denver law firm Greenberg Traurig. A former member of Gov. Bill Owens’ cabinet, Benevento also seems to have tapped into his political networks for money. He’s received $50 from House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver and a lawyer at Greenberg, and small contributions from Statehouse lobbyists Katy Atkinson, Gale Barry, Sean Bradley and Tanya Kelly-Bowry. Contributors from GOP and Owens circles include Sean Duffy, Troy Eid, Maria Garcia Berry, Rick O’Donnell, Henry Sobanet and John Zakhem, plus state Rep.. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.

Turner: $4,475 raised and $5,039.36 spent.

Contributions include $2,500 from Brenda Smith of Castle Rock, president of the Douglas County Federation, $500 from AFT staff member Billy Husher of Denver and $50 from Jane Urschel of Larkspur, an executive of the Colorado Association of School Boards.

DISTRICT G: The northeastern part of the county east of I-25

Hansen: $4,525 in contributions plus $422 in-kind, $3,371.80 of spending and $1,133.88 on hand.

The largest contribution is $2,500 from the AFT-Committee on Political Education.

Silverthorn: $7,301.96 in contributions plus $3,317.25 in-kind, $1,956.41 spent and $5,381.79 on hand.

She’s received $3,222.45 from the county GOP for mailings and $5,000 from Nagel.

Several candidates have contributed varying amounts to their own campaigns, and in some cases have given modest donations to other allied candidates.

The financial reports are for the period ending Oct. 8 and filed this week. The next financial reports are due Oct. 30.

Although board members represent districts, county voters vote for candidates in all districts. (Board members in three other districts aren’t up for election this year.) Voting this year is by mail ballot.

Do your homework – candidate websites

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.