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

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Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede

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.”