New filings in failed DPS recall

New finance reports for a recall campaign that isn’t going forward – for now –  show Denver Public Schools board president Nate Easley continued to amass funds to defend himself while those seeking to remove him are still reporting little more than pocket change.

Logo for Denver Public SchoolsTake Back Our Schools, the committee formed to seek the ouster of the first-term representative from Northeast Denver, filed a report Tuesday showing no monetary contributions and no expenditures, listing just $454 in “non-monetary contributions” in the reporting cycle ending April 14.

It’s the second consecutive reporting period in which Take Back Our Schools listed no monetary contributions and no expenditures.

Easley’s campaign to defend himself against a potential recall vote, Easley 4 Better Schools, collected $25,090 in the one-month reporting period ending April 14, spent $11,715 and was left with a balance on hand of $38,082.

Easley, elected as the school board’s District 4 representative in November 2009, won’t need to dip into that war chest just yet. The Denver Elections Division announced April 13 that recall advocates had fallen far short of the needed valid signatures to force a recall vote, missing the 5,363-signature threshold by 2,080.

However, John McBride, the registered agent for Take Back Our Schools, said Easley’s opponents will mount a second recall effort. McBride said he plans for it to coincide with the November general elections.

McBride said he does not plan to file a protest over the April 13 elections division finding that his group had gathered insufficient signatures to force a recall vote this summer. He expressed confidence, however, that Easley’s opponents will be more successful a second time around.

Opponents plan second recall effort

“We’re going to start the process again. We know what we’re doing,” McBride said. “This was our first time out. We were inexperienced. Highly inexperienced. We got 6,000 signatures with a grassroots effort. This time, we’ll have more time to get more information to the people.”

City elections officials last week said McBride’s group had turned in 5,899 signatures, but that only 3,283 were valid.

In a renewed recall effort, McBride said that once again, “We’re not going to take any money.” A moment later, he said, “That could change. But, right now, we’re not.”

He described the $454 in non-monetary contributions in his group’s report filed Tuesday as “printing, food, people donated different pieces of what we needed, stuff like that.”

McBride added, “We had $450. He had $35,000.”

Upon learning of McBride’s vow to continue with renewed recall effort, Easley uttered a sarcastic “Whoopee,” then became serious.

“I imagine the way the law’s written, this is not something that will ever be over,” said Easley. “They already have a record of not being able to make this happen, but if they want to keep it going, then I am happy to continue to talk to voters, sharing the message.

“We really have made some progress, and we’re continuing to make progress. Making progress with quality schools is something I can defend until I am no longer on the board. And I am confident they will not win.”

Easley has been criticized by his opponents for taking financial support from well outside his district. In his latest finance report, the single largest contribution is $4,000 from Joseph Bridy, a partner at Hamlin Capital Management in New York. Bridy has appeared before state education associations to present on the topic of infrastructures and facilities financing.

Kent Thiry, chairman and CEO of Denver-based DaVita Inc., pitched in $1,000 to Easley’s campaign. DaVita is one of the largest providers of kidney dialysis treatment in the United States.

Also among Easley’s contributors is Cynthia Abramson, who gave $250. She is a CEO at the Denver Scholarship Foundation and she hired Easley, who is the foundation’s deputy director.

The central complaint by recall advocates against Easley in their initial recall effort was that Easley’s job at the foundation represented a conflict of interest for his position as a DPS school board member. Easley insisted that it posed no conflict, and he has been joined in that opinion by DPS legal counsel.

Easley draws from national field

Easley made no apologies Wednesday for accepting donations from outside his district – or outside Colorado, for that matter.

“If you look at the contributions that I had when I originally campaigned in 2009, you’ll note that a lot of my contributors were not from Denver. A lot of it was from people I know nationally, who have faith in me as someone who is always going to fight for education equity,” Easley said

“I have a national network. I worked in D.C., for 11 years” at the Council for Opportunity in Education. He added, “If it wasn’t for laws that say you can’t accept donations from other countries, I’m quite confident that I would have had people from other countries contributing, because of my integrity and my commitment to educational equity.”

Easley said he has consulted with an attorney to determine whether he can use his remaining campaign funds to hire staff to assist in healing the rifts stemming from the failed recall effort, and that he has not received an answer on that yet. If the answer is no, he plans to donate the money to a charity.

Meanwhile, he expressed surprise that McBride’s group once again showed no monetary contributions or expenditures.

“I want to know how that’s possible,” he said.  “Because I have seen a full box of at least 500 to 1,000 (pro-recall) fliers, when I was at East (High School) for an event. I’m curious to know how that’s possible, with no money.”

McBride has said any expenditures by recall advocates have been small personal payments out of supporters’ pockets. A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office stated previously that if those do not exceed $200, they do not need to be reported.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Andrew Cole said that office would have no concerns about an issue committee filing consecutive reports showing no activity.

“It doesn’t matter to us whether they’re raising or spending, as long as they’re accurately reporting. That’s what’s important. We’d rather someone file a report with no activity, than not file at all,” Cole said.

call out

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.”