Who Is In Charge

Big fundraising in DPS campaign

Together for Denver’s Schools, the committee supporting the proposed Denver Public Schools bond issue and operating tax increase, listed contributions of $312,420 in the most recent reporting period, with an additional $121,000 in large gifts reported after that.

Election 2012 LogoAn opposition group, No on Denver 3B Bond, has raised $1,590.

District voters will decide a $49 million operating increase, on the ballot as measure 3A, and the $466 million bond issue, measure 3B.

Elsewhere around the metro area, more than $420,000 has been raised in campaigns to pass tax proposals in the Aurora, Cherry Creek and Jeffco school districts.

Together for Denver’s Schools registered with the secretary of state’s office in late July and raised contributions quickly in the July 22 to Oct. 11 reporting period. But the committee also has garnered substantial large gifts since Oct. 11. In the last 30 days before an election, campaign committees are required to file major contribution reports on gifts of $1,000 or more within 24 hours of receipt.

Donations to Together for Denver’s Schools include numerous five-figure contributions, many from real estate and construction companies.

Forest City, developer of Stapleton, gave $50,000, as did Oakwood Homes.

Other large donors included PCL Construction at $5,000, CDL Homes of Westminster with $10,000, Infinity Communities of Greenwood Village at $5,000, the Texas-based Weekley Group of Companies at $10,000, KB Homes with $10,000 and New Town Builders of Denver at $10,000.

Among other large corporate donors were DaVita, the kidney dialysis firm at $25,000, the Benson Mineral Group, which gave $10,000, and the Gary-Williams Co., an energy firm that is the major funder of the Piton Foundation, which in turn is a significant contributor to education initiatives. It gave $25,000. Both of the latter donors have been active in past DPS ballot issues and board campaigns.

Four financial firms RBC Capital Markets, George K. Baum, Piper Jaffrey and Stifel Nicolaus gave contributions of $10,000 each.

The Colorado Education Association gave $7,000 while the Denver Classroom Teachers Association gave $6,000 in non-monetary support.

Arkansas resident Ben Walton of the Walmart family gave $25,000. Other large individual donors were oilman Ron Williams, who gave $10,000, and Bernadette Marquez, who donated $25,000. Marquez and her husband, Tim, have their own foundation and have been major donors to educational causes, including the Denver Scholarship Foundation. Tim Marquez is in the energy business.

Other individual donors of note include DPS board members Jeanne Kaplan at $500, Happy Haynes at $300 and Nate Easley at $200. Superintendent Tom Boasberg donated $1,000. Former board members Elaine Gantz Berman gave $1,000, Les Woodward donated $500 and Theresa Pena gave $100.

The committee spent $245,475 during the reporting period. Major expenses included about $100,000 to ShowPony, a Seattle advertising firm, and about $58,000 for printing. The committee also spent $29,000 with the Denver office of Strategies 360, a campaign consulting firm. The local office is headed by consultant Tyler Chaffee, who managed the 2007 campaign that led to passage of the $550 million Better Denver Bond program, which provides funding for city infrastructure projects.

The No on Denver 3B Bond committee had a handful of individual donors. The largest amount of money, $500, was given by DPS board member Arturo Jimenez, who has been actively campaigning against the bond but supports the operating increase.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”