Joyce Rankin, a former teacher and principal from Carbondale, was selected Saturday to fill the vacant 3rd District seat on the State Board of Education.

She won the appointment after a 13-member Republican Party vacancy committee made the choice from among eight candidates.

Rankin will take the seat vacated by SBE chair Marcia Neal of Grand Junction, who resigned earlier this summer, citing board dysfunction and personal health issues (see story).

She has served recently as an aide to her husband, Republican Rep. Bob Rankin, who’s a member of the Joint Budget Committee. Last session Rep. Rankin was among backers of an unsuccessful attempt to launch a legislative study of the school finance system.

Two other board members have close legislative ties. Republican Debora Scheffel of Parker is the sister of Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel. Republican member Steve Durham of Colorado Springs is a lobbyist and a former member of both the House and Senate.

The board, which gained two new members at the start of the year, has had some tense discussions over the last several months on issues such as testing, parent exam opt outs, a state student health survey and student data privacy. Some board members feel that the body’s previous patterns of decorum and procedure have frayed this year. (Learn more about the State Board’s tumultuous spring in this archive of Chalkbeat stories.)

Rep. Bob Rankin and Joyce Rankin
Rep. Bob Rankin and Joyce Rankin

The board will meet Wednesday and will elect a new chair. Most observers expect Durham to be elected chair. The body has a 4-3 GOP majority.

A key job for the board will be selection of a new education commissioner to replace Robert Hammond, who retired earlier this year. The board selected a search firm just last week to find candidates (see story).

State law requires that a vacant elected office be filled by a committee made up of members of the same political party as the person who resigned. Rankin will have to run for the seat in the November 2016 general election and has indicated she will do so.

The vacant seat drew wide interest from candidates across the sprawling, 29-county district, which covers much of the Western Slope plus Pueblo and the San Luis Valley.

The other candidates included:

  • Jake Aubert, principal of Holy Family Catholic High School in Grand Junction
  • Andy Burns of Durango, director of admissions at Fort Lewis College and a member of the Durango school board
  • Roger Good, a businessman who serves on the Steamboat Springs school board
  • Debbie Rose, a Beulah businesswoman who formerly served on the Pueblo 70 school board
  • Barbara Ann Smith, a retired teacher from Grand Junction who lost to Neal in the 2014 primary for the State Board seat
  • Anita Stapleton, an anti-Common Core activist from Pueblo
  • Bryan Whiting of Garfield County, a recently retired high school teacher who worked for 33 years at Glenwood Springs High School

Michael Lobato, a San Luis Valley rancher and member of the Center School board, applied for the post but withdrew before the vacancy committee met.