state of the union

Challengers claim victories in Denver teachers union elections, race for president heading for recount

Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association

A slate of progressive, social justice-oriented candidates won a majority of seats up for grabs in the Denver teachers union election, and the race for president is headed for a recount, according to results released to union members Friday.

Denver Classroom Teachers Association president Henry Roman edged challenger Tommie Shimrock, the leader of the slate, 906 to 857, according to an email from the union obtained by Chalkbeat.

The margin is within the 3 percent threshold for an automatic recount, which will be held after Denver Public Schools returns from spring break April 3, the email said.

Christina Medina, a northwest Denver elementary school teacher, defeated incumbent vice president Lynne Valencia-Hernández, 922 to 809.

In all, members of the progressive slate — part of a new caucus within the union — took four of the seven seats in play. Along with the top two posts, the elections were for board of director seats representing southwest, northwest and northeast Denver.

Union representatives and the candidates did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

While mixed, the results are a boost for members of the caucus, who view their efforts as part of a national movement to reinvigorate teachers unions, many of which have experienced flat or declining membership.

Roman, Valencia-Hernández and their allies ran on a platform that the union has been making progress in better engaging members, challenging Denver Public Schools in court and turning out large numbers for contract bargaining.

Shimrock, Medina and their peers portrayed the status quo as ineffective in battling a “corporatist” district agenda, unsuccessful in influencing school board elections and inadequate in addressing broader social justice issues facing the community.

Here are the full results, according to the union email. Members of the progressive slate are designated with an “s.”

PRESIDENT

Henry Roman: 906
Tommie Shimrock (s): 857

VICE PRESIDENT

Christina Medina (s): 922
Lynne Valencia-Hernandez: 809

SW BOARD OF DIRECTORS (one opening)
Jocelyn Palomino: 192
Marguerite Finnegan (s): 174
Janell Martinez: 66

NW BOARD OF DIRECTORS (three openings)

Hipolito (Polo) Garcia (s): 246
Kris Bethscheider: 177
Kate Tynan-Ridgeway (s): 170
Brianna Myers: 152
Terrilyn Hagerty: 135

NE BOARD OF DIRECTORS (one opening)

Tiffany Choi (s): 271
Bill Weisberger: 203

seizing the moment

On first day for most Denver schools, gubernatorial candidate Michael Johnston calls for better school funding

Former state Sen. Michael Johnston's children listen to him announce his gubernatorial bid. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

Colorado Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Johnston sent his son Emmett back to school Monday — and sent a message to voters at the same time about one of his longtime causes.

On the first day of school for most Denver students, Johnston recorded a video of his son carting off two large cardboard boxes full of supplies. In the video posted to Twitter, the former state senator called it another example of how Colorado is shortchanging its public schools.  

“People often ask what does it mean to have cuts to the statewide budget to education,” he said.  “Well it means a lot of those bills get passed on to parents and to kids who have to bring their own paper towels, their own wipes, their own crayons, their own boxes.”

Johnston, a national figure in the education reform movement, led an unsuccessful push to increase taxes for schools in 2013.

“We count ourselves lucky,” Johnston said in the video, adding that knows many families in Denver often feel the pinch of buying new school supplies and fees. “We think the state has an obligation to do better.”

Though the governor’s race is in its early stages, back-to-school season is a logical time for candidates to take out education positions. Earlier Monday, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who is also running, released an online ad spotlighting his pledge to expand full-day kindergarten and preschool.

sending a message

Memphis school board leader wants to declare that ‘all are welcome here’

PHOTO: Marcus Villa/Latino Memphis
Immigrant students display their career aspirations during a visit to the State Capitol in March to support an unsuccessful bill that would have extended in-state tuition to them.

A school board member wants Shelby County Schools to send a unified message to immigrant students and parents: “You are safe in our schools.”

Teresa Jones will ask the board Tuesday to officially go on the record about protections for undocumented students in the wake of this summer’s federal immigration arrests in Memphis by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“There are speculations among parents of, ‘Should I send my child to school?’” she said Monday about the impetus for her proposal. “I want the board to take a formal stand.” 

The resolution backs up the district’s current policy of protecting student privacy and restricting the release of confidential information about immigration status to immigration enforcement agencies.

It also asks the superintendent to elevate partnerships with community-based organizations aimed at supporting families impacted by immigration raids.

If the resolution is approved, Shelby County’s school board would join elected school officials across the nation who have spoken out about President Donald Trump’s crackdown on people who have entered the United States illegally. Last fall after Trump’s election, Nashville school board members took a similar stand.

Memphis school officials sought to assure parents of the district’s policy earlier this month when the new school year opened.

Shelby County is now home to approximately 57,000 Hispanics, and 14 percent of the district’s student population is Hispanic.

Teresa Jones

The resolution by Jones, who is an attorney, cites the 1982 Texas court case Plyler v. Doe, which established that a public school district cannot deny children access to education based on their immigration status.

She said a school board vote would send a strong message to Shelby County and across the nation.

“An individual speaking is just opinion,” Jones said. “But when we have a resolution, that speaks for the entire board. It’s a different level of … commitment to our students.”

Kevin Woods, another board member, said he’ll back the position wholeheartedly.

It makes “a statement loud and clear to families of our immigrant population that they are welcome at our schools, we want them there and they are members of our communities,” he said.