Newly-elected Denver Public Schools board members outline priorities for district

A new era sweeps into the Denver Public Schools Board of Education after the election of three new members: John Youngquist, Kimberlee Sia and Marlene DeLaRosa.
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Posted at 6:44 PM, Nov 08, 2023

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story, Denver Families Action was referenced as supporting private school vouchers, which the organization tells Denver7 it does not.

DENVER — A new era sweeps into the Denver Public Schools Board of Education after the election of three new members: John Youngquist, Kimberlee Sia and Marlene DeLaRosa.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, unofficial results show Youngquist received 61.01% of the vote (75,240 votes) in the race for the DPS Director At-Large. Sia received 55.23% of the vote (12,079 votes) in District 1, while DeLaRose received 59% (13,613 votes).

"This is a fresh start. We have a lot of really important work ahead. With three new board members, that to me signals that our community was ready for some change," said Sia.

Sia said her main goals are safety and academic achievement.

After a violent last year in DPS, the school district recently launched a new safety plan for schools.

"I would like to have more frequent reports on how that implementation of that plan is going," Sia said.

She added when it comes to academics, a once-a-year benchmark with standardized test scores isn't enough.

"The district this year has implemented a new program called Data MINE (Monitoring Improvement, Navigating Excellence), where they are working with some of our higher-needs schools in terms of academics to really dig into the data and to have progress monitoring to see how quickly improvements are being made," said Sia.

Youngquist and DeLaRosa were not available for an interview Wednesday afternoon. Both released statements outlining their priorities.

DeLaRosa said in a statement she looks forward to narrowing the achievement gap and retaining quality teachers.

"I am elated that I am able to not only continue my involvement with the students of Denver but to potentially have a greater impact on even more kids.    

I know there has been a great deal of discussion about the division between pro-union and reform  ideology.  Our district has many complex and deep rooted issues.  I am committed to supporting the needs of every student and their outcomes. I don't fall into one camp or ideology, my pledge is to listen to all sides of the issue and make the best decision focusing on what is best for students. And I also want to focus on how the many supporters of the district can work collaboratively towards our common goal of student outcomes and preparing our students to live their best lives.

My commitments include: (1) narrowing the achievement gap, one idea is to concentrate on early literacy programs that meet the needs of all learners.  (2) Continued monitoring of the safety plan to ensure students and teachers feel safe.  And (3) identify efforts to support the retention of our quality teachers and recruit educators that reflect our student population"

Youngquist's focuses include school safety and mental health services.

"There are four priorities that I have represented through my campaign and efforts related to these priorities need to be initiated as quickly as possible:
  1. All students and staff members need to learn and work in school environments that feel safe and are safe
  2. The mental health services provided for students need to be redesigned to meet the needs of today's youth
  3. We need to create a transparent and strong organization to serve our schools
  4. Teaching and learning must return as the highest priority interests for our board and in our school district
Each of these priorities needs to be engaged immediately with the new Board of Education coming together to provide direction and support."

Roughly $1.9 million was spent on the DPS races. The biggest spender was a group called Better Leaders, Stronger Schools, a pro-charter school group that invested in all three winning candidates.

"Their combined experience is 60 years. They all have direct ties to DPS in different ways," said Daniel Aschkinasi, the registered agent for Better Leaders, Stronger Schools. "People can be critical of campaign spending. I get it. It's a new environment. We had an obligation to talk to voters about these candidates. It was a low information race. People were unaware of what was on their ballot, and who they were voting for. So my opportunity with the type of investment and the amount of money that we spent is to talk to people to share the story of why these [candidates] are great."

The group is largely funded by Denver Families Action, known to back candidates who support charters.

"I am a supporter of school choice. I think that families should have the opportunity to choose a school that is the best fit for their child. My focus when we're talking about school choice, though, is that we have to ensure that every school in our district is the best that it can be. For me, that is regardless of governance type," said Sia.

The new members will be sworn in on November 28.

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