The largest and most diverse district in DPS, northeast Denver, was without a school board representative from mid-February to late April. Only twice in the past ten years have members been appointed by the board rather than elected by voters.
The District 4 seat, for the second time, is being filled through an appointment process. But the vetting process went awry and Acting Superintendent Susanna Cordova called a mea culpa press conference to apologize and say, “DPS will work hard to rebuild trust with our board, with our community, and especially with families in NE Denver.”
District 4 is a fast growing and geographically spread-out district that goes from Five Points to Green Valley Ranch—some old neighborhoods rich in Denver history and some of the newest neighborhoods in the city. It includes Park Hill north of Montview and all of Stapleton. Since this paper went to press before the appointee was announced, we asked Board President Anne Rowe, whose job it is to appoint the replacement, to talk about the qualities constituents should expect to see in their new board member. When the new representative is announced, the Front Porch will post an interview on our website.
The open position for the volunteer job had 20 applicants. Two public meetings were held, the first to introduce all 20 candidates, the second to introduce the ten finalists.
The board asked DPS staff to do a background check on the finalists. In that process, DPS asked the finalists to notify them of any incidents in their past that might embarrass the board. DPS says MiDian Holmes reported an incident when her two-year-old got out the door while she was in the shower. A neighbor found her and the police picked up the child. Holmes said she couldn’t afford an attorney and pled guilty to neglecting her daughter. She was sentenced to parenting classes, which she completed. She said she wanted to put the incident behind her.
Holmes received the most votes, four of six, and the board felt that incident did not preclude her from serving—they announced her appointment.
However, after the announcement, Chalkbeat and other news organizations obtained court records that showed a second incident in which police responded to a 911 call from Holmes’ home. They found her three children, 7,6 and 2 years old at the time, alone for the entire day while Holmes was at work. In that case she pled guilty to misdemeanor child abuse resulting in no injury.
Cordova, at her press conference said, “We did initiate background checks but we did not do a thorough job. Moving forward we’re creating a series of protocols to follow when there is a board vacancy … we are using a process that includes checks of civil and criminal history, education and employment verification, and we’re following up as much as possible with original documents.”
When the second conviction came to light, Holmes withdrew. State law gives the board 60 days to choose a successor and after that the president of the board makes the appointment. Rowe says these are the qualities she’s looking for: “A board representative needs to engage with all the different communities and neighborhoods and do a good job of listening, representing their constituents, and focusing on what’s in the best interest of the students throughout DPS as well as in District 4. I think it is an obligation to really know your communities so you can articulate what’s coming from your communities and what’s happening in your schools.”
When former board member Landri Taylor resigned, he told the Front Porch his family lived with the impact of the substandard education his children had as a result of attending their neighborhood school that was primarily children of color. He felt that personal experience enabled him to add an important perspective to the DPS Board.
Rowe says the new representative “needs to engage deeply with those communities (of color) and understand from those communities where they’re coming from and have real life experiences in them. We absolutely want a diverse board. Not only do we want to have a diverse board, we should.”
She added, “I feel a deep obligation to the citizens of district 4 and it’s very unfortunate that they’re in the current environment they are, so I want to do this (fill the vacancy) as soon as it can be done in a very thoughtful manner.”