ACCUSE BOARD PRESIDENT MARY SEAWELL OF IGNORING LATINO CONCERNS
Denver – Latino community members will hold a press conference on Tuesday, February 12th at 5:15pm at Escuela Tlatelolco (2949 Federal Blvd Denver, CO 80211), a school with a history of educating Latino students, to protest the lack of Latino finalists for consideration for the Denver Public Schools (DPS) District 4 Board of Education (BOE) vacancy. All but one of the nine finalists are African American, even though the majority of DPS students and families in Northeast and Far Northeast are Latino.
The Colorado Latino Forum (CLF) Denver Metro Chapter, whose mission is to increase the political, social, educational and economic strength of Latinas and Latinos, issued an open letter to DPS Board President Mary Seawell on February 5th asking “Why Aren’t Any Latinos Being Considered for the Region 4 Vacancy?” Seawell, who has not responded to the letter, instead is pushing forward with her original plan of interviewing no Latino candidates.
One highly qualified but rejected Latina candidate was Dr. Barbara Medina who was the Assistant Commissioner for Innovation and Transformation at the Colorado Department of Education where she directed the Language, Culture and Equity Unit. Dr. Medina also oversaw a Grant under the English Language Proficiency Act (ELPA), and was the Chair of the Department of Teacher Education at Adams State College where she still holds an appointment as Professor. The remaining two Latino applicants, Tim Camarillo and Jesus Escarcega, both have backgrounds in education and government relations, in addition to receiving numerous commendations for their public service.
Lisa Calderón, Co-Chair of the CLF Denver Metro chapter asserts that “While we do not believe that only Latino representatives can effectively serve Latino students, history has informed us all that a critical component of self-determination is fair representation and the ability to speak from our own lived experiences.” Calderon, who identifies as an African American Latina, challenges the notion that Region 4 is a “Black seat” reserved for Black male leadership succession. “While it is tragic that many African Americans have been economically pushed out and priced out of Denver, it is equally unjust that Latinos, the overwhelming majority of DPS students in District 4, do not have an opportunity to have a Board representative that reflects their community.” Of the nine finalists, most do not have any experience working as educators with Latino students.
Calderón states that Landri Taylor, a Stapleton resident who was a proponent of the Montbello High School shut-down, is the rumored heir apparent for Easley’s seat even though there are more qualified candidates in the pool who have better relationships working with Latino parents. Another concern is that the BOE has a disproportionate representation of Stapleton residents “which means that Latino neighborhoods are perpetually under-represented.”
Rudy Gonzales, co-leader of CLF-Denver and a long-time Civil Rights activist whose family was among the first to integrate the Park Hill neighborhood, is frustrated by the blatant disregard of qualified Latino applicants and lack of community input. “It is an insult to our community that DPS Board President Mary Seawell doesn’t even have the courtesy to respond to our letter other than to say that she is moving forward with the candidates she believes are the most qualified. There might as well be a sign at board meetings declaring, ‘Latinos need not apply.’”
In her interview with EdNews Colorado, President Seawell dismissively responded to CLF-Denver’s concerns by declaring, “For me, the three people I put forward were the ones I wanted to know more about and felt could best represent District 4 based on the limited information I had.” She vowed not to change the process, although Denver voters may ultimately disagree with her since she will soon be up for re-election for her at-large seat.
Gonzales is also concerned that there hasn’t been any opportunity for public comment to question Seawell about the criteria she is using to evaluate candidates. “I agree with former Mayor Wellington Webb – let the people decide!” See denverpost.com article “Wellington Webb: Let the people pick replacements for DPS board,” .
List of the nine finalists:
- Sean Bradley, a director for the Colorado League of Charter Schools
- Fred Franko, former board member of Great Education Colorado
- Taggart Hansen, a Denver lawyer
- MiDian Holmes, chair of Stand for Children’s Denver chapter
- Antwan Jefferson, a CU-Denver educator instructor and PhD candidate
- Vernon Jones Jr., assistant principle at Manual High School
- Lisa Roy, executive director of the Timothy and Bernadette Marquez Foundation
- Mary Sam, a retired DPS teacher
- Landri Taylor, CEO of the Denver Urban League
Latino community members will hold a press conference on Tuesday, February 12th at 5:15pm
at Escuela Tlatelolco, 2949 Federal Blvd Denver, CO 80211.