As the November 2021 election nears, voters will be listening to many candidates who hope to lead and shape the future of Denver Public Schools — Colorado’s largest school district.  The latest Denver Public Schools (DPS) School Board Candidate Forum was held Tuesday, October 12, where candidates discussed and debated school choice issues, the role of charter schools within DPS, and their particular qualifications.

DPS Board of Education members are elected to four-year terms and this year’s Board will oversee a relatively new DPS superintendent, implement a new strategic plan for the district, oversee school safety, and determine whether to close or consolidate schools as student enrollment continues to fall.

Presented by the African Leadership Group (ALG) and the Colorado League of Charter Schools, the forum was hosted at the Girls Athletic Leadership School (GALS), a charter school in Denver’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Dan Schaller, President of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, welcomed the audience to the event and introduced the candidates and other participants.

Forum Moderator Papa Dia, founder and CEO of the African Leadership Group, asked candidates several questions presented from in-person and online participants. ALG is an established Colorado nonprofit of 15 years created to serve the region’s African immigrant community.

Denver Public Schools serves more than 92,000 students within a district comprised of 206 schools. Twelve candidates are running for four seats on the seven-member school board in the Nov. 2, 2021 election. Five of the Board of Education directors represent districts within Denver and two represent Denver at large.

Among the candidates in alphabetical order are: Marla Benavides, Mike DeGuire, Scott Esserman, Gene Fashaw, Xochitl Gaytan, Vernon Jones Jr., (Kristen Seidel sat in for Carrie Olson), Michelle Quattlebaum, Jane Shirley, Jose Silva, Karolina Villagrana, and Nicky Yollick.

At-Large: Maria Benavides, Scott Esserman, Vernon Jones Jr., Jane Shirley, Nicky Yollick
District 2: Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán, Karolina Villagrana
District 3: Mike DeGuire, Carrie Olson
District 4: Gene Fashaw, Michelle Quattlebaum, Jose Silva

Among the questions asked were regarding school choice and whether charter schools have had a positive impact on education in Denver.

Denver Public Schools is among the most diverse districts in the state of Colorado. About 52% of students are Hispanic, 25% are white, 14% are Black, and 3% are Asian. More than 60% qualify for subsidized meals and 36% are learning English as a second language.

The district’s annual budget is approximately $1.2 billion with 15,000 employees. To learn more about DPS please visit Information regarding the Colorado League of Charter Schools can be found at and African Leadership Group of Denver can be found at

Blacktie Colorado
Blacktie Colorado