In-fighting among Denver School Board members is intensifying, just a week before students in the state's largest school district head back to school. A board meeting last week to talk about "team building" devolved into an insult-trading, name-calling blowup.
"I want to know that you know what you did was wrong and that you apologize for it and that you're not going to do it again," Vice Chair Tay Anderson told Chair Sochi Gaytan.
"I'm not apologizing for exposing your misogyny and your sexism," quipped Gaytan.
The tension comes after months of animosity on the board that came to a head in June when Gaytan did an interview with Westword in which she accused Anderson and Board Member Scott Esserman of a secret coup attempt after she accused them of misconduct.
The district hired mediators to help facilitate a cease-fire at a day-long retreat. It didn't work. Gaytan suggested they do more one-on-one mediated meetings.
"I'm done. I'm so done. I'm really hurt," said Anderson.
Nicholas Martinez with Transform Education Now was incensed that board members were quibbling over personal conflicts one week before test scores were set to be released.
"Not once has there been a conversation about what's best for kids. This is just adult politics at its absolute worst," lamented Martinez.
Martinez says even before COVID, most students in the district couldn't read or write at grade level. He says the test scores will likely show significant COVID learning loss.
"You don't get 12th grade over again. You don't get third grade over again. Every day is precious and every school year is precious and we are wasting it. I think it's time for our elected leaders to lead, to really sit down and put their personal problems aside and focus on why you were elected. We need people to show up for students and if you can't do that, we need new people," Martinez said.
While he doesn't like recalls because they are so disruptive, Martinez says he isn't ruling anything out.
"My hope is that we don't have to do anything drastic. My hope is that everybody gets a real wake-up call and says kids are suffering, kids are struggling, let's change this, let's really double down and identify it. If not, I don't think any options are off the table," he said.
One of the board's mediators also warned members that their clashes come at a great cost to kids.
"The community describes you as dysfunctional. Students describe you as dysfunctional. This is harmful, it's damaging and the resulting outcomes aren't going to get any better," they said.
The mediator told the board that organizational leaders have told him some donors are no longer giving money to DPS programs because of the board's dysfunction.
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