Scandal Ridden Anderson Drops School Board Reelection Bid; DPS Releases Final Safety Plan Bringing Armed Police Back
by Glen Richardson
Shootings, safety, and a bungling-inept school board pulled news of violence on Denver’s school campuses onto the front page of the nation’s largest mailed circulation newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.
The article by a trio of Dow Jones reporters — with a two-thirds page jump and five photos — recounted the 2020 Denver School Board removal of 17 Denver Police Officers from 18 middle and high schools, followed by this April’s East High campus shootings. The June 27th article detailed East’s student march to the Capitol, and the plea by East High teachers for the School Board, “to do something.” The Journal then recounts the harshly written reply by School Board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson, “School police aren’t coming back to East or any campus.”
The article also quoted School Superintendent Alex Marrero, and Denver Police Chief Ron Thomas, concluding with the School Board’s decision one-week later to return police to campuses.
The article didn’t, however, reveal that the school board meeting was closed to the public and press. A violation of the Colorado Open Meetings Law, it was yet another example of the board’s recklessness. Not as foolish, however, as the board’s decision to
kick cops off campuses while keeping high-risk kids in class.
Chronicle readers will recall that the East High student shooter was already on probation for a prior gun charge, and was being frisked for weapons when he shot the two administrators.
Equally alarming, neither the School Board or the Denver Public School system have any idea how many kids like the East High shooter will return to class with criminal records when fall classes begin August 22. Neither tracks them.
Lightning Bolt Leaving
With Denver police beginning to restore security in DPS schools, Vice President Anderson is dropping his reelection bid, brightening the beginning of the fall school term this month.
A lightning rod criticized for infighting, his exit will create a sudden, meaningful change to the board’s dynamics. He was a part of the historic 2019 school board flip, backed by the teacher’s union. A poll taken in April revealed that just 9% planned to vote for Anderson. More than half said it was “time for someone new.”
Parents and teachers are optimistic that new members will restore credibility to the DPS Board. The two announced candidates seeking Anderson’s spot suggest the change will rebuild and restore reliability and integrity. They are: East High grad Kwame Spearman, who ran for mayor, and is CEO of Tattered Cover, who says he would focus on school safety and educational excellence; and Security Consultant Paul Ballenger, a Denver father who served in the military, and is concerned about school safety. Former East High principal John Youngquist reportedly is considering a run, but hasn’t yet decided.
Two board members, Charmaine Lindsay and Scott Baldermann, are up for reelection. Lindsay — representing District 5 — was appointed to fill a vacancy in 2022. When appointed Lindsay said she wouldn’t seek another term.
Baldermann — who represents District 1 and was elected in 2019 — is running for reelection. He proposed and supported bringing police officers back to Denver schools. The change, opposed by
Anderson, won by a 4-3 vote. Baldermann supports smaller class sizes, flexibility, and backing for teachers.
Credit for bringing police officers back to schools in Denver was driven by parents who mobilized after the shootings. Remember, East High student Luis Garcia, 16, was also shot near the East campus back in February.
Reelection In 2025
The four other school board members will be up for reelection in November 2025. Xóchitl Gaytán who represents District 2 is the current board president. She was elected in 2021.
The other board members, Olson, Quattlebaum, and Esserman, were the trio that most often allowed Anderson’s antics to constantly slide, according to critics, by repeatedly offering excuses encouraging Anderson’s shifty, scheming behavior.
Scott Esserman is an at-large member elected in 2021; Carrie Olson represents District 3 and was elected in 2017 and re-elected in 2021; and Michelle Quattlebaum represents District 4 and was elected in 2021.
Final Safety Plan
DPS’s final school safety plan has armed police officers returning to Denver schools.
The final version made public July 1st by Denver School Superintendent Alex Marrero, returns officers to the same 13 large high schools — including East High School — where police were re-stationed this spring. The district is still considering school resource officers or SRO’s at secondary schools.
Unlike previous policy, Marrero will now have the power to remove officers who do not follow best practices. Denver’s Police Department will be required to monitor citations and arrests, requiring “corrective action” if citations disproportionately affect marginalized groups. Initial plan details do not specify the number of officers at each school or their exact responsibilities.
Seeking Common Roles
During the plan’s development (July 1 was third-final), Marrero has pursued a collaborative approach with the Denver Police Department. The final version has the DPD developing strategies and standards, though that likely hinges on the mayoral transition.
The superintendent has constantly indicated that guns and violence are not just a DPS problem but a “city problem.” With little or no consequences, Denver has been dealing with both since his arrival, he says. Swiftly adding, “And I’m sure before that.” DPS hopes a new memo of understanding can be developed between Mayor-elect Mike Johnston and DPD Chief Ron Thomas, albeit thus far Johnston has remained unresponsive.
The plan calls for added security support when conducting student searches, plus a safety audit of school building. A weapons detection system plan will be considered following “extensive community engagement.” Finally, the plan provides for three mental health screenings of students during the school year.