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A less-than-unanimous board sworn in at Colorado’s largest school district

Author: Dan Njegomir - November 28, 2017 - Updated: November 28, 2017

Newly sworn-in Denver Public Schools board members, from left, Jennifer Bacon, Carrie Olson, Angela Cobián and Barbara O’Brien. (

It had been smooth sailing for the nationally recognized education-reform agenda at Denver Public Schools, thanks to a more or less unified school board. The district, under the leadership of Superintendent (and reformer-in-chief) Tom Boasberg, has been charging ahead with its years-long efforts at expanding educational options like innovation schools and charter schools.

It all hit a speed bump Nov. 7, when two board incumbents, Rachele Espiritu and Mike Johnson, lost their seats to challengers who were part of a backlash at the reform movement. That development amounted to “a return to differences of opinion on the Denver school board,” as education-news site Chalkbeat Colorado put it in a headline. Undoubtedly it’ll mean more debate on various initiatives at board meetings, but will it also lead to a retrenchment in DPS’s support for school choice and education reform?

This week, the district formally swore in the new board members — including a third newcomer, Angela Cobián, who aligns with the majority’s reform agenda — along with returning board member Barbara O’Brien. O’Brien, the board’s vice chair, is a Denver Democratic celeb and former Colorado lieutenant governor who long has championed education reform.

Three of the DPS board’s seven members did not face re-election Nov. 7: board President Anne Rowe, Lisa Flores and Happy Haynes.

Here’s more — via a DPS press release — about the members sworn in Monday:

Jennifer Bacon taught fifth-grade students in New Orleans, practiced law with the AARP Legal Counsel in Washington, DC and was the board chair of the parent organizing group Padres y Jovenes Unidos in Denver.

Angela Cobián taught second- and third-grade literacy for English Language Learners (ELA-S) in Denver Public Schools. Additionally, she is a community organizer with Together Colorado.

Barbara O’Brien was the Colorado lieutenant governor from 2007 to 2011 and has been a member of the Board of Education since 2013. Before serving as the state’s lieutenant governor, she was president of the Colorado Children’s Campaign and helped create the Colorado Preschool Program for at-risk kids.

Carrie Olson has been a teacher in DPS for 33 years. She currently teaches an advisory class along with social studies in Spanish and English Language Development at DPS’ West Leadership Academy. To fulfill her role on the Denver Public Schools Board, Olson is stepping down from her teaching position effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.