Students are safely spaced in a kindergarten class, May 18 at Aurora Quest K-8. Classrooms may look different than they did last year. Masks will not be required for students in APS and Cherry Creek Schools District has yet to release their plan, as of this publication. Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

AURORA | Six candidates are running for two seats on the Cherry Creek School District board of education, and seven candidates are running for four seats on the Aurora Public Schools board of education.

The school board elections will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Each chosen candidate will serve a four-year term. The APS board is at-large, the Cherry Creek board is by district.

In APS, incumbents Debbie Gerkin and Marques Ivey have filed a notice of intent to run. The other candidates are Michael Carter, Christy Cummings, Tramaine Duncan, Anne Keke and Danielle Tomwing. 

Gerkin is a former APS teacher and principal. Equity in the classroom, increasing outreach to parents and community members and more focus on social-emotional learning are some of her main priorities, according to her campaign website.

Ivey is an attorney and currently serves as secretary on the school board. Boosting student achievement and improving teacher recruitment and retainment are two of his top priorities, according to his campaign website.

Duncan is a middle school teacher at APS and lists equity, building community trust and helping students succeed in and out of the classroom as his top priorities.

Keke is a teacher with a doctorate in criminal justice. Her campaign website lists reversing pandemic learning loss, recruiting more teachers of color and combating the school-to-prison pipeline as some of her main issues. She has been endorsed by state Sen. Janet Buckner.

Information about Carter, Cummings and Tomwing could not immediately be confirmed. A Danielle Tomwing is listed as board chair of Vanguard Classical School.

Keke and Duncan have raised the most money so far, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday with the secretary of state’s office. Keke has raised $12,000 and spent $2,000, Duncan has raised $4,000 and spent $2,800.

Gerkin has raised $2,500 and spent $400, Ivey has $325 and has not spent any funds. Tomwing has not received or spent any money. Carter and Cummings have not submitted any financial information.

In Cherry Creek, two board of education seats are up. For District D, Jennifer Gibbons, Schumé Navarro and incumbent Kelly Bates have filed a notice of intent to run. In District E, Kristin Allan, Bill Leach and Jason Lester have filed a notice of intent to run.

An additional candidate, Jerry Jones, has submitted election paperwork to the secretary of state’s office for District D. However, he has not submitted a notice of intent to the district and is therefore not an official candidate, Cherry Creek spokesperson Abbe Smith told the Sentinel.

Gibbons is the founder of Heritage Heights Academy charter school in Centennial, and is “concerned about what has been happening in our District with Board Leadership and think that we need a stronger voice that better represents kids and the community,” according to her campaign website. Some of her top priorities are listed as reversing pandemic learning loss, improving school safety and increasing board transparency.

Navarro is a Cherry Creek High School graduate who operates a hair and makeup salon, and is the secretary of the Arapahoe County GOP. She has spoken out against critical race theory and mask mandates at several school board meetings, and lists parental choice as one of her main priorities.

Bates is a former childcare director and preschool teacher, and was a longtime volunteer in the district before being elected in 2017. She has been endorsed by former superintendent Scott Siegfried and board president Karen Fisher. According to her campaign website she is committed to “ensuring each child is healthy, safe, supported, engaged and challenged” in a second term.

Allan is an attorney and serves as the chairperson of Cherry Creek’s district accountability committee. Her website lists her two main priorities as improving the teacher shortage by increasing salaries and boosting per-pupil funding for students. She has been endorsed by Congressman Jason Crow and a number of district figures.

Leach works for the Colorado Benefits Management System and was formerly a county commissioner in Montana. His website says he wants to “preserve and build on the district’s legacy of educational excellence” and improve board transparency.

Lester is a social worker who currently works as a director at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and is an adjunct at Denver University’s school of social work. He wants Cherry Creek to have the highest recruitment and retention rate in Colorado and the highest teacher compensation, according to his campaign website.

The Cherry Creek Education Association is recommending Bates and Allan for the seats.

“They are very student-centered, and very educator focused too,” CCEA president Kasey Ellis told the Sentinel of the two candidates.

Allan and Bates have raised the most money according to campaign finance reports. Allan has raised $36,000 and spent $11,000, Bates has raised $13,000 and spent $5,000. Gibbons currently has $5,000 and Leach $10,000, neither have spent money so far. Navarro has not received or spent any money, Lester has not submitted any financial information.

Cherry Creek will have a series of six forums for community members to meet the candidates. The forums are scheduled for:

-6:30 Tuesday, Sept. 14 in the Overland High School auditorium

-6:30 Tuesday, Sept. 21 in the Eaglecrest High School auditorium 

-6:30 Wednesday, Sept. 22 in the Cherry Creek High School auditorium

-6:30 Tuesday, Sept. 28 in the Grandview High School auditorium

-6:30 Thursday, Sept. 30 in the Smoky Hill High School auditorium

-6:30 Thursday, Oct. 7 in the Cherokee Trail High School auditorium 

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