APS school board candidates reveal similarities in trying to underscore differences at candidate forum

October 10, 2017

AURORA| The full slate of candidates vying for the four open seats on the Aurora Public School Board made their case at a town hall Thursday night that resulted in most candidates revealing their alliances and similarities rather than any substantive distinctions among themselves.

Each candidate spoke of their own unique experiences and background and how it related to the board. But there wasn’t much room between candidates when it came out major issues like supporting teachers, wanting to fight for increased funding for the district and the importance of increasing performance of schools in the district.

Only one incumbent is running for re-election: Barbara Yamrick. Board President Amber Drevon and embattled board member Eric Nelson have both decided not to run for re-election. After 12 years, Director JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin came up against term limits.

Besides Yamrick,  candidates are Kyla Alysia Armstrong-Romero, who runs a juvenile pretrial program in Denver, Jane Barber, who previously served on the APS board, Kevin Cox, a tractor trailer driver, Debra Gerkin, a former teacher and principal in the APS system, Marques Ivey, a trial lawyer, Miguel In Suk Lovato, a senior grant program officer with the nonprofit Daniels Fund, Gail Pough, a code enforcement officer with the city of Aurora and a member of the nonprofit Together Colorado, and Lea Steed, outreach coordinator for Great Education Colorado.

The format of the town hall prevented candidates from weighing in on each question. But the vast majority of the audience question centered around improving school performance, equality of opportunities for minority students and how to support and recruit teachers into the district.

While school choice came up during the question and answer period with their audience, no one sounded the bell for increasing charter schools in the district. Instead while several candidates voiced support for parents being able to make the right choice for their kids, the main focus of comments was making APS schools so good that neighborhood schools became the first option for families.

The only issue of any controversy was during a response from Barber on a question about what candidates would do to increase the diversity of teachers in the district to better reflect the makeup of the student population. Barber began speaking about the need to draw in future teachers through stipends and grants, especially for students in the APS system. But she seemed to go off the rails when diving into the issue further.

“We need to go to schools that educate minority students like Adams State, (they) educate many, many Spanish-American, Latino teachers and we need to bring them here,” Barber said. “We need to go to the South. That’s probably racist but we need to bring black people from the South to Aurora.”

The audience at the event, which was cosponsored by the NAACP, immediately reacted to the language Barber used in her comments. Later after the town hall finished, Barber said she messed up in trying to convey her point.

“I knew I screwed that up,” Barber said. “I was trying to say we need to go to universities outside of the area to find teachers that better reflect the diversity of APS’ students.”