Delivering for Denver — I’m running!

Dear Denverites,

Today, I was prepared to announce my candidacy for the Denver City Council At-Large seat because I believe our city needs bold leadership ready to champion the voices that are often overlooked and historically marginalized; however, it became clear to me throughout the debate on school closures that those voices still exist here in the Denver Public Schools and that is why I am officially announcing that I will seek another term on the Denver School Board. I am grateful to launch this campaign with over 100 endorsements from Educators, Parents, Community Leaders, and Elected Officials across America.

My son Khalil will be a student in Denver Public Schools in the next few years, and I want to be certain that I have done all I can to ensure that he has the best education possible alongside his peers.

As a multilingual, Afro-Latino student, Khalil should be equipped with the opportunities to ensure that he is reading and doing math at grade level. Denver Public Schools must do all we can to provide a well-rounded education that celebrates the diversity of our students. Khalil should have educators that are able to live and teach in Denver. As parents, we should have a diversity of options to pick from when deciding what school model is best for our students, and Khalil should have a school system that fulfills our commitment to our multilingual learners through the modified Consent Decree.

Khalil will be a first grader in Denver Public Schools by the time I complete my second term on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. In Denver, 26% of black students who took the CMAS were on grade level for reading. That’s less than 3 out of 10. Right now, my son is MORE likely to end 8th grade in this district being behind in reading and math, than he is to be on grade level. Our city deserves better. Our city deserves unrelenting leadership who is willing to take on the status quo and demand MORE from our schools.

I am ready for that challenge. I am ready to challenge the status quo and demand the improvements our students deserve. The future of our city depends on it.

We cannot; we will not allow our students to fall through the cracks any longer. Our kids deserve a life filled with opportunities- which is only possible if they have access to a high-quality education from Pre-K through 12th grade, regardless of school model.

I ran for the Denver School Board because, as a student in Denver Public Schools, there were many decisions that were being made about our education without the voices of those directly impacted.

On the campaign trail, I heard from our students about the issues that are most important to them and committed to them that, if elected, I would complete what I called the “For The Students 100-day Agenda.”

Students wanted protections for LGBTQIA+ youth in our schools. They got them:

  • All-gender restrooms across Denver Public Schools
  • Allowing students to self-identify their gender without parental consent, and
  • Otherwise, reaffirm full inclusion and support for our LGBTQIA + community.

Denver Public Schools was the first district in Colorado to pass a resolution like this.

Students wanted action about the gun violence impacting youth, especially youth of color. They got action:

  • DPS became the first school district in the State to ensure our families were properly educated on how to store their firearms and reduce gun violence in our communities.

Students wanted a voice in school-board elections.

The DPS Board passed a resolution to support lowering the voting age in school-board elections to vote in our school board elections — Again, that was only the first 50 days in office. And I wasn’t done there.And all that happened in the first 50 days — not the first hundred.

I continued to build on those early successes, adding protections to district policy so that discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation in sports or extracurricular activities is expressly forbidden. In addition, we expanded our comprehensive health education curriculum to include: mental, physical, social, emotional, and sexual well-being.

And I responded and acted when students raised emerging concerns. When students that menstruate raised up period stigma and how a lack of access to menstrual products interfered with their educational opportunities, I delivered on a promise I made to these young women to supply all schools with menstrual products for students — for free.

During 2020, our students and communities took to the streets to protest the unjust murders of Elijah McClain, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor and demanded better; I joined them. Within a week, I responded to students’ demands for “better” in our school district. Within one week, I led the Denver School Board to end the over-policing of our schools and expanded access to school nurses, mental health supports, and restorative practices.

In partnership with four brave Black women students, I sponsored “the Know Justice, Know Peace Resolution,” which now ensures that every student in the Denver Public Schools is taught true history and will see themselves reflected — positively — in the curriculum.

I supported students at the West campus who, as a part of their Student Voice and Leadership 5280 Challenge, said they wanted their comprehensive high school back. Today, a unified West High School is a reality.

Because of my leadership, the school calendar will now treat election day as a holiday in Denver Public Schools so that students who are eligible to vote can. We believe in the right to vote — not suppressing it.

When I am re-elected, I will continue to Deliver for Denver students.

When faced with the unprecedented, I have risen to those challenges and kept those we are here to serve at the center. For example, when COVID hit, I helped ensure the Denver Public Schools passed out over 5.1 million meals to Denverites and guaranteed that our students had access to Chromebooks and hotspots as they shifted to remote learning. In addition, I advocated for a safe return to schools once the public health experts said we were okay to return.

I am not perfect. As a young elected official, I have stumbled, and when gaps in my leadership have been brought forward, I took responsibility and ownership for my shortcomings. I learned, corrected course, and continued my path forward. That is the kind of leader I am committed to being. I have been open about my mental health struggles during this period of time and about the fact that I considered resigning from the Board. On the most challenging day of my term in office, I wrote a letter of resignation that I never sent in, but I keep it and read it to remind myself how far I’ve come. It is important for our students to know that mental health issues, including suicide ideation, are nothing to be ashamed of. They, like me, can seek and receive the supports needed, and we can each heal, continue to grow, and come to thrive again. I am not ready to give up fighting for our students, educators, and families.

When I am re-elected, I will continue to Deliver for Denver no matter what is thrown at us.

A school district can only deliver for students when the district takes good care of the people who work with and for our students. As a former educator in Denver Public Schools, I remember earning $12.00 an hour and working multiple jobs to keep the lights on. I made a commitment that if elected, we would raise the minimum wage to $20.00 an hour to ensure our educators knew we valued their endless commitment to our students in the Denver Public Schools. In August of 2022, our district and labor unions reached an agreement to do just that: raise the minimum wage to $20.00 an hour, and recently I brought forward an amendment to codify this into district policy.

When our school leaders demanded union representation, I was one of the leading Board of Education members to ensure they were recognized as a bargaining unit in the Denver Public Schools.

When I am re-elected, I will continue to Deliver for Denver educators.

I know, from my lived experience, what it looks like when a school board governs and does things to the community. It is paternalistic and trauma-inducing. Instead, we must govern with the community.

When the Montbello community — spearheaded by community leaders like Brandon and Samatha Pryor, Gabe and Tony Lindsay, and Vernon Jones, organizations like Montbello Organizing Committee, and Montbello Alumni like MiDian Holmes — demanded the return of their beloved high school, then-Vice President Jennifer Bacon and I led the Board of Education to unanimously support the reunification of Montbello High School.

I have partnered with organizations like DenCOKid to lead the fight to ensure all students have access to universal dyslexia screening.

And I was a leader in restoring teachers’ rights while also upholding the flexibilities so many families and students value in our innovation schools.

When I am re-elected, I will continue to Deliver for Denver communities.

One of the most painful moments of my tenure so far was the moment I read a press report that said an analysis of how the school board had spent its time showed we had spent less than 2% of our board meetings discussing student learning and academics.

As I have been, I will continue to fight for more transparency from DPS about the academic outcomes we are creating in our schools with and for students — especially our students of color, our multilingual learners, and our students with IEPs.

More than that, I will continue to demand we all know what DPS is doing to improve service to our students.

When I am re-elected, I will continue to Deliver for Denver students.

In 2019 I dedicated my first term in office to my grandmother Bettye M. Anderson a 35-year veteran educator. In 2022, I will dedicate this next term to my son Khalil Justice. Anderson.

Denverites, we have more work that needs to be done, and our best days are yet to come and that this work is too important for me to walk away from now.

When I say we have been Delivering for Denver, it’s not just a campaign slogan. Delivering for Denver is what we have already accomplished AND what we commit to continue demanding for our students, educators, and families. We can only do that if we, as I have so often reminded us during the last year, get back to work.

In Solidarity,

Vice President Auon’tai M. Anderson

Donate to our re-election campaign here: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/auontaifordenverkids

Check out my announcement video:

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Vice President Auon’tai Anderson

Denver School Board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson is an At-Large School Board Director on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education.