Original URL: http://www.denverpost.com/Stories/0,1413,36%257E64%257E1609204,00.html

Montero joins race for school board seat
Denver Post
September 5, 2003

By Eric Hubler, Denver Post Education Writer

Rita Montero is seeking to rejoin the Denver school board after a four-year absence to keep her eye on what she calls financial mismanagement and inadequate academic progress.

Also running against at-large incumbent Theresa Pena is Jose Silva, a 23-year-old senior at the University of Denver. It's the only contested race among the three seats up for a vote Nov. 4.

The Rev. Lucia Guzman, who unseated Montero in 1999, is running unopposed in northwest Denver, and newcomer Bruce Hoyt is running unopposed in southwest Denver.

The board appointed Pena in June to replace James Mejia, who resigned to go to graduate school.

Montero ran for a different at-large seat in November but decided not to actively campaign and came in second, behind incumbent Les Woodward.

Pena did not return messages Wednesday.

Although Guzman wouldn't be running directly against Montero, she said her rival's return to the board would be divisive.

Montero sponsored last November's failed constitutional amendment to ban bilingual education, which Guzman said would have damaged the popular dual-language school in her district.

"If someone gets on there whose record indicates she would vote in a different direction than what the board has taken, that's of concern," Guzman said.

Montero said that's exactly why she wants the seat: She thinks the board has become too submissive to the DPS administration.

Superintendent Jerry Wartgow, she charged, "really isn't paying attention to the needs of the district. He is spending most of his time trying to appease the newspapers, the business community, and he has basically turned over the district to Sally Mentor Hay," the chief academic officer he appointed early last year.

Montero said the board has been too accepting of Wartgow's claim that there was nothing he could do to avoid recent budget deficits totaling tens of millions of dollars.

And Wartgow was wrong to say recent CSAP scores showed improvement, Montero said.

"The scores that came out recently are bad, yet everybody says things are going great. Things are not going great," she said.

Board President Elaine Gantz Berman said she hopes voters choose harmony over conflict, and to her, that means choosing Pena.

"The board has worked extraordinarily well together over the past four years, not only among ourselves but with the superintendent and his staff," she said. "We want this strong relationship to continue, and Theresa Pena has already proven to be a strong and effective school board member."

Silva, a West High School graduate, has worked for many local campaigns and community groups. This is his first run for office.

He said DPS has made some progress since his days at West but not enough. He said he is alarmed by the high dropout rate among Hispanics.

"The kids are still dealing with the same issues that I had to deal with 10 years ago when I was a freshman," he said.

Today, the school board plans to vote to place a bond and mill-levy issue on the ballot, and amend this year's calendar to reflect the contract teachers ratified last week.

The school year will be reduced by three days for teachers and one day for students to compensate teachers for not getting a raise.