Montero joins race for school board seat
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
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
The board appointed Pena in June to replace James Mejia, who resigned to go to
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
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
And Wartgow was wrong to say recent CSAP scores showed improvement, Montero
"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
The school year will be reduced by three days for teachers and one day for
students to compensate teachers for not getting a raise.