Parent activist Laura Lefkowits edged out Lee White Tuesday to win a seat on the Denver school board in a dramatic finish election night.
Lefkowits ran a tough door-to-door, school-to-school campaign to beat out White, a politically connected banker who raised twice as much money.
She won 34% of the vote to capture the at-large board seat. White received 33% of the vote. Both were far ahead of three other candidates.
Also winning were Rita Montero in northwest Denver – the first Hispanic elected to the board in 12 years – and Sue Edwards in southeast Denver.
The new Denver Public Schools board members take office May 11.
Lefkowits started as a PTA representative and soon became one of the most vocal critics of the district. Most recently, she blasted the board for moving too fast with plans to curtail busing, though she backs neighborhood schools.
She has been closely involved with the shift to more decentralized school management and is chairwoman of the citizens’ budget steering committee.
Both of Lefkowits’ children attend Denver schools, while White drew criticism about his commitment to DPS for having two sons in private school.
”There’s no knight in shining armor that’s going to change this district, ” Lefkowits told supporters gathered at her home Tuesday night.
”The way we pulled together in this campaign is how we will run the district,” she said. ”Decisions will be made close to the children. Every child will be valued, every child is gifted and talented.”
Montero, an outspoken community activist, ran an aggressive campaign to beat Jerry Soliz for the board seat representing northwest Denver.
Montero received 2% of the vote when she ran for the board two years ago, but rebounded this time to beat Soliz, who had more money and the support of the influential Latino Education Coalition. Montero has made rehauling bilingual education for non-English speakers one of her main priorities.
”I’m going to try to work things out, but if things don’t start to happen, I’m going to have to start making them happen,” said Montero, who won 55% of the vote to Soliz’s 45%.
Edwards, a longtime parent activist who brags she hasn’t missed a PTA meeting in 13 years, swamped her opponents in the southeast Denver race. Edwards won 66% of the vote, compared with the 12% received by Jerry Rzasa, her closest challenger.
An outsider with a strong understanding of the district’s inner workings, Edwards said her main goal will be to provide quality education ”for every student based on their needs.”
”I’m going to stand for high standards and high expectations,” Edwards said. ”I have worked hard for years and will continue to give my all.”