The Denver school board voted Thursday to significantly increase incoming board members’ pay, approving a new annual salary cap of $33,000 a year per elected official, up from $9,000.
Six of Denver Public Schools’ elected board members voted to raise yearly pay for new members, with one — board President Xóchitl “Sochi” Gaytán — dissenting.
Gaytán explained that she voted “no” because she felt DPS schools, students and teachers were more in need of the funding than board members.
“I am compelled to advocate prioritizing funding that directly impacts student and their needs,” Gaytán said during the Thursday meeting. “That money will be pulled from the DPS general fund. These funds could be redirected, providing much-needed support to students, families and parents.”
Other board members who supported the resolution discussed how the funding increase would allow candidates who could not previously afford to serve to have a better shot at the opportunity, providing more diversity to the school board.
“We owe it to the voters of Denver, the school board, teachers, faculty, our students to make sure we remove barriers to attaining a school board that looks like and reflects them,” Director Scott Esserman said.
Thursday’s vote came months after the proposal first surfaced — it was quickly tabled in February — and during three outgoing members’ final board meeting. Directors Scott Baldermann and Charmaine Lindsay lost their reelection bids by significant margins this month as voters sought change on the board, and Vice President Auon’tai Anderson didn’t seek another term.
DPS’s Board of Education was among the first school boards in Colorado to approve paying members after a 2021 state law allowed school board compensation.
About two years ago, the seven-person board passed a resolution to pay members up to $150 per day for as many as five days per month — totaling $9,000 maximum annually — for completing board duties such as attending meetings, work sessions and retreats.
Because an increase in pay can’t happen during a board member’s term, only five current members have been eligible for compensation. None of the members who voted on Thursday’s pay increase will be eligible for the higher rate until they’re reelected.
Gaytán and directors Esserman and Michelle Quattlebaum had received compensation under the 2021 law, said Bill Good, district spokesperson. Directors Carrie Olsen and Lindsey were eligible, but had not turned in the paperwork to be compensated.
The new proposal will increase pay to $150 per day for as many as five days per week, totaling a maximum of $33,000 annually.
The resolution states the legislative intent for paying school board members was to increase access for community members to serve on their local boards and improve representation of the board makeup.
Only the three newly elected board members — John Youngquist, Kimberlee Sia and Marlene De La Rosa — will be eligible for the pay increase. They are expected to be sworn in later this month.
It’s not clear how many Colorado districts pay their school board members, as neither the state Department of Education nor the Colorado Association of School Boards tracks that.
The boards overseeing the Sheridan School District in Englewood and Aurora Public Schools have elected to pay their members, although Aurora’s board pay won’t go into effect until July 2025. The Boulder Valley School District’s board also has begun discussing whether to pay members.
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