In 2019, Julie Bañuelos finished 302 votes, or 1.1%, short of winning the District 5 Denver Public School Board of Education seat now held by Reverend Bradley Laurvick. With Laurvick’s announcement last month that he will be resigning from the board because his church is moving him to Fort Collins, Bañuelos may have another shot. While a process hasn’t been finalized for the vacancy, DPS board vacancies are generally filled via a board vote. Within days of Laurvick’s announcement, a “Draft Julie Bañuelos for DPS District 5 Vacancy” page on Facebook started gaining momentum.
While a vacancy is likely to draw numerous people interested in the soon-to-be open seat, Bañuelos is the first to have her name floated and is already gaining support from some community members.
“This is a community driven effort,” Bañuelos replied when asked about the page. She said she was just starting to think about the seat when community members started reaching out to offer support, which encouraged her to consider it more seriously.
Bañuelos worked within DPS for 16 years, first as a paraprofessional and then ESL teacher at Sandoval and Centennial schools in northwest Denver. School board members cannot work for the district and Bañuelos said her current role in accounting for a private company has no ties to DPS.
Politically, Bañuelos’ would likely often align with Laurvick, who she hopes to replace, and the majority of board members. She’s been an advocate for teachers’ rights and more professional training. She’s also been critical of charters when she sees them receiving what she perceives as unfair advantages to neighborhood schools, which has come up during colocation discussions.
When asked about the recent 5-2 board vote to require all schools, including innovation schools, to follow the teachers union contract, Bañuelos said she would have voted with the majority.
“I am happy with the fact that five board members voted for it,” Bañuelos told The G.E.S. Gazette, “given how the environment has been for teachers [during] COVID, it’s important to be able to support teachers.” She said she would have liked to see more community outreach and engagement though, adding “It’s unfortunate that there was misinformation.” For more information on that vote, see our story on Denver School Board Votes.
Bañuelos highlighted her experience as a community member participant in the superintendent search and involvement in education advocacy groups as evidence of her commitment to the district even after not being elected in 2019.
Bañuelos and supporters interviewed for this story also highlighted the support she received in 2019, which included winning more precincts than her two opponents combined and overall running a competitive campaign on less than 10% of the funds the other candidates received. Bañuelos, who identifies as Latinx, noted that she won the portions of the district with more diverse populations and feels her appointment would also help bring more diverse representation to the board.
DPS officials told The G.E.S. Gazette that while the full process isn’t set, once the board declares a vacancy they have 60 days to fill the position and the person selected will serve out the remainder of the term ending in 2023. The Gazette plans to talk with all candidates for the vacancy as the process unfurls.