Six candidates running for three seats on the Woodland Park School District school board

Six candidates are running in the nonpartisan general election for Woodland Park School District RE-2 school board in Teller County, Colorado, on Nov. 7, 2023. Three districts are up for election: District A, District C, and District D.

The district had approximately 1,804 students during the 2021-2022 school year.

Incumbents Mick Bates, Dave Illingworth II, and Cassie Kimbrell are running as a slate of candidates. Their campaign priorities include: academic achievement, parental involvement, teacher wages and benefits, history and civics, school choice, education in trades, and protecting kids.

Challengers Seth Bryant, Keegan Barkley, and Mike Knott are also running as a slate of candidates, campaigning against the board’s adoption of the American Birthright social studies standard and the board’s Media Relations Policy. American Birthright “teaches students to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government.” The slate’s campaign priorities include: quality education, safe schools, removing personal political agendas, removing untested educational standards, ensuring access to state-mandated resources, fiscal responsibility, teacher training and retention, and counseling and mental health services.

Gary Brovetto, Dave Illingworth II, Suzanne Patterson, and David Rusterholtz campaigned as a conservative slate of candidates and were elected to the school board in 2021. Brovetto resigned in 2022 and the board appointed Cassie Kimbrell to replace him.

The Colorado State Board of Education voted against adopting the American Birthright standard in October 2022, while Woodland Park was the first school district in the country to adopt it in January 2023. In February 2023, the board updated its Media Relations Policy to prohibit employees from speaking to the media without the superintendent’s consent. The Woodland Park Education Association sued the district in August 2023, “seeking to strike down a prohibition on employees speaking to the press or posting on social media about school matters without the superintendent’s prior approval.” The district said removing the media policy would increase criticism and disrupt operations. As of Oct. 9, 2023, U.S. Magistrate Judge Maritza Dominguez Braswell had agreed to mediate the dispute.

Incumbent Mick Bates and Seth Bryant are running for District A. The school board appointed Bates on Jan. 25, 2023, to replace Chris Austin. Austin resigned on Nov. 30, 2022, and said, “The direction of the new board was just incongruent with my value set.” Speaking of the board prior to 2021, Austin said, “It was a culture of collaboration. You had freedom to bring forward your thoughts and evidential data … Then it shifted abruptly with the first meeting with the new board.”

Bates said, “Nationally less than 50% of student’s K-12 are doing reading and math at grade level, this includes students in our Schools as well! I am committed to using my time and energy to improve our district, and to provide a system that allows every student an opportunity to be successful.” Bryant said, “I believe in education that inspires patriotism and civic involvement. That being said, the American Birthright (AB) standards attempt this in the worst way possible: by depriving our students of a complete education and distorting history in a way that jeopardizes our kid’s educational outcomes.”

Incumbent Dave Illingworth II and Keegan Barkley are running for District C. Illingworth said, “Parents are the primary educators of their children, and have the right and responsibility to direct their children’s education. This board will defend that right, and the parent’s voice, for what children need to thrive, grow, and be able to succeed as adults.” Barkley said she “wants to help bring our community back together and put an end to the controversy and division that some on the current board have fostered. In so doing, we will ensure that all the children of the community have the academic tools and support they require to succeed.”

Incumbent Cassie Kimbrell and Mike Knott are running for District D. The school board appointed Kimbrell on June 8, 2022, to replace Gary Brovetto. Brovetto resigned on April 14, 2022. In February of that year, a student and parent accused Brovetto of insulting students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism. Brovetto said he expressed his “concern that students who have been diagnosed with ADHD or Asperger’s may have difficulty with the Summit Learning Platform” and did not mean “to be demeaning or derogatory toward those afflicted with ADHD, autism or Asperger’s.” In his resignation letter, Brovetto said he “can no longer continue in this highly stressful hostile environment to be effective as a board member.”

Kimbrell said, “We should provide unique paths for students to achieve their maximum potential in academia, trades, science, arts, and technology. Parents should have the right to choose the best path for their child.” Knott said, “My vision is to build back the trust between the BOE and our teachers, staff, students, and parents … to slow down the decision-making process, to evaluate the issues and policies without a political lens, to stop reckless spending, and to start putting the chaos and division within the community behind us.”

Additional reading:

Colorado school board elections, 2023