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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas de las Montañas

Voces Unidas endorses 10 rural school board candidates, first-time endorsement for CMC Board

Voces Unidas Action Fund is proud to endorse 10 diverse candidates for school board seats and one candidate for Board of Trustees for Colorado Mountain College for the election this November. This year’s historic slate includes five candidates of color, four of whom are Latina or Latino.


These are the endorsed candidates for 2023:


Summit County School District (4 seats up for election)

  • Vanessa Agee – At-Large

  • Consuelo Redhorse (incumbent) – At-Large

  • Julie Shapiro (incumbent) – At-Large

  • Gayle Jones Westerberg – At-Large

Lake County School District (3 seats up for election)

  • Grayson Cooper – At-Large

  • Angel Bujanda Gutierrez – At-Large

  • Miriam Lozano – At-Large

Roaring Fork School District RE-1 (3 seats up for election)

  • Betsy After – District B

  • Lindsey DeFrates – District C

  • Jasmin Ramirez (incumbent) – District D

Colorado Mountain College (only endorsed in one district)

  • Gloria Perez – District 6

Voces Unidas Action Fund offers candidate endorsements in school districts where Latinos make up at least 25% of the student population. We endorse and support candidates who are aligned with our values and will champion the issues that matter most to Latinos. Each endorsed candidate has expressed policy positions and commitment to tangible actions to address the needs of Latino students in their districts. Additionally, all candidates have committed to holding their school systems accountable for achievement and academic gaps between Latino students and their white peers.


“Our endorsement committee of residents and voters from throughout the central-mountain regions was very impressed by this group of candidates and is especially excited for their diversity and the historic nature of their candidacies,” said Alex Sánchez, president and CEO of Voces Unidas Action Fund. “All of the candidates we’ve endorsed are 100% aligned with our progressive values as an organization and have committed to the hard work that still needs to be done to ensure that Latino students get the quality education they deserve in their respective school districts.”


Mix of incumbents and new leaders is the right slate for Summit County School District


Voces Unidas Action Fund has endorsed a mix of incumbents and new leaders who we believe are ready to tackle the challenges facing the Summit County School District. Redhorse and Shapiro are incumbents with a steady track record of supporting equity issues. Agee and Jones Westerberg are known community leaders who are also committed to addressing student achievement gaps and focusing on equity issues to move the district forward.


Enrollment is about 40% Latino in the 3,500-student Summit County School District, with a lingering, unacceptable achievement gap of more than 30% in math proficiency between Latino students and white students, and a 40% difference in English Language Arts. Of the eight candidates vying for four available seats on the board, we believe Redhorse, Shapiro, Agee, and Jones Westerberg are the most qualified leaders to address the inequities in the quality of education students currently receive in Summit County.


Historic election for Lake County School District


For the first time, Lake County School District will see two Latino school board members, since Bujanda Gutierrez and Lozano are running unopposed along with Cooper. All three candidates share a deep commitment to addressing the needs of all students, but especially addressing the equity issues that have kept Latino students behind in Lake County.


Those equity needs are significant in a district where some 66% of the 1,000 students are Latino. The achievement gaps between Latino students and their white peers (30% of the student population) measure at more than 40 percentage points in English Language Arts and between 20-40 percentage points in math, depending on grade level.


Both Bujanda Gutierrez and Lozano are current leaders with Voces Unidas and have participated in several of our programs. Working alongside Cooper and the other members of the Lake County School Board, we believe that leadership will result in positive outcomes for students in the district.


Incumbent and two newcomers will move Roaring Fork School District forward


Running unopposed, Ramirez is the only incumbent and person of color running in the Roaring Fork School District this election cycle. She brings institutional knowledge and clarity on the type of equity work that is desperately needed to address the district’s education-justice issues. First-time candidates After and DeFrates are in competitive races against individuals with clear differences on education policies and values. All three of our endorsed candidates share a deep commitment to addressing the achievement gaps and tackling equity issues in the Roaring Fork School District.


The minority-majority district of some 5,300 students is nearly 60% Latino, yet endures a roughly 40% gap between Latino students and white students in English Language Arts proficiency measured through standardized testing, and similar gaps (34-42% difference, depending on grade level) in math proficiency. Addressing those disparities will require steadfast leadership and resolve to overcome conditions that have kept many district students from thriving.


A notable first at Colorado Mountain College


Perez, who is running unopposed in District 6 on the CMC Board of Trustees in Lake County, is the only candidate we are endorsing. In the three other seats with declared candidates, Voces Unidas Action Fund decided not to endorse as our committee was unconvinced that the candidates or incumbents understood the Latino community’s higher education aspirations and opportunities.


Perez is a recent graduate of the Voces Unidas leadership training program, and upon certification of the Nov. 7 election will become the first Latina to sit on the CMC Board. If CMC intends to live up to the promise as a “Hispanic serving institution,” much more diverse leadership will be necessary from the Board of Trustees on down. That includes seeking out Latino candidates for leadership roles and easing barriers of entry by appointing qualified Latinos to fill vacant seats on the Board of Trustees and other important committees when the opportunity arises.


Unlike most other colleges and universities in Colorado, where trustees are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate, CMC elects its trustees because it is a regional taxing authority.


Not endorsing in Eagle County, Garfield RE-2 and Garfield 16 school districts


The Eagle County School District has four seats up for election on its seven-member board, all running unopposed. Three of the candidates (Districts A, D and E) are incumbents, while District C candidate Harry McQueeney is a newcomer. None of the candidates chose to participate in our process of answering questions about their values, support for equity and how they would tackle the chronic student achievement problem between Latino students and white students.


Three of the five board seats (Districts B, C and D) in the Garfield RE-2 School District are up for election this November, however Voces Unidas Action Fund will not endorse any of the candidates in this district as our committee did not feel there were any candidates who were 100% aligned with our values or were interested in answering basic questions about their views on Latino education attainment. We remain very concerned about the extreme views of current school board members and incumbents running for reelection in Garfield RE-2. While we did not endorse Daniel Adams in District D, we found him to be a very reasonable candidate with good ideas about how to tackle some of the equity issues in the school district.


The Garfield 16 School District had three of its five school board seats up for election in November, however the 2023 election has been canceled due to a lack of challengers for the seats. Had there been an election, we would have opposed all candidates and incumbents in this school district. We remain concerned that the existing Garfield 16 School Board does not represent the best interest of Latino students.


Endorsements are just the beginning


As a local, community-created 501(c)(4) advocacy nonprofit organization, Voces Unidas Action Fund invests time, energy and resources to support our endorsed candidates. We volunteer, knock on doors, make phone calls, and raise money from local community members. We do this because we believe that when our neighbors and communities come together to support leaders who share our values, we can affect the change we need.


In 2022, Voces Unidas Action Fund and our affiliated groups made 109,008 phone calls, sent 38,381 text messages and sent 5 mail pieces, reaching about 40,000 voters in the region. Learn more at www.vocesunidasaction.org/elections.




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