This story was updated on Aug. 3 to include additional information about Douglas County candidates.

The curtain officially rose on the school board campaign season Wednesday with candidates across the state starting to gather petition signatures to qualify themselves for the Nov. 1 ballot.

In Denver, five candidates took out petitions on Tuesday, followed by four more on Wednesday, the first day petitions could be circulated.

By the end of the day, every candidate expected to run for the DPS board had obtained the required petition forms, and several had started gathering the required minimum of 50 signatures.

The DPS races are expected to be hotly contested and expensive, as well as something of a referendum on current district reform policies.

“The significance of the races tends to be the fact that a lot of the reforms and the progress that has been made in Denver informs state policy in Colorado, but also informs national policy,” said Lindsay Neil, executive director of the education advocacy group Stand For Children Colorado.

Allison Harden and Anne Rowe
Supporter Allison Harden, left, chats with Denver school board candidate Anne Rowe

Among those going door-to-door Wednesday was first-time candidate Anne Rowe, who is campaigning to replace term-limited DPS board member Bruce Hoyt in southeast Denver.

“We thought it was important to be out there the first day, because this is something Anne has been working toward and looking forward to for a while,” said Rowe campaign manager Ellie Atkeson, who accompanied Rowe in the Southern Hills neighborhood.

Rowe’s competition so far is fellow political newcomer Emily Sirota, who knocked on about 50 doors in the district Wednesday, according to campaign manager Amanda Snipes.

“There’s a very, very strong community demand for change with what’s going on with DPS, and we’re ready to be that voice,” said Snipes. “We want to get out there and get that organized as quickly as possible and get this ready to go.”

Emily Sirota
Emily Sirota

Rowe and Sirota are two of nine candidates who have pulled petitions in DPS. Two have done so in northwest Denver; incumbent Arturo Jimenez and challenger Jennifer Draper Carson.

The most crowded for now is the race for the at-large seat being vacated by the term-limited Theresa Peña. By the end of the day Wednesday five candidates for that seat had obtained petition packets from the Denver Elections Division, according to division spokesman Alton Dillard. Those are John Daniel, Frank Deserino, Happy Haynes, Roger Kilgore and Jacqui Shumway.

In Jefferson County, the state’s largest district, two of the board’s five seats are being contested this fall. On Wednesday just one candidate for each seat took out petitions.

In District 3 (central/northwest), where board member Dave Thomas is not seeking a second term, Jill Fellman has obtained a petition. In District 4 (central), where board member Jane Barnes is term-limited, Lesley Dahlkemper has taken out a petition.

Complete information about Douglas County candidates wasn’t available on Wednesday because the school district’s board secretary was out of the office and unavailable to confirm who had taken out petitions.

On Thursday the district identified eight candidates who have secured petition packets.

Four people have taken out petitions to run for District A (northwest). Incumbent Craig Richardson, appointed to that seat to fill a mid-term vacancy in June 2010, has done so, as have Joan Grady, Susan Meek and Kevin Reilly.

Those now circulating petitions for the District C (north/central) seat where incumbent Cliff Stahl is not seeking another four-year term, are Gail Francis and Kevin Larsen.

And, in District F (northeast), incumbent Justin Williams has taken out a petition, as has challenger Susan McMahon.

The current Douglas County board has approved a pilot voucher program that is being challenged in Denver Denver District. Hearings on a preliminary injunction started Tuesday (see story).

Officials in Jefferson County and Denver reported no additional candidates obtaining petitions on Thursday.

Statewide, school board candidates have until the close of business on Aug. 26 to turn in their petitions. Candidates must submit at least 50 signatures of eligible voters. Seats are expected to be contested in most of the state’s 178 districts.