Robert Speth | 60S Today

Robert Speth | 60S Today

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You are watching: robert russell speth

Robert Speth was a candidate for at-large representative on the Denver Public Schools school board in Colorado. Speth was defeated in the at-largeAll registered voters can vote for seats on the ballot in an at-large election. This is the alternative to a “by-district” election, in which only the registered voters of a particular geographic area may vote for a particular seat up for election. general election on November 7, 2017.

Speth participated in Ballotpedia’s 2017 school board candidate survey. Click here to read his responses.

Speth previously ran for a seat on the board and was defeated in the general election on November 3, 2015.[1]


Speth earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. His work experience includes serving in the telecommunications industry. Speth has volunteered at Escuela Valdez school.[2]



See also: Denver Public Schools elections (2017)

Four of the seven seats on the Denver Public Schools Board of Education in Colorado were up for nonpartisan general election on November 7, 2017. In her bid for re-election, at-large incumbent Barbara O’Brien defeated challengers Julie Banuelos and Robert Speth. The openAn open seat or election is one in which the incumbent officeholder does not seek re-election. District 2 race included Angela Cobian and Xochitl “Sochi” Gaytan, and Cobian won the seat. District 3 incumbent Mike Johnson was defeated by Carrie Olson. District 4 incumbent Rachele Espiritu ran against Tay Anderson and Jennifer Bacon, and Bacon won the seat.[3][4]


Denver Public Schools, At-large General Election, 4-year term, 2017 Candidate Vote % VotesGreen check mark Barbara O’Brien Incumbent 40.49% 49,283Robert Speth 35.23% 42,878Julie Banuelos 24.28% 29,559Total Votes 121,720 Source: Denver Elections Division, “Coordinated Election November 7, 2017 Final Official Results,” accessed November 27, 2017


See also: Campaign finance in the Denver Public Schools election

Speth reported $48,710.50 in contributions and $43,845.67 in expenditures to the Colorado Secretary of State, which left his campaign with $4,864.83 on hand in the election.[5]


Speth was endorsed by the following organizations and elected officials:[6][7][8][9]

  • Denver Classroom Teachers Association
  • Network for Public Education Action
  • Our Denver, Our Schools
  • Denver Area Labor Federation
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Denver Federation of Paraprofessionals and Nutrition Service Employees
  • Denver Alliance for Public Education
  • State Sen. Lucia Guzman (D-34)
  • Colorado State Board of Education member Dr. Val Flores

Speth was also endorsed by former officials and community members. Click here for a list of supporters.


See also: Denver Public Schools elections (2015)

Three of the seven seats on the Denver Board of Education were up for election on November 3, 2015. One at-largeAll registered voters can vote for seats on the ballot in an at-large election. This is the alternative to a “by-district” election, in which only the registered voters of a particular geographic area may vote for a particular seat up for election. seat and seats in Districts 1 and 5 were on the general election ballot.

District 1 incumbent Anne Rowe faced challenger Kristi Butkovich. Arturo Jimenez was unable to seek re-election to District 5 due to term limits, which left the seat openAn open seat or election is one in which the incumbent officeholder does not seek re-election. for a newcomer. Michael Kiley and Lisa Flores ran to replace Jimenez. Robert Speth ran against incumbent Happy Haynes for an at-large seat.[1] Haynes was successful in securing re-election to the at-large seat, and Rowe also won re-election to District 1. Newcomer Flores secured the District 5 seat.


Denver Public Schools, At-Large, General Election, 2015 Candidate Vote % VotesGreen check mark Happy Haynes Incumbent 50.4% 54,191Robert Speth 49.6% 53,278Total Votes 107,469 Source: City of Denver, “Denver Election Results,” accessed December 21, 2015


Speth reported $40,650.00 in contributions and $9,216.86 in expenditures to the Colorado Secretary of State, which left his campaign with $31,433.14 on hand as of October 30, 2015.[10]

Campaign themes


Ballotpedia survey responses

See also: Ballotpedia’s school board candidate survey

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Robert Russell Speth participated in Ballotpedia’s 2017 survey of school board candidates.[11] In response to the question “What do you hope to achieve if elected to the school board?” the candidate stated on October 29, 2017:

“ First and foremost restore a sense of balance to the board. Our board currently votes in a 7-0 fashion on every issue of importance. Second, bring a parent based viewpoint to the board as I have two children in DPS (elementary and middle). Third, renew focus on helping our neighborhood schools vs. closing them. Fourth, support our teachers in their chosen profession and ensure that we have School of Education educated teachers in our classrooms working with our children. Fifth and finally, focus on getting the needed resources into our classrooms to support both our students and teachers. We are 12 years into focusing on privatizing our district as a solution to everything and the results simply are not there. We now have 60 out of 200 schools operating as privatized entities. Our graduation rates are in the bottom 10% of US major metros, our achievement gaps are at historic highs (approaching 40%) and only 39% of our students are reading at proficient or advanced levels. In short, its time for a change![12][13] ”

Ranking the issues

The candidate was asked to rank the following issues based on how they should be prioritized by the school board, with 1 being the most important and 7 being the least important. Each ranking could only be used once.

Education policy Click here to learn more about education policy in Colorado. Education on the ballot Issue importance ranking Candidate’s ranking Issue 1 Closing the achievement gap 2 Expanding arts education 3 Improving education for special needs students 4 Improving relations with teachers 5 Improving post-secondary readiness 6 Balancing or maintaining the district’s budget 7 Expanding school choice options “ Ranking these issues from a first to last perspective is almost impossible. In reality, all of these issues are a 1 or 2 from my perspective, namely highly important.[13] ” —Robert Russell Speth (October 29, 2017)

Positions on the issues

The candidate was asked to answer eight questions from Ballotpedia regarding significant issues in education and the school district. The questions are highlighted in blue and followed by the candidate’s responses. Some questions provided multiple choices, which are noted after those questions. The candidate was also provided space to elaborate on their answers to the multiple choice questions.

Should new charter schools be approved in your district? (Not all school boards are empowered to approve charter schools. In those cases, the candidate was directed to answer the question as if the school board were able to do so.) No. In Denver we have a district with 60 out of 200 schools already privatized. Additionally, we have 14 more charters that were approved just this year by a 7-0 vote from our current board. It is time for us to hit the pause button on the approval of new charters in the city of Denver. If there is a true community driven request for a charter that is meeting a very specific need, requested with genuine support from the community, I would be open to considering the application from a one off perspective. Which statement best describes the ideal relationship between the state government and the school board? The state should always defer to school board decisions, defer to school board decisions in most cases, be involved in the district routinely or only intervene in severe cases of misconduct or mismanagement. The state should only intervene in severe cases of misconduct or mismanagement. Are standardized tests an accurate metric of student achievement? No. Simply put, no. As a society we have become fixated on forcing our children to take standardized tests in order to rank our teachers and schools. Just this year, my son took tests for 11 days across 3 weeks. Doing the math, this means he will spend 1 full year of is K-12 education taking standardized tests. This is not serving him, or society as a whole. It is high time we rightsize our testing regimen. Additionally, trying to distill a given student’s achievements by how well they perform on standardized tests is doing them a disservice, particularly impacting our English Language Learners. How should the district handle underperforming teachers? Terminate their contract before any damage is done to students, offer additional training options, put them on a probationary period while they seek to improve or set up a mentorship program for the underperforming teacher with a more experienced teacher in the district? Set up a mentorship program for the underperforming teacher with a more experienced teacher in the district. Should teachers receive merit pay? No. Merit pay is something we have attempted to translate over from the private sector to the public school system. Typically the implementation of merit pay has been linked to student test performance and/or school performance based on test scores. This approach has not yielded positive results in DPS and it has in many cases frustrated teachers who are doing their very best, sometimes in extremely challenging environments. If this method of ranking teachers is to continue, we should scale it back to bring down stress levels within our teaching staff. 12 years into this approach and we continue to have the highest teacher turnover in the metro area. Should the state give money to private schools through a voucher system or scholarship program? No. How should expulsion be used in the district? I believe it is our job to find pathways for all students to reach their full potential. In-school suspension and re-engagement is a better path for students who need time away from the regular classroom so that they can continue learning. We should be using out of school suspensions and expulsions as the very last resort. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of every students right to learn in a safe and effective classroom setting. What’s the most important factor for success in the classroom: student-teacher ratio, the curriculum, teachers, parent involvement or school administration? Student-teacher ratio. Again, there are many factors which are leading factors in success in the classroom. I would rank all of these listed as 1 or 2 in importance.

Candidate website

Speth highlighted the following issues on his campaign website:

Why I’m Running

I’m a parent, not a politician.

My wife, Kristen and I have two children, ages 10 and 12. Our son attends Escuela Valdez, and our daughter attends Lake International, both in Northwest Denver.

I became increasingly involved with Denver Public Schools in 2011 when I was nominated by the Valdez leadership team to spearhead the effort to secure 2012 General Obligation Bond (GOB) funds to renovate our school and bring it up to modern standards. Through my involvement with this project and the formation of a partnership with several DPS board members, Valdez was able to lead the charge to convince the Board of Education to allocate $22 million from the 2012 General Obligation Bond funds to address not just the Valdez “open design” issues, but those at other “open designed” schools: Swansea, Southmoor, Samuels, Cheltenham, Centennial, Kaiser, Eagleton and Bromwell. This was truly a city-wide win.

Since that time, I have remained involved with DPS and have had the chance to meet many parents, teachers, and community members from all areas of the city. In 2015 I ran for the at-large seat and came within 800 votes – out of close to 120,000 votes cast – of defeating the incumbent. During my years of involvement I have seen a repeated pattern of DPS implementing changes that communities do not want. The District and the Board have demonstrated little leadership or problem solving capabilities when it comes to educating ALL of Denver’s children. And with their alignment with federal policies, there appears to be little hope much will change with them in charge.

I want to be the voice for those who have been not heard.

The current school board has simply been a rubber stamp, approving every single DPS and Board of Education recommendation since 2013. This way of doing business has, often been made with no serious debate, leaving many communities frustrated and distrustful, and has led me to the conclusion that I must step forward to try and bring the often ignored community voice and perspective to the board.

There is no silver bullet. It takes hard work and a passion for transformative results. I know we can work together to do better for our students![13]

—Robert Speth (2017)[14]

Chalkbeat Colorado survey

Speth participated in the following survey conducted by Chalkbeat Colorado. The survey questions appear bolded, and Speth’s responses follow below.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you lived in the school district? What do you do for a living?

“ I’ve lived in Denver since 1999 and am originally from Madison, Wisconsin. I have a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. from the Materials Science Program at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I have worked for a variety of technology companies ranging Intel to, most recently, Sprint. I am currently between roles and am using this time to focus 100% of my efforts on winning the election for the Denver Public School Board.[13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

Tell us about your connection to the school district.

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“ I have two young children in DPS today: my son Russell attending Escuela Valdez and my daughter Jacqueline attending Lake Middle School. My wife and I have volunteered for many activities over the years, my personal favorite being the after-school science enrichment program at Valdez. While at Valdez, I was one of the parents that lobbied hard to have some of the 2012 bond funds allocated to traditional neighborhood schools to provide for open classroom design remediation. This effort spanned almost five years and opened my eyes to some of the politics currently driving DPS. This effort resulted in a $22 million modification to the 2012 bond and benefited the following schools: Swansea, Cheltenham, Southmoor, Samuels, Centennial, Eagleton, Valdez, Kaiser and Bromwell. I ran for the board two years ago because I believe in DPS and I believe DPS can do so much more for our children. I lost that election by 0.82 percent, and it was the result of hundreds of thousands of dollars of out-of-state super PAC money coming into the race against me. I sincerely ask that you pay attention to where all the money is coming from in this year’s school board election and just how much money is being spent to get your vote. School board races should be about policy, not who has the support of the most super PAC funds. I look forward to serving as your next school board member at-large![13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

The school board adopted a policy that calls for closing or replacing low-performing schools. Do you agree with it? Is there anything you’d change?

“ DPS is spending an inordinate amount of time forcing our children to take standardized tests. My son had 12 standardized testing days over the course of three weeks this year. Test data is massaged to create the SPF (School Performance Framework) and schools are labeled blue through red. Once a school is rated red, it’s like being branded with a scarlet letter, triggering parents look elsewhere. The SPF is wielded like a saber to determine which schools should be closed, and closure typically results in the school building being handed to a privatized operator. The current DPS policy of two years in red and you are targeted for closure is now being applied as if it is the law. Frankly, I am shocked at the callousness of this policy. We should be helping our schools, not closing them. That is what the new Jeffco superintendent is doing, and the recent study out of Stanford that clearly demonstrates closing schools does not work. The district’s performance shows that after 12 years of these (failed) policies, only 39 percent of the students in DPS are reading at or above grade level. Let’s decrease testing and help our schools. It’s time for a change![13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

There are over 200 public schools in Denver. More than half are charter and innovation schools, which operate with increased autonomy. What are your thoughts about the district’s “portfolio” approach?

“ It’s consuming a lot of resources and not yielding results. Our key performance indicators have not improved over the past 12 years. We have the largest achievement gap between students using Free and Reduced Lunch programs and those that do not. Our graduation rates are in the bottom ten percent of all major metros and our reading and math proficiency rates are, on average, dismal. Our children deserve better![13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

How should DPS rate schools? What factors should be taken into account and how much weight should they be given? Do you agree with adding an “equity indicator” that bases ratings partly on how well schools are educating traditionally underserved students?

“ Honestly, at this point, I do not think DPS should be summing up the entirety of a school by a color code. I have two points of experience on this. One is outlined in response to the next question, and the other is a recent experience at one of our neighborhood elementary schools, Escuela Valdez. When we started, Valdez was rated “red” by DPS’ SPF system. We went anyway. Why? In short, because we as parents and a community believed that the system was completely missing what was actually happening at the school. Lo and behold, the school steadily improved on the color coding scheme and we achieved “green.” Then one year our rating dropped to “yellow!” Gasp! Parents could be heard asking, “Is our school in trouble? Should we leave now!?” But here’s the thing. We changed nothing and a year later we had returned to “green.” We continued to deliver the same program as when we were red or green. Let’s take all the money we’re spending on testing and color coding schools and get that money into the classrooms! You want to know how a school is doing, go talk to the parents, teachers and principals.[13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

Denver is gentrifying, and the district has formed a committee to investigate how those changes are impacting schools. What policies would you consider to combat the segregation and decreasing enrollment occurring in some schools?

“ I would point to the successes we are seeing around the district today as it pertains to having ALL of our students attending their neighborhood schools. Successes like GW, East, Skinner and Valdez. In so many cases, schools are labeled an SPF color by DPS, triggering parents of means to take their children to schools halfway across town versus embracing their neighborhood schools. How many parents are going to look at a school DPS has rated “red” and send their children there, knowing DPS has an ironclad policy to close schools if they are red for two years in a row? The SPF has been morphed into a negative marketing scare tactic, used to frighten parents away from a school and open a pathway to privatization. Case in point: our home sits between our remaining neighborhood middle schools, Lake and Skinner. Even though Lake was 96 percent children of color, 95 percent free and reduced lunch and rated “red” by the school board, we investigated the school, spoke with the principal and teachers and decided we believed in Lake and the community. Our daughter is in her second year there, she is thriving and could not be happier. WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER!!![13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

What is DPS doing particularly well right now?

“ Largely through the passage of the 2012 mill levy, Denver has increased access to ECE which has long-term benefits to children that are able to participate. Studies have shown that being exposed to the basics early in life can have a truly lasting impact. Additionally, DPS has implemented a new program to attract teachers of color to Denver Public Schools, Mark Your Mark. While in its infancy, this program is a step in the right direction, with over 75 percent of our students being children of color while less than 25 percent of our teachers are teachers of color. Having at least one black teacher in the third through fifth grades reduced a black student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29 percent, according to a new study from researchers at American University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Davis. Clearly this is an initiative that we need to continue to support.[13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

What is the most pressing thing the board should change?

“ Stop closing schools. We need to stop closing schools and start helping them. This focus our 7-0 board has on school closure coupled with approving charters without defined locations atomizes communities and creates a lot of anxiety for the families and students of Denver. Hitting the pause button on school closure is the first thing the new Jeffco superintendent did upon arrival. As mentioned previously, the newly released Stanford study clearly indicates closing schools does not yield results. DPS is a poster child for this reality. We are 12 years into a program of school closure coupled with privatizing education and the results are in. It’s officially not working. We are still in the bottom 10 percent of major metropolitan school districts as it pertains to graduation rates and achievement gaps. Our average reading proficiency rates are dreadful. We need to focus on reducing our administrative overhead and get those dollars back into the classrooms.[13] ” —Robert Speth (2017)[15]

Recent news

The link below is to the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms Robert Speth Denver Public Schools school board. These results are automatically generated from Google. Ballotpedia does not curate or endorse these articles.

See also

  • Denver Public Schools, Colorado
  • Denver Public Schools elections (2017)
  • Denver Public Schools elections (2015)
  • Denver Public Schools
  • Campaign website
  • Campaign Facebook page


Denver Public Schools elections in 2017 Denver County, Colorado Election date:November 7, 2017 Candidates:At-large: • Incumbent, Barbara O’Brien • Julie Banuelos • Robert Speth District 2: • Angela Cobian • Xochitl “Sochi” Gaytan District 3: • Incumbent, Mike Johnson • Carrie Olson District 4: • Incumbent, Rachele Espiritu • Tay Anderson • Jennifer Bacon Important information:What was at stake? • Additional elections on the ballot • Key deadlines 2015 Denver Public Schools Elections Denver County, Colorado Election date:November 3, 2015 Candidates:At-large: Incumbent, Happy Haynes • Robert Speth

District 1: Incumbent, Anne Rowe • Kristi Butkovich

District 5: Lisa Flores • Michael Kiley Important information:Key deadlines • Additional elections on the ballot Flag of Colorado State of ColoradoDenver (capital)Elections

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