Critical race theory and COVID-19 protocols were two of the biggest campaign issues for the dozens of candidates who ran for election in the Colorado Springs area’s three largest school districts. The election was a sweeping victory for conservative voters, who almost exclusively elected candidates with right-leaning stances on hot-button issues.
An independent committee with Republican ties called the Springs Opportunity Fund spent more than $57,000 in support of nine candidates: Nicole Konz, Thomas LaValley, Aaron Salt, Sandra Bankes, Al Loma, Lauren Nelson, Ivy Liu, Jamilynn D’Avola and Lori Thompson. All nine candidates won their races.
Academy School District 20
Incumbent Thomas LaValley, Nicole Konz and Aaron Salt had a large lead over the other seven candidates in the region’s largest school district, according to early results. All three candidates were on record against mask mandates and critical race theory. The district’s superintendent, Tom Gregory, issued a mask mandate in late September, sparking a rash of student walkouts and a protest outside the D-20 administrative building.
“I did not support mandatory masking, but I understand why (Gregory) did it. It has to do with the state Department of Health,” LaValley said during a candidate forum.
Colorado Springs School District 11
Rev. Al Loma, senior pastor at Victory Outreach Church, won a general election against incumbent director Shawn Gullixson by more than 1,000 votes. Sandra Bankes, Lauren Nelson and Julie Ott were leading a seven-candidate field with 16,277, 15,818, and 12,052 votes, respectively.
Jamilynn D’Avola defeated incumbent Dave Cruson and Fadil Lee for directorship of District 1.
“I’m shocked, but in a good way” said D’Avola, who voted against the proposed $8.6 million tax increase that would have funded a pay raise for teachers and staff members. “I think this was one of our most important school board races, and I think people have finally woken up to the fact that we need to get back to educating our kids and not teaching them things that go against family values.”
District 4 director Ivy Liu foiled a bid by Tammy Harold, who had previously served on the board for eight years. Lori Thompson defeated Elmer Harris and Justin Jakovac for the District 5 directorship.
The board has a history of supporting parental choice on masking and curriculum. A resolution banning the teaching of critical race theory in D-49 schools was drafted in August, and the district recently courted controversy when it made the decision not to report positive COVID-19 cases, despite Gov. Jared Polis’ contention that they were legally required to do so. Liu was one of the board’s most vocal opponents of critical race theory.