Meet DPS District 4 candidates Roger Kilgore and Landri Taylor
- Age: 63
- President of the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver
- Three grown children, including two who graduated from Montbello High School
- Website: landrifordps.com
Taylor is already on the school board, having been appointed in March to fill the seat vacated by Nate Easley, who left to become head of the Denver Scholarship Foundation. And he believes that this school board race is the most important one in the country. "Denver has been leading the effort in terms of turnaround, in terms of transformation and innovation," he says.
Taylor wears the reformer label with pride, calling non-reformers the "wait-and-see crowd."
"Not only am I part of the reform camp, but I led the first effort toward reforming our far northeast schools," he says, referring to the plan that the board approved in 2010 to turn around six low-performing schools. It resulted in the closure of four, drastic changes at two more, and the opening of nine new charter and innovation schools to replace those that are closing.
Taylor's involvement started when he was a parent disappointed in the education his daughters were receiving. But rather than move districts, he kept them in DPS. "We chose to be part of a solution," he says, "not to move out of the neighborhood."
Through his work with the Foundation for Educational Excellence, a nonprofit focused on creating public-private partnerships to improve education, and the Urban League, he became involved in early turnaround discussions. He says the community was presented with three options: do nothing, continue to evaluate the situation or move forward with big changes. "And overwhelmingly, everyone said, 'Let's move forward,'" Taylor says. "And the reason they did that is because they had no fear."
landrifordps.com Landri Taylor and friends in a photo from his website.
He thinks DPS handled the process well, but can also do better. When parents are resistant, he says, the district should do a better job at explaining how the schools are failing. "Bring them into recognizing the challenge," he says. "My bet is they will all say, 'Status quo isn't going to help our children.'"
Overall, he thinks the far northeast turnaround is working, though he acknowledges that the early results are a "mixed bag." He admits that some schools have had high teacher turnover already. To fix that, he says the district should develop a principal and teacher pipeline "so you're growing your own effective teachers and your own effective leaders." Consistency will be key if the turnaround is going to succeed, he adds.
Taylor is most proud of the votes he's taken to open new schools. The hardest decisions he's had to make were whether to renew the contracts for mediocre or low-performing schools, he says.
Taylor counts himself among the board majority and says if the balance of the board were to flip -- that is, if the minority became the majority -- "progress would stop."
For all nine of the candidate interviews, read our cover story, "Drawing the Line."