Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is making good on promises throughout his campaign and into the first days in office that he would make education a central part of his administration.
Hancock so far has set up the first-ever education compact between the city and Denver Public Schools, is meeting regularly with education leaders and on Monday made his first endorsement in the school board election.
Hancock sent an e-mail to supporters saying he endorses Allegra "Happy" Haynes for the at-large position for Denver's school board and asked them to contribute to her campaign. "Happy will make every decision based on the answer to one overriding question: Is it best for kids," Hancock wrote.
Hancock's predecessor, John Hickenlooper, rarely weighed in on school races — endorsing only two candidates in 2009.
Now, Gov. Hickenlooper has not decided whether he will endorse this year.
Hancock says he will endorse in each of the three school board races before the Nov. 1 election, which some are calling a referendum on DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg and his reforms.
The seven-member board now favors Boasberg, but with three seats up for election that balance could change.
Sources say Hancock is expected to support the candidates who support the current reforms — Haynes, Anne Rowe in southeast Denver and Jennifer Draper Carson in northwest Denver.
During his own campaign, Hancock used education as a major theme, even filming a dramatic commercial that showed him driving his son from his Montbello home to a downtown Denver high school every morning.
"That's why it has that much more meaning to me to receive his endorsement," said Haynes, a former city councilwoman and DPS administrator.
In many other large cities, school districts are under mayoral control. In Denver, the district is led by a superintendent who serves at will of an independently elected school board.
"As mayor that is one of his leverage points since he doesn't have direct control over education — his ability to get people elected to the school board that mirror his beliefs," said Donnell-Kay Foundation director Tony Lewis.
A look at Hancock's official calendar over the past two months shows he continues to meet with education officials, including Boasberg, University of Colorado Denver Chancellor Jerry Wartgow, Stand For Children Colorado Director Lindsay Neil and some school board candidates.
Hancock did not meet with any of the other four candidates running against Haynes for the at-large seat. He has met with Rowe but not her competitor Emily Sirota. And he met with both candidates in northwest Denver — Carson and Arturo Jimenez.
Jimenez's campaign filed an open records request to find out what candidates Hancock has officially met.
"I have hope that he will be courageous and bold and not endorse the out-of-state backed slate," Jimenez said, adding that he believes his opponent is getting support from pro-reform groups from outside Colorado.
Carson, Jimenez's opponent, said that is not true.
"I am raising money from people in District 5," she said. "There are plenty of people in Denver who are involved in this."
While Hancock begins to roll out his endorsements, the teachers' union — Denver Classroom Teachers Association — says it plans to make their picks known today.