Controversy ahead for the Englewood School Board

One journalist steps away from reporting to help change state law for Board Candidates
https://www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-history-colorado-state-capitol-denver
https://www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-history-colorado-state-capitol-denver

Ahead of the upcoming swearing-in of controversial Englewood school board member Davon Williams, scheduled for Dec. 5, Pirateer journalist Michael Marquis stepped away from his role as a reporter to advocate for legislative action changing the requirements for school board candidates in Colorado. Marquis, a senior at Englewood High School, student body Treasurer, and a Multimedia Journalist for The Pirateer, said he is driven by concern as an Englewood student and community member. 

On October 4th, Marquis interviewed Davon Williams for a podcast series interviewing board candidates. Williams, who ran unopposed for a seat on the Englewood Schools Board of Education this fall, has come under fire after his criminal history was revealed by the Englewood Herald, including felony convictions for theft and car theft, and another warrant for alleged felony car theft that remained open until he surrendered to authorities the day before the November election. 

Marquis said he had a positive first impression when meeting Williams for his podcast interview. 

“He came off as very friendly, he seemed like a good fit for the position,” Marquis said. “Honestly, he was very professional during his interview, and he gave really good answers to our questions.” Marquis’ impression of Williams’ professionalism was, “very persistent in the idea of diversity, equity, and inclusion for everyone.” 

But the news of Williams’ run-ins with the law hit hard. “It wasn’t his charges that hit hard, but the fact that I discovered the lack of depth in the background checks that are required by the state of Colorado. That upset me,” Marquis spoke to Journalism adviser Karla Shotts about stepping into a different role for this case. He then began to research the policies in place for school board candidacy and quoted the policies as, “Outdated, and does not protect us in the way our students need or deserve.” So he reached out to his local legislator.

Under state law, only a conviction for a sexual offense against a child would preclude a candidate from running for a school board in Colorado. Click the link to read more from the Colorado Association of School Board (CASB) site. Any person convicted of the below crimes is fully eligible to run for school boards across Colorado and access their school campuses. 

  • Murder (In any degree)
  • Kidnapping
  • Any sexual offences involving adults
  • Domestic violence and aggravated assault charges (even including deadly weapons)
  • Terrorism
  • Child abuse, neglect, and/or endangerment 

In November, Marquis met with Congresswoman Meg Froelich, a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Arapahoe County and Denver County. Froelich shared her concerns regarding the matter. “We just think this scenario opened up a lot of shortcomings in our legislature and a lot of areas where we do need more protection for the students of the state of Colorado.”

We reached out to Rep. Meg Froelich and asked her if she would like to comment on why she feels it is important to her to appear at the board meeting and take these concerns to the state. “Our community is understandably upset that information about school board candidates is hard to come by. In this particular case, folks are further distressed that details emerged too late in the process denying the voters a chance to make a different choice on Election Day. I’m looking into legislation spelling out further eligibility requirements for school board candidates but there might be a better solution where local school boards take action. I will continue to gather information and listen to community members and plan to attend Tuesday night,” said Rep. Froelich.  

Williams declined to comment for this article, citing advice from legal counsel when we reached out to him with questions. 

Opinion – By Michael Marquis
https://www.casb.org/built-to-serve_becoming-a-candidate
https://www.casb.org/built-to-serve_becoming-a-candidate

Englewood's recent school board election opened my eyes and exposed a potentially dangerous loophole in Colorado law. Davon Williams, a twice-convicted felon with another pending charge, was an unopposed candidate for the Englewood Schools Board of Education recently elected to the Englewood Schools Board. His criminal record does not prevent him from serving on our school board. Only sexual offenses against children bar a candidate from school board seats, leaving the door open to those convicted of sexual assault, domestic violence, or even homicide. I had no idea about any of this when I interviewed Williams for a Pirateer podcast in October asking him about his plans for Englewood Public Schools.

 

This revelation forced me to consider stepping down from my reporter role and into an alternative role of activism to fight for stricter rules to protect the students of Colorado. 

 

 After learning of his criminal past and present allegations, I researched the state laws on who is eligible to run for school board and was appalled by the lack of protection given to the students of Colorado. 

 

I reached out to Congresswoman Meg Froelich, who represents Arapahoe County and Denver County in the state legislature. We discussed the situation and possible ways to move forward. It was well received. 

 

"I’m looking into legislation spelling out further eligibility requirements for school board candidates but there might be a better solution where local school boards take action. I will continue to gather information and listen to community members and plan to attend Tuesday night.” Referring to the district meeting on December 5," said Rep. Froelich. Her full quote can be read in the news story about the meeting. 

 

She will also possibly be joining me as I discuss this matter during public comment at the December 5 school board meeting. 

 

I take the decision to switch roles seriously and am passionate about making a change at the state level.  I believe anyone convicted of a violent felony should be permanently ineligible to run for school boards, and those convicted of non-violent felonies should be ineligible for many years. I understand people have a right to move on with their lives after a run-in with the law.  

I knew I had to choose one path or the other. I am passionate about this because I believe the students of Colorado deserve more protection than they are currently given. I will fight this as long as I can to protect Colorado students.  

 

Marquis plans to speak during the public comment period at the Dec. 5 Board of Education meeting where Williams is scheduled to be sworn in. 

It is believed Meg Froelich and several concerned members of the community as well as students of Englewood High School will be speaking to voice their concerns as well. 

Marquis said he would like to see, “more stringent rules in place.” Starting with the list of felonies above as crimes that would, “permanently disqualify an individual from running for any school board position. It is also my belief that any non-violent felonies should disqualify an individual candidacy for 10 years after their conviction date.” 

With this situation, Marquis is aware that his actions of stepping back from the journalist’s point of view are necessary. “I will no longer be covering stories about Davon Williams due to the actions I am taking in my private life. I do not think it is appropriate to do so.” Marquis and Froelich plan to follow up on the next steps after the December 5 school board meeting. 

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