Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Our free weekly e-newsletter provides journalistic coverage of Central Park schools, with a particular emphasis on topics that our community cares most about (i.e.  safety, funding, school choice, district leadership).

Your email address will only be used for the newsletter and not shared.

Tattered Cover’s former CEO Kwame Spearman enters race for at-large Denver school board seat; election Nov. 7

Kwame Spearman, former CEO of the Tattered Cover, stands on East Colfax Avenue earlier this year across from his alma mater, East High School. Photo by Kevin Beatty/Denverite

On Monday morning, May 8, former Tattered Cover CEO Kwame Spearman entered the 2023 Denver School Board race for an at-large seat.

The announcement came weeks after Spearman withdrew from the Denver mayor’s race to endorse former Metro Chamber of Commerce head Kelly Brough.

Spearman is a product of Denver Public Schools. He attended Montclair Elementary School, Smiley Middle School and East High School. His mother was with the district for 37 years, as a teacher, a principal and an assistant superintendent.

Spearman has served on board of the Denver Public Schools Foundation, the Colorado Education Initiative and the East Angels Friends and Alumni Foundation. He has worked various corporate jobs, including stints at Bain and Company, the fast-casual chain B.Good and the co-working company Knotel, after receiving a robust Ivy League education with a bachelor’s from Columbia University, a business degree from Harvard University, and a law degree from Yale.

He oversaw Tattered Cover during rapid expansion. After he withdrew from the mayor’s race, Spearman and the company parted ways. He is still a co-owner.

Why run for school board?

On the campaign trail for mayor, Spearman heard that education was among the public’s top concerns, following affordability, homelessness and safety.

He wants to shift the conversation about education away from politics and toward excellence.

“We have stopped talking about great schools,” Spearman said. “We’ve stopped talking about academic excellence for our kids. I think we need, particularly in this race, a school board representative who can start and stop every conversation with students and student performance and really ensure our students are getting everything they need.”

Spearman cites conflicts on the board, mid-meeting Twitter storms and a lack of respect as part of what needs to be fixed about current DPS leadership. The focus has become too centered around politics and personality, he said, and not enough on academic achievement.

“We need leaders on that board who are going to be pragmatic and they are going to listen,” Spearman said. “And they’re going to remove the politics and political grandstanding from a school board process.”

The only other person who has entered the race is incumbent School Board Vice President Auon’tai Anderson, who announced his candidacy last year.

This is a pivotal time for Denver Public Schools, Spearman said.

The Denver Public School District in the middle of drafting a safety plan after multiple shootings inside and outside schools, including the city’s largest, East High.

In the wake of the shootings, the school board voted to bring armed police officers back into high schools through the end of the school year — a decision that will be revisited in the safety plan. Spearman advocates for principals to be allowed to choose whether school resource officers are allowed in schools.

Spearman also has ideas about how to address testing gaps between white students and Black and Latino students.

“What I’m hearing is those students don’t have the same options choicing into schools that are the best fit for them,” Spearman said. “To me, the next iteration for where DPS can go is to say two things. One: Choice is good for parents. However, not all of our students have access to that choice in the same way. What can we do to stabilize that? A lot of that has to do with transportation and improving our neighborhood schools.”

In the years to come, the school board is facing a massive budget deficit and will likely be tasked with closing schools, something Spearman said should happen with deep community involvement.

“Having someone who understands finance and strategy and someone who can put that business lens on what is happening can be helpful,” he said.
Scroll to Top