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Woodland Park School Board race too close to call after more ballots counted

Posted at 11:52 PM, Nov 07, 2023

WOODLAND PARK — The Woodland Park School Board race is still too close to call as of Wednesday afternoon according to unofficial election results from the Secretary of State's office.

Three newcomer candidates, Seth Bryant (District A), Keegan Barkley (District C), and Mike Knott (District D), are challenging school board member incumbents Mick Bates (District A), Dave Illingworth (District B), and Cassie Kimbrell (District C). Barkley is the only challenger winning the race against opponent Illingworth by less than 3% of votes. Bates is winning the race over Bryant by just 43 votes while Kimbrell is winning the race over Knott by 55 votes.

The Woodland Park School Board election has been highly anticipated by many district teachers, staff, and parents after some say the current school board has brought divisiveness to the community. They say 40% of district staff did not return this year due to the board's decision to adopt new social studies standards and cut over $1 million in mental health funding.

If they secure the position, the newcomer candidates said they would push to reinstate the district's original social studies standards and reapply for mental health funding. All three candidates have children who are enrolled in Woodland Park schools. They said they wouldn't be where they are in the races without the help from concerned community members and teachers who showed up to their election watch party at the Ute Pass Cultural Center on Tuesday night.

“We have 250 people coming here tonight who helped us get to this point and it’s because of them that we’re able to do this. I couldn’t do this by myself,” said Barkley.

“We would never be here without the community that’s been behind us from day one. Woodland Park School District is an amazing community of involved parents and stakeholders," said Bryant.

“We all really wanted to focus on bringing the decisions back to what’s best for the students," said Knott.

Earlier this year the district enacted a policy prohibiting staff from speaking to journalists or writing on social media about district decisions without approval from Superintendent Ken Witt. A lawsuit was filed against the district by the local teachers union alleging it violated employees' First Amendment rights. The district decided to replace the policy during federal court mediation this month.

News5 reached out via email to the three current board members running for reelection for an interview or statement on the unofficial election results. We did not hear back from them. Earlier in the day, the current School Board President said their watch party was taking place at a private residence and the candidates would not be able to accommodate an in-person interview but could participate in a phone call or video call.

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