Aspen School District board results remain unclear, more ballots to be counted next week

The Aspen School District.
Aspen Times file photo

Results in the Aspen School District’s board of education race will likely not be clear until Nov. 15, Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Ingrid Grueter said on Wednesday.

In the race for two open seats on the Aspen School District board, Sarah Daniels was the presumptive winner of one seat, receiving the most votes out of the four candidates in the race. But the battle for the second open seat has amounted to a razor-thin race between incumbent Katy Frisch and school board newcomer Cassie Harrelson.

Harrelson led Frisch by just 20 votes, according to unofficial results released by the county at 11:47 p.m. on Election Day. It was the third round of ballots counted on Tuesday, and it nudged Harrelson ahead of Frisch, who led Harrelson by only 13 votes when a second round of ballots were counted at 9 p.m.

With about 75 ballots that still need to be cured and an unknown number of ballots that could be coming from overseas, according to Grueter, it will remain unknown who will take the second seat on the board for at least another week. 

According to Colorado election law, if the difference between Frisch and Harrelson’s vote count is less than 0.5% of the amount of votes cast for the winner of the two, an automatic recount will be triggered.

“I’ve been through the curing process beforehand waiting for overseas ballots, and we just let it play out,” Frisch said. “I have full confidence that the secretary of state and the county clerk run great elections, and I’m confident that we’ll know more at the end of next week.”

“I’m remaining optimistic,” Harrelson said. “I kind of anticipated it was going to be this close … I just didn’t know in which way, but I’m so glad that I ran. It’s been a positive experience, and I’ve gotten to actually listen and learn a lot more about our community and what they really want in a school board.”

Daniels has received 2,231 votes.

Daniels will begin serving on the school board on Nov. 29 when the board certifies the election results. It will be her first term serving on the board, but she is no stranger to the Aspen School District.

She currently leads the District Accountability Committee and Aspen Middle School’s school accountability committee, state-mandated boards made up of parents, teachers, and administrators. She also has two children in Aspen schools, in 7th and 9th grade.

She also sits on the board for the Aspen Education Foundation.

“I am really excited to serve the Aspen community by being on the school board,” she said. “I am very excited about the work for the next four years to make Aspen the best that it can be.”

Throughout the election, Daniels said her goals for the school board were to improve educational outcomes, support teachers, and celebrate Aspen’s uniqueness. She frequently cited improving social and emotional learning for students as a way to both improve educational outcomes and address learning loss that was incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As a mother of two children who were in school when the pandemic shut down so much, she said she saw how students at different grade levels were affected differently. For example, younger students have shown learning loss in literacy whereas older students have shown learning loss in math or science. It’s something she hopes to tackle while on the school board.

“I have to say running for public office was harder than I thought, and I think it’s a different skill set than actually being on the school board,” she said. “But I was pleased with last night’s results, and I’m anxiously awaiting who will also be on the board with me.”

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