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Q & A with Dr. Anne Keke, incoming Aurora school board member

Editor’s note Dr. Anne Keke, a longtime member and leader in the African Leadership Group, won election November 2 to the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education. Dr. Anne won more votes than any other candidate, and had a base of support that spread far beyond the ALG community.

ALG interviewed Dr. Anne last week about her experiences running for office, what she learned, and what her top priorities are as she begins her board service on November 30.

ALG: Congratulations, Dr. Anne. Please tell us a little about your experience running for elective office, and some of the lessons you learned.

Dr. Anne Keke: It was an interesting few months and really not at all what I expected. For the most part, it was super fun, but I underestimated the amount of work and sacrifice that goes into it. I did not have a campaign manager, so I had to rely heavily on the community to help run my campaign. Ultimately the community, my community, came together in the end to help me cross the finish line. In many ways the experience was very humbling. It came with its own hurdles and surprises.

ALG: What kind of hurdles did you encounter?

Dr. Anne:  Unfortunately, running for office as a Black, immigrant woman comes with racial hurdles. Your skin color matters. People were skeptical of me at first, rightfully so, because they didn’t know where I came from. I was labeled in many different ways. 

But being a Black, immigrant woman and a single mother also had its advantages. Whatever my weaknesses were also were my strengths because that’s what I ran on. I didn’t back down or stay away from those issues.

So I told people: Yes, I’m a single mother. I understand first-hand what the many single mothers in APS go through. Yes, I am a black immigrant. So I understand that experience and speak of and through that. Most of my anecdotes and my personal stories revolve around that experience.

ALG: You teach in a charter high school. Did that become an issue in the campaign?

Dr. Anne: Yes, some people and organizations tried to pin the label of ‘charter school candidate’ on me early in the campaign. I had to fight through and really explain myself on many occasions.Yes, I work at a charter, and this is the reason why. This is my place of work. Working for a charter does not mean you are for or against charters.

There was even an occasion where, within my own party (Democratic) when it came to getting help carrying and distributing my campaign literature, I had to ask permission from various candidates before my literature would be carried by volunteers. 

Ultimately, it all came together. But a candidate shouldn’t have to do that. If you belong to a party you belong to a party, and the party should support you. That at least is my personal opinion. And I have to be honest: I do not think they would have had the nerve to do that to a white woman.

ALG: What are your top priorities for your first six months in office?

Dr. Anne: My priorities align with what the community told me during the campaign they wanted to see. Parents in APS want to have the choice to decide where they want to put their kids. All they need is the support and the resources so that they can make an informed decision.

I also heard a lot about parents needing more help with their special education students. They feel like it is hard to get through to the district. And of course the equity issue in APS needs addressing.

More recently, with the shootings at two Aurora high schools in November, the safety issue has to be a top priority. The secret sauce here is parent engagement, community engagement. It is not an Aurora Police Department-only issue. It is not an APS-only issue. It is a community and the community needs to come together with APS, APD, and city council, so we can together resolve this issue.

Perhaps most important, we need to stop and listen to our kids. They’re sending a message that we’re not getting.

ALG: Finally, what message would you like to send to the ALG community about your election?

Dr. Anne: I couldn’t have done this without the community at large, but the ALG community in particular. I appreciate how everyone, every ALG parent, has pitched in with a dollar, or $100, or $500. And I want to thank people for all the times that they had to pick up my kid when I couldn’t pick her up from activities or to drop off when I couldn’t because I had to canvass or had to be on phone calls.

I knew even in the midst of the whole thing, when it was so hard, that I had this huge family I could count on. When I say it is a community, I mean, it is a community that is more like a big family.

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