District 51 school board: District B incumbent values teamwork, goal of student success
Q: Why did you decide to run for school board this year?
A: I care about students and their education. I want to work with other board members to build healthy partnerships in the community because world class education will only be a reality if we work together. Members of the board have an obligation to work together to examine all the facts and perspectives around issues so we can make the best decisions to promote student success. We have been working hard to build the school system in which all students have an opportunity to be successful in their learning. We are starting to see success and we must continue that effort.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing education in District 51 and how can the school board help to solve it?
A: We must continue to be committed to building a world class education system. With that in mind, our biggest challenges are meeting the community and state’s expectations for high performing schools and meeting unfunded legislated state and federal mandates for school reform, in a time when resources are drastically being reduced. During my time on the board, we have made progress as demonstrated by increasing graduation rates, decreasing dropout rates and exceeding the state average in academic growth for the past two years. This has taken place when our budgets have been reduced by 20 percent and enrollment has remained relatively constant.
The school board must lobby and advocate for few restrictions and more authority for reform at the local level. In addition, we are placing an override question on the ballot this November providing an opportunity for our citizens to support schools locally so that we can continue these successful reform efforts.
Q: A new teacher evaluation system is taking shape in Colorado. What is your opinion of tenure and are teachers and administrators (and possibly children and parents) lacking accountability?
A: District 51 implemented a very structured teacher evaluation system that will be enhanced with the implementation of Senate Bill 191 to ensure highly qualified teachers and principals are in school buildings. Senate Bill 191 deals with the tenure issue. What we must focus on is having a system of evaluation for teachers and principals that promotes accountability and ongoing professional development.
Q: District 51 will receive $6,137 per student from the state funding formula this year. Does the district need more money, why or why not, and, if yes, how should the district attempt to get more money?
A: We don’t need money for money’s sake. The district is mandated to meet the learning needs of every student so that they meet or exceed the identified state standards. This is different than the expectations that were in place when people my age were in school. What this means is that we need the resources to provide every student with the additional time and other support they need to grow academically. To have the resources in place to meet these mandates, the district needs more than $6,137 per student. The average district funding in the state of Colorado is $8,200 per student.
School districts can raise revenue by pursuing grants or asking for donations either directly or via a foundation. District 51 is aggressively pursuing both of these avenues. To raise a significant amount of revenue, school districts can only ask voters to levy additional property taxes. Under current law, we are not permitted to ask for sales tax increases or income tax increases.
Q: If the district has to cut $8–10 million this year, what are the first three areas you would examine for possible cuts?
A: The district has reduced its budget over the past three years, cutting $28.6 million. It gets harder every year when faced with additional reductions. In order to meet state mandates, an additional $8–10 million in reductions will be extremely difficult and these mandates are not likely to go away.
All areas in the district will need to be examined and evaluated. Not one or even three areas would equal $8–10 million, so it will have to be a combination of areas.