District 51 school board: District B challenger says excellence vital for children
Q: Why did you decide to run for school board this year?
A: The American dream says anyone, whatever their background, can study hard, work hard and become CEO of Intel. But in District 51, only half of our kids are proficient in math and writing, only 74 percent graduate in four years. I was educated in private and public schools and universities, and my husband and I home-schooled for nine years. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to send their children to a private school or of being able to home-school. I want our District 51 children to have the same opportunities my children and I had.
I believe access to an excellent education is one of the keys to the American dream and critical to help our children, whatever their background or socioeconomic status, achieve their dreams for the future.
Q: What is the biggest issue facing education in District 51 and how can the school board help to solve it?
A: I think it’s important to support parental and student choices in schools. I want to encourage choice schools like Scenic Elementary, New Emerson, R-5 and Glade Park. Students learn differently. Rather than force a student into a dead end at his assigned school, we need to make it easier to move to another school where he can thrive. I think that by encouraging choice schools and charter schools and by giving them freedom, they can create an atmosphere of excitement for learning. The quote, “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire,” reflects this love and honor toward learning.
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: In studying improvements for schools, the importance of teacher quality is huge. I think it’s important to retain and reward our excellent teachers. I’d like to see programs to identify those dynamite teachers at every school, give them training, and help them coach other teachers. Senate Bill 191, the teacher effectiveness bill, gives the necessary tools to evaluate teachers and principals. It will weaken tenure but is not draconian. Teachers will have several years to improve if they are found lacking, and coaching would be a large aid toward improvement.
I think more accountability on the part of students would be beneficial. Currently teachers and schools are held accountable for students’ CSAP results, but students are not.
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: The school board has already done what it legally can — put the mill levy override, 3B, before the voters. I want to see the district look more closely at income centers as well as areas of expense which can be economized. From an increased revenue perspective, the district has successfully pulled students into the district schools so that it receives the additional funding for those students. I’d like to see additional methods implemented to reach out to students and parents of students who aren’t currently attending District 51 schools. By making them aware of existing schools and programs, such as the Vision program, Grande River Virtual Academy and the variety of other schools, I see the opportunity to draw into the district further students who would otherwise not be educated in public schools.
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: My understanding is that there is only a possibility that the cuts might happen, and that they are by no means a certainty. In the first place, the district has reserves which should cover more than half of the amount mentioned. In addition to that, the methods listed above will realize cost savings and additional income. Additional savings would follow cuts normally put into effect in private business when there is a downturn: hiring freeze, attrition, bids for outsourcing and evaluation of the results, and increase of competitive bids.