This November, four school board candidates are vying for two Jeffco School Board seats.
Candidates Rob Applegate and Stephanie Schooley are running for the District 3 seat, currently occupied by Ali Lasell. Candidates Joan Chávez-Lee and Susan Miller are running for the District 4 seat, currently occupied by Amanda Stevens. Both Lasell and Stevens chose not to run for a second term.
Ballots arrive in Jeffco mailboxes this week, and any registered voter in Jeffco can vote for one school board candidate in each district. Although the candidates represent a specific region of Jeffco, school board seats are decided through a county-wide vote. All Jeffco ballots are due by Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Last Tuesday, Jeffco PEN sent a list of identical questions to all four candidates and gave them a week to send us answers. Two candidates responded and two declined. We have printed the questions that we sent to all candidates and their answers exactly as they responded, proofreading only for typos or formatting to our website.
We featured the District 3 candidates yesterday. Today, we feature the candidates from District 4: Chávez-Lee and Miller. Only Chávez-Lee responded to our questions.
More information about all four candidates is also available on each candidate’s website:
Rob Applegate – https://www.applegateforjeffcokids.com/home
Stephanie Schooley – https://www.stephanieschooleyforjeffcoschools.com/
Joan Chávez-Lee – https://www.joanchavezleeforjeffcoschools.com/
Susan Miller – https://www.millerforjeffcostudents.com
If elected, what are your top three priorities as a school board member?
My top three priorities are closing achievement and opportunity gaps, meeting the mental health needs of students, and providing competitive compensation for employees.
What is Jeffco Schools doing well to address student mental health needs, and what can be improved?
It is difficult for students to learn if they are anxious, depressed, and/or angry. It is important that the district is working to address the mental health needs of our students by using some of the 2018 mill levy money to employ Social Emotional Learning Specialists. These specialists will help all students acquire skills that will lead to pro-social behaviors and a positive and productive school environment. The district also continues to support and promote the Safe2Tell program. This program can help to direct resources to students who have immediate mental health needs. The district should also continue to promote community partnerships with organizations such as Jefferson County Mental Health to help provide mental health therapists at school locations.
Why did you vote for or against 5A and 5B, the 2018 school mill and bond?
I voted yes for both 5A and 5B. I voted for the mill levy because it would help increase safety measures (physical and mental health) for Jeffco students and provide money to increase salaries for Jeffco employees. I voted for the bond investment because many of our schools need repairs, renovations and reconstruction. In addition, the bond money will support the continued upgrade of safety measures for our schools.
Using specific examples, how should the school board measure essential components of career and college readiness that are not measured by standardized tests?
Career and college readiness is more than the academic preparedness and cognitive factors that may be indicated by standardized tests. It should also include the behavioral aspects of student performance such as time management, interpersonal skills, and persistence. The District Unified School Plan uses several ways to measure the components of career and college readiness. These include concurrent enrollment, matriculation rates, and graduation rates. Some ways to indicate career and college readiness could include a detailed report on how many students are involved with experiential learning and how many students are working toward attaining technical credentials or certifications. There should also be a way to use or develop CCR assessments that will also measure the behavioral aspects of student performance that relate to career and college readiness.
If the State of Colorado permitted school districts to fund student enrollment in private schools via vouchers or some other mechanism, would you advocate for that in Jeffco? Why or why not?
I am a strong supporter of public education. We should not undermine the funding of public schools to subsidize private tuition with tax dollars or tax credits. I do not support any legislation that sanctions establishing conventional or neo-vouchers in Colorado. In our country, vouchers have often been directed towards religious private schools. This is not allowed, as stated in the Colorado Constitution, Article 9, Education, Section 7.
How should the school board balance compensation with other budget priorities?
It is important that the budget aligns financial resources with the efforts indicated in the district’s strategic plan. Competitive compensation for Jeffco employees should be one of these priorities. Budget decisions should be based both on long- and short-term plans for expenditures. The school district budget should always be evaluated by such means as the use of a continuous school improvement cycle. This can be used to set goals, identify ways of improvement and evaluate if the improvements have been successful.
Should teacher compensation be tied to student performance on standardized tests?
I do not support performance pay for teachers based on student performance on standardized tests. Developing and implementing pay for performance is time consuming and expensive. In addition, performance pay will not ensure that the best teachers stay at our most impacted schools, and it can cause financial instability for our teachers.
Citing specific examples, what is Jeffco Schools doing well?
I believe that Jeffco Schools provides families many choices for their children’s educational experience. Charter, neighborhood, and option schools provide particular school learning environments that help meet the needs of our students. For an example, within District 4, four elementary schools provide dual language programs, Patterson Elementary School provides an IB Primary Years program, Addenbrooke Classical Charter School provides students with a Core Knowledge curriculum as well as music every day, and Jefferson County Open School provides for self-direction and experiential learning.
Citing specific examples, how can Jeffco Schools do better?
As Jeffco follows a path of facilitating deeper learning for our students, it is still important to remember that the mastery of content knowledge and the transfer of knowledge is an important aspect of deeper learning. The 2019 academic growth data for CMAS and PSAT/SAT showed lower performance compared to prior years for overall grade levels and subgroups such as free/reduced lunch eligible students, Hispanic students, etc. I am pleased that the district is addressing decreased growth score data by determining root causes and then identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the decreased growth scores.
What else would you like Jeffco voters to know about you?
I have been involved with Jeffco Public Schools since my daughter began kindergarten in 1987. As a parent, I was treated in a positive and respectful manner by all school staff members and I quickly became an involved parent at the school as well as at the district level. I served as the PTA president and a member of school accountability committees. I also served on district committees, such as the Jeffco Language Development Preschool Advisory Board. Encouraged by mentors in Jeffco schools, I became a teacher and principal. I taught at three elementary schools in grades K – 5, and I was the principal at Russell and Molholm elementary schools and Wheat Ridge Middle School. Since retiring, I have been an active member and treasurer of the Kiwanis Club of Wheat Ridge, participated on the education committee for the Friends of Dinosaur Ridge and am a current board member for CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin counties. I continue my involvement in the district by serving on the District Accountability Committee and volunteering in my granddaughter’s classroom.