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.
Today, we feature the candidates from District 3: Applegate and Schooley. Only Schooley responded to our questions.
The article about District 4 candidates is here.
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?
If elected, my priorities will be 1) working toward competitive compensation for educators and support staff, 2) providing increased mental health and social-emotional supports for students across all levels, and 3) increasing pathways for high-quality college, career, and community readiness as part of students’ educational experiences in Jeffco.
What is Jeffco Schools doing well to address student mental health needs, and what can be improved?
The addition of social-emotional support staff through 5A funds is a positive step forward. The district can explore increased partnerships with community organizations, like the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, to bring additional resources and staffing into Jeffco schools. We have to treat the mental health needs of students like the public health priority that it is.
Why did you vote for or against 5A and 5B, the 2018 school mill and bond?
I voted yes on both 5A and 5B and also served as an articulation area captain to engage others in the campaign. As much as the district needs to be good stewards of public funds, the public has to invest in education if we want Jeffco to remain an excellent community to live, work, and play. Whether individuals like tax increases or not, and pretty much everyone hesitates at raising taxes, the reality is that our schools are underfunded both within the state and as compared to similarly-sized districts across the country. Until we level the fiscal playing field we will be working at a deficit in what we can provide to our students.
Using specific examples, how should the school board measure essential components of career and college readiness that are not measured by standardized tests?
I believe strongly that we can, and should, diversify the ways in which we determine whether students and schools are successful. Standardized tests are one data point, taken at one moment during the school year, that provide one piece of information about student performance. There are numerous other tools that the district can employ, including classroom-based assessments that provide more immediate feedback for continuous improvement, teacher and parent observations, and possible resources borrowed from higher education and industry. One example could be the AAC&U VALUES rubrics, providing student assessments for areas such as critical thinking, communication, civic engagement, etc. The district can be innovative in how it approaches college and career readiness in collaboration with thought partners from the community, from higher education, and from business representatives.
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?
No, I would not. Public funding should be invested in public schools.
How should the school board balance compensation with other budget priorities?
Organizational budgets are a statement of values. Among competing priorities, people have to come first. One of the most significant predictors of student achievement is an effective teacher in the classroom. If the district values high-quality educators and support staff, then it will prioritize those individuals within the budget. I also think the district has a responsibility to consistently review and assess the effectiveness of budget spending, ensuring that what is working can be scaled and that what is no longer effective can be transitioned to other priorities.
Should teacher compensation be tied to student performance on standardized tests?
No, teacher compensation should not be tied to student performance on standardized tests.
Citing specific examples, what is Jeffco Schools doing well?
I am a supporter of Jeffco Generations and the strategic vision of district leadership to prepare students for the rapidly-changing world around them. The balance of content mastery as one piece of the varied puzzle of skills students will need for college, career, and community life is critical. Communities and employers need graduates who can work across difference, who can think critically about the information they receive and determine its veracity, and who can adapt and be agile in unknown contexts. Jeffco Generations is a pathway to providing those skills.
Citing specific examples, how can Jeffco Schools do better?
Keeping with Jeffco Generations, one area for improvement focuses on providing the professional development and support that educators, support staff, and administrators need to translate the vision to practice. Making that shift, theory to practice, can be difficult and requires a measured approach that front-loads educators with the resources and skills they need to make it happen. Project-based learning and engaged educational experiences for students take time to plan, develop, and integrate with basic content mastery to ensure all areas are being covered. The district can increase the support it currently provides to school-based staff so that they have the tools they need to be successful.
What else would you like Jeffco voters to know about you?
I have a history of “see something, do something” to make our communities stronger, both in my personal life and throughout my career in higher education. I am an involved parent and community member who invites collaboration and engagement from across diverse perspectives. We bring the best ideas forward for our kids when we listen, when we play well with others, and when we live out our values. My core value is education equity and ensuring that all students, regardless of zip code, see their futures in Jeffco through high-quality college, career, and community readiness from early childhood through high school graduation. I’d be honored to serve on the Board of Education for Jeffco.