Although the state is in charge of many aspects of K-12 education in Colorado, school boards also have a large amount of “local control” that allows them to make decisions about curriculum, student achievement and more that align with their community.
Typically, school boards are responsible for general policies that affect all schools within the district. In Jeffco, this means that the school board decides some policies for all of the neighborhood, option and charter schools. However, Jeffco charter schools also have their own school boards that decide more specific policies, such as budgets and curriculum, for their individual schools.
School board members have specific responsibilities to taxpayers, students and district staff.
For example, while state legislators decide how much funding each Colorado school district will receive, local school boards decide how that money will be allocated within the school district’s budget. Decisions about additional local funding, such as whether to put a mill levy override or bond issue on a ballot, are voted on by school board members.
Jeffco voters select board representatives in all 5 districts
Jefferson County has five school board members who serve four-year terms representing five districts in the county. Board members are term-limited and are allowed to serve for two terms.
Three of Jeffco’s five seats — in districts 1, 2 and 5 — will be up for election this November.
Jeffco’s current BOE members are:
- District 1 (north Arvada, Westminster): Brad Rupert
- District 2 (mountains, west central Lakewood): Susan Harmon
- District 3 (Arvada, Wheat Ridge, north-central Lakewood): Stephanie Schooley
- District 4 (central/south-central Lakewood, Edgewater): Susan Miller
- District 5 (south): Rick Rush
All five positions are unpaid, though in May 2021 the Colorado legislature passed HB 21-1055 that would allow school board seats to be paid positions. The Jeffco School Board has not taken a position on that legislation as of this writing.
Although each of the five board members represents the school communities in a specific part of the county and resides in that area during their term, Jeffco voters are not restricted to voting for a school board member only in their district. When voters receive their ballots this fall, they will have the opportunity to vote for candidates in all three open seats. The following candidates are running in November:
- District 1: Danielle Varda and Jeffrey Wilhite
- District 2: David Johnson, Paula Reed and Theresa Shelton
- District 5: Kathy Miks and Mary Parker
Two “slates” of candidates have emerged in this campaign. A “slate” is a group of candidates that run on a common platform, meaning these candidates are running together on a platform of shared issues with the goal to be elected together:
Responsibilities to Taxpayers
Taxpayers fund Jeffco Schools and the school board has the final say in how those monies are spent. When extra funding is available, board members work with district staff and the community to identify and approve funding priorities.
Likewise, when state funding is cut during troubled economic times, school board members work with staff and the community to find ways to cut the budget with the least impact on students.
Each year, Jeffco School Board members work with district staff to adopt a budget. Board members also receive regular updates on spending, projections for future school funding, and reports from the Financial Oversight Committee.
The school board is also responsible for keeping accurate and complete financial records for the district, with the help of district staff.
As part of their budgetary responsibilities, the Jeffco school board approves charter schools and renews existing charters. Although Jeffco’s charter schools make their own budget decisions, funds for those charter schools are sent from the state to Jeffco Schools, which in turn distributes those funds and a portion of mill levy and bond funds to those schools.
The Jeffco School Board also approves and renews charter contracts based on financial metrics and student achievement to ensure taxpayer monies are spent appropriately. Charter schools have occasionally run into funding issues due to state funding cuts or low enrollment, and petition the board for a temporary loan while they address the funding shortfall. The Jeffco School Board votes on those requests. If the board approves the request, members receive regular updates on steps the charter schools has taken to ensure financial stability and the status of repayment.
The board holds a regularly scheduled public meetings each month as well as regular study sessions. All meetings are open to all. Citizens can sign up in advance to speak to the board, typically about items on the posted agenda, at regular board meetings.
Board members also occasionally vote to meet in executive session, which is closed to the public, to review student and personnel issues. Board members may vote to go into executive session for a small number of other issues, such as real estate negotiations, negotiation strategy with employee associations, or to receive updates about specific school safety protocols that could compromise the district’s safety precautions.
Responsibilities to Students
Another major school board responsibility is monitoring student achievement. Board members work with the district to set improvement goals. This includes ensuring the needs of all students are met, including students with disabilities, English language learners (ELL) and gifted students.
The board also has final say in the curriculum decisions for the district, such as the new reading curriculum that the board voted to adopt in May to meet Colorado’s new state standards. In addition, the board also approves student codes of conduct and enforces school attendance law for all students.
As part of their budgetary responsibilities, the board ensures building capacity for students in all Jeffco schools (warm, safe and dry). They are also responsible for allocating Jeffco schools bond monies for capital improvement projects.
The board sets school articulation boundaries, and occasionally makes the difficult decision to close specific schools. When schools are closed, students are re-assigned to other neighborhood schools.
Responsibilities to Staff
Members of the Jeffco School Board directly employ only one employee: the superintendent. All other district personnel report to Dorland.
According to board member Stephanie Schooley, “the district follows policy governance to determine how the board and superintendent separate their role and scope. The board is responsible for the board ends and board policy, leaving the ‘how’ up to the superintendent.”
When there is an opening for the superintendent position, board members interview candidates, select finalists, and negotiate the contract. In some cases, school board members may vote to hire a search firm to guide the process, as they did in this spring’s superintendent search.
In addition, the board implements a teacher/staff review system and a salary schedule. The board members direct staff regarding negotiations between the district and the various employee associations each year.