Regardless of protests and vocal backlash in school board conferences, Jeffco board candidates say they’re centered on what comes after the COVID pandemic quite than present COVID-related points.
As an alternative, the candidates are centered on enhancing educational efficiency, rising psychological well being help, and hiring and retaining high quality lecturers. Some candidates, nevertheless, consider eradicating masks mandates is a part of enhancing psychological well being for college students.
Seven candidates are working for 3 open positions on the five-seat Jeffco college board. The district is the second largest in Colorado with about 80,000 college students.
The election has the potential to alter the course of the district. The bulk of the present board consists of members supportive of and endorsed by the lecturers union. If critics of the district and the union win two of the three open seats, they’d have the bulk.
Candidates Mary Parker, Paula Reed, and Danielle Varda have fashioned a slate, now endorsed by the lecturers union, and are prioritizing workers hiring and retention, and enhancing what they confer with as “neighborhood colleges.”
“We would like candidates that belief the professionals and the experiences of lecturers and help workers,” mentioned Brooke Williams, president of the Jeffco lecturers union. “Our committee was actually impressed with their dedication to college students. Additionally, I believe it’s actually necessary that they’ve deep roots locally.”
Opponents Theresa Shelton, Kathy Miks, and Jeff Wilhite search improved fiscal administration of the district’s price range, in addition to safety of faculty selection. One other candidate, David Johnson, is also keen on district funds however desires to make sure that all points get coated together with services, in addition to higher focusing cash on psychological well being workers in colleges.
Faculty board elections are nonpartisan however politics have by no means been too far-off. In 2015, three conservative college board members had been efficiently recalled after making an attempt to create a system of efficiency pay, and calling for a revision of U.S. historical past curriculum to make sure it was patriotic.
“We’ve seen what occurs to our district when it turns into floor zero for political points,” Williams mentioned. “We simply actually need our focus to be on our college students.”
Maria Martinez believes as a mum or dad of three Jeffco college students that the varsity district and the board needs to be creating extra alternatives for college students to be bodily energetic as a approach to help psychological and emotional well being. She believes lunch instances are too quick and desires to ensure the district management works on methods to make the district’s actions extra inclusive of scholars of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
However Martinez, who used to work as a paraprofessional within the district, additionally sees one other precedence: paying workers extra.
She mentioned that she’s seen workers stress affecting college students and believes the low pay additionally contributes to staffing shortages that prompted cuts to bus service in current weeks.
“Every part will get absorbed by college students,” Martinez mentioned. “The stress of an individual or instructor may be transferred to college students if they arrive to class and are frightened about whether or not or not they may be capable of pay their electrical invoice or hire. Alternatively, a greater paid individual with much less stress can come to high school blissful and might have higher concepts.”
Bus points are additionally a excessive precedence for Rachel Crass, a mom of three. Her two elementary-age kids are being home-schooled this yr — briefly, Crass mentioned she hopes — and her 15-year-old son opted right into a program at Wheat Ridge Excessive Faculty.
Crass mentioned she’s glad Jeffco dad and mom can select the varsity that’s proper for his or her children, however she feels the district isn’t making selections straightforward for folks by not offering transportation or higher begin and finish instances.
Earlier than her kids had been home-schooled, she was shuttling them to and from college an hour and a half every day and Crass didn’t like her children being within the automotive for that lengthy. Regardless of her excessive schooler being dismissed 10 minutes sooner than his siblings, he needed to wait whereas his mom picked up the opposite children first.
“Mother and father, particularly mothers, we’re on this actually crappy scenario,” Crass mentioned. Now, she feels she’s having to decide on between being a working mum or dad to assist present for her household, or a mum or dad who does what her children want. “I don’t really feel like I can do each.”
She mentioned she’s undecided what the varsity board or the district must do to draw extra bus workers, though she’s curious if the district isn’t paying sufficient; she desires college board candidates to deal with the difficulty.
Katy Winner, one other district mum or dad who’s been energetic in a number of district committees together with one pushing to alter begin instances, mentioned she desires candidates to deal with points that had been current earlier than the pandemic together with making colleges protected, offering equitable assets to varsities, and discovering methods to get marginalized communities extra concerned.
“All voices should be heard,” Winner mentioned.
The candidates are:
Danielle Varda — is a mom of three present Jeffco college students, in addition to a college professor, researcher, and enterprise proprietor. She is frightened about instructor retention. “Academics in the present day are struggling,” Varda mentioned. “We’re dropping lecturers to different districts. We’re not as aggressive perhaps or inventive in the best way we try to recruit lecturers.”
Jeffrey Wilhite — has been a member of the district’s accountability committee and on the board of two constitution colleges. His priorities embrace higher stewardship of funds, enhancing lecturers and faculty selection. “Persons are actually sad and that causes an excessive amount of polarization between folks,” Wilhite mentioned. “One of many issues the brand new board has to take care of is to attempt to disarm that polarization that has taken place. There’s an actual disharmony and we now have to repair that.”
David Johnson — is a former historical past instructor who desires to assist signify the mountain communities of Jeffco. His priorities are to be a nonpartisan voice that may carry folks collectively. He’s the daddy of 1 Jeffco scholar and a enterprise proprietor. “My major purpose is to proceed to construct collaboration and teamwork,” Johnson mentioned. “My purpose is to make sure everybody’s heard and collaboration is a part of the method.”
Paula Reed — is a former instructor at Columbine Excessive Faculty. She desires to advocate for improved college funding and believes the district ought to have a higher say in whether or not new constitution colleges are opened in Jeffco. “I used to be very energetic within the recall of the board majority in 2015 and placing within the clear slate so I’m very, very conscious of how necessary a faculty board majority is and the way a lot harm may be carried out,” Reed mentioned. “Jeffco colleges imply lots to me.”
Theresa Shelton — is an accountant and mom of two Jeffco college students. Shelton Elementary is known as after her husband’s dad and mom. She is anxious a few downward pattern in scholar efficiency on state assessments earlier than COVID. She believes extra proof was vital for folks earlier than masking was required in colleges. “All of us anticipated it to worsen,” Shelton mentioned of educational achievement after the pandemic. “Now what are we going to do about it? I felt like I couldn’t preserve complaining anymore, I needed to do one thing.”
Kathy Miks — is a supervisor at an insulation firm and former volleyball coach at Columbine Excessive Faculty. Her priorities embrace fiscal duty, defending mum or dad selections, and supporting psychological well being and the “complete baby.” She determined to run after an encounter with a gaggle of “high-functioning homeless” at a shelter in California. “They simply don’t have the talents essential to get a job that pays sufficient. It broke my coronary heart, and I began to consider our youngsters in Jeffco,” Miks mentioned. “Whether or not they’re going proper right into a profession or navy or faculty, we want to ensure they’ve the talents to achieve success.”
Mary Parker — is a toddler advocate who has labored for a few years with foster kids and in addition is a member of Mothers Demand Motion. She believes the varsity board ought to respect worker associations and deal with hiring and retention of workers. “Funding is a giant, massive downside,” Parker mentioned. “It impacts our potential to recruit and retain good lecturers. Help workers too. I’ve seen so many indicators for ‘bus drivers wanted’. Jeffco is in a foul spot.”