DC BOE Candidates Speak Out

Candidates For Douglas County Board of Education Talk About Their Goals and Positions

The Douglas County Tea Party holds meetings the 3rd Sunday of each month and invites political speakers to challenge leaders and bolster their views. On August 21, 2011, the Party invited all of the candidates running for the DC Board of Education to introduce themselves and answer questions from political activists. While the BOE race is non-partisan, everyone in the room felt that they new the party affiliation of all the candidates. However, being a Republican does not mean the Tea Party is behind you. Tea Party members challenge all candidates to hold firm to Tea Party values - absolutely no new taxes, reduced taxes, and smaller government. Word spread that the Tea Party was meeting with BOE candidates and both Democrats and Republicans were cordially invited to the meeting as well.

The majority of the candidates have websites where readers can find the bios of all candidates. There are also bios for incumbent candidates on the Douglas County School District website.

District A

Joan Grady – N/A

Susan Meek - https://sites.google.com/sitesusanmeek4douglascountyschools/

Kevin Reilly - http://reilly4dcschools.com/

Craig Richardson – N/A See DC BOE Website http://www.dcsdk12.org/portal/page/portal/DCSD/Board_of_Education/Board_Members

District C

Gail Frances - http://www.gailfrances4schools.com/

Kevin Larson – N/A

District F

Susan (Susie) McMahon - http://www.mcmahon4schools.com/

Justin Williams - http://www.electjustin.com/

Six of the nine candidates were able to attend the forum. Forum attendance ranged from about to 50 to 60. Candidates were given about 5 minutes each to introduce themselves. The moderator started the question and answer session.

 Q: What are the top three things, in priority order, you would work on if elected to the Board? Moderator

Susie: 1) Re-survey the community to determine if needs are being met; 2) Build community relationship and, 3) communication links.

Craig: 1) End tenure; promote “Pay for Performance” - teachers are suppliers – need to be compensated market-style; 2) promote “Blue Print for Choice;” 3) Listen.

Gail: 1) Prevent defection of teachers; 2) Increase communication [with community]; 3) Promote tax investments in schools.

Susan: 1) Develop sustainable funding model for learning; 2) Reward best teachers; 3) Develop strategic partnerships for skill learning.

Kevin L: 1) Balance local and state funding; increase local accountability by moving back to 2/3 local 1/3 state 2) Promote “Pay for Performance” 3) Address academic achievement; develop a “Unified Improvement Plan”; ID root causes.

Kevin R: 1) Transparency Board and District; 2) Accountability at all levels – Board, Admin, teachers, principals; 3) education via retention of teachers & principals.

Q: What are your views on raising taxes? Moderator

Kevin R: Tax increases are a decision of the voters. Personally, I support “Bright Colorado” but do not think it will pass in Douglas County.

Kevin L: Estimate that “Bright Colorado” will increase Douglas County’s school tax bill to about $55 million [23% of total state tax bill]. DC schools only get back about $40 million. Mil levy will raise an additional $20 million that stays in Douglas County [most of which will go towards “Pay for Performance” salary increases and bonuses for teachers].  I support the local tax increase but not the state increase.

Susan: More dollars does not equal better schools. Employees [teachers] have not had a raise for three years. I need more information.

Gail: We are talking about a regressive tax [a tax that takes a larger percentage from low-income people than from high-income people]. Regarding the mil levy, I am worried about the appropriation [to a “Pay for Performance” program].

Craig: I evaluate the need for a tax increase by starting with the premise - “No.” The correlation between dollars and achievement is not equal. Must take into account economic conditions, good macro environment, and use of scarce resources. I believe that “Pay for Performance” will raise teacher quality over time.

Susie: I need to know where the money is going, e.g., what’s in the plan for “Pay for Performance” and the effect on retaining teachers now. Our parents are paying bus fees and extras fees everywhere to attend school. If “Pay for Performance” is for teachers, where are we to get dollars for children? I do not support the tax increase purposed for the County. I don’t believe the constituents trust the District.

Q: There are 47 kids in classrooms at Ranch View Middle School. How will you address class size? Audience

Craig: A small part of the mil levy will go towards class size. See 15-page description on “Pay for Performance” plan. Bond will go towards building 3 new schools. There are nearly 60,000 students in district now growing at 2000 per year.

Gail: District diverted dollars to vouchers. District is using resources ineffectively. Need model of “Pay for Performance” that can be obtained by looking at other out of state districts. [Comment from the audience: “Pay for Performance” needs to start with the Superintendent’s salary.]

Susan: Current [2011/2012] budget was balanced by dipping into the reserve account. More dollars are needed in order to reduce class size.

Kevin L: The “Blue Print for Choice” [vouchers] took no dollars from schools.

Kevin R: [Vouchers] did take dollars from public schools. Teachers now do tasks they did not do before. Taxpayers need to turn this around.

Susie: Class size in K-12 is now 35 to 1. Performance levels [so far] remain high. Next year, the “Blue Budget” [no subsidies from the reserve account] will go into effect without a tax increase. I want to see the “Pay for Performance” plan on the website.


Q: Curriculum: The International Baccalaureate Program (IB). What is the status of this program given cuts? How will it continue to be funded? What about class sizes for students in this program? Audience

Gail: The focus on tests is limiting this program.

Susan: IB is a high school program. It is costly; teachers require extra training. For certain kids two years of IB high school classes equal two years of college.

Kevin L: The first IB program was introduced in Douglas High School. Rigor is required. IB + AP classes are challenged when resources are scarce. Need to find additional resources.

Kevin R: We can ask parents to pay additional fees for AP and honors classes. We need to educate all those who come through the door. Public schools must take all students.

Susie: I agree with Susan. Gifted has no funding now. Can Charter Schools help? I am concerned about the future of these programs.

Craig: Honors programs stress the system. It is heartbreaking. The language program is suffering. However, the Board should not micro-manage. Layoffs are the responsibility of the Principal. We need to empower Principals to allocate funds. Let the market dictate [curriculum] choices.

Q: Regarding “Blue Print for Choice”, what parts do you like; not like? Audience

Susan: Unfortunately, all attention is on vouchers. There are also contract schools, autonomy, and a long history of choice. The voucher program has been oversimplified. If each DC school has 6 less students, the school budget is reduced by $20,000. The [voucher] finance structure is complex and can hurt. We can’t have different playing rules, e.g., private schools have no transparency. We need the same rules for all competitors.

Kevin L: There are 7 choice programs [in the “Blue Print for Choice”]. I support all elements equally. Students in choice programs continue to be counted as students in the District [but not the individual school]. It is revenue neutral. I did analysis and [vouchers] made financial sense. Vouchers support 5% of students at no harm to the other 95%.

Kevin R: I do not support vouchers. Why are we giving money to the “other side” – those who we are competing against – other schools districts? What does “autonomy” mean? No District controls? What does “open enrollment” mean? No limits? We need to raise quality and compete with other Districts – not ourselves.

Susie: In business, we look for a “return on investment.” I agree with 90% of the Blue Print for Choice”, but do not believe in vouchers – they are against the constitution.

Craig: Vouchers have overtaken the 7 choice programs made up of 15 total initiatives. Initiatives include open enrollment. They also included a web-based catalog to generate a list of potential schools – market driven. Parents can look for schools based on core values. The most accurate decision maker is the parent. The constitution is still in question – not the last word. The center of the [voucher] controversy is the Blaine Amendment.

Gail: The “Blue Print” needs to be explained. Presented as dollars being taken away from children and going to other districts. The idea of schools as businesses is offensive. 

Q: “I stand for no taxes, no matter what. I have no children in school. I live on a fixed income. If you were voting on the Board tonight, would you vote yes or no to put the bond and mil levy question on the ballot?” Bob

Kevin L: Yes. Support local funding of schools.

Kevin R: Yes. But think voters will vote No.

Susie: I need more information. Need to let the voters decide.

Craig: No.

Gail: Yes.

Susan: Abstain. Not enough information.

Q: “I read reports from the Choice subcommittees. I attended the community meetings where information was given and not gathered. Regarding serving the broader community: how will you get information out prior to decisions? Audience

Susie: First, I would conduct the “What needs are not being met?” survey. I would go into the community more, e.g., set up a booth at the Farmers Markets or attend school events.

Craig: Treat public like customers. Have the schools communicate with public and bring info back to the district.

Gail: Create an interactive website. Converse in person e.g., in front of WalMart.

Susan: Create link back to the community. Establish relationships with elected officials, chambers, and schools. Need to go beyond schools.

Kevin L: Met with public at Castle Rock Library. There are DAC Meetings. Need to spend more time with communication; up to 200 comments interactively.

Kevin R: Solicit opinions. Start with input from elections. Pay attention.

Q: Colorado is bottom 5 in education funding and bottom 5 in numbers of high school graduates going to college. People get jobs so they can live in Douglas County so their children can go to DC Schools. When was the last time you were in the classroom?

Susie: This week. I visited 2nd grade classroom; class size was 35.

Craig: Last month. I visited 10 schools. Schools are using “skill batching” to consolidate teaching; some teaching being done in halls. The architecture of the schools is inadequate [for larger class sizes].

Gail: Last month. I was in school myself in 2005 working on a Masters Degree.

Susan: Last week – putting daughter in school.

Kevin L: I am a math coach. I was in school last week. Coach on Wed. and Thurs. I monitor schools via SAC and DAC meetings. Performance in DC is strong. Need to get rid of state funding and rely on local funds.

Kevin R: Two weeks ago. I was in the classroom for back-to-school night.

Q: When were you last at a board meeting? Great Choice Representative

Kevin R: I attended the last Board meeting. Read the minutes. I am skilled at working with groups.

Kevin L: We get better attendance at DAC meetings. [Kevin is DAC chair.] Went to BOE meetings.

Susie: Family is first. I pay attention to BOE minutes, and go to SAC meetings. I was at the last BOE and DAC meetings. Justin was not at the last BOE meeting.

Q: What is your position on support [taking money] from PACs, unions, or political parties? Audience

Craig: Creates a conflict of interest to be supported by a union. I am not accepting donations from a party. No. [Craig solicited and has accepted the endorsement of the DC Republican Party.]

Gail: No. Gave up position [in party] to run for Board of Education.

Susan: No. Not accepting donations from union or political party.

Kevin L: No money from union or political party. [Kevin solicited and has accepted the endorsement of the DC Republican Party.]

Kevin R: No. Accepting individual contributions.

Susie: I am not accepting donations from any labor union or political party.