Did you know we have a Jeffco School Board election coming up this November? Did you know two of the 5 seats in Jeffco will be open since Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell have decided not to run for a second term? These two incredible ladies have been board members since we flipped the board in 2015. So, we owe them both a debt of gratitude for putting their personal lives on hold so they could step in and help right the ship when Jeffco Schools had taken a troubling turn. These ladies both had young kids in school when they were elected, they hit pause on their careers, and Ali battled cancer while in office. If you see them, give them a hug and say thank you.
We are writing today because we want to make sure Jeffco doesn’t make the mistake it made in 2013 when we had 3 very solid candidates running for Jeffco’s school board who whole-heartedly supported public education, respected Jeffco school staff, and Jeffco students and families; but somehow Jeffco voters just weren’t tuned in.
Jeffco voters are usually pretty diligent when it comes to our schools, but in 2013 that wasn’t the case at all.
Here’s what we mean.
One of the candidates for school board (in 2013) was Mr. Gordon (Spud) Van de Water. He was Ken Witt’s opponent. Spud, as he liked to be called, had more than 30 years in education policy, and had consulted at the state level.
In 2013, there were a fair number of candidate forums around the district, so folks could attend and hear from the candidates first hand. If you were there, you would have drawn some stark differences between Mr. Van de Water and Mr. Witt.
- At the Evergreen candidate forum, when asked about teachers carrying firearms in classrooms/school, Mr. Witt said he supported it (“with training”). Mr. Van de Water did not support it.
- At the League of Women Voters (LWV) Lakewood candidate forum, candidates were asked to take a pledge not to support or vote for Vouchers (also known at the time as DougCo Style Scholarships) should they be elected. Mr. Witt would not take the pledge. Mr. Van de Water was happy to take the pledge. He said he believed public tax dollars should fund public schools.
- And again at the LWV Lakewood candidate forum, candidates were also asked about teaching Creationism in Jeffco. Mr. Witt favored it with a “balance”. Mr. Van de Water supported separation of church and state and didn’t want to see that line crossed. He said he was in “total support of families instilling belief but public education should not advocate for any religion.”
Based on these responses (which were indicative of where these two candidates stood throughout the entire campaign), and knowing our Jeffco community’s priorities, it seemed like Mr. Van de Water would have been the candidate Jeffco voters would choose for that school board seat, but that was not the case. We learned later many folks had paid little to no attention to the candidate forums, or taken the time to learn about the candidates’ background; there were even Jeffco staff who hadn’t paid attention to the candidates. Folks seemed to feel, after the passing of the 2012 Mill and Bond, that things in Jeffco were pretty good, they didn’t need to worry about who got elected. So, in November 2013 Jeffco voters elected 3 new members of the school board: Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams. Jeffco voters recalled (65% of voters!) these same board members in 2015.
The moral of the story is, even though things in Jeffco may feel pretty good right now:
- After all, we passed the 2018 Mill & Bond
- The teachers’ contract has been approved, and teachers and staff are getting pay increases
- The Board has designated funds for mental health needs and security in our schools
- And, Jeffco is finally able to fix a lot of buildings, add-on to others, and address the growth in parts of our district (thanks to voters passing the Bond in 2018.)
Let’s not take our eye off the ball, and assume all is well. We still need to pay attention to who we elect to make decisions about our schools that will impact our students. There’s still so much to do, and our world changes daily which impacts our schools.
The district has shared information about who is running, as well as candidate forums: https://www.jeffcopublicschools.org/about/board/election_2019
The first forum listed is scheduled for September 25 and hosted by Jeffco PTA. For more information you can go to Jeffco PTA’s website: http://www.jcpta.org/events/jeffco-pta-school-board-candidate-forum-september-25-2019/
And, if you’d like to submit questions for either Dr. Glass or the candidates: https://forms.gle/1D5webLNmnX9j3r59.
They say, if you want to know what a community values, look at how its children are treated. If you want a sense of what a community hopes for the future, look at how it values its schools.”