SJK School Board Endorsements 2017
Making endorsements of candidates and issues is never easy. The primary reason we started SJK is to give supporters of public education a network where we could work and advocate together for the best interest of all students. Supporting a school board who supports public education is a large part of our work. We discuss the candidates and their involvement in our district and support of public education extensively and we take this action very seriously as 86,000 children are depending on all of us to make educated decisions.
SJK is pleased to announce our endorsements for the 2017 School Board election.
Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education:
District 1 – C. Brad Rupert
Incumbent C. Brad Rupert
With two decades of community service, Brad has been involved with Habitat for Humanity, the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, the Arvada Community Food Bank, and the Kiwanis Club of Arvada-Jefferson. His leadership and commitment to his community earned him the Arvada Man of the Year Award in 2011. His own children graduated from Ralston Valley H.S., and his s tep-grandchildren attend Arvada High School and North Arvada Middle School.
District 2 – Susan Harmon
Incumbent Susan Harmon
Susan is an attorney and independent business woman, and has two children in Jeffco schools. She has served on her children’s schools’ PTA board for more than six years, served as chair on the elementary school accountability committee and volunteers at her local elementary and middle school. Susan has also served on the Special Education Advisory Committee and the Calendar Committee at the district level.
District 5 – Ron Mitchell
Incumbent Ron Mitchell
Ron worked in Jefferson County Schools for forty years, served as principal of Alameda High School for ten years and served eight years as the principal of Columbine, and worked in the central office for two years.
City Council and other Candidates wanting endorsements for the November 2017 election, please visit this Google link and answer the questionnaire. We will begin making these endorsements after September 21st.
Now, here’s the long version of the reasons we have endorsed Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell:
Though we are not endorsing, we do want to note that ALL candidates, that includes Matt Van Gieson and Erica Shields, were very kind and friendly at our candidate forum. Everyone was pleasant. The same can be said of all candidates during the 2013 forums. The tumultuous environment did not begin until after the 2013 election when WNW took office and rapidly made negative changes and began to alienate the community.
At the forum, we were not given any concrete reasons as to why the opposing candidates would be better than the incumbents. In fact, they agreed with the incumbents on nearly every issue and thanked them for their service. The existing board already has balance and does not agree on everything, as can be witnessed by viewing any board meeting over the past two years.
Neither of the two other candidates have attended a board meeting. Though many may choose to do so on LiveStream, anyone who has attended will tell you the differences of attending in person vs watching online. It’s like watching a Broncos game on TV, it might still be nice but if you had the opportunity to do so in person, it’s much more engaging.
We were a bit bothered that Mr. Van Gieson did not once mention at the forum that he is a parent at Golden View Classical Academy, as noted in this article by Colorado Politics about the forum. Though he mentioned numerous other schools, he mentioned nothing about involvement with Golden View and though the school has been mired in controversy, we have to wonder why.
We do want to call into your view the misinformation about the district budget and transparency. All candidates should be aware of this information.
Jeffco Schools has been very transparent and, let’s be honest, with so little funding to begin with, there’s not much room for waste. We’ve shared information about how the budget works and we’re still very proud of the work our district staff do to ensure transparency.
Jeffco was one of the first school districts to create an online searchable database for the public to use. The district is committing to providing an easy-to-use, clear view of how taxpayer dollars are spent by listing expenditures by fund.
Jeffco’s financial transparency website was recently awarded an “A” by the editors of Sunshine Review. They reviewed more than 6,000 government websites and only 214 were given an “A” rating.
For the 2012 awards, Editors at Sunshine Review analyzed more than 6,000 government websites and graded each on a 10-point transparency checklist. Editors looked at content available on government websites against what should be provided. They sought information on items such as budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes. The winners of the Sunny Award all received an “A” grade during the extensive grading process.
Though the new candidates had some confusion as to the accessibility of this information, this is likely due to their new involvement. The district and current board has held numerous town halls, community meetings, and has a variety of committees that regularly explore this subject and have been working very hard to return to transparency following the recall of WNW.
For more information on the district budget and financial transparency, here are a few of the many links to this information:
We are a nonpartisan organization with volunteers and supporters who are Democrats, Republicans, and Unaffiliated voters. Our differing views are what gives us strength to work together to support public education. Yes, in response to your questions, we are aware that Ms. Shields is a Republican Precinct Captain but that fact is not a reason to dislike her.
What worries us the most is potential involvement with the Independence Institute, which is an organization that was highly involved in opposing the successful recall that our community wanted and worked together to achieve. The II has never supported Jeffco Schools nor public education and has worked actively to oppose funding for both our schools and all others in state ballot initiatives as well as interfering in local elections. A few reference tools for your own research to see the interference in our district elections:
When we see candidates involved with this organization, or changing their information to hide it, we become concerned. We do not want to go back to the environment that our community suffered through from 2013 to 2015. This may or may not be the case, but we just don’t know.
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The next concern is the connection to the organization Leadership Program of the Rockies. Dougco, Thompson, and Jeffco have seen the divisive politics brought into our school boards from individuals with connections to this organization. We were disappointed to see a candidate in Jeffco associated with this group and it brings up concerns because of what we have all experienced. Witt, Newkirk, Williams, Board attorney Brad Miller, Sheila Atwell of JSF, and the disastrous communications chief Lisa Pinto were just a few of those involved with this group that created chaos in our schools.
Attending a Leadership Program of the Rockies Event
We know and have found evidence that Mr. Van Gieson did oppose the recall, which 65% of the community strongly supported.
We would like everyone to keep in mind that both Mr. Van Gieson and Ms. Shields are community members and are parents in our district. The educational choices they make for their children are theirs to make and we fully support their rights to make those decisions, whatever they may be.
Mr. Van Gieson was a student of Mr. Mitchell’s wife. Ms. Shields is becoming involved in her school community and has a history of supporting and fundraising for organizations in Colorado that benefit children and that work should be honored and appreciated. Please treat them with the same respect you would anyone else. Though there may be concerns about repeating past experiences, that environment never existed until the recalled WNW were in office and there is no definitive reason to believe that these two individuals would behave in that same way.
We believe that it is very important to pay attention and ask questions when it comes to electing school board members. Supporting candidates who will do the work to represent all children and the community is the priority. The school board is to be nonpartisan. Candidates do not file as Republicans or as Democrats as it is intentionally set up to be a true nonpartisan race and both parties originally agreed upon this in their charters.
We would like to see newcomers Matt Van Gieson and Erica Shields continue their involvement in our schools. We would like to see them attending board meetings, attending district committee meetings, volunteering at schools, joining PTA, and volunteering for and donating to support great work at the Jeffco Schools Foundation, Serving Kids, Outdoor Lab, The Action Center, food banks, backpack programs, and the many other nonprofits in Jeffco, beyond the November election. Those experiences will serve anyone who wants to help our schools very well and it serves our children as well.
We do not wish to go backward but would prefer to keep moving forward in our district to serve all students. Experience does matter in serving on the Board of Education. With all of that being said, we hope you’ll join us in supporting Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell.