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Thursday, October 6,2011

Vote 2011: School Districts

By Boulder Weekly Staff


Boulder Valley School District

Director District A

In BVSD District A, Shelly Benford is running uncontested. Benford, 55, is a leadership consultant with 12 years’ involvement with her children’s schools. She proposes smaller classes and says the bureaucracy surrounding education must be reduced.

Director District C

Laurie Albright x

Leisha Conners Bauer

Incumbent Laurie Albright, running for her second four-year term for the school board, has decades of experience in education. She’s worked as a career counselor in higher education and volunteered with K-12 education in Boulder. She’s currently on the board of directors of the Colorado Association of School Boards. Albright, 60, is a community activist and volunteer who says the biggest priority for the school district is “a severe funding cut” that could gut the district’s budget by several million dollars. She advocates for Proposition 103, state Sen. Rollie Heath’s proposal to increase taxes to fund education, as the best budget solution available. To address lower test scores among minority students, Albright has four solutions: a longer school day or school year; support for early education, like last year’s ballot measure to increase pre-school and kindergarten funding; providing a caring adult educator to every student; and maintaining high expectations for all students.

Her challenger, Leisha Conners Bauer, has 15 years of experience working in education. She is the program manager for the Boulder County Healthy Youth Alliance and has worked with the school district for eight years. Conners Bauer, 50, previously managed a program to provide assistance to first-generation college students at CU. She says the way the district responds to challenges is more important than the challenges themselves. The district must set the right tone with families, teachers and the community. She advocates for “collaboration, leadership, advocacy and systems change.” She says raising the school performance of minority students is about more than the students’ race, and socioeconomics is a factor as well. Addressing the achievement gap could also mean “addressing the poverty [that] exists in our community and its impact on students and families,” she says. She also names early childhood education and parent involvement as important issues, as well as teacher training and school climate.

In this election, finances and experience have to take center stage. Conners Bauer has great ideas about the school district’s communication, and she’s most likely right about how to reduce the achievement gap for minority students. But Albright’s intense focus on the budget woes facing Colorado schools is the better choice in a budget crisis. Her leadership and experience in education cannot be overlooked. We endorse Laurie Albright for school board in District C.

Director District D

Sam Fuqua x

Mónica Olguín

Two candidates are vying for the District D school board seat vacated by current President Ken Roberge. Sam Fuqua has experience working with the Crest View PTA and has served several civic organizations, including KGNU Radio, the Boulder Library Commission and the Affordable Housing Task Force. Fuqua, 47, is the station manager for KGNU. He says the greatest challenge for the district is financial stability and generating revenue, and he supports Proposition 103. He also says the state must rectify conflicts among TABOR, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23. Overcrowding is a danger in some schools, he says, and can destroy a sense of community. To improve minority education, Fuqua says, the district should review its current practices targeting minority students and establish which are the most effective, then adapt them to other schools, which will improve outcomes. Early childhood education is critical, he says, and Boulder’s 2010 mill levy was “a smart choice.”

His opponent, Mónica Olguín, has 30 years of experience in education, including bilingual education, teacher training and volunteering. Olguín, 59, is a retired teacher from Columbine Elementary School. She says the school district must build communication and trust with the community. As the district tackles financial stability, the achievement gap and educator-effectiveness standards, she says it must communicate its decisions effectively. Olguín says that as the board implements a new educator effectiveness law, it must emphasize the basic purpose of improving teaching and learning. As a bilingual Latina educator, she understands how board decisions will affect teachers and families, she says. Communication with diverse communities should be a top priority for the board, she says. To improve test scores of minority students, Olguín says teacher and principal training is important, as well as tracking students’ growth over time rather than just checking annual scores.

A race with two newcomers rarely offers this depth of experience and insight. Fuqua demonstrates an excellent grasp of the district’s financial hardships and an understanding of Boulder schools from a parent’s perspective. As a retired educator, Olguín knows the teachers’ angle, and shows a real commitment to open communication.

This is a tough choice, since both candidates are highly qualified, but we have to give a slight lean toward Fuqua because of his track record and his performance in other civic positions.

Director District G

In Boulder Valley School District G, incumbent Jim Reed is running uncontested. Reed, 41, is a manager at biotech company SomaLogic. He says the district must repair trust with the groups it represents and must work with the community to solve budget issues.

Park School District R-3,

School Director At Large

Three people are running unopposed for three board seats in this school district, a small portion of which is in Boulder County. Members serve a four-year term.

All three are Estes Park residents. Marie Richardson, an incumbent, is vice president of the board and is a local veterinarian who has two kids in the district. Cody Walker, 42, rents horses at Sombrero Stables, which his family has owned since 1959. And Patricia Wedan, 64, worked in the Park School District for 32 years and now helps run a concession stand in town with the Lyons Club.

Park School District R-3 Ballot Issue 2B

Yes No

This initiative would increase property taxes to raise up to $750,000 annually for the next three years to boost school funding. Bob Richardson, chair of the proponent group Citizens for Estes Schools, says the tax would amount to between $3 and $4 more per month for a $350,000 home. According to the ballot question, the funds would be used to help the district offer competitive compensation to retain its employees, reduce the need to dip into reserve funds, and restore budget cuts made in curricular and instructional materials, professional development, technology, infrastructure and capital projects. Proponents say the funding is needed not to expand offerings, but simply to maintain the status quo in the district, given recent declines in revenue. Opponents argue that an economic downturn is not the time to raise taxes, and that if the statewide ballot issue Proposition 103 passes, it would provide the necessary funding for education.

We tend to think that investing in education is a good way to jumpstart an economy, and given recent state budget cuts to education, the Park School District clearly needs this funding to avoid falling even further behind. There’s no guarantee that Proposition 103 will pass, so it’s ridiculous for opponents of this increase to pin other people’s hopes on a source of revenue that may never exist. Vote YES.

St. Vrain Valley School District

District A

Rick Hammans x

Arnold Hanuman

Incumbent Rick Hammans, 54, a custom furniture maker and retired teacher, says that finances are the biggest issue facing the St. Vrain Valley School District as it has seen less money coming in from the state in the past two years, despite a growth in student population. He has worked at both the state and federal levels to seek relief from unfunded mandates, he says, and to ensure that legislation is in the best interest of the district. He says that the district needs to continue to provide the resources that will allow all of the district’s schools to attain a top rating in accreditation. He says he brings a different point of view to the board because of his background as a teacher and an administrator.

Arnold Hanuman, 40, is a deputy district attorney with the Boulder Country District Attorney’s office. As a parent of two children in the district, he says, he can bring informed and consequential decisions to the board. He says that reallocation of resources are necessary to ensure financially sound footing, and that these decisions should be based on the impact of student achievement. It is important to nurture the ideas of teachers, parents, administrators and the community about how to address educating children in a technologically evolving and globally competitive environment, he says. His experience in both law and global management will be relevant to the challenges that the district faces, he says.

While Arnold Hanuman has many great solutions to key issues and has a strong background in leadership, Rick Hammans brings five years of experience on the board, including two as vice president, and is a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Association of School Boards. Vote for Rick Hammans.

District C

Robert Smith, 64, is the owner of Huntington Learning Centers of Longmont and Fort Collins, and is the project director of health care payment reform at the Colorado Business Group on Health. He lives in Longmont, and is running uncontested.

District E

John Creighton, 47, works in nonpartisan public opinion research and lives in Longmont. He is running uncontested.

District G

Michael Schiers, 49, works for the DIRECTV operations center. He lives in Frederick, and is running uncontested.

Thompson School District

District A

Kathleen Hatanaka

Lola Johnson x

Kathleen Hatanaka, 47, is a homemaker in Loveland. Hatanaka describes herself as very active in the community as PTA president at Big Thompson Elementary, a member of the Big T Cultivation Committee and a member of the Thompson School District Master Plan Committee. If elected, Hatanaka says she hopes to help the district achieve the goals set in the Vision 2020 plan, increase transparency around the decision-making process, and provide programs to help students prepare for the future.

Lola Johnson, 59, is the incumbent in this race, with five years of experience on the school board. She was born in Loveland and attended school in TSD, as did both of her daughters. Johnson says her leadership skills and experience on the board will be needed in the coming years. If elected, Johnson says she hopes to reduce bullying, improve educational programs and continue to follow the Vision 2020 strategic plan.

Hatanaka is an active volunteer in TSD, but with severe budget cuts affecting the district, we feel Johnson’s experience gives her the advantage in this election. Vote for Lola Johnson for TSD District A.

District B

Janice Marchman, 38, is a full-time volunteer and mom. She is running unopposed for the District B seat.

District C

Denise Montague, 42, is running unopposed for the District C seat. She works in community relations at Uptown Auto, where she is also office manager. She is also the race director of the Loveland Classic.

District D

Leslie Young, a Loveland police officer, is running unopposed for the District D seat.

District G

Bob Kerrigan

Karen Stockley x

Bob Kerrigan, 50, is a project engineer in Berthoud. He says his background in the private sector gives him an understanding of the importance of public school improvement. Kerrigan says his technology background and his planning and execution capabilities will help the district move into the technology environment. If elected, Kerrigan says, he wants to grow the district into one of the best in the state, maintain a sustainable revenue system, and produce highly educated students ready to succeed in a global economy.

Karen Stockley, 49, owns Front Range Antiques and is the incumbent and treasurer of the TSD Board of Education. Stockley says her experience sets her apart from her opponent, especially considering the learning curve involved in education issues. If elected, Stockley says, she hopes to close the achievement gap between students to increase graduation rates and to continue her work on finding ways to increase funding to the district.

Kerrigan is ambitious, but does not seem to have a clear plan to achieve his goals. We think Stockley’s experience with the board will help her successfully meet the district’s needs. Vote for Karen Stockley for TSD District G.

Thompson School

District Issue 3A



This ballot issue, if passed, will increase property taxes in to provide revenue to Thompson School District schools. The total levy sought is $12.8 million. This will translate into homeowners paying roughly $6.67 a month per $100,000 of their assessed property value. The levy is in response to state budget cuts over the past three years that resulted in more than $18.7 million of lost funds.

The majority of the revenue received from the levy will be focused on preserving and restoring staff and academic programs. The remainder will be used to expand academic programs to prepare students for college or the workforce and to provide equal access to classroom technology. Proponents say the levy is needed to maintain the quality of education in the district, and without it, the budget cuts will begin having a significant impact on students in the classroom. Opponents have a problem with the transparency of the district and say it is difficult to tell if this levy is really needed.

On this, we agree with the proponents. It’s clear that Colorado’s budget crisis is having an impact on our public schools. The state continues to decrease funds for education, so someone else needs to invest in these kids. Vote YES on Ballot Issue 3A.

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more money does not solve the problems in our educational system.  We need to refocus our students and parents taking the emphasis off of sports and putting it on educating our children.  That's what the school system is for. 

Some real world experience in the private sector is a great benefit for some of the canaidates.  The schools need to be like the rest of us and cut spending.  More money has been proven that it does NOT directly correlate to better education!!