2017 APS School Board Candidates: New faces and ideas guaranteed this year


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Aurora Public Schools district 2017 school board election candidates

AURORA | The November election will be a major transition for the Aurora Public School no matter who the voters decide to put in charge of the fourth-largest school district in the state.

There are four seats up for grabs on the seven-member board and only one incumbent is running among the nine candidates on the ballot. APS board members Amber Drevon, the sitting board president, and Eric Nelson, who was censured by the current board for his falsifying his educational and military records, both declined to run for a second term on the board. Board member JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin is term limited from running again. 

While APS has shown improvements in state test scores and in other areas, there are still major issues facing the district the new board members will be faced with after being sworn in. And voters will have a group of candidates to chose from that present a variety of backgrounds and skills.

Due to Nelson’s falsification of his resume during the last election cycle, the Aurora Sentinel conducted a background check and confirmed educational credentials for all candidates running this election cycle. All of the educational credentials were confirmed, and only Miguel Lovato had anything appear on a background check. In 1997 Lovato was arrested in Denver for police interference, but the charges were later dropped. Also in 1996 Lovato was charged with “unlawful of disposal of solid waste” in Denver but the charges were also dropped.

Lovato said the 1997 incident stemmed from an argument with a Denver Police Officer after a friend was arrested while being kicked out of a club. The 1996 charge was due to a straw wrapper Lovato tossed out of a car window while a police officer was watching.

“I was a mid-20 year-old guy trying to stand up for my friend and questing authority in general. I opened my mouth in a incorrect manner and started yelling,” Lovato said. “For me, I own what I did. That was me being loud and not knowing the best way to interact with the cops. I feel that’s been a big turning point in my life. Now I have a great relationship with the police. … That’s something I’ve taken with me as I’ve interacted with young men and boys over the years (in his mentoring work).” 

Here’s a summary of candidates for the four school board seats:

Kyla Armstrong-Romero

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Kyla-Armstrong-Romero moved to Aurora with her family when she was in middle school. A 2005 graduate of Overland High School, she stayed in-state for her education.

Armstrong-Romero currently works as the Senate Bill 94 director in Denver for the 2nd Judicial District. The 1991 bill provided funding for programs that divert juveniles from criminal detention and reduce the time juveniles serve in detention. She said her position has made clear to her to the benefits of funding programs that help at-risk youth, an issue she’d deal with in APS.

“If we want more parent and student engagement, it is important that there are resources to support, encourage, and empower them to be more involved,” Armstrong-Romero said in a questionnaire for the Sentinel. (In my current job), I provide funding for a vast array of programs and services to keep kids safe in their communities. I truly know the value and the importance of having extracurricular activities and resources for students.”

Armstrong-Romero is one of four candidates endorsed by the Aurora Education Association, the teachers union for the district.

Jane Barber

While there is only one incumbent running in this race, Jane Barber isn’t a stranger to the APS board. Barber served on the board before she termed out of her seat in 2013. But now that she’s eligible for another term on the seat, she’s decided to run again.

Jane BarberAlong with her time on the APS board, Barber has served on PTA boards at both the local, district and state levels. An Aurora resident for the past 41 years, Barber has spent years working and volunteering on educational issues. That spirit of volunteerism is what Barber wants to tap into to help solve issues facing APS, including how to help teach students where English is their second language.

“The community needs to help with this one. We have students who speak 130 different languages. There are people out there who could help us to communicate with the students who speak these languages,” Barber said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “Children are better able to learn languages earlier than adults so I think it would not take that much time. It would take effort by the whole community — students, school, and community members.”

Kevin Cox

A native of Houston, Texas, Kevin Cox is a commercial truck driver that wants to take his experience throughout his life and bring it to the APS board. Cox said he had to turn down a scholarship to University of Texas at Austin when he was in high school because his family needed his help paying the bills.

Kevin CoxIf elected, Cox said he wants to focus on making sure students are prepared when they leave APS, whether that’s to go on to college or to move directly into a career path with required certifications.

“The opportunities for our children are not limited to those following a college education. We all know that the majority of students are not college-bound and reports have warned of the skilled labor shortage for years,” Cox said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “I think of single-parent families like mine growing up and understand that some children are being forced to make adult decisions, like to continue their education or start working full time. These programs keep you from having to choose.”

Cox is one of the four candidates being endorsed by the Aurora Education Association.

Debbie Gerkin

While Debbie Gerkin’s never served on the APS board, she’s long been a familiar name and face. Gerkin has worked as a teacher in APS, served as principal of Crawford Elementary School and as a teacher coach and mentor for APS. Along with her educational work, Gerkin is a minister at the Fireside Christian Church in Denver.

Gerkin’s experience in the classroom, the principal’s office and as a mentor has shaped her views of how to tackle problems she will face if elected to the board. And she believes school policy shouldn’t pigeonhole students into career paths before they’ve had a chance to blossom in the classroom.

“I am opposed to a differentiated diploma system.  Differentiated or tiered diploma systems bear the burden of limiting the potential of children early on,” Gerkin said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “Tracking has been shown to produce low expectations, inequitable learning environments, and segregated classrooms.  All students graduating from Aurora Public Schools must be afforded the same high quality education without limitation.”

Gerkin is one of the four candidates being endorsed by the Aurora Education Association.

Marques Ivey

Marques Ivey’s education on what teachers in APS face on a daily basis came from the dining room table. Ivey, a trial lawyer and parking magistrate in Aurora, is married to a teacher who had been employed in the district. Ivey said his wife’s on-the-job experiences have helped shape how he sees the issues facing APS and the school board.

A native of Indiana but a resident of Aurora for the past 14 years, Ivey’s resume includes a stint as a public defender. He said his focus has been on providing representation to those who can’t afford it and he wants to bring equity to the district, especially in representing the diverse student body that attends APS.

“(Recruiting and retaining teachers) is a top priority. And as a top priority we must expand where we search for teachers, and more specifically teachers of color,” Ivey said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “We need to make it known that as a district we want effective teachers, and effective teachers of color. Just as importantly, we have to pay teachers wages that are competitive with the rest of the country as well as provide them the resources they need in order to teach a diverse student population.”

Ivey is one of the candidates being endorsed by the Aurora Education Association.

Miguel In Suk Lovato

A graduate of Central High School, Miguel In Suk Lovato still lives close to his alma mater. As the first member of his family to go to college, educational attainment has been the focus of Lovato’s personal and professional life. Lovato has served as a teacher, worked to prevent gang violence and currently works as a senior grant program officer at the nonprofit Daniels Fund.

Miguel LovatoPart of Lovato’s campaign has focused on finding ways to improve schools no matter the path taken to achieve improved results. He does bristle over the idea he’s the pro-charter candidate and instead said he’s the pro-good schools candidate.

“I think the most important thing that happened in the last year or so is that families and communities realized that things weren’t alright at our schools. We should increase transparency about what is working and what isn’t, and work with the community to learn what they want from their schools,” Lovato said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “We should consider alternative models to increase the variety of educational programs available. Ultimately, I believe that every student has the right to attend a high-quality school that will prepare them for college, careers, and life.”

Gail Pough

Gail Pough’s experience with public education goes beyond her personal experience in school and as a single parent. Pough, whose day job is a fire inspector with the city of Aurora, is an organizer with Together Colorado, a nonprofit community organizing group that focuses on issues like education, immigration and economic justice. She also had an active role in working with RISE Colorado on the APS board resolution to protect immigrant student’s information from immigration enforcement actions.

Gail PoughPough believes her experience as a parent and as an activist will give her a unique perspective if elected to the board. While she’s been pleased with the improvement the district has shown in recent test scores, Pough believed the improvements weren’t coming fast enough to make sure all students were being served.

“We need to act with a fierce urgency — as a parent, it is so critical to me  that we not leave a single student behind,” Pough said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “We need to push for serious change in the schools with high opportunity gaps, which lead to devastating achievement gaps, and we need to drive our resources into our struggling schools to make up for historical disenfranchisement of communities of students. We can’t keep doing the same things that don’t work, so we need to be transparent about what is and isn’t working to replicate our successes and aggressively challenge a status quo that is leaving too many students behind.”

Lea Steed

Lea Steed is a longtime resident of Aurora and a product of APS schools, having graduated from William Hinkley High School. She currently works as an outreach coordinator with Great Education Colorado, an organization focused on grassroots organizing on educational issues in the state.

Lea SteedSteed’s personal experience on finding the right educational opportunities for her two children has informed her on the need for improvement in the APS system. From finding a way to pay for preschool opportunities for her children to finding alternatives to underperforming neighborhood schools, Steed said she understands the issues facing parents in Aurora.

“Rather than giving the students more of the same, take a deeper dive into the ‘why’ some schools are successfully educating children and others are not,” Steed said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “(One idea is) creating ‘pipelines’ to schools that are succeeding in the same school district or outside district. Several schools are using this model to help failing neighborhood schools.”

Barbara Yamrick

The only incumbent running in the race, Barbara Yamrick first joined the APS board for two terms from 1997 to 2005 and was then reelected to the board in 2013. Along with her experience on the board, Yamrick has been a substitute teacher in Aurora and Denver.

Barbara YamrickYamrick was elected to the Board of Directors of the Regional Transportation District (RTD) where she represented District F, which includes Aurora, between 2004 and 2008. She’s served on the Aurora City Council’s and Aurora Chamber of Commerce’s transportation committees and on the board of the Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning.

Yamrick said for APS to continue to improve on recent test scores, it needs to make sure the school is focusing on students individual strengths and weaknesses.

“APS needs to continue and reinforce efforts to improve test schools by teaching every student at their own level and elevating them as quickly as possible to acceptable standards through intensive and enriched areas in which the student is lacking,” Yamrick said in a questionnaire from the Sentinel. “Reading and math are vital. Identifying areas of interest of the student and engaging them wholeheartedly in those areas is vital. We need to scrutinize how colleges are training teachers to do just that.”

Kyla Armstrong-Romero (Bradford) Bio & Issue Q&A

Kyla-Armstrong-Romero is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and moved to Aurora with her family when she was in middle school. A 2005 graduate of Overland High School, she stayed in-state for her education. She currently works as the Senate Bill 94 director in Denver for the 2nd Judicial District.

 

Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) It is very important to provide pathways to technical education.  The traditional route of college is not for everyone; we need to provide more information and education to our students as to the various options that exist.  There are various options for non-college bound students and public education should not just serve students who are college bound.  That is the beauty of public education; that all students are represented and provided access to the same educational opportunities. Aurora Public School District has programs like Options, GED Testing, and the Rebound Ombudsman Programs.  There is also a partnership with the program Colorado Youth for A Change that works with students in both APS and DPS around a variety of options for non-college bound students.  Pickens Technical College is also a part of Aurora Public Schools, which offers nearly 50 certificate programs to high school students for career and technical education skills.  The district should also offer more opportunities to partner with community resources and SBE’s and Minority-Owned Business Enterprises.  Through those partnerships there should be opportunities specifically for our students and families for employment and internships.  ASCENT is also an option for students that helps increase the number of educational pathways available to students and helps them save a considerable amount of money on college.

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) There are pros and cons to the differentiated diploma system. The benefits of the differential diploma system are that it would provide students with a different pathway to prepare for life outside of college and the requirements are less rigorous for career-track students.  States like Florida have indicated that their intent of the less rigorous track is to promote graduation versus dropping out through student achievement. For students, who really struggle with traditional education practices, the differentiated diploma system may help provide them with the initiative to complete vs. dropping out.  On the other hand, the differentiated diploma system does not hold students, teachers, and the district to the highest standard of academic success.  Tracking may limit the student’s possibilities and lower their classroom educational attainment; which could in turn lead to segregation and disproportionality.  One the greatest strengths of the district is the diversity.  Research has shown that students benefit from a rich classroom environment where they can be challenged and exposed to new ideas. The Colorado Commission on Higher Education and the State Board of Education voted to approve the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) endorsed high school diploma and Aurora was going to pilot in 2012-2013; however, I was not easily able to find data as to the success or implications of the diploma system.  I would be curious to see how it is working in our state and what the benefits/implications are.

 

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) Better school funding is a necessary condition for making meaningful improvements in our education system. I would like to see equitable resources distributed across the district from schools in North Aurora to schools in South Aurora. Mill levies should not just fall in wealthy and rapidly growing areas and remain high in school districts with low growth and low property values. Each school district’s annual revenue and spending growth is limited by its percentage of growth in pupil enrollment plus the percentage of inflation based on the TABOR limit.  Growth may be impacted by a number of factors, to include, increasing private schools and charter schools (not including the schools in the State Charter School Institute). Under the current school funding formula, school districts that appear to be similar in size, pupil funding, at-risk funding, on-line funding, and budget stabilization factors experience different outcomes.  As mentioned earlier, mill levy overrides can contribute to differences between district and can impact the district’s reliance on state funding to support total program. Consistent mill levies can assist in ensuring local efforts and stabilization of funding.

Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.

A) There are roughly 39,184 K-12 Students in the Aurora Public School District. The students come from more than 131 countries and speak more than 133 languages. We have a responsibility to support ALL students and families. In conducting some research, I found that there is $468,968 in the English Language Acquisition Budget. The website http://aps.abalancingact.com/, says the following: “The ELA department seeks to ensure that ALL students receive equitable and appropriate instructional support. APS is committed to promoting English language acquisition and ensuring academic achievement in inclusive schools that are culturally and linguistically diverse.” We also need to ensure that families and students have greater access to interpretation and translation services. Although the services do exist in the District, it is my understanding that they are limited. In order to maximize engagement, we need to provide adequate, effective, and sufficient resources to help our students succeed.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?

A) There are many students labeled as at-risk in our district. It is the role of the school district to provide and offer resources to our students and families. If we want more parent and student engagement, it is important that there are resources to support, encourage, and empower them to be more involved.  Resources also include extracurricular activities like tutoring, clubs, enrichments activities, and sports. I am the director of Senate Bill 94 in Denver, which is a program that provides alternatives to detention for youth ages 10-17.  I provide funding for a vast array of programs and services to keep kids safe in their communities.  I truly know the value and the importance of having extracurricular activities and resources for students.  It provides students with a positive, pro-social outlet that can lend to better coping skills and positive peer relationships.  I would absolutely support additional extracurricular activities for students from Preschool-12th grade.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

A) Several Aurora Public Schools have low performance due to a myriad of issues some of which may range of issues pertaining to the student and issues pertaining to the school.  Issues pertaining to the student may include: poverty; low attendance; transportation; housing; medical problems; learning and/or emotional disabilities; etc.  Issues pertaining to the school may include:  lack of/limited availability of resources (books, technology, and supplies); inadequate facilities; overcrowded classrooms; teacher shortages/turnover rates; etc.  Some of the differences in school performance can be attributed to the issues pertaining to the student versus the school. I think it is important to focus on the performance of the student as an individual rather than the school.  I know that may be a difficult feat for the roughly 40,000 students in the district, but I think it is very important because there is a vast array of factors that impact performance that cannot be generalized.  It is Board of Education’s role to do the following: Put plans, procedures, programs, and systems in place to achieve a clearly defined, desired result; Monitor those plans, procedures, programs, and systems against appropriate benchmarks or measures of effectiveness; Change the plans, procedures, etc., if they are not proving successful in achieving the desired result.  As a board member, it will be my duty to go beyond the prescribed role and really invest in our students and teachers and find out exactly what is working and what needs to be changed.  I am inquisitive by nature and changing the current environment will require board members with the fortitude and courage to ask questions and become fully involved in what is going on in our low performing schools.

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) The board should be more involved in curriculum matters in partnership with the administration and the teachers.  If the curriculum is not effective, we need to be more responsive to our students and our teachers. There should be open lines of communication to encourage and foster support and growth. It would also be valuable to incorporate the student and family perspective as well.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?

A) Teacher retention is a serious problem in our district. Issues of low achievement and poor learning climate affect teacher retention. Other issues such as, job dissatisfaction, inadequate administrative support, isolation, poor student discipline, lower salaries, and teacher’s feeling powerless and having an inability to influence school decisions also impact retention and recruitment. Family buy-in is also difficult when we have many families struggling with housing and homelessness; often school is not a top priority for them. My opinions for improving teacher retention are simple: Provide Support, empower them to succeed, and create better work environments. Give them more opportunities to express their concerns and opinions. The School Board should not be so disconnected and isolated; we need to empower the teachers to tell us directly about their concerns. Perhaps, board members may be able to serve as mentors. We need to provide and offer more opportunities for trainings and conferences. I would also like to look at improving teacher pay and offering more competitive wages. As I mentioned before, collaboration is key. We are all responsible for creating an environment for students and teachers to thrive.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?

A) I strongly dislike the term “illegal immigrant”, a human is not illegal.  Nevertheless, yes, I would have voted in support of this resolution.  Public schools serve ALL students.  Students should not fear coming to school and school should be a safe place that is absent of any political rhetoric that is not inclusive of all people.  I wholeheartedly agree that education plays a critical role in empowering our society and paves a way for equity and opportunity.  I want all students and families to know that they are supported by Aurora Public Schools.  We have a responsibility to foster growth and empower our students and families; their voices will not be silenced.

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?

A) There has been a heavy reliance upon testing and assessments. The tests and assessments heavily focus on math and reading which in many cases has narrowed the curriculum, forcing schools to spend less time on subjects that aren’t explicitly tested, like social studies, foreign language, and the arts.  There can definitely be improvements made; however, merely basing achievement and performance upon test scores is not the answer.

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?

A) I do not believe so, because if there are more than one victim who is no longer in the school and was frightened to come forward, knowing that there were others could give them courage to come forward.

Kyla Armstrong-Romero (Bradford) Endorsements

Coming soon

Kyla Armstrong-Romero (Bradford) Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

1. What food do you hate most? I love all kinds of foods; however, I am not a fan of Peanut Butter.

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.

3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Sometimes I can be a bit of a diva… Maybe, Mariah Carey.

4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? I wish I could win gold at swimming. I love swimming.

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? My favorite childhood candy was the Zebra Fruit Stripe Gum.

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? QBF- “Quiet But Fierce”

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. Fantasy- Mariah Carey (Can you tell I have a bit of an obsession?)

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? “She Came, She Saw, She Conquered”

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Not in my opinion.

11. What is the last concert you attended? Prince Royce- Bachata Artist

12. What movie do you never tire of watching? Purple Rain

13. Dogs or cats? I love both, but cats (I have three).

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? I love living near the Plains Conservation Center, there are always deer and other animals in the fields. The sunrise is breathtaking.

Kyla Armstrong-Romero (Bradford) Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Jane Barber Bio & Issues Q&A

Jane Barber served on the APS board (2005-2013) before she termed out of her seat. Barber has served on PTA boards at both the local, district and state levels. An Aurora resident for the past 41 years, Barber has spent years working and volunteering on educational issues.

 

Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) For the students who are not going to college APS has work force ready programs + we could ask unions to give information on apprenticeship programs. Businesses in the area do and should offer internships to our students.

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) Differentiated diplomas could be an option for APS graduates. Students who are destined for college should be given a diploma which indicates they are ready without the need for remediation. Other students could be given a diploma that indicates they have passed state and district requirements. My concern would be would this further segregate our students?

 

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) State funding for schools could be accomplished by ridding Colorado of Gallagher and Tabor. These were voted into our constitution by the voters,can’t they be voted out of the constitution by the voters? I know it is complicated.

 

Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.

A) The community needs to help with this one. We have students who speak 130 different languages. There are people out there who could help us to communicate with the students who speak these languages. Children are better able to learn languages earlier than adults so I think it would not take that much time. It would take effort by the whole community–students, school, and community members.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?
A) With our demographics, neighborhood schools need to provide what our children need. We have free clinics for vaccinations and physicals,but we also have psychologists and social  workers. who can help our children get the services they need.Sometimes it just helps to have someone they can just talk to. Of course, teachers and counselors have so much paperwork to fill out–time is at a premium.I know students always are first.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

A) We spend 23 million dollars on standardized tests for our kids. Surely they can take into account that all kids are not equal. They have language differences, they have economic differences, they have social differences. Surely test writers take that into account? No,they don’t. They just write the tests for middle class, privileged children. That does not work for our children. We need to level that playing field.

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) The BOE is the conduit to the community who  count on the BOE to help decide curriculum. Controversial subjects and matters should be a part of the decisions of the BOE.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?
A) Last year we had a budget shortfall which may be a part of APS losing so many teachers. Other reason is that we need to listen to teachers concerning budget,curriculum, and policy. Our new teachers need to have more guidance and mentoring from the teachers who have been teaching awhile. Teaching is complex and sometimes difficult no matter how much one loves it or how dedicated they are. We need to honor and respect our teachers. Be nice to have a living wage as well.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?
A) Our policy to protect our student has been on the books for years. both federally and state. every school should be a sanctuary for our new immigrants and refugees. They need to know they are sfe. wishful thinking, that they should know their caretakers and parents are safe as well.

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?
A) Social promotion does not do the child any good or future employers or the society in which they live. If the child does not know the subject matter it is a tragedy for the child, for future employees and for the community.

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?
A)  Sexual abuse of children should be reported to prevent further abuse by a child predator.(who should not be protected whether they are an employee or not).

 

Jane Barber Endorsements

coming soon

Jane Barber Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU: 

1. What food do you hate most? Liver

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No

3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Katharine Hepburn (Probably many people don’t know who she is)

4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Cross Country skiing

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Don’t have a favorite

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? So many–signing of the Declaration of Independence, civil rights in the sixties, JFK’ s inauguration,Women’s right to vote so many so little time

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Foot in Mouth

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. Sweet Caroline

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? A smile was always her umbrella

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? A hot dog is a hot dog

11. What is the last concert you attended? Mary Chapin Carpenter

12. What movie do you never tire of watching? “To Kill a Mockingbird”

13. Dogs or cats? We have two rescued dogs.

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? Aurora is a safe place to live. Diversity is our strength.

 

Jane Barber Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Kevin Cox Bio & Issues Q&A
Kevin Cox is a commercial truck driver who’s originally from Houston, Texas. He’s been working since before he graduated from high school and turned down a scholarship from University of Texas, Austin to help provide for his family.
Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) This is my main focus for running for APS Board of Education.  The opportunities for our children are not limited to those following a college education.  We all know that the majority of students are not college-bound and reports have warned of the skilled labor shortage for years.  Combine that with Aurora’s rapid population growth and high cost of living and you have a disaster waiting to happen.  My plan is to re-invigorate the utilization of apprenticeship / vocational programs to prepare the students for their future.  I think of single-parent families like mine growing up and understand that some children are being forced to make adult decisions, like to continue their education or start working full time.  These programs keep you from having to choose.  The fact that after a few years they can be financially independent or even start their own business is even more ammunition for this argument.  My plan is to bring representatives from the trade unions like DALF-AFLCIO to speak to the children as early as middle school so this can become more common knowledge than industry secret.  Then we need to start a real push for the Ascent program.  In talks with Rep. Mike Weissman, I have been told that there is room for increase in the program, but we have to increase utilization to justify the funding.  There is a deficit in outreach, also.  I want to spearhead a task force to target the families of the most at-risk students and personally present this information to their families, illustrating the benefits to their specific situation and show them that there is a way up the ladder and that the American Dream is real and fully intact.

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?
A) I don’t think this is necessary and it seems like a form of segregation of the students.  No matter what, students need a quality education.  If they excel, they can take more advanced courses, but I don’t want to lower standards for anyone because they are not college-bound.  The career world is fast moving and competitive as well.  In the career they choose to move into, they will still need to be well educated, even if not at traditional university.
Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?
A) We need to legislate with compassion and increase the funding increase for at risk students and our wonderful Ascent program.  Then repeal HB17-1375 and redistribute those funds from charters to public schools.  I fully understand that we will have to be very creative to come up with funding for our many issues in the district until we can get a constitutional fix, but this is where we should start.
Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.
A) While reformulating the formula to distribute funding, we need to allocate more resources for multilingual learning because we are a real melting pot.  With over 100 languages spoken in our diverse city, I understand there will be issues finding people proficient in many languages. We probably will have the most success by reaching out to the families of our students and telling them there are employment opportunities with the district.  Upon response we can assess them, see if they qualify as paraprofessionals or translators.  If not, offer courses at CCA to get them there, possibly with subsidies or stipends.  I would love to see this because language is one of the biggest and strongest barriers to education.
Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?
A) Social services are the responsibility of the community as a whole.  The state, city, county, school district, neighborhood, faith community, mental health, etc. should all play their part in securing the future for our youth.  The old adage that it “takes a village” comes to mind.  An in depth analysis is needed to see what needs come up the most and which entity is the best suited to provide those services because the school district cannot bear the brunt of this all on its own.  The school district’s budget issues alone illustrate the need to delegate to other sectors. We need to maintain open lines of communication with them and keep the school district nimble enough to come up with creative solutions before children’s educations are slowed substantially.  If a situation is really bad, a sixth grader, for example, doesn’t want to hear that it will be addressed 2 years from now.  They need to see things getting better by the end of the school year or they might stop trying to push through whatever personal struggles they have to make the grade.  It is important to stay ahead of the curve for their sake.
Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?
A) First of all, I don’t like the trend in education of teaching for the test.  I do believe we are not providing a well-rounded education in this manner because testing monopolizes the time spent for large amounts of the school year.  The amount of testing should be scaled back and we should let our teachers do what they do best; teach. That being said, I do understand that testing is needed.  If we can balance the testing out with more learning time, I believe the students will have better scores.  I believe we have great teachers in APS, I have met many who are retired and many still teaching.  They just need more of an opportunity to teach.
Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?
A) I believe so, just as a matter of oversight.  We don’t write the texts, but it would be good to have a collective decision on them by our board because we have interest in the outcome for the sake of our community and we don’t have a profit motive to cloud our judgement.
Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?
A) The whole problem is money.  We currently cannot afford experienced teachers.  We have to use a multi-pronged approach to this issue.  Leveling the playing field with charter schools will help.  Though, I applaud their efforts to provide a great education and another choice to parents, the teacher problem is a symptom of our funding disparity and lack of accountability and transparency.  That must be addressed. This may sound odd, but I believe the focus on professional and technical education will help in this arena as well.  PTE emphasis will increase the graduation rate for the district, convincing more parents to keep their children in APS.  The more students we have, the more funding we will have and we can afford more experienced teachers.  Even if we only pick up one or two more experienced teachers per campus, that can make a world of difference because the mentoring, the passage of techniques and wisdom is priceless.  It all starts with funding, but we have to improve achievement first, and I believe PTE can boost that from 6-12 at virtually no cost.
Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?
A) The school district has no need to provide citizenship information to anyone.  I wholeheartedly support all students, no matter their documentation status.  The children brought by undocumented parents have no say-so in the situation and still need an education.  They may become fully documented at any time during their stay, as well.  The bottom line is we don’t pay our teachers and staff enough as it is to give our kids an education so we don’t need to make them take on the extra job of being an ICE agent.  Let all schools in APS be a place of safety and comfort by focusing on education, not citizenship.
Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?
A) I think the school needs to take on a “whatever it takes” attitude and have interventions before the students get so far behind that they cannot pass on to the next grade.  These are children and we are the adults.  Let’s stop being reactive and be more proactive.  The emotional and social damage to the child being held back may be the worst part of this equation.  However, I don’t want to just pass them on and pass the buck.  We must pull the child in, assess the situation, possibly even visit the home.  Address the core of the issue, not just the symptoms.  Is it abuse?  Gang violence in the neighborhood?  Food scarcity?  Is this child taking care of the younger siblings?  When we visit the home to assess, we can find out if we need to call protective services for abuse, police for gangs, help find assistance for nutrition.  As said before, not all of that comes from the school district, but we can find out and accomplish much by simply visiting the home.
Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?
A) Absolutely not.  This is an abhorrent revelation.  Anything on this topic needs to be immediately published for the safety of the children.
Kevin Cox Endorsements

coming soon

Kevin Cox Personality Q&A
QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:
1. What food do you hate most? Capers.
2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No. I am a CDL Class A truck driver and have been subject to random drug screens for nearly 12 years.  One failed test and my career would be over.
3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Terry Crews if he had the swagger of Idris Elba. lol
4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Tie between Speed Skating and Boxing.
5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Jolly Ranchers. Apple
6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be?Donald Trump’s resignation.
7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Lurch
8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk
9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? An apology for not changing the world as much as I wish I could have.
10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? No. That is one piece of bread, sir.
11. What is the last concert you attended? It was an old school R&B one with KC and JOJO, Jodeci, etc.
12. What movie do you never tire of watching? Inception.
13. Dogs or cats? Yes.
14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? It has everything you need, literally.  Aurora is a super diverse, melting pot with access to any industry you can think of.  Meaning you get the hustle and bustle of the big city and enough open space, parks and bike trails to country boys like myself feel at home.  Then you have Denver right next door.
 
Kevin Cox Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Debbie Gerkin Bio & Issues Q&A

Debbie Gerkin has worked as a teacher in APS, served as principal of Crawford Elementary School and as a teacher coach and mentor for APS. Along with her educational work, Gerkin is a minister at the Fireside Christian Church in Denver.

 

Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) The concurent enrollment program offered through the Community College of Aurora provides an unbeatable opportunity for students to earn college credit while still in high school.  However, most APS students do not choose to pursue a college degree.  Those students need the same kind of unbeatable opportunities for their success outside of college as concurent enrollment is for college bound students.  High school vocational classes offer training for immediate application outside of school, whether for job training or for exposure to life skills that add to developing well-rounded students.  Different vocational classes are offered at high schools across the district, as well as at Pickens Technical College, to which students are bused for vocational classes throughout the day.  We need to do more.  Aurora is currently exploring the development of apprenticeship and certificate programs with local trades and businesses, an option in which I see great potential and I highly encourage!

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) I am opposed to a differentiated diploma system.  Differentiated or tiered diploma systems bear the burden of limiting the potential of children early on.  In Germany, for instance, children are tracked into college bound or non-college bound classes as early as the fifth grade with very little possibility of changing tracks down the road.  Even if that is not what is intended here, tracking has been shown to produce low expectations, inequitable learning environments, and segregated classrooms.  All students graduating from Aurora Public Schools must be afforded the same high quality education without limitation.

 

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) Colorado school funding is incredibly complicated!  Local funding is drawn from property taxes; state funding is drawn from income taxes; and both of these sources have caps on them.  Even an amendment meant to add funds to school districts is actually now being used to subtract funds.  Federal dollars are added for Title I schools, but all of this is not enough.  While it’s true that simply throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it, we know that more money, spent wisely and consistently over time, has a positive impact on students – and not just on their test scores – but on their life chances.  Districts like APS need greater per pupil funding for at-risk students and students learning English; we need to repeal HB 17-1375 or greatly reduce the amount of funds required to go to charter schools (APS funded its charter schools with over $38 million this year;) and we need to repeal TABOR, which greatly limits revenues that are collected by the State.

 

Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.

A) Research tells us that it takes five to seven years for a student to become fully proficient in English.  The first couple of years of language acquisition typically show the most impressive gains as students go from speaking no English at all to speaking quite a lot, enough that it appears as if students understand more than they actually do.  Though this growth rate is exciting, academic proficiency is much more complicated and takes much longer to attain.  Teachers in APS embed essential components of English language acquisition into their content throughout the day.  They also have a dedicated portion of their day for teaching specifics such as English grammar and vocabulary to English learners.  Though they have a framework for doing so, teachers and students need the support of a high quality curriculum, one that is specifically designed for English language learners.  We must also continue supporting teachers with ELA coaching and certificate programs leading to endorsement in this area.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social service need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?

A) Though schools are not in the business of doing social service work, it’s very clear that students cannot learn when they’re hungry or cold or ill or afraid.  Many students and families in Aurora Public Schools require immediate assistance, yet they do not know how to gain the assistance they need, or in some cases, they are afraid to pursue it.  If schools are set up with small clothing and food banks, the family can receive tangible assistance right away.  School based health clinics like the one started at Crawford when I was principal, give families easy access to much needed health services.  This not only helps the student, but also creates strong partnerships with parents.  Once the family has what is immediately needed, family liaisons can connect parents with appropriate service providers in the community.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

A) Student achievement is accelerated when teachers focus their instruction precisely on what students need to know in order to learn.  They do this by determining what their students already know, carefully evaluating their students’ strengths and next steps, and differentiating instruction to meet individual student needs.  They must match students with appropriate resources, approaches, and strategies, set high expectations for learning, monitor student growth over time, and work hard to meet the diverse needs of everyone, including second language learners, high performing students, and students with special needs.

This incredibly complicated skill set takes time to master!  Twenty-five percent of APS teachers are in their first two years of teaching; fifty percent have only been with the district for five years.

To move APS forward it is critical that we:

·      support teachers, especially those new to the profession, with professional learning opportunities such as job-embedded coaching; coaching that helps teachers do just what is needed to accelerate student achievement.

·      recruit and retain a diverse, highly qualified team of teachers

·      ensure all students receive equitable learning opportunities and high expectations

·      work tirelessly with parents to ensure that students are in class and ready to learn every day

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) All curricula must be academically sound and never subject to political whims.  History should be taught from multiple perspectives.  Science should be taught from a scientific perspective.  Religion and political ideology must remain separate from academics.  School boards must ensure students receive high quality instruction in all areas of the content.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?

A) Solving the problem of recruiting and retaining teachers will require rethinking budget priorities.  First, we must make it a priority to raise teacher salaries.  While it’s true that no one goes into teaching for the money, valuing teachers with better starting salaries and maintaining annual step increases will certainly attract more candidates.  Second, once teachers are recruited, it is critical that we give teachers the resources they need to do their job well.  Whether that’s having access to the Internet, a high-quality curriculum, or simply having enough paper on hand, teachers need basic resources for instruction.  And third, we must support teachers with coaching and mentoring.  As teachers are supported, they will gain confidence, be more successful, remain in the teaching profession long-term, and experience greater fulfillment in their careers.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?

A) I wholeheartedly support this policy; in fact, I spoke in favor of it before the Board.  Here is an excerpt from my address:

“Of course, parents want us to teach their children, but the number one thing that parents want us to do is to keep their children safe.  While this resolution doesn’t have the power to guarantee a child’s safety from all possible calamities, it does have the power to send a critical message.  It intentionally names the baseline of school culture for all our students – whether immigrant or native-born – that Aurora Public Schools is a welcoming community, that we embrace our strength of diversity, that we protect families’ rights, that we care about students’ emotional wellbeing – not just their test scores – and that we stand beside all of them as they work to shape a successful future.”

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?

A) Retaining students is not the answer to improving student achievement.  Retention in the early grades is harmful and should be avoided altogether.  There is very little evidence that retention helps older students, and whatever small gain might be made in the first year after retention is no longer evident after three years.  In fact, students who are retained are more likely to drop out of school than students who are promoted. Students learn at different paces.  Keeping students with their age-appropriate peers while providing high quality instruction and intensive intervention strategies to struggling students is the key to academic success.

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?

A) Student safety, including matters of privacy, is always a school’s first priority.  Employee safety and privacy is also a school’s concern.  When an accusation is made, employees should be placed immediately on administrative leave in order to protect students while an investigation takes place.  Once an accusation is confirmed and an arrest has been made, the arrest becomes a matter of public record.

Debbie Gerkin Endorsements

coming soon

Debbie Gerkin Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

1. What food do you hate most? Liver, but ironically, I make a really good giblet gravy.

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No, but I do indulge in recreational margaritas.

3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Sally Fields, because it doesn’t get much better than Norma Rae and the Flying Nun.

4. What Olympic Sport do you wish you could win gold at? Golf, but Inbee Park has nothing to worry about!

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Peanut M&Ms – still to this day.

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? The fall of the Berlin Wall

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Quilter

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. Be True To Your School by the Beach Boys

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? Debbie the Diligent

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? Only if you put it in a bun.

11. What is the last concert you attended? Aurora Singers

12. What movie do you never tire of watching? October Sky

13. Dogs or cats? Dogs that act like cats.

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? The richness of our diversity

Debbie Gerkin Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Marques Ivey Bio & Issues Q&A

Marques Ivey is a trial lawyer that owns his own firm. A native of Indiana, Ivey moved to Aurora 14 years ago after finishing his law degree and and started his law career as a public defender. He’s also a member of the board for the national PTA.

 

Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) Absolutely. We have to be able to prepare our students for their chosen career path understanding that not every student will go to college. APS has created a great concurrent program and by all accounts the program is extremely successful. But there is more that the district can do. We need to make sure that our school counselors are well trained and knowledgable of all the programs that are available to each student. And from that point being able to listen to the student and provide them all available options without telling where they should go or what they should do. We need to let the student make the decisions, provide answers to their questions, and give them the resources and tools needed to be successful in their chosen path.

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) I would advocate for a hybrid. Should the student change their mind, say from career to college, I do not want the student to have to start over or have to to spend time in summer school playing catchup. We must allow the student to have flexibility while getting their diploma, and help them to graduate in a timely manner. But for those truly committed to one path or the other, I am all for having a diploma that denotes their achievement in their chosen path.

 

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) As it currently stands, I believe 73 cents of every dollar goes to teacher and staff salary, materials, and school facilities. I would like to see the formula adjusted more to teacher salary and student needs, such as technology, materials, and individual services such as translation services.

 

Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.

A) Implement a bilingual education plan that works. Studies have shown that when non-English speakers are taught in their language they can attain grade level. But when English is not simply a class but immersed in the total school experience, non-English speakers can learn quicker and become proficient sooner.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?

A) I think this is a role more for the county and the city. But I believe that the school and the county and city should be partners. We all have a responsibility to make sure our students are healthy, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

A) This really comes down to meeting the needs of the individual student. The population is extremely diverse with over 130 different languages spoken. And the assessments have a primary focus on English and Math. If the student cannot read or understand English, the student will not be successful on the test. We need to get translation services to the student.. We need to get effective and diverse teachers to the students. These are the things that the district can do to help the individual student be successful on the test and in school in general.

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) I believe that the school board should be cognizant of the diverse community in which it serves. Meaning that the board must set policy that should include curricula that is culturally responsive and culturally accurate.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?

A) Set it as a top priority. And as a top priority we must expand where we search for teachers, and more specifically teachers of color. We must attend job fairs at colleges all over the country and seek out partnerships with various student unions and educational fraternities and sororities. We need to make it known that as a district we want effective teachers, and effective teachers of color. Just as importantly, we have to ay teachers wages that are competitive with the rest of the country as well as provide them the resources they need in order to teach a diverse student population.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?

A) Absolutely. These are children and we must protect them.

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?

A) Through my research and reading, studies have shown that social promotion has not worked. But many of those same studies have shown that retention does not work. I would advocate for alternatives so that decisions can be made on a case by case basis. Suggested alternative includes:

-Developing clear standards and grade-by-grade criteria

-Using multiple assessment measures for decision making

-Equipping teachers with the necessary skills

-Redesigning the teaching strategies in schools to accommodate more learning styles

-Personalizing teaching through smaller class sizes and block scheduling

-Providing remedial assistance for students who need it

These are the alternatives as found in the Westchester Report. I agree that these should be looked at in lieu of social promotion but also in lieu of retention. I would advocate for alternatives and decisions made on a case by case basis with the assistance of the parent, teacher, student, and other staff.

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?

A) I believe that the superintendent should have the discretion to make such a decision.

Marques Ivey Endorsements

coming soon

Marques Ivey Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

1. What food do you hate most? Sweet Potatoes or pumpkin pie. I cannot decided both are terrible. And according to my family my mother and grand mother  makes some of the best sweet potatoes.

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.

3.Who would play you in a movie about your life? Denzel Washington, both funny and serious when he needs to be.

4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Track and Field – 100, 200, 400 huddlers, and 4 x 100. I could not name just one.

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Sugar Baby or Sugar Daddy candy. I did not eat candy as a child often but when I did, it was one of those candies.

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream” speech. I stood where Dr. King stood and just imagined what that historic event would have been like.

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? QuickFeet, nickname since I was a freshmen in high school.

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “Love” by Kirk Franklin

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? His priorities were simple, God, wife, Children, Grand Children, and a Life lived to its fullest.

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? No. But if you cut a hot dog length wise and place it flat on two separate pieces of bread, then you have a sandwich.

11. What is the last concert you attended? ReBirth Brass Band

12. What movie do you never tire of watching? Any Jason Bourne Movie, Any James Bond Movie, and Last Man Standing. I could not just pick one.

13. Dogs or cats? Dogs. I have owned three and they are the most loyal and affectionate of all animals.

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? Restaurants. The diversity of the community is represented by the types of food that you can find in Aurora.

Marques Ivey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Miguel Lovato Bio & Issues Q&A

Miguel Lovato is a senior grant officer for the nonprofit Daniels Fund. A graduate of Central High School, Lovato was the first in his family to attend college and still lives in the Central High community. He’s worked in gang prevention and other youth initiatives.

 

Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) Yes, and in fact some of these programs already exist through concurrent enrollment at community colleges. I recently attended a candidate forum at the Community College of Aurora (CCA) where approximately 25% of their students are concurrent enrollment students. I was also talking with the residents at Heather Gardens about this, many of whom were retired teachers. From my perspective, many of the lines that used to exist between traditional “higher education” and vocational (or trade) education are beginning to blur. For example, students choosing to move directly into apprenticeship programs are often also earning college credits which could allow them to move on to a four-year college track at some point if they so desired. I believe that the school district has room to strengthen partnerships beyond existing programs at Pickens Technical College and CCA.

I think that it is important that we offer job and career training as an option for students, but our goal should always be that all students graduate ready for college so they can choose what pathway they want to pursue. There was a time when our high school counselors and teachers tracked students into work paths or college paths. And while it may not have been intentional, many students from low-income families and students of color were tracked into work pathways instead of college. We must never return to the days when adults attempted to predetermine the futures of children. I believe in high expectations for all students. It’s the job of the adults in our system to help students meet their goals, rather than directing their future based on perceived ability or assumptions about whom college is for.

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) No. According to the Colorado Department of Higher Education, by 2020 72% of jobs in Colorado will require some amount of post-secondary education. As stated above, I believe that all students should be held to high expectations and encouraged to dream big. If students WANT to move directly into a career, we should help prepare them for this transition, but I don’t believe that we should have lower standards for any of our students. This would artificially divide students into groups that are college bound and those that are not. A high school diploma needs to mean something, and we know that adults without high school diplomas struggle to find gainful employment and upward socioeconomic mobility.

 

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) I think the biggest thing I would like to see changed is simply an increase in available funds. Primarily due to the restrictions of TABOR, our school districts are funded at much lower levels than adequate. While there are those who say, “Throwing more money at the problem won’t solve anything,” we still need to fund public education at comparable levels with the rest of the country. Adequate funding will allow school districts to attract highly skilled teachers by offering competitive wages. Currently, Colorado ranks dead last in the nation as far as offering competitive wages for teachers.

Overall, I believe that the state funding formula is relatively equitable in supporting students from historically underserved communities and in balancing the needs of large and small districts. However, the current funding levels are unsustainable and put districts like APS at a disadvantage by forcing the district to raise money based on the local property values through mill levy overrides. The zip code a child lives in shouldn’t determine how many resources are devoted to funding their education. The current system does just that by creating a system of winners and losers where kids in high-income areas have greater access to resources than those in low-income areas.

 

4. A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.

There’s no question that our schools must do a better job of helping ALL students — native English speakers and multilingual students — become proficient in English. Critical milestones, like third grade reading in English, are well-researched predictors of future success. Students who struggle to read tend to go on to develop more behavioral and social problems. Even more troubling, children who read below grade level by the end of third grade are much more likely to drop out of school in later years.

Still, framing the proportion of emerging multilingual students as a “problem” to solve instead of an asset to be tapped into is unhelpful. APS is the most diverse school district in the entire Rocky Mountain region with over 130 different countries represented. This backdrop sets the stage for an interesting conversation among students, families, educators, and business regarding bilingual and multilingual education. The research is clear — learning more than one language brings tangible academic and cognitive benefits. For me, mastering a second, third, or fourth language is a benefit that not only adds to our students bringing those talents to the workforce, but also enriches the appreciation for one’s own cultural background and the heritages of others.

It is our absolute obligation as a district and a community to ensure that we are reaching all kids, and ensuring that all of their families are included in all district communications. We need to prioritize resources for our emerging multilingual students and their families — that means multilingual educators, paras, guidance counselors, and translation services in school meetings and school board meetings.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?

A) This is a challenging issue that gets to the very root of challenges facing the American education system. I believe that in an ideal world the federal government, the state, and the city would fund programs and support policies that help to meet the needs of students before they come to the classroom, and that these social services would support students so schools could focus entirely on meeting academic needs. More than ever, it is clear this is not the case. The budgets being developed in Washington not only cut funding to schools, they cut funding to vital services like healthcare, food security, and family supports. With this reality, it is vital that schools work to meet the mental, physical, social, and emotional needs of our students. We cannot allow the backgrounds our students limit their opportunity for success, or become an excuse for not preparing kids for the future.

To that end, I do believe that the district should look at ways of increasing the amount of resources available to meet the non-academic needs of students so that they can focus on academic success. A promising new program to the district, Communities in Schools, is one to watch. Using dedicated staff in the schools, this program aims to coordinate services and address the non-academic needs of students, thus taking some of the burden off of the shoulders of the teachers.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

A) If elected I will work to ensure that this improvement is a long term trend, and not a one-time anomaly. It’s right for us to celebrate improvements and milestones, but we also need to keep striving to do better. To that end, I believe we should examine the underlying causes of this improvement. We should look at the schools that saw the greatest improvement, like William Smith High School, and work to replicate programs that have led to success. Further, we should not be afraid to push for drastic changes at under performing schools, nor should we let our emotional attachments to past successes cloud our vision for the need to improve. I think the most important thing that happened in the last year or so is that families and communities realized that things weren’t alright at our schools. We should increase transparency about what is working and what isn’t, and work with the community to learn what they want from their schools. We should also look at the geographical distribution of resources, financial and staffing, to ensure that these resources are equitably distributed, and think about why we can do to improve the access to resources for underperforming schools. Finally, we should consider alternative models to increase the variety of educational programs available. Ultimately, I believe that every student has the right to attend a high-quality school that will prepare them for college, careers, and life.

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, one of the roles of the local board of education is, “To determine the educational programs to be carried on in the schools of the district and to prescribe the textbooks for any course of instruction or study in such programs” (CRS 22-32-109 (1)(t)). As such it is not just appropriate that the school board be involved in curricular matters, it is required by law. That said, I believe it is important to work with individual schools and school leaders to allow them more say in designing programs that meet the specific needs of their students. While I believe the board should act in an oversight capacity for these decisions, I generally support getting out of the way and letting school leaders make these decisions. As far as controversial materials, I think it depends on the definition of controversial. As a board member, I believe the most important considerations about curricula and instructional materials are that:

1. It is factually correct;

2. It is respectful of the diversity of thought and experience of our students;

3. It complies with state law and local policy; and

4. Where there is academic disagreement, that these disagreements are presented factually and without bias.

If these considerations are met then I believe that “controversial” material can, and will be presented in a fair way.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?

A) APS is not unique in this regard. Many districts in Colorado are facing a teaching shortage and challenges in retaining educators. I believe there are several policies in place looking to address this issue and we should be working to ensure that there is faithful implementation of these policies and programs. We should also consider alternative licensing pathways as we know that schools of education are seeing continuing decreases in enrollment of students who want to be teachers. Additionally, we know that great schools start with great leaders who set high expectations and build positive cultures. We should look at how we are hiring, training, and retaining leaders to create school cultures where teachers want to stay and feel that their work is valued. As important to me as hiring qualified and experienced teachers, is working with the staff we have and providing them with professional development to hone and improve their craft. We should invest in the success of our teachers and work to identify great ones to mentor new teachers with the potential to be great. Finally, we shouldn’t lose sight of the positive benefits of the role model effect — we should be working to hire teachers who reflect the diversity and backgrounds of our students.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?

A) Yes. Without question, we must protect our students from harmful policies that seek to rip families apart. Our students should know that we support their right to public education regardless of their background.

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?

A) We do a disservice to students by moving them on to higher grades, or more difficult subjects, before they are ready or prepared to tackle those subjects. Additionally, the Colorado Academic Standards build upon themselves, and tell us where students need to be, year by year, in order to graduate from high school prepared for college or to enter the workforce.

I would support the gradual phasing out of social promotion in our schools, in particular at the third grade level if students are not demonstrating reading proficiency. Third grade reading is a well-researched marker of future achievement and a milestone that students must hit in order to be successful in higher grades. Of course, holding back a student must be the very last option exercised after other early interventions and supports have been provided to the student and family. Schools must heavily engage parents early on to provide ongoing information about their child’s academic performance and ways to support their child at home. Lastly, it would be important to provide smart exemptions, on a case-by-case basis, for populations like English-language learners or students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?

A) In the spirit of transparency, I generally believe that schools should immediately inform parents and the public when any incidents of sexual abuse occurs. As a father, I want to know exactly what’s going on in our schools. I would be furious if I found out months after the fact that an incident of sexual abuse took place with a school staff member and a student. That said, of course I honor the judicial process and I know that there are things that the district can’t disclose during an ongoing police investigation. I would never support anything that would identify a survivor publicly without his/her consent.

Miguel Lovato Endorsements

coming soon

Miguel Lovato Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

1.What food do you hate most? Gummy bears.

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No.

3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Keanu Reeves

4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Luge

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Botan Rice Candy

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? When my grandmother met Mahatma Gandhi.

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Super Bee.

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. Sister Christian by Night Ranger.

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? Dedicated father, loving husband, and committed advocate for children and families.

 

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? What the…? No, it is not.

11. What is the last concert you attended? Lionel Richie

12. What movie do you never tire of watching? Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

13. Dogs or cats? Both.

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? The restaurants! Aurora needs to be put on the national map for having the best restaurants which serve food from around the world.

Miguel Lovato Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Gail Pough Bio & Issues Q&A
Gail Pough works as a a fire inspector with the city of Aurora and is an organizer with Together Colorado, a nonprofit community organizing group that focuses on issues like education, immigration and economic justice. She also had an active role in working with RISE Colorado on the APS board resolution to protect immigrant students information from immigration enforcement actions.

 

Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) Concurrent enrollment is a great way for students to earn college credit while still in highschool. The benefits are really three-fold: first, students are able to earn college credits for free while they’re still in the K12 system; second, students are then able to start college with those credits already earned, which saves families money in college tuition; and third, this allows students to enter college with the confidence that college-level courses are manageable. We know that this increases college completion rates for our kids. For kids who might choose not to attend college, we can absolutely help those students earn job training and trade skills while still in high school, too. Aurora already partners with Pickens Technical college to help students get some of that training, and we can also look to apprenticeships and training opportunities with our local trade unions like the firefighters union and IBEW to ensure that students who graduate and enter straight into their careers are earning a dignified wage and have opportunities to advance. APS is already participating in these programs, but we can always do more to expand our focus on ensuring that all APS students are graduating college and career ready.

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) I don’t. While job training programs like I mentioned above are very valuable for students, I’m hesitant to endorse a system that tracks our kids into different graduation standards. We know that earning a living wage without a high school diploma is extremely difficult, and we also know that in the past, the students who were tracked into the college and non-college tracks were often segregated by race and income. I support students who choose not to pursue a four-year degree, but we need to ensure that whether those students later decide to pursue further academic classes, or whether they move straight into their careers, they’re set up for success and have earned their high school diplomas. Finally, I personally went back to college later in life, while I already had a career, and I wouldn’t have been able to earn that degree without having earned my “college-track” high school diploma.

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) Our current state formula is obviously too small — we know that Colorado funds our schools at one of the lowest rates in the country. But our state funding is fairly successful at being distributed on an equitable, per-pupil basis. The larger challenges, to me, come from the way our districts are funded locally, based on local property taxes. This creates a system in which wealthier areas have better-funded schools, and areas with local property values, whether in Aurora or in our rural districts, really struggle to raise the local dollars to ensure that they have access to great programs. When the state funding isn’t sufficient, local districts have to make up those additional funds through the mill levies, and some districts really struggle to make ends meet for their students, families, and educators.

 

Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient?

A) I don’t think that english language learners are “problems.” I think that they are a tremendous asset to our community, and that it’s our job as a district to ensure that we are meeting the needs of every single student in Aurora. We know that funding is a challenge, but budgets are moral documents, and sometimes it really is a matter of prioritization. We have to fully fund our emerging multilingual students through great English language instruction, and transitional language supports so that students who are learning English don’t fall behind in their other classes. Aurora Public Schools serves students from so many countries who speak so many languages. I think we should seize the opportunity to become a model for the nation in how we serve our students. What an incredible asset our students will be to their communities and our global society when they graduate able to speak multiple languages! What an opportunity we have to engage our diverse community of parents if we provide adequate translation services as a district in all communications we send home to families! It’s going to take more funding, but it’s also going to take careful prioritization to ensure that those dollars are making it into the classroom and are being pushed to the schools that serve a high number of English language learners. APS already has great partnerships with community groups that serve the families of students who are learning English, and there are always opportunities to expand and grow those partnerships.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?

A) I think the role of the district is to provide every single APS kid with the opportunity to earn a great education so that they can graduate ready for college and career. For some students, that’s going to mean a variety of wraparound services to ensure that they arrive in their classrooms every day ready to learn. We know that hungry kids have a hard time in class, so we need to provide breakfast and lunch. We know that kids with working parents might need help with homework or a place to stay later after school, so we need to provide after-school opportunities to get that help. We know that kids who might be struggling emotionally or socially are more likely to miss school, or drop out, so we need to make sure that counselling is available so that all kids are able to thrive. And we know that kids who are experiencing bullying based on their race, or LGBT status, are far more likely to struggle in school or drop out, so we need to create a culture of inclusion and celebration of our diversity as a district to ensure that all of our kids know that they belong in APS.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

A) I was proud to see that APS has been making some gains: we have moved off the state clock, and William Smith showed some of the best growth in the state. But our work is far from done — we can’t call ourselves a truly great district until every family can send their kid to a school with the confidence that they will first, graduate, and second, graduate ready for a college and career. We need to act with a fierce urgency — as a parent, It is so critical to me  that we not leave a single student behind. Our kids can’t wait. Our ability to act needs to be driven by the highest expectations for success, and the highest levels of transparency and accountability. We need to push for serious change in the schools with high opportunity gaps, which lead to devastating achievement gaps, and we need to drive our resources into our struggling schools to make up for historical disenfranchisement of communities of students. We can’t keep doing the same things that don’t work, so we need to be transparent about what is and isn’t working to replicate our successes and aggressively challenge a status quo that is leaving too many students behind.

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) We should, and it’s one of the duties outlined for school boards under state law. Our school leaders, too, should be given autonomy within clear district frameworks and goals to select class materials that may be more engaging or inspiring to their students — whether that means units on astrophysics, Chicano history, or the LGBT rights movement. Our world is complicated, and our communities are diverse. We see, across the country and in Colorado, conversations about how to teach our students about our complicated and, at times, deeply painful American history. We see, across the country and in Colorado, conversations about how to tackle subjects that some families disagree with, whether evolution in biology class, or comprehensive sex education classes, or the reading of “banned” books, or slavery. As a school board member, I will fight for our students to learn from a curriculum that is based in fact, that challenges them, that does not censor their thoughts or the materials that they have access to.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?

A) As we see districts nationally and within Colorado struggle to recruit and retain teachers, APS in particular struggles with high rates of teacher turnover, which is jarring for our students and their school communities. Our budget troubles are certainly part of this equation — we know that great teachers are the single most important factor in our students’ success, and as housing prices go up and our state school funding remains the same, this is definitely part of the equation. In light of the realities of our budget, I challenge us as a district to look at the variety of ways that we can recruit and retain great educators in APS. Teacher development and support is critical in reducing turnover, and opportunities for educators to advance professionally without being removed from their classrooms (moving to administration) are well worth considering. This might look like experienced, expert mentor teachers working with newer teachers to cultivate their skills and therefore reducing turnover. In APS in particular, it might look like pathways for paraprofessionals already in our district to earn additional training and become classroom teachers. It might look like partnering with traditional teacher training programs, and it might look like an Aurora Teacher Residency, like Denver has had for some years. And finally, and particularly as we work to recruit and retain teachers of color and other teachers from diverse linguistic and ethnic backgrounds, it might look like active hiring efforts into a district that, again, should serve as a model nationally for serving students of color, emerging multilingual students, immigrant students, and refugee students without opportunity or achievement gaps, driven by leaders who have high expectations for success for all kids.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?

A) Yes, absolutely. Undocumented students are guaranteed a right to go to school by our constitution. We can’t deputize our educators to enforce federal immigration policies — schools are places for learning, not for ICE raids, and kids can’t learn when they are afraid. I worked with RISE to help create the resolution, and my daughter and I both testified on the policy at the school board because it’s important for our family to stand with all Aurora families. Public schools are for all kids, and I will resist at every level any effort to separate families from our neighborhoods or separate students from their parents.

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?

A) It’s hard, because we know that students who are persistently held back are far less likely to graduate, and at the same time, we also do our students a huge disservice when we move them onto classes before they’ve mastered the material in their current grades. Those students become frustrated, they may begin skipping school, and they are likely to drop out, too. By the time a student has reached the end of the year and we’re having this conversation, it’s really too many months too late — that’s why I think this problem needs to be tackled proactively, rather than at the point when a student may need to be held back. That’s going to mean a serious and urgent focus on early childhood education, and full-day kindergarten, which we know are some of the best ways to set our kids up for success, especially as they learn to read. We know that kids who struggle to read in the third grade have a huge struggle ahead academically, and they’re far more likely to drop out. Transition grades between elementary and middle, and middle and high school are also extremely important. If students are behind, we need to provide all of the wraparound supports they need to get on track, whether that’s tutoring, socio- and emotional support, after school programs, summer school programs, whatever that student needs to learn. This is another reason why getting parents clear, transparent information about how their kids are doing is so important. That said, a student who is far behind and who isn’t proficient in the material in 5th grade is set up for failure if we put them into the 6th grade without support, so I think that with family engagement, there are times when repeating a grade might be the most appropriate thing for a student to catch up and really learn the material. Our students are in school to really learn the material, not simply graduate because a year has gone by, and that learning needs to be our priority.

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?

A) As a mom, I would be livid if my child’s school didn’t make me aware of something like this going on. We can’t re-traumatize a survivor of such an incident by identifying them, and when the police are involved, the district’s ability to communicate with families may be limited, but generally, I support a high degree of transparency with parents. Again, as a parent, if I found out later that something had happened in my child’s school and I wasn’t immediately notified, I would be extremely angry. Schools need to protect our students first and foremost, and as a parent, I need all of the information possible to protect my daughters.

 

Gail Pough Endorsements

coming soon

Gail Pough Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

1. What food do you hate most? I really love food!  I don’t like almonds mixed in my green beans. I will eat them separately – but not together.

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? NO

3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Viola Davis

4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Diving

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Chiclets gum

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? When Sojourner Truth spoke at the Women’s Rights Convention in 1851 Akron, Ohio

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Sunshine

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. Pharrell Williams, Happy

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone? Gail – A passionate and dedicated Mom who loved life!

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich? No

11. What is the last concert you attended? Winter Park Jazz Fest

12. What movie do you never tire of watching?  Annie – the Carol Burnett version

13. Dogs or cats? Dogs

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? The  beautiful people that come from so many countries and different states from across the nation.

Gail Pough Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon

Lea Steed Bio & Issues Q&A

Lea Steed is a longtime resident of Aurora and a product of APS schools, having graduated from William Hinkley High School. She currently works as an outreach coordinator with Great Education Colorado, a nonprofit focused on grassroots organizing on educational issues in the state.

 

 Q) There’s been a heavy emphasis on concurrent enrollment, or connecting high school students with college credit before graduation. For those students who opt not to attend college, do you think it’s important to offer similar opportunities in terms of job training and trade skills? What more should the district do focus more on job and career training for all students, or has APS already created such programs?

A) All students need to be career ready. If a student decides a 2 or 4 year institution is not in their immediate future, they still need the skills to secure gainful employment. Any position a person applies for will have certain requirements. The skill sets that are needed for certification, training, and test taking are still necessary in any trade. Creating a job shadow and apprenticeship programs for students or entrepreneurship programs, giving students real life experiences.  From my understanding, APS has several concurrent programs but all are not available in every school. As a school board member, it will be my mission to make sure that every student has access and opportunity to participate in career readiness programs. There is a high number of college graduates that are not working in their field of study, underemployed and owe a huge amounts of student debt. We need to do better.

 

Q) Do you think APS should pursue a differentiated diploma system, similar to what nations like Germany use that include one set of graduation standards for college-track students and another level of standards for career-track students?

A) No, I do not.  I think the risk of “dumbing down” the curriculum would be an issue.  All students need a great education to live their best lives and making sure that students have access to a great education is the first step. If this were to be decided, the inclusion of parent, teacher and student voice has to be present.

 

Q) How would you like to see the state public schools funding formula changed?

A) The funding formula needs to have adequate and equitable resources necessary for students to achieve their untapped potential. The formula must take into considerations the different needs to create equitable opportunities in education. Every public school must have the resource that guarantees every child meets academic standards, be prepared for post-secondary success and become productive and responsible citizens, living their best lives.

 

Q) A great deal of problems for struggling students in the district comes from not being native English speakers. What should the district do differently to help ESL students become proficient.

A) APS has programs that serves and services the ESL students and communities. Continuing to use and inform communities that these resources are available for all families needs to be a continual conversation amongst ESL and English speaking community. Just telling someone where to go is not enough.  Physically taking families and students to the resources will be the best way to assure access and participation.

 

Q) APS, even more so than most school districts, sees and tries to fulfill a huge social services need for an increasing number of students. Should the school district increase the amount of resources on social services for students who need them, or is that the role of the school district?

A) Sometimes schools are considered the “first responders” of students and families. Teachers and administrators are not usually trained in the areas of mental health or social work and dealing with social issues becomes an addition burden for teachers.  We need to create referral service that is connected to outside agencies that are culturally responsive and able to work with schools that are not able to provide adequate service for students. These services need to be sustainable and continue to generate solutions far beyond a student’s institutional education.

 

Q) Despite gains, APS standardized test scores for an overwhelming number of students are worrisome and obdurate. What can the school district do?

 A) Rather than giving the students more of the same, take a deeper dive into the “why” some schools are successfully education children and others are not. Creating “pipelines” to schools that are succeeding in the same school district or outside district. Several schools are using this model to help failing neighborhood schools.

 

Q) Should the school board be more involved in curriculum matters, including selections of controversial materials?

A) There needs to be a wide array of thought and interest when choosing curriculum. Parents, teachers and students voices are critical when making the decision of which instructional materials are set before students.

 

Q) APS, even more so than other school districts, has a problem recruiting and retaining qualified and experienced teachers. What more can the district do to address the problem?

A) Paying a teacher a livable wage would be a start. Colorado is 50th when it comes to teacher compensation. Supporting programs such as  “Grow Your Own”  which works to diversify the education workforce and supports parents, community members and paraprofessional to become teachers.

 

Q) Recently, APS agreed to help protect students and their families who are illegal immigrants by prohibiting district employees to refuse providing citizenship information about students or their families. Do you agree with this policy?

A) It is important that we keep students and their families safe.

 

Q) For years, so-called “social promotion” has been controversial, moving failing elementary school students ahead despite their performing under grade level, and often far under grade-level expectations. Should the school district stop doing this and instead hold students back?

A) This practice has not help students, parents, or teachers. Moving a child on when they have not mastered the skills necessary to be successful, gives the student a false sense of achievement and hope. Teachers are constantly reviewing skills that should have been mastered, slowing the classroom down and parents have lost faith in the school system.  Colleges and business are also impacted with this practice.

 

Q) A recent issue in Cherry Creek schools brought to light the fact that the superintendent may withhold from the public incidents of sexual abuse of students perpetrated by school staff. Should the superintendent or other school officials be permitted such discretion, especially when making such incidents public would not identify the victim nor impede a police investigation?

 A) There is a due process of law that schools and districts must abide by. Every citizen is owed that.  The superintendent needs to take every incident case by case.

Lea Steed Endorsements

coming soon

Lea Steed Personality Q&A

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOU:

1. What food do you hate most? Pickles

2. Do you indulge in recreational marijuana? No

3. Who would play you in a movie about your life? Jennifer Lewis (grandma in blackish)

4. What Olympic Sport so you wish you could win gold at? Track

5. What was your favorite childhood candy? Wax candy

6. If you could be an eyewitness to one event in history, what would it be? The March on Washington

7. If the Secret Service gave you a code name, what would it be? Miss Laughs-o-lot

8. If you had to sing karaoke, what song would you sing? Car karaoke counts. “I Will Survive”

9. What epithet would you like written on your tombstone?  She Made a Difference

10. Is a hot dog a sandwich?  No

11. What is the last concert you attended? Nikki Minaj with my daughters and niece

12. What movie do you never tire of watching? Terms of Endearment

13. Dogs or cats? Dogs

14. What’s the most underrated thing about living in Aurora? Great walking trails

Lea Steed Campaign Contributions and Expenditures

coming soon