VOTE ’13 — Cherry Creek school board

Cherry Creek candidates square off in building year for district

By ADAM GOLDSTEIN, Staff Writer

Three candidates will vie for two open spots on the Cherry Creek School District’s five-member Board of Education in November.

Longtime district volunteer and former banker Karen Fisher will run unopposed for Cherry Creek’s District E Director position. Fisher would replace current board member Jennifer Churchfield, who is term limited. Incumbent Randy Perlis will face Cherokee Trail High School assistant track coach Brian Arnold in the race for the board’s District D Director slot.

Katie Peoples (front), 13, helps set up the new library Monday morning, July 30 at Black Forest Hills Elementary School. Technology will be a prominent part of learning at Black Forest Hills. All classrooms have a Smart Board, a projector, and access to the wireless network.  (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)
Katie Peoples (front), 13, helps set up the new library Monday morning, July 30 at Black Forest Hills Elementary School. Technology will be a prominent part of learning at Black Forest Hills. All classrooms have a Smart Board, a projector, and access to the wireless network. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Three of Fisher’s six children are currently enrolled in Cherry Creek. Before starting as a volunteer in the district, Fisher held several high-profile finance and banking positions. Her experience includes stints as the vice president of NationsBank Communications Finance Division in Texas and a high-ranking debt restructuring position at AMRESCO Institutional finance company in Denver. Fisher’s volunteer work with the district started in 1995, and she’s worked on committees at Belleview Elementary School and Cherry Creek High School.

Randy Perlis has been a Cherry Creek board member since 2007. He is the current vice president. Perlis has three children in the district, and he’s worked for decades as a swimming and diving official with the Colorado High School Activities Association. Perlis’ professional background is in chemistry, and he’s in his second year in the University of Northern Colorado’s chemistry education Ph.D. program. During his time on the board, Perlis has headed the district’s Long-Range Facility Planning Committee, Medical Advisory Board, Special Education Advisory Board, District Accountability Committee and Community Asset Project.

Cherry Creek High School grad and Cherokee Trail High School track coach Brian Arnold is running against Perlis for the District D Director position. Arnold is an Aurora resident with two children enrolled at Cherokee Trail. Arnold’s background includes positions as a teacher and college professor at schools in California and Colorado. Arnold also manages his own consulting company. He has bachelor’s degrees in physical education and communications and a master’s degree in instructional technology.

The board election comes as the district continues work on a long menu of construction projects across the district. Thanks to the passage of mill levy and bond elections last year, Cherry Creek has already started work on $150 million in construction projects, building improvements and technology improvements.

Those projects include renovations to older buildings as well as the expansion of Grandview and Cherokee Trail high schools in Aurora. It speaks to one of the biggest challenges facing the district in the next five years: the rapid growth of the district’s student population. Depending on a variety of formulas, officials anticipate a growth of anywhere from about 16,000 to nearly 17,900 students in the district’s 9th to 12th grade population by 2017. This rise has a particularly deep impact in the southeastern parts of Aurora, where new home starts are on the rise and two of the district’s newest high schools — Grandview and Cherokee Trail — are already over capacity.

District E: Karen Fischer – Challenger, unopposed

North schools

While the CCSD as a whole has fared well on state assessments, Aurora schools like Overland have fallen behind the curve on yearly CSAP and TCAP tests.  What do you see as the most effective way of equalizing achievement and opportunity across the district?

Overland High School has actually made steady gains over recent years in increasing the % of students who score Proficient or Advanced in Math, Reading, and Writing, as measured by the TCAPs.  CCSD is committed to ensuring that Excellence and Equity are complementary values at all schools.  CCSD believes in continuing to offer ALL students access to rigorous coursework.  They offer frequent Staff Development around best practices to close the achievement gap.  Finally, I am confident that the new Common Core standards, because they are designed to move schools toward more intensive writing and higher-level reasoning skills, will also positively affect the achievement of all students.

SB 191

What do you see as the benefits of the new teacher assessment system set to go into place next year under SB 191?  Do you think the new law still gives enough autonomy to local school districts as far as assessing teachers, principals, and administrators?

I am hopeful that SB 191 will result in improved and more communication between principals and teachers, and give teachers more opportunities for professional development.  I believe that CCSD already has outstanding teachers, and we currently use a fair evaluation system (which was developed with input from CCEA).  The educators who participated in the pilot CCSD evaluation program reported very positive feedback last spring.

Concurrent enrollment

There has 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?  Do you think a differentiated diploma for these students is a viable option?

I believe that all students should take advantage of opportunities to begin building a college transcript before high school graduation.  Besides potentially saving money for those students who go straight to college, it sends a strong message to all students that they are capable of earning a college degree.  CCSD does indeed offer a number of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to meet both college and workplace standards, and many are eligible for concurrent credit at Community College of Aurora.  I strongly support a traditional diploma for all students so that even if they do not choose to go to college immediately following graduation, they will still have the option later.

Amendment 66

The state Amendment 66 seeks to raise Colorado income taxes by $950 million to improve funding to P-12 education.  Do you think such state legislation is enough, or do you see a need for a rehaul in Colorado’s school finance system?  What are the options if the amendment fails?

I support more money for education in Colorado (P-16), and I agree that Colorado’s school finance model needs to be changed.  I have immense respect for the work that has gone into this bill.  However, I am not comfortable with the disparity between the proposed funding for CCSD and other large neighboring districts, or the proposed tiered tax rates.  I am hopeful that if Amendment 66 does not pass, this work will continue.

Fees

Student fees are a reality for students and parents in every grade level, whether they take part in extracurricular activities or not.  Do you think this is a reasonable income stream for the district?  Should there be limits?

CCSD does not charge supply fees for any required (core) classes.  For elective classes, there may be fees for materials needed for projects that will be kept by the student.  Charges such as transportation costs for field trips and participation in athletics are more common, although no student will ever be excluded from an activity or athletics because of inability to pay.  Overall, student activity fees make up a very small (1.8%) portion of total revenues in the CCSD budget.

What book would you most recommend to a friend?

Angle of Repose

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure movie?

Les Miserables, because I like to sing along

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Green smoothie

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat, although we also have 2 dogs

Which city would you prefer to visit – Portland, Las Vegas, Kansas City or New York City?

Dallas, because it’s where I met my husband and where our first child was born

DISTRICT D: Randy Perlis – Incumbent

North schools

While the CCSD as a whole has fared well on state assessments, Aurora schools like Overland have fallen behind the curve on yearly CSAP and TCAP tests.  What do you see as the most effective way of equalizing achievement and opportunity across the district?

Cherry Creek district schools in the Overland feeder are doing well. The TCAP scores are up and the achievement gap is narrowing. The district has invested heavily in the north area. An $18 million Institute of Science and Technology was built to encourage and enhance STEM careers. Ponderosa Elementary recently was named a Blue Ribbon school by the US Department of education. The FOSS science kits for elementary science education was first introduced in the Overland feeder area. The district believes that rigor, relevancy and relationships will enhance test scores and achievement in the Overland area.

SB 191

What do you see as the benefits of the new teacher assessment system set to go into place next year under SB 191?  Do you think the new law still gives enough autonomy to local school districts as far as assessing teachers, principals, and administrators?

The main benefit of SB191 is the opportunity to help all teachers become better teachers. Good teachers have resources to become great teachers and great teachers an incentive to mentor other teachers. The bill does take some autonomy from local schools boards. The Cherry Creek School District already had an effective teacher assessment program. The main problem is that SB191 requires a greater expenditure of resources with no financial help from the state to implement SB191.

Concurrent enrollment

There has 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?  Do you think a differentiated diploma for these students is a viable option?

College readiness must be ensured to all students. Many students may not enter college immediately after graduation, however they should have the tools to enter college whenever ready. Also many post-graduation careers include further course work and trainings to advance. We are obligated to give every student the tools and the ability to perform well in any career they choose and the ability to adapt and change careers that is required in our new 21st century.

 

Amendment 66

The state Amendment 66 seeks to raise Colorado income taxes by $950 million to improve funding to P-12 education.  Do you think such state legislation is enough, or do you see a need for a rehaul in Colorado’s school finance system?  What are the options if the amendment fails?

Amendment 66 does provide the Cherry Creek School District with additional funds. It also provides extra resources for early childhood education and special education students. The amendment fails to make up funds lost due to the cuts made over the past few years under the adjustments from Amendment 23. The funds help some districts more than others.

 

Fees

Student fees are a reality for students and parents in every grade level, whether they take part in extracurricular activities or not.  Do you think this is a reasonable income stream for the district?  Should there be limits?

The fees are fair and reasonable in the district. Students are able to decide what extracurricular activity and pay only for the activities they wish to participate. If a child is in need of help with the fees, the district has ways to help the students so they can still participate.

What book would you most recommend to a friend?

The Advantage

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure movie?

Something Wicked This Way Comes

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Buffalo Chicken Wings (Hot)

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Cat

Which city would you prefer to visit – Portland, Las Vegas, Kansas City or New York City?

Tampa, Fl Love the beach

DISTRICT D: Brian Arnold – challenger

North schools

While the CCSD as a whole has fared well on state assessments, Aurora schools like Overland have fallen behind the curve on yearly CSAP and TCAP tests.  What do you see as the most effective way of equalizing achievement and opportunity across the district?

This is not as simple as just equalizing achievement. I believe this is an “equity issue.” The percentage of kids of color is greater at Overland, as well as a different social economic status. These are two major predictors in how well kids will do. Until we can eliminate that predictability, we won’t see many differences. However, there are things being done. For example, changing teacher delivery models and having programs like Avid. These programs are making a difference but it’s just not fast enough. We can’t change economic status but we can make a conscious effort to include the community and parents in this effort. We can’t expect this to all be done at school.

SB 191

What do you see as the benefits of the new teacher assessment system set to go into place next year under SB 191?  Do you think the new law still gives enough autonomy to local school districts as far as assessing teachers, principals, and administrators?

A new system is needed no doubt. However, as long as we are paying teachers on a socialist based system that is dependent on years and education, it will be difficult to expect a quality based evaluation system to be effective. In addition, overloading administrators with an increased amount of evaluations will take away from the mentoring that is the key to helping teachers become the best the can be.

Concurrent enrollment

There has 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?  Do you think a differentiated diploma for these students is a viable option?

I believe that even if there are students that are not planning on going to college now, you want to give them that option later. Our job is to give every student his or her best chance for success. There is room for both college credit and job training or trade skills. Why does it have to be either or?

Amendment 66

The state Amendment 66 seeks to raise Colorado income taxes by $950 million to improve funding to P-12 education.  Do you think such state legislation is enough, or do you see a need for a rehaul in Colorado’s school finance system?  What are the options if the amendment fails?

We need a re-haul in the system. The way we fund education is not sustainable over the long run; the money will eventually run out. Just throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve our issues. Having the extra money would be awesome and would definitely help further education. However, if this amendment does not pass, we will be forced to realize that our funding model has changed and we will have to look for new, innovative ways to deliver education with less money.

Fees

Student fees are a reality for students and parents in every grade level, whether they take part in extracurricular activities or not.  Do you think this is a reasonable income stream for the district?  Should there be limits?

Having student fees is a good way to make sure that each student has the opportunity to participate in additional educational activities. As long as these funds are not going to fund expenses such as teacher salaries, but for use in the programs that they support, then I believe it to be a reasonable source of income. These programs are created to enhance the students’ experience and give them the best chance for success.  There should however, be limits set in making sure the fees are affordable for the community that they serve. Additionally, we must see to it that no child ever be excluded because of lack of money.

What book would you most recommend to a friend?

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

What’s your favorite guilty pleasure movie?

It’s a Wonderful Life and Star Trek

If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Fruit

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Dog

Which city would you prefer to visit – Portland, Las Vegas, Kansas City or New York City?

Dallas Texas

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