You’d be hard pressed to find someone in Aurora who doesn’t have a strong opinion on public schools and what the best way might be to improve student learning.
The news almost daily is consistent and disheartening: The United States continues to fall further behind other countries in student performance. No matter the reason, we are losing an edge in the global economy that has contributed to this nation’s prominence, opportunities and leadership.
Closer to home, the message is equally as bleak. Colleges are unhappy that new college students often need remedial education to keep up. State spending continues to slide. Student performance is often at best stagnant or revealing marginal gains, and schools are expected to increasingly do much more than just teach kids, usually without nearly enough resources.
So we’re perplexed that on a topic so many have so much invested in, interest in leading local school districts is abysmal.
Aurora voters in Cherry Creek schools are selecting two school board candidates this year. One is unopposed. In Aurora Public Schools, only five candidates are running to fill four open school board seats.
In Cherry Creek, voters should return Randy Perlis to his school board District D seat. Perlis has consistently helped keep the issue of Aurora’s two worlds in the Overland High School area before the district leaders. While so much of the Cherry Creek School District is home to relatively affluent students who hail from families reinforcing the need for a successful school career, Overland is different. It simply takes more resources and different programs to get many of those kids to the same level as the rest of the district. Perlis acknowledges the issue and wants to ensure Cherry Creek goes even further in closing a widening performance gap at the school. School board incumbent Karen Fisher is unopposed for her District E seat.
Just a few miles away, but worlds apart, Aurora Public Schools is at a crossroads. Eight years ago, community activists staged a coup on that school board, shaking off years of denial that the district — inundated with immigrants and struggling families — was failing. The new board brought new life, new ideas and a new direction to the school district. Now, three members of that board must leave the board because of term limits, and the risk of sliding back toward educational myopia is very real.
Constituents and community leaders in Aurora need to increase their own engagement, holding the school administration and board accountable to enact desperately needed changes to serve a challenging student body.
We recommend voters return JulieMarie Shepherd to the APS school board. In the last four years she’s shown a keen understanding of how the school district must innovate and at the same time be realistic in its demands on teachers and working families.
Of the four remaining candidates, we recommend voters bring Jasper Armstrong, Amber Drevon and Eric Nelson onto the school board. All three of these candidates understand the hard work that’s gone into turning around the Aurora Public Schools district, but that much more work needs to be done. All three appreciate how the diversity within the district is an enormous benefit and challenge for Aurora. Armstrong is a native of Aurora and works with challenged students at Overland High School. His front-row seat to kids who need more will be valuable to the school administration. Nelson has a wide-range of experiences in and out of academia and has shown a great deal of enthusiasm for finding different ways to move the school district ahead. Drevon, too, brings, a new dimension to the school board. Drevon hails from Aurora, attended Rangeview High School and graduated with a business degree from University of Colorado Denver. She has children in the district and engages with kids on a whole different level as a local kick-boxing instructor.