ISSUES & CONCERNS
What relevant experience do you have that qualifies you to serve on the board of education?
I am a parent of a 6th grade D11 student, who has attended D11 schools since pre-K. I served as the Chair of the District Accountability Committee for the past 2 years, a member of the district Budget and Accreditation subcommittees, and co-chaired the School Accountability Committee at Scott Elementary. I received the El Paso County PTA Volunteer of the Year in 2018 and the “Friend of Education” award from Colorado Springs Education Association (CSEA) in 2019.
As the Chair of the DAC, I acquired broad insight into the various educational programs offered to our students, current operations of D11, financial realities of our district, and provided detailed community feedback to the school board. My involvement both at school and district level has helped me better comprehend all aspects of D11, from budget to curriculum to staffing, which will enable me to hit the ground running if I am elected.
I am passionate about public education and have a proven track record of engaging and building relationships with the D11 community by listening respectfully, communicating effectively, collaborating intentionally, and volunteering consistently. Above all, I am committed to keeping the best interest of our students in all critical decisions.
What is your top priority or vision for the school district?
Educational equity, collaborative culture, and advancement of the whole student (academic, social, emotional, physical, and cultural) form the top priorities of the new D11 strategic plan. I was part of the Core Planning Team that drafted the language and content of this strategic plan, after extensive community input.
If I am elected to the school board, my priority is to ensure that D11 public schools provide safe and welcoming learning environments, unique and innovative educational programs, and neighborhood schools that are focused on meeting the needs of the whole student. All students must have the opportunity and access to a high-quality education so they can excel and reach their full potential in their chosen pathway (prepared for college, career, and community). In addition, we must improve graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and close achievement gaps, by providing a balanced curriculum with necessary supports and interventions for all students
Every staff member must be provided the professional development and resources necessary to meet the unique needs of each individual student at optimal classroom sizes. We must eliminate disparities based on socioeconomic status, race, and ZIP-code so that our entire learning community, including all students and staff, can thrive.
How would you achieve that?
My unwavering commitment is to always put “students first” in all critical decisions. This student focused approach will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are primarily spent in the classroom instruction that inspires each student’s natural curiosity, creativity, imagination, and desire to learn.
Academic outcomes are directly impacted by attendance and behavior issues, critical factors that can be addressed through Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, reduces isolation, stress, and depression, and enhances students’ ability to succeed in college, career, and community. It empowers our students to be responsible, resilient, and respectful of others, thereby promoting school connectedness and academic outcomes. Bullying, discipline, and chronic absenteeism decline as students thrive in safe, welcoming learning environments. I will ensure policies, practices, structures, and resources that continue positive whole student support.
By aligning the district resources with the new D11 strategic plan, removing systemic barriers that prevent equitable educational access for all students, exercising fiscal prudence and responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and strategically collaborating with our community partners, D11 will be able to the achieve its mission of being the premier choice for students and parents in Colorado Springs.
In November 2017, voters approved a mill levy override for the district. How would you steward that funding to ensure budgets balance and the district won’t face layoffs or school closures?
I first want to express my sincere gratitude to the voters for approving 2017 Mill Levy Override (MLO). It provided much-needed funds to compensate our staff fair living wages, address building renovations, hire additional school counselors and security officers, and focus on improvements to student outcomes.
Transparency, communication, and responsible stewardship of taxpayers’ dollars are fundamental for building trust within the community. As Chair of the District Accountability Committee, I consistently advocated for the implementation of all educational programs with fidelity, so all students could benefit. I will continue to be a vocal advocate of honest conversations, responsible stewardship of district resources, and practicing financial accountability. I will support the independently established MLO Citizens’ Oversight Committee and the biennial external audits as they review, monitor, and assess performance of individual Program Implementation Plans (PIPs).
Staff layoffs and school closures are linked to declining student enrollment and resulting loss of per pupil funding dollars. Creative solutions to reverse this trend include better marketing of our schools, continuing to offer and build the unique and innovative educational programs (traditional, career, or vocational pathways), ensuring that our students grow and achieve at their full potential, and promoting our schools as vibrant community hubs.
School safety is a concern across the country, today. How do you propose ensuring students are safe and buildings are secure?
Incidents of school violence across the country are on the rise, causing serious concerns for parents and school administrators. There is nothing more important than the safety of our students and staff and the security of our buildings. The 2017 MLO provided critically needed funds to address school safety and hire additional safety resource officers, school counselors and psychologists.
The D11 building security officers are trained professionals and are equipped with the knowledge and resources to diffuse potential threats to the safety of our students and staff. In addition, it is necessary that all district personnel are trained to recognize and react to any type of threats or emergencies.
I am also a strong advocate of incorporating Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) skills in classroom curriculum. Providing effective SEL tools empowers our students to take personal responsibility and accountability for their behavior and conduct in our schools. It reduces isolation, stress, and depression issues and lowers bullying and discipline incidents in schools. Building positive relationships in school with trusted adults will promote school connectedness and encourage students to share potential struggles or problems, thereby decreasing youth suicides and violence.
How do you plan to address equity, diversity, and inclusion in D11 schools?
Educational equity and honoring our rich community’s diversity are at the heart of the new D11 strategic plan – Policy AD – which I helped develop as part of the Core Planning Team. My priority is to ensure every child has opportunity and access to a high-quality academic education that inspires the child's natural curiosity, creativity, and imagination. Any systemic barriers for the access of these opportunities must be removed so all students can thrive as lifelong learners.
We must eliminate disparities based on socioeconomic status, race, and ZIP-code so that our entire learning community, including all students and staff, can participate, excel, and reach their full potential. Each student is an individual with different strengths and needs. I am committed to developing policies and allocating resources to meet each student where they are academically, emotionally and socially to help them succeed.
What role should charter schools play in D11 and in public schools in school system in general?
If I am elected to the school board, my priority is to ensure that D11 public schools provide safe and welcoming learning environments, unique and innovative educational programs, and neighborhood schools that are focused on meeting the needs of the whole student. By emphasizing overall student success and outcomes, D11 will be the premier choice for parents within and outside the district.
In my role as the Chair of the District Accountability Committee (DAC), I got to evaluate two charter school applications and forward the recommendations to the D11 school board. New charter school applications should be evaluated based on quality, uniqueness, and proven track record of the educational program, demonstration of sound budgetary and governing operations, and compliance with required state mandates. I support parents’ right to choose the best education to meet their children’s needs and my focus is to provide that excellent education in our district schools.
What role should the arts, STEM, workforce training, and athletics play in public education and how do you balance funding?
Arts, STEM, and athletics are vital cogs in a student’s overall growth and development. Collectively they promote skills of creativity, teamwork, discipline, reasoning, resiliency, and responsibility, all of which are essential for success in a rapidly changing world. Through its concurrent and dual enrollment programs, D11 is providing unparalleled opportunities for our high school students to earn career, technical education and early college credits, thereby preparing them to enter the workforce with lucrative jobs or thrive in post-secondary institutions. I will resolutely support expanding these programs while still prioritizing and practicing responsible stewardship of available resources.
Where do you stand on zero-tolerance policies?
Providing effective Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) tools empowers our students to take personal responsibility and accountability for their behavior and conduct in our schools. On the flip side, zero-tolerance policies contribute to skyrocketing school suspension, expulsion and dropout rates, thereby disrupting a student’s education by removing them from school. In addition, studies have shown that these disciplinary practices disproportionately punish students of color and disability and does not improve school climate or safety. I am supportive of restorative justice practices which focus on getting students back on track by building healthy relationships, reducing harmful behavior, and resolving conflicts, while still being held accountable for their actions. Safety of our students, staff, and schools are of paramount importance and suspensions or expulsions should be reserved for students who repeatedly disrupt or threaten that learning environment.
How do you plan to address the school to prison pipeline?
The new D11 strategic plan clearly outlines the mission is to empower the whole student to profoundly impact our world. I am committed to developing policies and allocating resources to meet each student where they are academically, emotionally, and socially to help them succeed in college, career, and community. I will advocate to continue the implementation of the Comprehensive Student Support Model, and programs such as Capturing Kids’ Hearts as they provide social, emotional, and behavioral supports for staff and students. Restorative justice practices help build positive relationships in school with trusted adults, thereby promoting school connectedness and encourage students to share potential struggles or problems..
Student academic achievement and growth in reading, writing and arithmetic are important. It is equally important to equip students with the skills of creative thinking, reasoning, responsibility, resiliency, and respect for each other, so they can be active, productive citizens in a rapidly changing world.
Colorado public schools are some of the least funded in the nations (per-student funding). How has this hurt D11 schools and how will you work to remedy this hurt?
Since the adoption of the Budget Stabilization Factor (Negative Factor) in 2009-10 by the Colorado legislature, the per-pupil funding that each school district receives has been reduced. Over the past 10 years, this has amounted to a staggering $7 billion underfunding for public education in Colorado. Lagging capital improvements to existing infrastructures and providing fair and competitive wages to D11 staff are the resulting impacts on D11 schools. The 2017 Mill Levy Override (MLO) passed with the support of our community has provided some much-needed funds to address staff salaries, building renovations, and improvements to student outcomes.
As a school board member, I will continue to advocate for an equitable state funding system that attracts and retains the best teaching talent and provides high-quality educational experiences for all our students. At the local level, I will be a vocal proponent of honest conversations, effective communications, and practicing transparency, fiscal prudence, and responsible stewardship of district resources.