Douglas County School Board member Judith Reynolds was recently chosen as the board’s vice president. She takes over the post from colleague Doug Benevento, who remains a member of the seven-person board.
Reynolds was elected to the board in 2013 and has previously served on school accountability committees. She has a master’s degree in education from East Tennessee State University and a bachelor’s in education from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Reynolds is also a volunteer Girl Scout leader and day camp director.
She took some time to talk to Colorado Community Media about her goals and some of the challenges facing the school board.
In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing the district?
Communications. We are a large, diverse district and the communications process is, at best, cumbersome. Each of our school communities have different needs and concerns that must be addressed in order to educate our students and each of our parents receive communications and information through different mechanisms. We must communicate sooner and better at all levels, especially as we tackle the tough topics, such as finances.
Three of your colleagues were defeated in the November election. Do you believe the community supports the work the board has done since you joined it?
I believe the community supports our strategic direction. However, I believe there is room for improvement in its implementation. The community wants school choice, parents as primary decision makers in their children’s education and paying our teachers as professionals. The community at large, including the 70 percent who don’t currently have children in our schools, approve of the fiscal prudence and management of the school district’s budget. It’s a common misconception that the previous board of education was a monolithic entity. In fact, just as we do now, we had a diversity of opinion. I think that’s healthy and necessary.
As a leader, what can you do to help bridge the veteran members of the board with your new colleagues?
I firmly believe that we have more areas of agreement than disagreement. We need to work together and concentrate on those areas of agreement. Under the leadership of (school board president Meghann) Silverthorn and myself, we will continue to ask the important questions, to address the tough issues and to improve communication with our community. Tough conversations are vital in finding solid, practical and creative solutions to any issue that the board might face. While we may have differences of opinion, we are all interested in finding solutions that benefit our community and serve our students, parents and teachers in providing the best possible education to our students.
How do you think the community views their relationship with the board?
In my day-to-day conversations about education, I regularly find common ground with the people I am engaging with. I can better speak to how I as a board member view my relationship with the community. I think the occasionally vitriolic commentary by some community members deters many from seeking a relationship with the board. I would like to find additional ways to encourage people to constructively engage with us and productively work together on ideas about what they’d like to see improved in our student’s education. Our community is not monolithic in its opinions of the board or on education issues. Just as the board represents different views and constituents, the relationship with the community at large is more about ensuring two-way communication and respectful, productive relationships.