Douglas County School District Board of Education candidates

Three board seats up for election in November

Susan McMahon
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Douglas County voters will have a say in the future of the Douglas County School District as they cast their votes to make a choice for three board of education seats open for election in 2011. The board of education seats up for election are in District A, in the northwest corner of the county, District C, covering central Highlands Ranch and District F, in the northwest portion of Elbert County, Franktown and part of Parker.

In District A, appointed incumbent Craig Richardson faces candidates Kevin Reilly and Susan Meek. In District C, incumbent Cliff Stahl chose not to run for a second term. The candidates vying for his seat are Gail Frances and Kevin Larsen. In District F, incumbent Justin Williams is aiming for a second term against candidate Susan McMahon.

There are seven board members on the Douglas County School District Board of Education. School board members can serve up to two, four-year terms, with seats on the board turning over in staggered election years, said Nona Eichelberger, board of education secretary. The four remaining board of education seats will be up for election in November 2013.

Community Media of Colorado introduces the following board of education candidates who heeded the invitation to introduce themselves as constituents prepare to cast their votes. The November 2011 Election is a mail-in ballot, with ballots mailed out to county residents on Oct. 11 and due Election Day, Nov. 1.

District A

Craig V. Richardson has lived in Douglas County for 18 years and presently lives in central Highlands Ranch. He and Valerie, his wife of 27 years, have been Highlands Ranch residents since 1993. The couple has three children, Julia, a student at the University of Denver; Bradford, who graduated in May from Mountain Vista High School and now attends the University of Colorado at Boulder; and Leslie, a junior at Mountain Vista. ]]>

Richardson graduated cum laude from Pomona College in Calif., with a Bachelor’s degree in government; he earned a Master’s degree in economics and national security from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; and he obtained a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford University Law School. He is the general counsel and chief legal officer of El Paso Corporation's Pipeline Group, which delivers about 30 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States. As the lead lawyer for the Pipeline Group, Richardson manages in-house and outside legal professionals from across the country.

His past public experience includes military and national security positions with the Reagan White House and the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon. He was a U.S. Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer for 21 years and was awarded the Navy Meritorious Service Medal and the Joint Service Achievement Medal, among other awards and decorations. He was appointed to the Douglas County School District Board of Education in 2010.

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

I view our schools through the lens of a business leader and the lens of a national security leader. First, as a Fortune 500 business leader, I know what is required of our schools to meet the demands of American firms in the 21st Century. Second, as a national security leader for over two decades, I know what is expected of the next generation to sustain American exceptionalism and enhance American power on the global stage.

I believe we have great schools in Douglas County – and that they can be even better. I want to empower parents to have more choice, more educational options and greater autonomy when it comes to selecting their children's schools. Parents are the most accurate and effective decision-makers about the educational setting that works best for any individual child. When it comes to unique kids and the academic environment that stimulates their learning, I believe "one size fits one." I also want to abandon the current, dysfunctional system that pays teachers for time served and protects ineffective teachers from accountability through tenure. I want to start rewarding truly great teachers in hard-to-fill positions with salaries worthy of their excellence and their preparation. What brings these concepts all together? My core belief is that choice and competition will keep Douglas County Schools great and will take them to the next level of excellence.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

First and foremost, I bring a history of leadership. For two decades, I was a national security leader, serving both in the military and in the highest levels of the United States government, including serving two Presidents. I am now a business leader in one of the largest corporations in North America, responsible for keeping the lights on in Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, New York and Denver. This public and private sector leadership experience and this level of career responsibility stand in sharp contrast to the background of my opponents.

Second, I bring an understanding of the awesome requirements of academic success in this country, because I have myself attended some of the most elite colleges and universities in America. I understand what will be required of Douglas County students if they are to attend the likes of Stanford and Princeton, based on personal experience. I understand that the single most important determinant of the academic success of our students is teacher quality, preparation and excellence.

Third, I understand the demands of national security and the clear, close and compelling nexus between the continuation of American exceptionalism and global leadership, on the one hand, and the quality of our schools, on the other.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

As the next member of the Board representing District A, I want to: (1) implement a world-class pay for performance program that transforms how teachers are compensated in our District, ends tenure as we know it, and incentivizes professional excellence; (2) empower parents as customers of the District and as the most accurate decision-makers about the educational milieu that works best for any given child; (3) decentralize decision-making in the District to school-based leaders who will increasingly need to operate their schools like businesses, allocating resources with the greatest yield at the margin, managing local human resources, and seeking revenues from parent-customers; and, (4) focus on results, including longitudinal data about how Douglas County students perform in higher educational institutions and in the workforce, and hold our District accountable for those results.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

I voted for the Choice Scholarship Program at the Board’s March 15 meeting. I support it as an important pilot project to learn about what might work, or not work, as we explore the next potential increment of choice and optionality for Douglas County parents.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

I made the difficult decision to support the bond and mill levy on the November ballot, despite my misgivings about the impact on Douglas County families during this time of substantial macro-economic stress and turmoil. The School Board has a unique window within which to bring world-class instruction to the District by transforming its teacher-compensation system, an opportunity that we may not see again in the foreseeable future. We need to seize the day.

The mill levy (3A) will help underwrite the District's transformational Pay for Performance plan, as well as fund much-needed technology upgrades in the classroom. I enthusiastically support the Douglas County School District's new Pay for Performance plan because it would end tenure as we know it. Pay for Performance will retain great teachers in our District, attract great teachers from other districts, and cause teachers who prefer compensation divorced from results to exit.

The bond initiative (3B) will finance critical construction of new schools to keep pace with the District's continuing growth in student population, as well as underwrite much-needed maintenance and repairs to deteriorating facilities. Proceeds from the issuance of long-term bonds will keep class sizes under control and keep our schools safe for kids.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

I strongly oppose the Rollie Heath initiative as nothing more than a wealth transfer from Douglas County to the Denver Public School system and other poor-performing districts. According to estimates, Douglas County families would pay an additional $55 million annually in state income and sales taxes, but Douglas County would only receive up to $40 million in return. I believe the Rollie Heath initiative is a highly inefficient and ineffective way to fund the needs of our local school district. Further, Sen. Heath’s proposal seeks additional revenues from financially strapped Douglas County households to continue underwriting the very same status quo that has produced such unremarkable results on a statewide basis, and to discourage innovation and reform in our schools.

Campaign website address: www.craigfordcschools.com

Susan Meek has lived in Douglas County for 10 years and is a resident of Highlands Ranch. She has been married 15 years and has two daughters attending Douglas County public schools. Meek received a Master’s degree in business administration in business economics and public policy from The George Washington University in 1994. Her undergraduate BBA degree was from James Madison University where she studied International Business, Management and French.]]>

She works as an education strategist for BreakAway, Ltd., a software company that develops game-based learning and virtual simulations for training purposes. Her past experience includes positions in government, education, business and economic development, including working for the US Department of Navy, Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, the largest economic development agency in Virginia, the Douglas County Educational Foundation (DCEF) and the Douglas County School District (DCSD).

Meek’s involvement in DCSD includes service as a parent volunteer and a former employee of the school district. She has served on her children’s school parent/teacher organization and school accountability committees. Her work within includes the Apple Awards teacher recognition program, the Digital Educator Program, which provides professional development on 21st century skills, the Expert Technician Academy a collaborative effort between multiple agencies to address job training needs and the District’s Financial Transparency Website. Each of these programs demonstrates innovation in education. Meek’s volunteer service includes work for nonprofit organizations and this is her first run for public office.

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

The Douglas County School District has long been considered a leader in education – a destination school district due to its innovative programs and excellent educators. Recently, many parents, employees and community members have expressed concern that the District has lost its focus and I would agree.

I am running for the Board to add a new perspective, one that is not based on political agendas with predetermined positions. By focusing on what unites us, we will achieve greater results. I start with listening and seeking to first understand the true nature of a challenge before drawing opinions and conclusions. By practicing a pragmatic and logical decision making process that values all stakeholders, we can build trust in the community. Public education enriches the community and the community is enriched by public education -- we cannot separate the two. I will utilize my innovative thinking and successful track record in education and in business to emphasize responsible leadership so that we can achieve amazing results for our students while providing an excellent return on investment to our parents and community.

I want to use my proven track record in creating successful innovative programs that serve not only students and schools, but the community as well.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

I have a proven track record of connecting people and projects to achieve an organization’s vision. With over 20 years of experience in a variety of public and private organizations, I am able to develop a vision and strategically implement the plan to achieve it. My extensive experience in operations, communications and strategy, coupled with my passionate belief in the need to embed 21st century skills into the US education system, makes me a viable candidate for the school board. As indicated in the National Education Technology Plan 2010, education requires “revolutionary transformation rather than evolutionary tinkering.” It is an exciting time to be in education and to work towards a shared vision.

Change requires a strong ability to connect with one’s constituents, an area that is currently a significant problem with the Board of Education. By treating the public with respect and operating in a transparent and accountable manner, the Board of Education can begin the process of rebuilding the community and reversing the polarization that currently exists. If elected to the Board of Education, I pledge to treat all community members with respect and work towards improving the transparency and accountability of the Board to the community.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

As mentioned already, Douglas County School District has lost its focus. My vision is to return the focus on what matters most – educating and preparing our students with a world-class education. In order to do so, we must stabilize the organization, promote a leadership style that connects to our stakeholders and remove the politics from the Board of Education.

The organization is currently hemorrhaging due to funding issues, low employee morale and a lack of trust from District stakeholders. Addressing these concerns needs to be a top priority. To begin this process, a leadership style that inspires employees and the community must be adopted in order to continue our long tradition of innovative and creative programs. And lastly, we need to remove the politics from the Board of Education. I do not believe special interest groups and political parties should endorse candidates. Board members need to be free to make decisions based on the best interest of school children and the community – not based on a political platform or agenda. Once endorsements are made, pressure is exerted on those candidates to promote a particular agenda. In summary, we need to return our focus on providing a world-class education to students.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

I do not support the current Choice Scholarship Program. It was created and implemented in such a rushed manner that irresponsible fiscal and business decisions were made and a lack of transparency and accountability were the end results. Public trust continues to erode due to the way the program was developed, approved and implemented.

Even now, with the voucher program in the courts, it continues to serve as a distraction. Board members state that they are committed to spending as much as needed to advance the scholarship program and public debate continues, while support for the local election is in jeopardy due to the polarized community.

Our community is divided at a time where we need to be united. We are faced with significant and severe budget issues that greatly impact our schools. We need to come together to work on addressing these challenges – not moving forward with a program that divides our community.

It is time to refocus our efforts on what matters most – educating our students with a world-class education. Our students and our community deserve leadership that is focused on serving all students with an excellent education that will result in a strong return on that investment.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

I am supportive of 3A and 3B due to the immediate need for resources in the classroom and the need to support the existing infrastructure (building repairs, maintenance, etc.). The mill levy, 3A, asks the voters for a $20 million increase in operating budget “to fund pay for performance, classroom supplies and core instructional programs.”

3A must pass just to maintain the existing core instructional programs. Due to existing and anticipated budget reductions, the $20 million increase is needed in its entirety just to keep schools operating with their current class sizes and programs. The District’s current budget relied on one-time reserve money of $11.7 million that needs to be cut again in next year’s 2012-13 budget. Additionally, the state is anticipating a $16 million reduction to DCSD in 2012-13. If 3A does not pass, it is likely that the District will need to cut $27.7 million from the 2012-13 school year budget. Even if 3A passes, the District will likely need to reduce the budget by $7.7 million for the 2012-13 school year. Yes, I support 3A and 3B as class sizes are maxed out, employees’ wages have been frozen for several years, and building maintenance must be addressed.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

Unfortunately, I have seen first-hand the effects of year-after-year budget reductions due to Colorado revenue shortfalls. The state-level reductions have included:

$9 million in 2009

$26 million in 2010-11

$21.7 million in 2011-12

$16 million projected for 2012-13

I believe the District must live within its means and I fully understand the budget reductions have been necessary in order to be fiscally responsible.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) requires a vote of the citizens to increase taxes. I cannot think of a better time to ask Colorado citizens whether they are in support of a temporary solution to address the deep cuts in education. Why wouldn’t we allow voters to decide whether there is a need to put a temporary stop-gap in place? If voters say no to Proposition 103, the continued reductions to K-12 will continue to result in larger class sizes, frozen wages for employees, and a lack of resources to invest the maintenance of taxpayer resources (school buildings).

Regardless of the outcome of Proposition 103, 3A and 3B, we need to work together as a community to create a shared vision. Education enriches the community and the community enriches education – we cannot separate the two.

Campaign website address: https://sites.google.com/site/susanmeek4douglascountyschools

Kevin Reilly has lived in Douglas County for more than 22 years and lives in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Highlands Ranch. He is a single parent to a 16-year-old daughter who attends Mountain Vista High School. Reilly has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, Master’s degree in clinical psychology and Doctor of psychology degree. He earned his Doctorate at the University of Denver and was licensed by the State of Colorado in 1990 for independent practice.]]>

Reilly is a clinical neuropsychologist in private and hospital consultation practice since 1990. A neuropsychologist is subspecialized in the assessment and treatment of neurological conditions such as head injuries, stroke, dementia and chronic pain. Reilly has spent his career in healthcare services and this is his first run for elected office.

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

I am very concerned about the politicization of the school board. I oppose vouchers and the "pay for performance" plan. The school board does not reflect the values and concerns of the community. Intimidation and suppression of community opinions cannot be permitted to continue. I am committed to bringing a thoughtful community voice back to the school board.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

I am an independent thinker with experience in working collaboratively with individuals and groups. I solve problems and play well with others.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

My primary goal is to faithfully represent our community. I will support and promote plans that will strengthen our schools. I will question and oppose those things that will harm our school district.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

I am opposed to the private school subsidy voucher program. It is wrong to divert public funds to subsidize private schools.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

The voters of Douglas County will ultimately decide on 3A and 3B. It appears to me that 3A will be a referendum on the current school board. It is unfortunate that the school board has decided that 3A must fund a vague "Pay for Performance" plan that will likely harm our teachers and school district. I cover this in detail on my website at Reilly4DCSchools.com. The school board is also appealing the permanent injunction of the voucher program. If the injunction were overturned, public funds would then be used to subsidize private schools. I will personally have to vote against 3A for the potential harm that I see. If the school board abandoned vouchers and pay for performance my position would be that we should be asking for a higher mill levy. 3B funds capital improvements and technology. These funds cannot be misused and will benefit the school district. I will be voting FOR 3B.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

As a Colorado citizen I am in support of Proposition 103. Our schools have been under-funded and under-resourced for far too long. Proposition 103 is a temporary patch (lifeline) for our schools until long term solutions can be implemented. I will be voting FOR 103.

Campaign website address: www.Reilly4DCSchools.com

District C

Kevin Larsen has lived in Douglas County for 22 years and lives in central Highlands Ranch. He has been married for 24 years to Cindy Somer-Larsen and the couple has three daughters all of whom presently attend, or have graduated from, Douglas County School District schools. The couple’s oldest daughter recently earned her Bachelor’s degree and began her career as an actuary; their middle daughter is a sophomore in college studying forensic science; the youngest is a sophomore at Highlands Ranch High School, and for this school year the family is hosting a student from Madrid, Spain.]]>

Larsen has a Bachelor of Science degree with emphasis in actuarial science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He graduated with distinction in 1985. In his career as an actuary he has pursued continuing education and earned several professional credentials including Associate, Society of Actuaries; Member, American Academy of Actuaries; Fellow, Life Management Institute.

Larsen is presently employed as assistant vice president and Actuary at Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America. He studies and manages financial risk for a living. He has expertise in accumulating and interpreting data, recognizing opportunities for improvement and excellence, and allocating and being held accountable for precious resources. He serves on several committees in his industry and is on the recruiting team for his company, seeking, evaluating and hiring talented new actuaries graduating from universities next year.

His past public experience includes volunteer work as a coach for his daughters’ soccer and softball teams to helping teachers in their classrooms. He started math competition programs at his children’s schools and presently coaches teams at Fox Creek Elementary and Cresthill Middle School. Larsen served on his church council for several years and was president for three of them. He served on the board of directors for CYT Denver, a local non-profit youth theatre program, and was its president for two years. Larsen served on the Fox Creek Elementary School Accountability Committee for two years and was its representative at the district level. In 2009 he joined the Douglas County School District Accountability Committee and has been the chair for the last year. In April of 2010 he was appointed to the district's Fiscal Oversight Committee.

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

I am running because I bring both a vision and a track record of working to make this school district better. This culminates thousands of hours given during seventeen years of involvement, from the classroom to a macro level of the entire district. I have studied and understand the issues paramount to DCSD: from providing a full range of educational options for students and parents; to the state and local funding mechanisms and how they interrelate; and accountability in academic performance throughout our district. I have the ability to help people understand complicated issues, and I search for facts amid the furor that sometimes accompanies vigorous discussion in our community. I bring experience from leading other organizations when they dealt with both change and challenges. To be prepared to understand what is facing the district, I have attended nearly every board meeting since December of 2009. I have heard first-hand the comments from the public and the discussion from board members, administrators and presenters. I've done my homework.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

I have been passionately interested in Douglas County schools and an active contributor in numerous ways for many years. Some people have read the board meeting minutes and think they have an understanding of what goes on at the district. I have put in the hours, thousands of them, making this a better school district. My occupation as an actuary gives me a skilled perspective to look at financial projections and risk. My enthusiasm as a coach and mentor has helped many kids and parents find their sweet spot for learning. My record as a leader who welcomes facts and listens to many viewpoints is well known. My volunteering in buildings has earned me the respect of teachers who know I want to help kids succeed and that I’ve been right next to them as they inspire their students. My experience as an active parent of three successful Douglas County students gives me the appreciation to value and honor the central role a parent should play in the education of his or her child.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

We have an excellent school district and one that can even strive to be better. I don't want us ever to rest on what we've already accomplished. The District Accountability Committee is working with the district assessment team to identify and improve areas where we aren't seeing the best growth in academic achievement. We are also identifying where there is success and encouraging the sharing of best practices and innovations.

Education is continually evolving and delivery is changing. We have to equip ourselves to serve the next generation of students and families. Blended learning that combines classroom environments with virtual settings is now taking form. Texts and assignments will be shared electronically with tablets and "smart" devices. And no matter what hardware or software is available, I believe strongly in giving parents a full array of choices in selecting the best educational option for their children.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

I support the Choice Scholarship Program that is on hold for the moment. The discussion over the past year has been a good exercise for me to examine my belief on public school funding and parental choice. I believe that as a society we have agreed to have public funding of schools (through collection of taxes) because a well-educated populace leads to lower crime, a more productive workforce, more informed electorate, and better home values. I also believe that a school board’s charges are all school-age children residing in its boundaries, and the ultimate best decision-maker for each child’s education choice is his or her parent. Creating a system where all our district’s children have access to their best options is a good thing.

This pilot does not divert any public education money that was otherwise being directed for kids in the public schools, either in Douglas County or elsewhere in the state. It allows the per pupil revenue already being provided to students who were in DCSD schools to be retained – 75 percent to the family, 25 percent to the district – that would have otherwise been lost if that child had moved to a private school without the program.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

I favor the mill levy override (3A) because first, it stays 100 percent in Douglas County, and second, it enables us to implement a key reform initiative in Pay for Performance. We’ve got to back up attracting and retaining the best teachers and the hardest-to-fill teachers as we compete with other districts. The evaluations underpinning the compensation were collaboratively developed between the district and teachers. As this gets underway, it will need to be monitored and calibrated to ensure it accomplishes what is intended. It has criterion referenced goals (rather than norm referenced) so it still encourages collaboration among teachers and schools to share best practices. They are rigorous goals with a bar set high that must be reached in order to attain the highest compensation level.

I favor the bond (3B). Again, this is completely local money, not exported to the rest of the state. It enables us to fund some new schools or additional wings in identified growth areas, it lets us address some sorely overdue maintenance in our buildings (a safety issue) and equipment, and it funds technology infrastructure and tools that build a platform for delivering education in the future.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

I oppose this measure. Why? First, because it would simply fund education via the status quo; there is no component for innovation, educational reform, or results-oriented funding. Second, because it would cost Douglas County taxpayers more money in increased taxes than DCSD would get in additional funding. In other words this would exacerbate the already dysfunctional statewide school finance system where Douglas County School District taxpayers don’t get their fair share. This measure redistributes wealth, and as a steward of the Douglas County taxpayers, a responsible board member should oppose this.

Campaign website address: larsenfordcschools.com

Gail Frances lives in Highlands Ranch and has been a Douglas County resident for 13 years. She has a daughter and two grandchildren, all educated in public schools. Her granddaughter received a college scholarship based on athletic ability and merit. ]]>

Frances has a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs in Denver and a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Metropolitan State College in Denver. She has spent more than 40 years in the private and nonprofit corporate industries and more than 26 years in the financial industry.

Her previous public service includes volunteer work in the backcountry wilderness area of Highlands Ranch, the Boulder County Safehouse, Denver Botanic Gardens, Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, High School Financial Planning Program, Winter Park National Sports Center for the Disabled, Mercer Arboretum Advisory Committee, Head Start, chairwoman of the economic development committee for the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce and board member of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce.

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

Public education is fundamental to our democracy. We have a social responsibility and a community contract to retain the strongest public school system possible. It is the key to our future.

When I talk to both parents and teachers, they tell me that everyone needs a seat at the table and that they don’t feel like they’re being heard. There is a lack of trust in the current board and voters feel there is no leadership.

Budget cuts have forced families and educational professionals to make sacrifices. Families are paying more for transportation and school fees while many teachers take on second jobs to make ends meet.

In these tough times we need to pull together to do what’s right for our children and our community. I’m running for school board because I’m deeply concerned about the direction of the current administration and what it’s doing to our schools and our property values. With 35 years of business and corporate experience, I know how to budget and how to spend taxpayer dollars wisely.

My core beliefs include preserving the public in public education, instilling trust, transparency and diversity to the Douglas County School Board of Education and being a champion for our children and teachers.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

I am knowledgeable on current events specially issues related to education. I bring a varied background of perspectives to the board with strong financial and community based expertise. I am in touch with what is taking place in public schools and I have been following the national discussion with great interest as a parent, grandparent, and stakeholder. In preparation for my role on the school board I have completed extensive research.

I am articulate and have a clear message and a clear purpose that will benefit the children of Douglas County.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

I will reach out to our community of students, parents, teachers, principals and stakeholders to ensure that communication takes place in an ongoing and collaborative manner. We have an obligation to engage all stakeholders in discussions before decisions that impact tax dollars are put into action.

I will keep public funding in the public schools.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

My first step would be to honor and adhere to the Colorado Constitution. And, as the program is unconstitutional, the board should no longer support vouchers in Douglas County.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

I have spoken with hundreds of Douglas County families who are distrustful of the current board, and feel that the District’s explanation of the measure is convoluted and confusing.

The board has not laid out specifically where all the money will be spent if the measure passes. Most families say they want to see a detailed plan so they know exactly where their tax dollars are going.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

The proposition is not a solution but a temporary fix to raise funds for education. If Prop 103, 3A, 3B and the voucher plan fail, what does the current school board offer as Plan B to our children, teachers and community?

Campaign website address: www.gailfrances4schools.com.

District F

Susan McMahon has lived in Douglas County for 13 years and presently lives in Stroh Ranch in Parker. She and her husband Jeff have three sons, all enrolled in Douglas County schools. McMahon has a Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Georgia. She is a former local small business owner and entrepreneur with first-hand experience managing budgets and employees. As a manager for American Express Business Travel, United Airlines and Nestle, McMahon developed worldwide customer service, employee, and operations programs for multi-million dollar corporations.]]>

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

My desire to serve comes after many years of community involvement and volunteer work in local organizations, charities, and neighborhood public schools. I am a recognized community leader, having completed Leadership Douglas County, a prestigious and intensive leadership training program. I believe strongly in community stewardship and for nearly a decade have participated in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

Running a school district in these tough economic times is very challenging. I believe my business background and experience in budgeting and management will be a strong foundation for the critical decisions that I’ll have to make as a board member.

I also want to bring in fresh ideas to the District that will help us more wisely spend tax dollars, and at the same time, provide the best education for all students.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

Focus on providing a safe and quality education for all children. Ensure each child has a safe, high quality learning environment and make a notable reduction in the incidents of bullying. I will make it a priority to address the deficiencies within the current school system, identify whose needs are not being met and why, and make sure any student with special needs is accommodated within our public schools system.

Support teachers and educational professionals in the classroom. Bring teachers, educational professionals, students, families, taxpayers, parents, and administrators together. By collaborating with one another and building consensus, we can continue to provide a high quality educational environment for every child, one that fosters creativity, nurtures the spirit, and provides every opportunity to thrive in their academic and social environments.

Provide accountability of your taxpayer dollars: We need to put an end to the system of outsourcing taxpayer dollars to neighboring districts. I plan to look for more creative ways to save by cutting costs and evaluating overhead spending. It is imperative that we continue to provide the necessary resources to maintain a competitive edge. A strong public education affects everything from our property values, to our quality of life, and our community spirit.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

I fully support options for choice within the public school system and believe we should continue to enhance our system of public, charter, and innovation schools; but, I disagree wholeheartedly when it comes to giving our tax dollars away to private schools, many of which are not even in Douglas County. This is an issue that has split our community; half of the families in the District’s own survey said they were against vouchers. It’s time to move on and rebuild the trust between the Board and the parents, taxpayers, students and teachers here in Douglas County. And that will be my first priority as a board member.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

I support the bond and/mill levy, or 3A and 3B as you will see it on the ballot. The District needs the additional funds to help improve some of our aging school buildings, to help reduce class sizes, and to enhance technology in our classrooms.

I am concerned, however, due to the division in the community and lack of trust around the current Board’s rushed policies implemented in 2010, that the voting community may not support the bond/mill. We, as a district, desperately need the funds.

I urge the community to take a look at the proposal on Douglas County School Districts website, and make an informed decision. Our children deserve access to the resources this bond/mill will provide.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

Proposition 103 creates a five-year timeout from education cuts and raises an estimated $3 billion over five years for preschool, K-12 education, and higher education. Sales tax would go from 2.9 percent to three percent and the personal and corporate income tax would go from 4.63 percent to five percent. This issue will be decided by the voters of the entire state of Colorado, and while I realize there is a need for a new statewide funding model, this is a state-wide ballot initiative, and I am focused on the local issue of ensuring that our local bond/mill levy pass so that we may see a more direct impact here in our own community.

Campaign website address: www.mcmahon4schools.com

Justin Williams has lived in Douglas County for 11 years and lives in the Canterberry Crossing neighborhood in Parker. He has been married to his wife, Julie, for 15 years and the couple has five children, all attending Douglas County schools. Williams received his Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Utah and his professional background is in finance and education funding.]]>

His past public service experience is in volunteer work as a Boy Scout master, Parker Special Licensing Authority, coach of many of his children’s teams. He directed the young men's program at his church, taught 6 a.m. seminary classes, five days a week to high school youth for two years and is current chairman of the Douglas County Youth Initiative, Leadership Douglas County graduate and incumbent on the Douglas County School District Board of Education.

Why are you running for a position on the school board?

Our district has had terrible cuts in our funding from the State. We have cut over $100 million since the start of the recession. We need someone who is smart with money and a fiscal conservative (I am on the only conservative running for district F). I believe that parents have the right to have more choices in their children's education. I have five children. All of the decisions I make have a direct impact on my family. I also believe the ACLU and liberal Denver courts have no business in the Douglas County School District.

What strengths do you bring to this position?

Fiscal and social conservative. I believe the district should live within its means during this recession. Unfortunately, some politicians can't say "no.” Even though it's very uncomfortable at times, I have the courage to say "no.” I understand the recession and know it's negative impacts on most of our lives. I have felt that impact too. I can relate to the thousands of parents who have been impacted.

What are your primary goals as a board of education representative?

My main goal is to strengthen education in the county. If we take the hand cuffs off of all forms of education, our community will benefit. I am not pro-charter, pro-neighborhood or pro-private school. I am pro-education. I hope to have all schools compete for students and I support our district schools to "step it up" and improve. I am determined to have the best teachers in the state. Our old way of doing business protects the average and poor teachers. I will do everything I can to reward top teachers and upgrade teachers where needed. If I am successful, all students and families win and education improves. I would also like to beef up our funding and priorities for special needs students. We have lots of room for improvement with our resources towards special needs students.

Please state your position on:

The Douglas County School District scholarship program:

I helped create it. We take part of the state of Colorado's money and give it to families who want something different. We keep the rest of the state's money and don't have to educate the students. So the district makes money, parents have a greater choice and our neighborhood schools improve because of smaller class sizes, more money and more competition.

The ballot initiatives to ask taxpayers to pay higher taxes to support pay for performance, capital improvements and technological advances:

I stand strong for pay-for-performance. We can and will find a way to identify good and poor teachers. We can all identify who our children's good and poor teachers were. I just don't believe the condition of the economy can handle a tax increase right now.

Proposition 103, to increase state taxes to support public education:

If approved, Prop 103 will take approximately $55 million from Douglas County residents and will return approximately $35 million to our school district. The money will be returned loaded down with politically motivated regulations. I don't like regulations being imposed on us from people from Boulder and then returned with a lesser amount. Those who are taking our money won't even offer a clear accountability for what they will use it for. I completely oppose Prop 103 and encourage you to vote "no" on it too. We need more money, but Prop 103 is one of the worst ways to get it. If you are going to pay tax, keep it local with the least amount of regulations.

Campaign website address: www.electjustin.com