City or town of residence: Highlands Ranch
Occupation: Director of Strategic Engagement & Communications at the Colorado Association of School Boards
Campaign website/contact information: SusanMeekforDCSD@gmail.com
Why are you seeking this office?
I am running for school board to ensure all schools are safe and welcoming, with stable teaching and learning environments. After nearly a decade of instability, student achievement, teacher retention rates and community trust are improving. We have made clear progress over the past two years that must be continued.
What makes you the best person for the job?
As a parent leader for 12 years, a school district employee for six years and a collaborative state leader for nearly six years, I have a track record in creating programs and unifying people. I have the skills to build partnerships and engage the public in order to strengthen our community.
What can be done to enhance security at district schools?
We need to listen to security experts and follow research-based practices. Recently, voters approved additional funds that increased the number of school resource officers and security infrastructure at all schools. Specific steps to enhance security would include trainings for staff, students and parents to understand how to detect warning signs and how to respond; sharing of information and ensuring systems are in place; a greater focus on assessing and improving climate and culture in our schools; maintaining our partnership with the sheriff’s office; and a greater focus on intervention and prevention. Ensuring students feel connected to their schools is a high priority.
What can be done to better address the mental health needs of district students?
Thanks to funding approved by local voters last year, every school, including elementary schools, in DCSD has a school counselor for the first time in its history. Training for counselors to ensure consistency and communication between schools is essential. Assessments in each school will develop a foundation in order to understand strengths, needs and gaps in mental health and student safety. Schools need to coordinate social-emotional learning, mental health services, and suicide prevention and intervention based upon those assessments and best practices. Counselors and teachers/staff play a pivotal role in assessing and improving climate and culture within all schools.
How has the proliferation of charter schools impacted the district?
In 2011, DCSD served 60,000 students in 80 schools. Today it serves 68,000 students in 91 schools. The new schools added during this time frame were all charter schools and they were used to address this student growth.
Both charter and neighborhood schools are harmed when there are inefficiencies as resources are not maximized to benefit all our schools. Prior boards (2009-2017) often approved charters without consideration of an area’s local needs or efficient use of taxpayer dollars. As a result, DCSD currently has over- and underutilized schools resulting in the current need for districtwide school capacity and boundary analysis.
What is your assessment of Thomas Tucker’s job performance since becoming superintendent last year?
The performance of Dr. Tucker over the past year has been impressive. In Dr. Tucker’s first months in DCSD, he successfully built relationships and trust that resulted in successful local school funding measures that were desperately needed.
In addition, Dr. Tucker has stabilized the teacher-retention rate that plummeted over the past decade under other boards.
Finally, Dr. Tucker’s willingness to work collaboratively with community members, staff, parents and students to develop a strategic plan, a roadmap guiding the school district over the next three to five years, is a testament to both his leadership and the work of the current school board.
Would you be in favor of the reinstatement of a collective bargaining agreement between the district and the teachers’ union?
As a school board member, one of the highest priorities we have is to make sure the district is able to attract and retain the highest quality teachers. Nothing should be beyond consideration when it comes to achieving this goal as we need to effectively compete with neighboring districts for teachers.
What issue or issues must the school board make a bigger priority next year than it has in recent years?
After nearly a decade of instability in our school district, we need to focus on continuous improvement in the climate and culture of our schools. This work will translate into thriving students, teachers and schools. Our students and teachers need to be respected, inspired and empowered to thrive.
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