School board candidates in eight Pikes Peak region districts talk about their bids

Eight of the Pikes Peak region's 17 public school districts have contested school board races on the Nov. 7 ballot. Here's a roundup of the 36 candidates.

Academy school district 20

Five candidates are competing for three, four-year seats.

Following a successful $230 million bond authorization by voters last November, new school construction is underway at the region's second largest district, as well as renovations to existing buildings. The board has faced scrutiny in recent years from parents calling for more transparency, which led to meetings being videotaped.

Karin Reynolds, a former D-20 deputy superintendent, is an education effectiveness regional specialist for the Colorado Department of Education and an independent education consultant. She supports partnerships between children, parents and educators to prepare for successful life transitions, maintaining high academic performance, keeping abreast of safety issues and being transparent.

Thomas LaValley, who had served on the board of The Classical Academy, a D-20 charter school, cites financial accountability, excellence in education, holding the district accountable and asking the tough questions as priorities.

William Temby, the parent of five D-20 current and past students, says his experience of board service at the local, state and national levels, and personal knowledge of the district will help "perpetuate and enhance the performance" of the district. He co-chaired last year's D-20 bond issue initiative and served for seven years as president and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Doug Lundberg, a previous D-20 board member who served eight years before being term limited in 2013, taught for 32 years, including biology and genetic engineering at Air Academy High School. He says his heart is with the students, and he wants to ensure they have the best learning environment and are prepared for life after high school.

Eric Davis, a D-20 graduate who was born on the Air Force Academy to an Air Force Academy graduate, seeks to help lead the district into the future, strengthen the district and "protect it from the un-needed interference from big government." The owner of a martial arts school, Davis wants to empower teachers, set higher expectations and greater accountability, and develop responsibility and integrity districtwide.

Colorado Springs school district 11

Four candidates are running for three four-year terms on the seven-member board. Another open two-year seat is unopposed and will go to the incumbent.

The region's largest district is focusing on a ballot financing proposal, which would raise $42 million through property tax increases per year and fund increased salaries, improved technology and safety features, more counselors and repair buildings. The board has been stable in recent years, compared with recall efforts of the past.

Morgan Chavez, an insurance agent, said she will bring new energy and a fresh voice to the board. She wants every school in the district to provide a safe environment conducive to learning and wants to help children become lifelong learners. She believes that happy and successful teachers are the key to forming happy and successful students. Julie Ott, a D-11 parent who serves on Coronado High School's PTA and school accountability committee advocates for using district money wisely, addressing mental health needs of students, supporting teachers and strengthening the classroom experience.

Shawn Gullixson was appointed to the board in 2016 to fill a vacant seat and seeks to retain his position. He wants to work with the board and district to address all needs of every student and employees, graduate the best talent into the community and increase engagement in the classroom, administration, parents and the business community.

Jim Mason, a retired Army colonel, is seeking his second term. His priorities: improve student achievement, support teachers, principals and staff professional development initiatives, and increase involvement of parents and guardians of students.

Cripple Creek-Victor school district RE-1

District E has two candidates running for a four-year term. Two other open seats, in Districts B and D, are uncontested and will go to incumbents.

Voters of the school district also will decide whether to restructure board representation to create more at-large seats and consolidate boundaries to allow for more members to live outside of the Cripple Creek area. After the board ousted the previous superintendent in 2014, some parents and former employees have criticized current district operations and its transparency, contract awards, use of grant funding and other issues.

Dennis Jones, a retired law enforcement officer and current board treasurer, is seeking a second term because he believes the board has accomplished many objectives, and he wants to continue the progress. "We are growing as a school for the first time in several years. We have more students participating in band, choir, art and drama programs. After-school programs such as cooking classes and chess club have become very popular," he said. Jones wants to help develop a vocational training facility, provide student access to tablets or Chromebooks and use his experience as a community advocate and educator.

Patricia Waddle, a retired teacher from RE-1 and Falcon D-49, says it's time for a change. Waddle, who has a background in early childhood education, wants to "restore integrity, community, and voices of family and staff to build a sustainable educational foundation for future growth." She also has served on task forces to improve early childhood education, written grants for RE-1 and was part of a committee to create a school-based health center for the district.

Fountain-Fort Carson school district 8

Three candidates are running for two four-year terms.

D-8, in which up to three-fourths of students are connected to military families, is building a new middle school, set to open next fall, and is part of a community effort to bring together law enforcement, schools and community services to work on projects that improve the Fountain Valley.

Michelle Hopkins, health promotion officer and Ready and Resilient director for Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division, is involved in a host of community projects, including suicide prevention. She wants to "implement high-quality programs that benefit all students and families in an efficient manner across the entire district." Hopkins said she's qualified and "eager to take on this role."

Loretta "Lori" Kimball is the board's vice president and is seeking a second term. She has lived in Fountain since 1977. She taught elementary grades for 25 years in D-8 and has five grandchildren attending D-8 schools. Kimball said as a former teacher, parent, grandparent, board member and community member, she "still has a lot to offer," toward the goal of providing top-level educators and advanced curriculum.

Rose Terrell retired from D-8 as a special needs middle school teacher, after a 35-year career, 27 of which were spent at Carson Middle School. She also was involved in the Fountain Valley Basketball Association for 25 years. Her decision to run is based on her experiences and background in education and a desire to "continue to be of service to the school district that I call my family." Terrell said. Her husband, Dale, is a current board member.

Hanover school district 28

Six candidates are competing for two, four-year seats.

High interest in this district that's grown by nearly 20 percent in the past five years stems from the desire to raise the bar and continue on a positive trajectory. D-28 has a property tax proposal on the ballot to raise $285,500 annually, to help offset state funding cuts and pay for instructional materials, technology improvements, maintain buildings, professional development and restoring the transportation fleet.

The district made national headlines last year when the board agreed to arm teachers. It recently implemented a new career and technical education requirement for graduation.

Juanita Beasley, a parent, wants more communication between parents and the board, and pledges to know the concerns of parents and students and help implement solutions, as well as "coming up with ideas to make each and every student's education as productive and beneficial as possible."

Dwight Smith wants to "regain the community's trust and support in the education of all students in Hanover D-28," implement a formal staff mentorship program and transition to Google classrooms.

Edward Sweazy has five children in D-28 and has been on the school board for two years. He's also coached football and basketball for three years. He'd like to see new district vehicle, buses and vans, more options for students to include shop, home ec and draw the community together.

Scott Gardner, a father of two D-28 students, would like to see faculty and administration held accountable for decisions that affect the district, as well as being praised and rewarded for going above and beyond for students.

Charity Garrett has one student in the district and two who are home-schooled. The top three issues she intends to address: "seeing board policies are abided by all and enforced impartially, seeing bullying and discrimination diminish and seeing an atmosphere with students that are excited to learn and have fun doing it."

Ross Minks, an Army veteran and father of three D-28 students, is the PTO president at Prairie Heights Elementary. He would like district accountability committee members to attend more school board meetings. He also wants to help promote growth in enrollment and programs for students and institute more positive reinforcement for accomplishments.

Harrison school district 2

Four candidates are competing for three, four-year terms.

The region's most socio-economically and culturally diverse district is implementing its Strategic Plan 2016-2021, with changes that include new science and social studies curriculum for middle school students, expanded digital devices for students and other initiatives, toward the goal of providing equitable education for every student through personalized learning. D-2's pay-for-performance compensation system, the first in the state, has contributed to high teacher turnover, which improved this school year.

Linda Pugh served on the D-2 board from 2005 to 2013, when she was term-limited. A resident for 30 years, former parent and now grandparent of children in D-2, Pugh wants to "keep the district moving in a positive direction." She said she knows how the district functions at all levels and is familiar with the governance policies that keep the board focused on results and values. Pugh also said she will listen to all sides of an issue, ask hard questions and make decisions based on what is best for students.

Steven Seibert, board treasurer, is seeking a second term. A D-2 resident for 30 years, Seibert graduated from Harrison High and believes that people in communities should take care of each other. His children also attended D-2 schools. He wants to stay on the board to continue giving back to the community and serving the schools that have meant so much to his family.

Joshua Hitchcock has a 20-year career in military and civil service and said he wants to advocate for the community as a whole, in the same way he's advocated for his two children in D-2. "My background as a program manager has value; not being within the city and state government lends a difference in view on issues and a different approach to solving problems." He'd like to improve "district culture," particularly in terms of merit pay as it relates to teacher retention.

Jeannie Orozco, parent of one student in D-2 and one D-2 graduate, has been invested in the community for a decade and has worked with the board for the past three years on health equity issues and bringing needed community services to the area. One of her goals is to return life skills training for students, such as home ec and financing and budgeting.

Lewis-Palmer school district 38

Two candidates are running for District 1 and two candidates are running for District 3.

Monument's D-38 touts its "District of Distinction" standing as a result of academic achievement, is working on creating a long-range master plan for expansion and has been a leader in parental input in local and state decision-making. Board discussions in recent years have been contentious, leading to behavioral protocols and at one point banning students from meetings, due to their volatile nature.

District 1

Sherri Hawkins, an incumbent seeking a second term, says as a parent, she has an ear for what teachers want and works to ensure that all students in D-38 "are served with excellent results." She seeks to form better partnerships with the community and stay the course.

Chris Taylor said as a retired certified public accountant, he has business and accounting experience to contribute, and looks forward to better managing policy and fostering more transparency on the board. "I bring process management skills, so the processes we use yield the outcomes we desire."

District 3

Tiffiney Upchurch is a parent, former preschool teacher and business woman who desires to meet the needs of all D-38 learners, ensure fiscal responsibility, uphold academic achievement, engage all stakeholders and promote collaboration.

Thomas De Angelis wants to serve the interests of the community and prepare students to be successful citizens. He intends to help solve problems, continue the high standards already in place and maintain a balanced budget.

Manitou Springs school district 14

Five candidates are in the mix for two, four-year seats. A voter-approved property tax increase in 2015 has enabled D-14 to increase staff salaries, buy iPads for students, make gym and athletic program improvements, upgrade transportation and others.

The district has special focuses on health and wellness, and the arts and extra-curricular classes for all students.

Natalie Johnson, executive director of the Manitou Art Center and Manitou Springs Creative District, said she's a perfect fit because she's someone who "gets things done" and can represent the district throughout the community at events. She wants to tackle funding challenges as a community team and ensure programs that are in place continue and grow.

Christina "Tina" Vidovich was appointed to the board in June and wants to keep her seat. She is a career educator with 30 years of experience as a paraprofessional, teacher and administrator. She works as a zone operations administrator in Falcon school district 49. Her daughter is a senior at Manitou High. Vidovich wants to improve communication and technology district-wide and expand and enhance the already great practices in place.

Anna Lord, a YMCA instructor, previously served on the D-14 board from 2003 to 2011. She also for six years was on the Colorado Association of School Boards board. Lord says she has a proven track record of effectiveness on local, state and national levels of defending and improving public education and is passionate about the role. She wants to find innovative and cost-effective funding solutions.

Jonathan Dooley, owner of Chipita Park Pool and Spa, is a parent and volunteer in D-14, who would bring strong leadership with a business focus to the table, which he believes is needed to face funding challenges. He would like to see more money for arts and humanities, advanced level educational offerings, and student and teacher retention.

Jack Sharon, the father of three children in D-14, says he has real-world experience to share, as an employer in healthcare, along with innovative, private-sector approaches to addressing issues. funding challenges will require collaboration with other districts, state legislators and the state school board association, he said. He cites the shortage of teachers as another problem that requires new solutions.

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