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20-20 vision

Academy School District candidates crowd onto same page



Only one incumbent is competing in the school board election for Academy School District 20.

Four candidates are running for two seats. Board president Vicki Taylor will face off against David Kelly, Anne Christensen and Gary Coulter (who served as D-20 board treasurer as late as 2003).

We asked the candidates to weigh in on the issues, and were surprised to find how many views they share.

They agree on:

Needing money to grow

Everyone agrees that D-20 could double its nearly 21,500 students as development brings more families into the district (though the district won't need new schools for a while). Accommodating more students will require pre-planning, they say.

The candidates concur that the district should aggressively look to the state for better funding, but also say they will likely need a bond issue or a mill-levy override to build future schools.

"The single biggest [challenge] is 2011," Christensen says, noting that Referendum C and Amendment 23 will expire in that year.

In the meantime, she thinks the district should "capitalize on growth" as a way to offer more choices in schools.

Kelly thinks the key is timing, so new buildings aren't underpopulated and the board is viewed as fiscally responsible.

Taylor anticipates that when the time comes for growth, a committee will be put together to plan it. She thinks voters will be impressed with how well the district has handled taxpayer money in the past.

Coulter says voter-approved bond issues or mill-levy increases should be well-thought-out and -articulated.

Charter schools

Every candidate is a fan of charter schools, and particularly The Classical Academy. But, they say, charter schools need to be held to a high standard.

Maintaining the district's excellent C-SAP scores

No one supports "teaching to the test," of course.

Taylor, Christensen and Coulter mention D-20's special "longitudinal growth model" of tracking kids' individual performance. They say the system allows teachers to meet each student's needs, which should positively affect C-SAP scores.

"C-SAP is not going to go away, but we have moved beyond C-SAP," Taylor says.

Mark Hatchell

The new superintendent has the support of all four candidates. Everyone says his performance has been impressive so far.

They disagree (at least slightly) on:

Site-based management

Principals in D-20 get to make a lot of decisions for their schools. This is, after all, the district where a school recently made news by banning the game of "tag" on the playground.

Coulter says prohibiting tag was "silly." He says he hopes that when principals make decisions, they try small fixes before going for big ones. "Don't cut the arm off at the elbow in order to get rid of a splinter in the thumb," he says.

Others say the ban is appropriate because it addresses bullying.

On the whole, all agree with site-based management, though Kelly and Coulter say principals need to be accountable, and Christensen says there could be room for system improvement.

Other big goals

All candidates had other issues they felt were important in this race.

Kelly's is vocational training: "When I was in high school, I got involved in a vocational program that introduced me to my career," he says. He says it's important for the district to realize not all kids are college-bound.

Taylor says the district will stay on the right path as long as it continues to focus on staff development and student achievement.

Coulter says if the district wants to remain excellent, it must pay its staff better.

Christensen says schools need to maintain a variety of programs including arts, music and athletics, as well as looking for better technology in the classroom.

Gary Coulter
Work: Retired after a career that included 20 years in the Air Force (with several assignments on the faculty of the Air Force Academy), teaching at Colorado State University and working as a program manager for NASA.

Children: Grown, no longer school-age, both D-20 graduates.

District activities: Chairman of the board of the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado; served as treasurer of the D-20 Board (1999-2003); helped critique curriculum and develop design at Discovery Canyon Campus.

Anne Christensen

Work: Self-employed as a writer, editor and writing coach. Also has worked in the software industry.

Children: One daughter attending Rampart High School.

District activities: Co-chair of the D-20 Parent Sounding Board and member of the Superintendent's Communication Council; also has served on various ad hoc D-20 committees and done volunteer work in schools.

Vicki Taylor

Work: Stay-at-home mom.

Children: Three kids in D-20 schools.

District activities: First elected to the D-20 board in 2003; has been board president for nearly two years.

David Kelly

Work: Print resource manager and pressman for the Pikes Peak Library District.

Children: One District 20- graduated son in college on academic scholarship, one daughter at Prairie Hills Elementary.

District activities: Has applied for board committees; goes to board meetings at times; and has sat in on a parent information meeting.

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