In this mail-ballot election, seven candidates are vying for four seats on the District 11 school board. All have their own ideas for moving D-11's low-performing or stagnant schools toward academic excellence.
Surprisingly, there's a lot of consensus. Everyone agrees site-based management can be a good thing, so long as it's tempered with standardization. Candidates say allowing schools to order their own supplies, for instance, results in a warehouse full of unused textbooks i.e., wasted money. Everyone feels charter schools should be held to a high standard.
Willie Breazell is alone in publicly saying he likes vouchers, though he thinks they're appropriate only for some poor kids at underperforming schools. The rest are anti-voucher. Everyone agrees CSAP is flawed.
And while most say a little dissent doesn't hurt a board, nobody seems to want to wage war with fellow board members.
Here are some views of each candidate:
- Willie Breazell
Background: Realtor, retired military. Elected to the board in 2003. Past/present member of D-11 committees. Grandson in D-11.
Quote: "I don't support a blank check for charter schools. I don't support a blank check for vouchers."
East Middle School: The underperforming, underpopulated, rundown school was closed in May amid outcry from parents who wanted to keep their neighborhood school. Breazell supported shutting it down. Now, he says he might support a math-science magnet there, using funds from a grant.
Performance-based pay: Supports giving bonuses to high-performing teachers and staff. If the district cuts waste, he says, it can afford the program.
Magnets and charters: Says magnets should be well-researched before implementation, and underperforming charters should be shut down.
CSAP: Create incentives (such as scholarship money), he says, and kids will score better on tests.
- Charlie Bobbitt
Background: Insurance salesman. Elected to the board in 2006. Served on D-11 committees since the 1980s. Kids are D-11 graduates.
Quote: "I think we're doing a great job ... you have limited resources."
East Middle School: Voted to close it. Will wait for district committee recommendation on what to do next, but wants to see it reopen.
Performance-based pay: Says small incentives might be OK, but wants to use the district's limited funds to increase salaries and hire more teachers.
Charters and magnets: Believes charters are fine as long as they're accountable. Would support more magnet schools.
CSAP: Says that it needs perfecting, and that other testing is also useful. Sees potential help in teachers using open periods to evaluate individual students.
- Tom Strand
Background: Self-employed as an educator/lecturer, retired military. Appointed to the board in 2007.
Quote: "I've visited all of the district's schools."
East Middle School: Voted to close it. Has concerns about making East a magnet school, but says he'll wait until hearing the committee recommendation.
Performance-based pay: Believes it's worth looking into, but has doubts. Maybe just recognizing teachers, he adds, would be a good place to start.
Charters and magnets: Has mixed feelings about magnet schools and finds them a bit too trendy. Sees charters filling some district needs, but worries that their proliferation means the district as a whole is failing.
CSAP: Says it's flawed; more frequent testing of teachers and students would better performance.
- Jan Tanner
Background: Family business owner, bookkeeper. Elected in 2006 after years of D-11 involvement, including service as volunteer board treasurer. Serves on the Colorado PTA board of directors. Son graduated from D-11.
Quote: "I process everything and I try to listen."
East Middle School: Voted to keep East open. Likes the idea of making it a magnet, but will wait for the recommendation.
Performance-based pay: Has serious questions about how it would work.
Charters and magnets: Says the district is "saturated" with charter schools, and some don't work. Supports magnets. "It's what the community wants."
CSAP: Believes the test isn't perfect and often becomes the main classroom focus; other assessments needed.
- Bob Null
Background: Retired military. Sits on D-11, city and county committees. One child still attending D-11.
Quote: "D-49's busting at the seams. Why don't we rent them some of our schools, or share a school with them at the borders ... instead of closing [schools]?"
East Middle School: Believes making it a magnet may be a good idea.
Performance-based pay: In favor of it, and also supportive of testing teachers.
Charters and magnets: Says charters need to be accountable. Likes magnets.
CSAP: Says that because too many teachers are teaching to the test, it's time for the district to design its own state-approved test to replace CSAP.
- Chyrese Exline
Background: Geriatric consultant. Volunteered 8,000 hours at D-11. Member of district committees. One son in D-11, one 15-year-old D-11 graduate at the University of Pennsylvania.
Quote: "Parents can be grading papers; they can be helping kids define their future by helping them to utilize the resources that the district already has."
East Middle School: Believes that better planning could have kept it open. Adds that putting a magnet there now could be problematic, as the magnet only has three years of funding, and D-11 does not have a compatible high school.
Performance-based pay: Likes it for now.
Charters and magnets: Says good charter schools should become programs within a traditional school, similar to, say, International Baccalaureate.
CSAP: Believes it provides some accountability but focuses too much on the center. Kids should be tested in kindergarten to determine learning styles, strengths and needs, she says, then educated accordingly.
- Delia Armstrong-Busby
Background: Self-employed in tutorial services. Past board member and Mitchell High School principal. Founding member of Alliance for Quality Public Schools. Two children are D-11 graduates.
Quote: "I think we need better processes to involve the neighborhood community."
East Middle School: Was against closing it, and says families were "voiceless" in the decision. Says voters shouldn't have been asked for bond money to fix East if the district planned on closing it. If D-11 commits to a charter there, she adds, it must follow through.
Performance-based pay: "If the base pay is too low to begin with, a bonus is not going to compensate."
Charters and magnets: As long as charter schools perform and get parents involved, she says, they're fine. Likes the magnets the district has set up thus far.
CSAP: Says we need to encourage kids and challenge them early. Believes CSAP scores will go up with better instruction and one-on-one tutoring.