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Douglas County’s voucher pilot may be in legal limbo but the issue clearly separates the seven candidates vying for the affluent county’s three school board seats coming open Nov. 1.

Two of the three races feature one pro-voucher candidate and one anti-voucher candidate. The third race features one pro-voucher incumbent and two anti-voucher challengers.

Emotions have come to the fore in candidate debates, where vouchers play a central role.

“I am mad. I am very angry,” candidate Gail Frances said of her decision to run for office. “It was the voucher situation that really instilled the fire in me.”

Frances is opposing voucher supporter Kevin Larsen to represent District C, including Highlands Ranch. School board member Clifton Stahl decided not to seek a second term.

Votes for two other incumbents – Craig Richardson in District A, which includes the district’s northwest corner, and Justin Williams in District F, which includes Parker – may signal whether other Dougco residents are displeased with the pilot.

Candidates

Other resources

“The community has been split right down the middle,” candidate Susan Meek, who is opposing Richardson and candidate Kevin Reilly, said at one debate. Susan McMahon is challenging Williams.

For a second school board election season, the Republican Party is playing a key role. In 2009, it endorsed – and successfully elected – a slate of four candidates, dramatically altering the shape of the school board. Eighteen months later, the board approved the voucher pilot.

This year, the GOP party is again backing a slate, all three pro-voucher candidates. Some other candidates have made a point of saying they won’t accept backing from a political party because they want to remove politics from the school board races.

Even if the three seats go to anti-voucher candidates, the board would likely retain a pro-voucher majority. All board votes on the voucher pilot in the past year have been 7-0.

And a sweep by anti-voucher candidates would be no easy feat. The GOP is a formidable force in a county where, as of Sept. 30, 51 percent of active voters were registered Republican compared to 21 percent Democrat and 28 percent unaffiliated. Dougco school board members represent a geographic area but they are elected countywide.

DISTRICT A CANDIDATES

Kevin Reilly

Age: 54

Reilly

Employment: Neuropsychologist in private practice, consults at Swedish Medical Center

Experience in district: Regular volunteer at daughter’s school when she attended Northridge Elementary

Education: Doctor of psychology, University of Denver, 1988

Family: Daughter attended Dougco schools since kindergarten, now at Mountain Vista High School

Endorsements: Not seeking endorsements

Follow: Website; Facebook

On vouchers: Oppose

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Oppose 3A, the mill levy; Support 3B, the bond issue

Personal statement: As a parent, taxpayer and long-time resident of Douglas County, I am running for the Douglas County School District Board to return an independent community voice to the Board of Education. As a strong advocate for our neighborhood schools, I am opposed to the private school subsidy voucher program. The Pay for Performance Framework, to be funded with the board proposed mill levy, is seriously flawed. The reputation and quality of our school district is a community asset that should be nurtured. The current Board is failing its fiduciary and stewardship responsibilities by pursuing political agendas. Our children deserve better that this – we all deserve better than this. Please visit my website to learn how I stand on issues, about my background and education, and how I will listen to your concerns to become a voice for students, families and our community: www.Reilly4DCschools.com

* * Candidates are listed in ballot order * *

Susan Meek

Age: 42

Meek

Employment: Education strategist, Breakaway Ltd., since March

Experience in district: Parent volunteer serving on children’s school PTO and SAC committees; district communications director July 2009 – March 2011 with projects including creation of the district’s Apple Awards program honoring excellent teachers

Education: Master’s in business administration, business economics and public policy, The George Washington University, 1994

Family: Husband John Roth, two daughters attending Northridge Elementary and Ranch View Middle School

Endorsements: Not seeking endorsements, testimonials on website

Follow: Website; Facebook

On vouchers: Oppose

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Support

Personal statement: I have no deeper agenda than to utilize my experience and talents to serve Douglas County students, schools and the community. I am running for the school board to offer a new perspective, one that is not based on political ideologies 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.

* * Candidates are listed in ballot order * *

Craig Richardson

Age: 50

Richardson

Employment: Vice president and general counsel, El Paso Corporation Pipeline Group, past seven years

Experience in district: Incumbent school board member appointed June 2010; volunteer work includes serving as attorney-coach for Mountain Vista High School mock trial team, community site clean-up member at Mountain Vista

Education: Juris doctor, Stanford University, 1992

Family: Wife Valerie, two children are Dougco graduates and a third attends Mountain View High School

Endorsements: Douglas County Republican Party, U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman, R-Colorado; endorsements on website

Follow: Website

On vouchers: Support

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Support

Personal statement: I view our District through two lenses. First, as a 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, I know what is expected of the next generation to sustain American global leadership. Viewing the District through these two lenses, I will work hard to keep our schools great and take them to the next level of excellence. If elected, I will focus on (i) increasing total compensation for top-performing professionals, (ii) ensuring our District’s Discovery and GT programs remain robust, (iii) enhancing STEM and language performance, (iv) reducing class sizes, (v) investing in facilities, (vi) empowering neighborhood schools to compete on a level playing field, (vii) improving our open-enrollment process, and (viii) empowering parents to make informed decisions about the educational milieu most conducive to the academic achievement of their children.

DISTRICT C CANDIDATES

Gail Frances

Age: 65

Frances

Employment: Most recently worked for Wells Fargo Advisors, 9.5 years

Experience in district: Parent, grandmother, stakeholder, taxpayer, concerned citizen

Education: Master’s degree, public administration, University of Colorado Denver, 2005

Family: Daughter attended Cherry Creek public schools, two grandchildren enrolled in Jefferson County public schools

Endorsements: None

Follow: Website; Facebook

On vouchers: Oppose

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Support

Personal statement: I am running as a concerned citizen and community stakeholder with deep concerns about the future of our children, our teachers and our community. I bring a thirty-five year wide-ranging business and corporate background and I am deeply troubled at the notion that DC schools should be run as profit centers. I am not running for any political or professional gains or to satisfy a personal agenda. I feel deeply that we have a collective responsibility and a community contract to retain the strongest public school system possible. And I intend to stand up for that cause. My core beliefs include: Investing in preserving the public in public education; Instilling trust, transparency and diversity to the Douglas County School Board of Education; Being a champion for our children and teachers. I am the candidate who can bring back public trust and move the school district forward in a positive and (cut off at 150-word limit).

* * Candidates are listed in ballot order * *

Kevin Larsen

Age: 48

Larsen

Employment: Assistant vice president and actuary, Hannover Life Reassurance Co. of America, since Feb. 2009

Experience in district: Volunteer work including serving on district’s fiscal oversight committee since April 2010, district accountability committee since August 2009 and committee chair since October 2010, served on Fox Creek Elementary school accountability committee 1999-2001; also announce softball games for Highlands Ranch High School since 2005, founded and coached Math Olympiads team at Fox Creek since 2003, coached MATHCOUNTS team at Cresthill Middle School since 2001.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in math, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1985

Family: Wife Cindy Somer-Larsen, two daughters are Dougco graduates and a third attends Highlands Ranch High School

Endorsements: Douglas County Republican Party, U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, endorsements on website

Follow: Website; Facebook

On vouchers: Support

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Support

Personal statement: I am running for Douglas County School Board because I bring both a vision and a track record of working to make this school district better. This is a natural, incremental step that 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. Finally, I bring experience from leading other organizations when they dealt with both change and some passionate struggles. My occupation as an actuary gives me a skilled perspective to (cut off at 150-word limit).

DISTRICT F CANDIDATES

Justin Williams

Age: 38

Williams

Employment: Self-employed, investment adviser, past 10 years

Experience in district: Incumbent school board member elected in 2007, parent volunteer in children’s schools

Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Utah, year not provided

Family: Wife Julie, four children at Frontier Valley Elementary and Cimarron Middle School, fifth child in preschool

Endorsements: Douglas County Republican Party, former Gov. Bill Owens, U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman, R-Colorado, endorsements on website

Follow: Website; Facebook; Twitter

On vouchers: Support

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Oppose

Personal statement: My wife and I have 5 children. We will be in the schools until the year 2024. That’s a total of 65 school years that a Williams child will be in the school system. I care about the district. I want us to succeed. My wife and I make up the demographics of the county. We understand there have been lots of hardships and these unpredictable times take a person who is a fiscal conservative and a caring parent. I am both. Serving on the board is volunteer. You must have a vision of education and be willing to make executive decisions. 60,000 children depend on it. The race this fall is 100% mail in ballot. I would appreciate your vote.

* * Candidates are listed in ballot order * *

Susan McMahon

Age: 44

McMahon

Employment: Former manager for American Express Business Travel, United Airlines and Nestle

Experience in district: Parent volunteer for past 11 years, including serving on children’s school accountability committee and parent-teacher involvement board; also serve as district accountability committee liaison for Legacy Point Elementary

Education: Bachelor’s degree in education, University of Georgia, 1988

Family: Husband Jeff Carter, three children ages 7-12 enrolled in Dougco schools

Endorsements: Candidate responded, “I am proud to have the support of hundreds of parents and voters across the county.” No names provided.

Follow: Website; Facebook; Twitter

On vouchers: Oppose; candidate was a plaintiff in one lawsuit against voucher pilot

On district tax measures 3A & 3B: Support

Personal statement: I am running for School Board to ensure the best opportunities are available to all of our children, teachers and staff. Every child deserves the right to a safe and quality education, and I look forward to an opportunity to ensure the needs of every child are met within our public school system. The Douglas County community is currently at a crossroads. I am running to ensure our taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely on programs which will continue to enhance educational opportunities for all children in public school. Douglas County currently has a wide variety of options for families. I believe we should continually develop a strong system of public, charter, and innovation schools. As a parent, and a citizen who cares about our community and our schools, I look forward to the opportunity to serve and make a difference for the future of the Douglas County School District (cut off at 150-word limit).

Other resources

Media coverage

Debates and forums

  • No more forums are scheduled before Election Day.
  • On Oct. 17, Douglas County School District communications staff posted footage of the last forum, Oct. 12 at Castle Rock Middle School.

Candidate questionnaires

  • Taxpayers for Public Education candidate questionnaires – District A, Meek and Reilly. District C, Frances and Larsen. District F, McMahon. Not all candidates filled out the surveys, likely because the group opposes vouchers.
  • Douglas County Federation of Teachers candidate questionnaires
  • Douglas County resident Alexandra Harden asked candidates 25 questions on topics including merit pay for teachers and parent notification of teacher arrests. Not all filled out the surveys, perhaps because Harden is a member of Great Choice Douglas County, which supported the voucher program. Survey responses: District A – Meek and Richardson. District C – Larsen. District F – McMahon and Williams.