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Douglas County RE 1 Board Candidate Survey
Q1 - Do you support a parent’s right to choose the public school they feel is the best fit for their child? Why or why not?
Kevin Larsen:  Absolutely. Parents love, nurture, and care for their child, they've known that child the longest, and they are their child's first teachers, protectors, and best advocates. I strive to make sure parents have access to a full array of educational choices and experts that can help them find the optimal place for their child to learn.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  Yes. For well over a decade DCSD has done an excellent job of offering well-rounded options for students through neighborhood, charter, magnet, alternative and open enrollment school choices for students. More recently we have added an on-line option.  

  
David Ray:  Yes. I believe parents know their children best, and should be allowed to choose an environment that best meets these needs.

  
Craig Richardson:  Parental choice concerning individual student learning environments is absolutely essential. Parents have by far the best data -- far better data than central planners and bureaucrats -- in selecting the educational milieu most conducive to the academic success of their child. We all benefit when we socially locate decision-making power with the human being most likely to make the most accurate decision. In this case, it is the parent, the person who spends the most time with the student and knows the student better than anyone else. Parent choice is not only the most efficient and effective driver of matching the idiosyncrasies of each child with the best school "fit." Parent choice is the very engine of healthy competition that promotes excellence in ALL schools.

  
Richard Robbins:  I do support a parent's right to choose the public school they feel is the best fit for their child. A parent knows what is best for their child. Not all learning styles are the same, thus parents should have choice as to what is the best fit for their child.

  
Wendy Vogel:  Absolutely. Parents are their children's first teachers and have the ultimate authority over choosing schools.

  


Q2 - Which of the following describes your familiarity with charter schools? (Select all that apply).
Kevin Larsen:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know someone who works at a charter school in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter school.” In Douglas County we have long led the way in championing high-quality charter schools as an option for students and families. Prior to election to the school board I served on the District Accountability Committee and reviewed many applications for schools that are now operating as charters in our district. Since joining the board of education, I have been part of the review and approval of several more charters.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know someone who works at a charter school in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter school.”

  
David Ray:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know someone who works at a charter school in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter school.”

  
Craig Richardson:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. As a member of the Douglas County Board of Education, I have had the honor and privilege of approving the applications of a number of high-quality charter schools to join our Douglas County family of public schools. We are honored to have those wonderful charter schools now in our midst, providing households every day with outstanding K-12 education services and giving DougCo families plentiful options and choices.

  
Richard Robbins:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know someone who works at a charter school in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter school.”

  
Wendy Vogel:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know someone who works at a charter school in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter

school.”

 


Q3 - Which of the following best describes your level of support or opposition toward charter schools in Colorado?
Kevin Larsen:  Strongly support. There's a reason this segment of school choice is growing. Parents are highly engaged. Douglas County has developed a very healthy relationship between the district and its charters, with dedicated liaisons keeping in contact with existing charters, and ensuring that new charter applicants form their schools with the best possible chance for success and sustainability.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  I support the public charter option as a successful choice for parents in Douglas County.

  
David Ray:  Strongly support.

  
Craig Richardson:  Strongly support. Charter schools are one of the most important innovations in how we deliver education services in the U.S. and Colorado in the last quarter century. They are an essential part, together with traditional neighborhood schools and other high-quality options (open enrollment, on-line schools, home schooling, and others), of the ongoing great American renaissance in K-12 education -- a renaissance essential to America's future as a global leader.

  
Richard Robbins:  Strongly support.

  
Wendy Vogel:  Strongly support.

 


Q4 - In your view, what role should charter schools play in providing parents and students choice in their public school options?
Kevin Larsen:  Charters have become - and will continue to be - an important choice on the educational menu. Parents actively engaging in selecting the best school for their child also keeps them actively engaged in their child's learning, relationship-building, and understanding of the world.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  Charters have provided an excellent public school choice for Douglas County families since 1993.

  
David Ray:  Charter schools and neighborhood schools have an equal role in providing parents and students choice. Both charter and neighborhood schools need to listen to the feedback of their community and seek ownership and a partnership for children's education.

  
Craig Richardson:  Charter schools should play a robust, powerful and critical role in providing parents and students choice in K-12 education. The very fact of a charter school choice may be essential to finding the optimal fit for a particular student's needs and gifts. The very fact of a charter school choice may help other charter schools, traditional neighborhood schools, and other options stay on the top of their game, in terms of institutional excellence and academic results. When we have more and better choices, all the choices get better. Charter schools are an essential part of that decentralized and competitive model for delivering educational services to each household.

  
Richard Robbins:  A charter school should be one choice as to what kind of school is the best fit for a child.I believe charter schools are just one option a parent has to choose from. Just as a parent should be able to choose between a traditional brick and mortar school, a magnet school, a private school, an online school, etc. A charter school is, and should be, one of many choices a parent has to choose from.

  
Wendy Vogel:  I believe that charter schools offer unique opportunities and are an excellent choice for students whose needs are not being met elsewhere.

 


Q5 - In your view, do charter schools help improve educational opportunities for all public school students or do they negatively impact the educational opportunities for students in traditional public schools?
Kevin Larsen:  I think it's clear that they improve the opportunities for all students. With many charters in Douglas County formed for various purposes such as a particular curriculum (e.g. Core Knowledge or Montessori), a particular focus (STEM and STEAM or a school of the arts), or exposure to world language immersion, our neighborhood schools and magnet schools have often developed strong programs of their own in these and other areas. The marketplace of good ideas helps all students flourish.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  DCSD's public charter schools have a history of providing important educational opportunities for our students.

  
David Ray:  Charter schools provide a positive impact for all students when strategically planned in terms of location and diverse philosophical approaches. In District's that have a strong culture of collaboration among building leaders, charter schools can also inspire non-traditional practices in neighborhood schools (and visa versa). 

  
Craig Richardson:  Charter schools help IMPROVE educational opportunities for students in traditional neighborhood schools and in other types of school choices by providing parents with options. Competition -- the freedom to choose -- promotes excellence among all the contending service providers. The influence of charter schools in this respect far exceeds the boundaries of their schools and promotes excellence far and wide.

  
Richard Robbins:  A charter school improve educational opportunities for all public school students. Not all students learn the same way. All students thrive in different settings and charter schools is one option in which students benefit and thrive.

  
Wendy Vogel:  Charter schools improve opportunities for all public school students by providing a variety of alternatives to meet educational needs.

 


Q6 - Do you support the creation of more charter schools?
Kevin Larsen:  Yes. With good oversight and healthy relationships. Douglas County School District is high-quality charter-friendly. We have a thorough application and renewal process that ensures students are benefiting. We have on occasion convinced some charter applicants to wait another year, if that's best for the school and the families.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place. I feel it is important for the school board to provide reliable data to incoming charter school applicants so they have the information necessary to be successful in Douglas County.  

  
David Ray:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place. Charter school planning should be part of a district's long range planning oversight to ensure that the charter school's location is adding value to the overall need of the district to accommodate student growth. Neighborhood schools are built based on the need for enrollment projections. Charter school planning should also be part of this to ensure that we are not opening schools that will fail due to lack of student population.  

  
Craig Richardson:  Yes. I support the creation of more charter schools provided (i) there is demand (as evidenced in sufficient numbers of enrollment commitments by parents) and (ii) the charter school's application meets our District's demanding but fair standards for quality. If those two conditions are met, the charter school application should be approved with all deliberate speed.

  
Richard Robbins:  Yes.

  
Wendy Vogel:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place. I believe that there needs to be a strategic growth plan in place for ALL public schools. 

 


Q7 - What do you believe is the proper role for a school district and a district board of education to play in relation to the charter schools in their district?
Kevin Larsen:  The district and its board should have a healthy relationship with regular communication to proactively address challenges, future growth, and changing policy. We have a dedicated school choice team that makes sure we have this connection. With greater autonomy comes great responsibility, too. We occasionally have issues brought to our attention that really need to be directed to the individual charter school staff or governing board. We ensure that our charters comply with state law and district policies. Much like our philosophy in other areas of education, we on the current DCSD board wish to empower, not control, our parents and schools.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  Charter schools are a public school option in the state of Colorado and should be treated with equal value as a choice for meeting students' needs.

  
David Ray:  The school board's role is to be a representative group that holds the superintendent accountable to carry out district policies. Given that charter schools have their own governing board, the school district board is primarily responsible for ensuring that district policies and state law are not violated. As long as the boards of charter schools are adhering to these policies, no other intervention by the district's school board is needed. 

  
Craig Richardson:  Charter schools are governed by their own boards, as it should be. The school district's role should be supportive and deferential, respectful always of the charter school's by-design autonomy. The school district has periodic opportunities (in the form of contract renewals) to evaluate charter school performance and align policies. Those are the moments where district oversight -- and it should be light oversight -- is best undertaken.

  
Richard Robbins:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

  
Wendy Vogel:  The proper role of a board of education is to help a charter through the application and authorization process. The school district's role is to provide support, when needed, including services to help the school be successful.

 


Q8 - Do you believe districts have a responsibility to equitably include their charter schools in the distribution of local funds related to facilities (bonds) and operational expenses (mill levy overrides)? Why or why not?
Kevin Larsen:  Not only do we believe in equitably sharing the mill levy overrides, we do it. We pass 100% of the mill levy override on a per pupil basis to all our schools. We've also found that when our district has a need to grow in a particular location, we can work creatively and cooperatively to ensure better financing for the charter facility while also getting the immediate neighborhood where the charter locates some priority weighting in having access to that school.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  Yes. Colorado charter schools are public schools.

  
David Ray:  Yes, "equity" is the key term. Funding needs to be rationalized and distributed based on need. Regardless if students come from charter or neighborhood schools, they are all OUR public school students and need to have their needs provided in an equitable manner.

  
Craig Richardson:  School districts should include charter schools in the distribution of local funds. Douglas County was one of the very first school districts to undertake this much-needed parity, particularly because charter schools receive no off-balance-sheet support for their capital expenses. Any other approach risks subsidizing one choice (the choice that gets greater funding) to the detriment of other choices (the choice that receives lower sums). We should always strive to have a level playing field on which parent choices are made based strictly on which is the superior choice for the academic success of their student.

  
Richard Robbins:  Yes I believe it is in the best interest for the school districts to include their charter schools in the distribution of local funds. It is the students who benefit from this funding, just as the traditional schools. 

  
Wendy Vogel:  Yes, I think charter schools should be equitably included in the distribution of ALL local funds because they are public schools and a part of the school district.

 


Q9 - Please feel free to provide any additional comments or viewpoints regarding school choice and charter schools in the state of Colorado that you were not able to cover in your responses above.
Kevin Larsen:  While I've provided these direct responses, I am confident that my colleagues Craig Richardson and Rich Robbins on the DCSD board share very similar views. After all, we have a track record of dealing with these very issues in public meetings, in setting the district vision, and in approving the charters that we have authorized. We are very proud of all the choices we offer in Douglas County. Our charter schools are a vital part of a healthy educational menu.

  
Anne-Marie Lemieux:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

  
David Ray:  I served as a principal of neighborhood schools for 23 years. In 1993, I had the pleasure of being invited to testify at the State Legislature on behalf of the Colorado Charter School Act. Charter schools have helped manage our rapid student growth and provided innovative approaches that have inspired my leadership in neighborhood schools.

  
Craig Richardson:  I am proud to have served on a board of education recognized by the League as the most charter-friendly board in Colorado. I am committed to keeping it that way. I am grateful for the League's hard work in promoting the well being of charter schools throughout our state.

  
Richard Robbins:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

  
Wendy Vogel:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

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