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Jefferson County R-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?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  Yes, although I believe it is the responsibility of the school board to ensure that all choices meet clear and high academic and financial standards. This responsibility is essential in order to protect the educational efficiency of each and every tax payer dollar.

  
Susan Harmon:  Yes. Every parent deserves options that will allow them to find the best education for their children. 

  
Kim Johnson:  Yes, I support a parent's right to choose the public school they feel is the best fit for their child. When families have choices available to them, they can select the school which they believe will be in the best position to educate their child most effectively. For some families and children, this can make it truly possible to experience enjoying, developing a lifelong love of learning, and being prepared for a successful future.

  
Ali Lasell:  Yes. Parents need to find the best fit for their child, so their student can thrive academically and socially.

  
Tori Merritts:  Absolutely. Children and their families are not part of a cookie cutter process. Even within the same family, families often elect to send one or more children to schools that are not in their neighborhood for one reason or another.

  
Ron Mitchell:  Yes, parents should be able to choose a quality school for their children.

   

John Newkirk:  Yes. Each child is unique, and one learning style rarely fits all. Charters expand options for parents and students alike.

 
Paula Noonan:  Yes.

  
Brad Rupert:  Yes. Every parent has the right to select the avenue of education that best suits their child.

  
Amanda Stevens:  I support choice as a tool for families not politics or profits. I choice enroll my children into a neighborhood school that is a positive fit for their educational needs. However, the challenge with choice is equity. Strong choice policies will also address barriers to access and individual student needs (poverty, SPED, GT, etc.).

  

Julie Williams:  Yes, I support a parent's right to choose the public school they feel best fits their child because they know their unique child's learning style best. Parental rights are also protected under our Colorado State Constitution-Col. Rev. Stat. § 13-22-107(1)(a)(III). 
 
Ken Witt:  Parents must have the opportunity to find the best educational fit for their children, to enable all children to fully engage in their education and realize their full academic potential, whether they are college, military, or career bound after high school.

 


Q2 - Which of the following describes your familiarity with charter schools? (Select all that apply).
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  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.

  
Susan Harmon:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado.

  
Kim Johnson:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter school.”

  
Ali Lasell:  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.”

  
Tori Merritts:  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.” As a former Jeffco School Board member, I sat on boards that approved eight charter schools in Jeffco.

  
Ron Mitchell:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know someone who works at a charter school in Colorado. I have met with some charter school parents. 

 

John Newkirk:  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.”

 

Paula Noonan:  I can name one or more charter schools in Colorado. I know a student who attends a charter school in Colorado. I have heard the term “charter school."

 
Brad Rupert:  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.

  
Amanda Stevens:  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.” I served on the Jeffco Choice Committee where we explored the positives, challenges, and partnerships that make sure Choice, option, charter, and neighborhood schools are sharing the conversations district wide that lead to all students' success.

   

Julie Williams:  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 a child that attends a traditional school and a child that attends charter school. Both are our neighborhood schools and are the best fit for my children's unique learning style.

 
Ken Witt:  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?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  Neither support nor oppose. I support locally started charter schools which provide a true and unique alternative to neighborhood schools. They must be held to the same academic standards and safeguards need to be in place to ensure student funds are used efficiently. I oppose the political and corporate expansion of charter schools based on political agendas or as part of an investment strategy. These decisions based on external factors, lack a true regard to student achievement and financial impacts. 

  
Susan Harmon:  Strongly support. I am supportive of excellent schools for all students in Jefferson County, including charters. 

  
Kim Johnson:  Strongly support. All Jeffco students are our students, whether they are enrolled at a traditional district-run school, an option school, or a charter school. Choice is a critical component of education in Colorado. Having charter schools, traditional district-run schools, and option schools available in Jeffco allows parents the opportunity to find the right educational fit for their children.

  
Ali Lasell:  Strongly support. I support charters that are grassroots in nature. Parents and community members say "We want this, we need this, we support this." The charters in Jefferson County are grassroots charters, which is why they are so successful.

  
Tori Merritts:  Strongly support. If there is adequate community support, a location for a school, strong leadership - board and administration, and a sound financial plan, a charter school will make a quality choice. Only quality charters should be approved.

  
Ron Mitchell:  Strongly support. I strongly support high quality, community based charter schools. I have many reservations about national, for profit, corporate charter schools.

 

John Newkirk:  Strongly support. Please see above. 

  

Paula Noonan:  Strongly support. Charter schools can fill program choices not always available in traditional public school systems. I do believe charters should be locally initiated and managed.

 
Brad Rupert:  Strongly support. I support all high quality schools.

  
Amanda Stevens:  Somewhat support. I am proud of the grassroots charter schools in Jeffco. All Jeffco students and all Jeffco schools are OUR students and schools. Care can be taken to build shared supports and practices. In a constrained budget environment we must advocate together for resources, effective practices, and a unified culture of support. I appreciate that in the past Jeffco included some funds in mill levy and bond (2012) for charter schools. Also, the equalization of mill levy funds for charter schools in Jeffco is the best foundation for moving forward with conversations about equity, access, and strategic student-centered planning.

   

Julie Williams:  Strongly support. Choice for our children is extremely important because all children learn differently. Charters can be on the cutting edge of innovation due to the autonomy they are granted while being held accountable to the school district.

 

Ken Witt:  Strongly support.

 


Q4 - In your view, what role should charter schools play in providing parents and students choice in their public school options?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  Charter schools which provide a unique alternative to neighborhood schools can play an important role in not only providing choice, but providing academic excellence within our district. Once again, however, this is dependent on standards which prevent the diversion of student funds out of the classroom.  

  
Susan Harmon:  Charter schools can provide environments that will be effective for different learning styles of some students. Charter schools are a tool that can allow us to better serve all students in the district. 

  
Kim Johnson:  Charter schools provide a tremendous opportunity to supplement a quality public school system. Having charter schools, traditional district-run schools, and option schools available in Jeffco allows parents the opportunity to find the right educational fit for their children. For some that will be a specific curriculum focus, for others a charter school will help meet a special need, and for some they will choose a district-run school after exploring charter and option schools. The additional room to be innovative enjoyed by charter schools can ultimately benefit all district schools as well. Dialogue between educators and leaders to share successful programs and best practices can spark interest in something once thought to be inaccessible.

  
Ali Lasell:  I think Jeffco as it stands is a good model. The charters in the district meet a need that isn't being met in a district-run school.

  
Tori Merritts:  Charter schools usually have a focus or philosophy that is not found in neighborhood schools. All of our schools, including charter schools, are a choice for families.

  
Ron Mitchell:  We should work together to meet the educational needs of all students.

 

John Newkirk:  The public needs to be educated as to the existence, purpose, and effectiveness of quality charters as there seems to be an abundance of misinformation these days.

 

Paula Noonan:  It's inefficient for charters to duplicate neighborhood schools that offer traditional programs. I look to charters to provide programs not available or not normally offered by traditional schools. In Jeffco, that's Montessori, Waldorf, classical learning, etc.

 
Brad Rupert:  Charter schools offer an important education option that may better suit the needs of some students. Charter schools can help our district meet the needs of all of its students.

  
Amanda Stevens:  Charter schools offer a complement to district school programs. Shared, strategic planning is preferable to free-market competition that pits schools against each other. Due diligence must be practiced so that the choices available to families do not become a manipulated marketplace for for-profit charters. The best way forward is working together 1. to build complimentary school choices for families and 2. to ensure all schools are successful for students.

  

Julie Williams:  Because all charter schools in Colorado are formed and operated by parents, teachers and community members they have to prove the choice they are offering is wanted by the community as part of a very rigorous district process before they receive a charter status. If they have received charter status it should have proven to be an excellent choice added to many in the district offers.
 
Ken Witt:  A wide variety of public charter schools, along with neighborhood and option schools, is a key element of the Jeffco portfolio of schools, bringing our Jeffco families a rich set of choices to find the best educational fit for each child.

 


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?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  I believe charter schools have the potential to have both a positive or negative impact on students within Jefferson County School District. If thoughtful consideration is given, free from outside political or corporate agendas, they have the potential to have a profound and positive impact on educational opportunities. On the other hand, if tax payer dollars are diverted to charter school without appropriate oversight or financial transparency they have the potential to have a significantly negative impact on the educational opportunities of all students in Jeffco. 

  
Susan Harmon:  I believe that options strengthen our district. Providing diverse environments and options for all learners is a strength of our district. 

  
Kim Johnson:  Yes, charter schools improve educational opportunities for public school students. Although, this does perhaps not extend to all students as much as it could. The ability to access charter schools continues to be an obstacle for some Jeffco students, limiting their ability utilize the opportunities available through charter schools. A couple of challenges face Jeffco to this end. The physical location of charter schools within Jeffco and resulting transportation challenges for some families limits easy access. Additionally, families' knowledge of their options can be limited.

  
Ali Lasell:  Charter schools can provide complementary programs that are not otherwise available, as do Jeffco's option schools.

  
Tori Merritts:  They improve educational opportunities as quality choices for families.

  
Ron Mitchell:  They help meet the needs of all students in our community.

 

John Newkirk:  A wide base of quality charters gives parents and students broader choices - and choice is a positive thing.

 

Paula Noonan:  It depends on the charter. Some charters in Denver are not helping children achieve proficiency. Others are delivering excellent programs and producing great results. The impact of charters is not cookie cutter.

 

Brad Rupert:  Charter Schools can help improve educational opportunities for public school students.

  
Amanda Stevens:  The existence of charter schools does not negatively impact educational opportunities for neighborhood school students. However, partnership and planning can ensure all students in all schools have access to the resources, programming, and effective teaching that will enable their success. We must serve students more than we sort them, and that is best done as a unified effort, not one of divisiveness.

   

Julie Williams:  Choice drives competition and competition drives improved options and outcomes for our students. Choice also allows families to choose a school that is the best match for their unique child.

 

Ken Witt:  Competition in education is critical to continued innovation and improvement. All Jeffco students and Jeffco schools benefit when we are innovating with new schools and in our existing schools, identifying the best practices, and applying them more broadly to impact more students.

 


Q6 - Do you support the creation of more charter schools?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place.

  
Susan Harmon:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place. Jefferson County is growing rapidly, and more schools will be needed. I want to ensure we are working together to meet the needs of all students.

  
Kim Johnson:  Yes. I support the addition of more quality charter schools if identified needs will be addressed. It's not about adding charter schools just to bring Jeffco to a specific number of charter schools. The important focus is that charter schools can fill unique needs for Jeffco students. When we have the opportunity to support that, it benefits our students to do so.

  
Ali Lasell:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place.

  
Tori Merritts:  Yes. I have a record of approving quality charters.

  
Ron Mitchell:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place. We need to assess needs in our communities. 

 

John Newkirk:  Yes. I am not as focused on the quantity of charter schools in our district as I am on their quality.

 

Paula Noonan:  Yes, if there is a strategic growth plan in place that includes the charter and the needs of the district. In Jeffco, for example, with neighborhood elementary schools buried in the heart of housing areas and no public transport, building out a charter system like in Denver would not be helpful to homeowners' property values or to children's easy access. Smart planning involves coordinating the development of charters with programs within the district to ensure that choice is available but public dollars are wisely allocated.

 

Brad Rupert:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place.

  
Amanda Stevens:  Maybe – if there is a strategic growth plan in place. I fear any unilateral or polarized thinking around charters and school choice. It makes our education efforts a political football. Instead, let's work together to address challenges and ensure student success.

 

Julie Williams:  Yes. I support the creation of high performing charter schools.

 

Ken Witt:  Yes Denver has over 40 charters, while Jeffco has only 17, with similar student populations. We are in no danger of having too many educational choices for our Jeffco families.

 


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?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  I believe the school district and district board of education has two important roles in relation to charter schools within their district. First, they must ensure that a charter school provides a distinct and unique educational alternative. As a public school, academic standards must be in place to ensure the highest level of education for all students. Finally the district must have in place guidelines and transparency rules to protect tax payer funds from leaving the classroom and lining the pockets charter school investors.  

  
Susan Harmon:  Working together to meet the needs of all students. 

  
Kim Johnson:  A Board of Education's role with respect to charter schools begins at the same place as it does for district-run schools - governing the district on a successful path to provide a quality education for every student in order to prepare them for a successful future. Through district staff, the board should ensure that charter schools are meeting transparency and accountability standards. Board members should make efforts to connect with the community, including visiting schools to meet with staff, parents, and school leadership to hear their concerns and recognize their successes.

  
Ali Lasell:  I think it i important for the school district and the board of education to critically listen toe each charter school applicant and discuss whether this type of school meets the needs of the community it would like to serve. School boards need to then research and discuss with said community.

  
Tori Merritts:  The District and School Board should provide facilitation as needed. Boards of Education approve and/or deny renewal of charter school charters. Denials can be appealed at the State Board of Education level.

  
Ron Mitchell:  Develop a collaborative relationship with the goal of meeting the needs of all of our students. I support equitable distribution

 

John Newkirk:  The district and the board should provide oversight to ensure compliance with the applicable statutes governing charters. They should also do whatever they can to help that charter succeed in its mission.

 

Paula Noonan:  The role is clear: oversight to ensure schools are meeting their mission, moving kids forward on achievement and growth, and managing financial resources.

 

Brad Rupert:  Working harmoniously to meet the needs of the citizens in our district.

  
Amanda Stevens:  School districts can plan strategically around school choice, and gather community and stakeholder voices for dialogue -- just as Jeffco did with its Choice Committee. School boards are empowered to approve charter applications. Dialogue around waivers, geographic and programmatic access, and equity belong at the board table, but only in service to our schools and students, not for political nor polarizing ends. School board members owe their constituents a mindset of openness and thoughtfulness regarding charter application approval. Also, in the process of reviewing charters, districts and boards can partner with charter schools to ensure students of diverse backgrounds and needs are served well in all schools. We are partners in our charter schools' success for all students.

 

Julie Williams:  The role of Jeffco Schools and The Board is holding the charter schools accountable for performance-based objectives specified in the charter agreement made with the district.

 
Ken Witt:  Charter schools are public schools and so must have district oversight. Their governance model is different by state statute (by design) with a school board providing direct oversight. The district must respect the state design, while the district board must ensure financial and academic oversight is sufficient to deliver a high quality academic education for all Jeffco students.

 


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?
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  If the standards and guidelines are in place that I discussed above, then yes I believe charter schools deserve equitable funding.

  
Susan Harmon:  I believe the district has a responsibility to equitably fund our schools. Different student populations have different needs. Many of them are being served by charter schools. 

  
Kim Johnson:  Yes. All students, whether they attend district-run neighborhood or option schools or they attend charter schools are public school students and as such should see equitable distribution of public school funds, including locally voter-authorized funds.

  
Ali Lasell:  I am certainly open to exploring the bond/facility question, I need more information to answer this. Knowing that a big hurdle that charters tackle is facilities, we need to make sure our students are warm, safe, and dry. As far as mill levy overrides, I think this is a good beginning for further conversations on equity and equality. We have many special populations that require more resources than other and we need to address that.

  
Tori Merritts:  After more than 20 years, charter schools are here to stay and should participate equitably in all sources of funding.

 
Ron Mitchell:  I support equitable funding as long as it was properly communicated to voters at the time of the mill levy override.  

 

John Newkirk:  Yes. How can anyone who claims to stand for equality justify placing one category of student below another?

 

Paula Noonan:  Funds should be equitably distributed and are in Jeffco. Charters may have to pay a fee for district support for health insurance for teachers and other benefits if those services are provided.

  
Brad Rupert:  All schools in our district should be equitably funded.

  
Amanda Stevens:  Jeffco has equalized mill levy funds this year for charter schools. In the 2012, our bond and mill levy did address some charter school needs, but equalization furthered the progress. This is the best foundation from which a conversation regarding access and services for students can occur. I want to see funds used equitably, and that may require some adjustments to flat equalization. Conformity in resource allocation is not the same as equity in resource allocation. However, our best way forward is to unify our voices across schools and school sectors to advocate for Colorado to meet its funding obligations for K12 education. All state per pupil funding is guaranteed equalized distribution for students regardless of charter or neighborhood school enrollment.

   

Julie Williams:  I value all of our students in Jeffco and that is why I voted for equal funding of all Jeffco students including; traditional, option and charter school students.

 

Ken Witt:  I not only believe funding must be equitable by public school student, which includes charter students and neighborhood school students alike, but I ensured Jeffco ended the unfair funding practice of withholding over $1,000 per charter student, and instituted equitable funding from mill levy overrides once I joined the Jeffco board of education.

 


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.
Regan Benson:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

 

Matthew Dhieux:  As a school board member I promise thoughtful consideration to any educational alternatives which benefit our students. I am not pro-charter or anti-charter, I am only pro student. I am free from any political or corporate agenda and will fight to keep student funding where it belongs, in the classroom.  

  
Susan Harmon:  I support quality options for parents and students in Jefferson County. 

  
Kim Johnson:  Each Jeffco student's achievement is essential and all Jeffco students’ success is a priority. Jeffco must make decisions in support of this and charter schools play an important role in that.

  
Ali Lasell:  The reason I admire charters in Jeffco is because they were started by Jeffco families partnering with the Jeffco community and school district. Jeffco has quality home grown charters that complement our district run schools, and are an important part of school choice here.

  
Tori Merritts:  Candidate elected not to respond to this question.

  
Ron Mitchell:  Some people believe that choice equals a quality school district. Choice is one component of a quality school district, not the end all answer.

   

John Newkirk:  Quality charter schools are an important and effective part of our portfolio of options. I am grateful for the charter offerings within our district.

 

Paula Noonan:  Charters should offer additional means to figure out what works in delivering great education to kids. Some assume that if a charter is successful, that program should be reproduced within the public system.  Not all charter successes are reproducible in a traditional environment, and that's a good reason for charters. At the same time, charters should not be coddled if they are not producing results. Many charters are used to replace traditional schools, at least in Denver. This experiment has average results - really no better than traditional schools when comparing charter results, especially at the elementary level, to regular schools. Districts and boards should not approach charters from a political perspective. They should be addressed based on their service to kids and to providing strong education options.

  
Brad Rupert:  High quality education options are necessary to ensure the success of all children in our district. Traditional schools are a good option for many students but in some cases can fail to meet the needs of the entire student population.

  
Amanda Stevens:  As a school board member, I will support all Jeffco students and schools and ensure our work is unified and complementary. I will oppose divisiveness from any corner.

 

Julie Williams:  I am proud of the diverse school choice options offered in Jeffco Schools because all children are unique and learn differently. All of our Jeffco students are valuable and choice may be what allows our children the opportunity for success and a bright future!

Ken Witt:  Our students best thrive and succeed when everyone works together to ensure ALL of our public schools succeed, including charter, option, and neighborhood schools. 

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