LPS candidates state their positions

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Colorado Community Media asked the five candidates running for three open seats on the Littleton Public Schools Board of Education a series of questions. Below are their responses.

Dallas Jones 

The Centennial resident was a stay-at-home dad until the younger of his two daughters graduated from Arapahoe High School last spring. With a master’s degree in management, his background is in business and computer science. He works as an independent financial-systems consultant.

He is excited about the possibilities of alternate forms of delivering curriculum, and puts forth Khan Academy as an example. It’s a free online resource that lets anyone, anywhere take classes, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave it $1.5 million in 2010 to expand. The Los Altos School District in California is piloting it.

Why are you seeking this office?

I want to ensure LPS doesn’t simply exist, but that it continues to thrive. To be successful, we must continue to provide an educational experience superior to surrounding public and private school competitors. My priorities are to 1) maintain a safe and rewarding learning environment for both the educator and the student, 2) maintain enrollment at schools currently at full capacity and increase enrollment at schools where excess capacity exists, 3) motivate students and families to take responsibility for their own education, and 4) seek opportunities where we can lever our instructional resources with applied technology.

What makes you the best person for the job?

First, I’m trained and experienced in directing organizations and efforts on both a large and small scale. Second, I bring skills and perspectives that are different yet complementary to the existing LPS team. I have an arms-length connection with the district enabling me to offer an independent viewpoint. Finally, I’m a team player and not the predetermined answer man. Instead I’m able to isolate the issues, ask the pertinent questions, and frame the discussion in a way that encourages all parties to participate in a collaborative solution.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how will you approach it, if elected?

Our biggest challenge is to continue delivering an outstanding education while coping with a constantly changing environment. Families have more educational choices than ever, and neighboring public and private schools are raising their game. Meanwhile, our in-district, school-age population continues to decline slightly, and we rely on funding from a taxpayer base whose economic future is uncertain. Also, schools are being forced to divert valuable time and effort away from instruction to comply with a disjointed set of mandates coming from the state and federal levels.

If elected, I will 1) work to understand the needs of families with students, 2) prepare our students with not only post-secondary and workforce skills, but also instill in them a sense of responsibility and self sufficiency, and 3) work with our community and elected officials to comply with mandates in a way that doesn’t diminish the quality of education LPS delivers.

Kelly Perez 

Perez has lived in Centennial for 19 years, raising five kids in the district. She’s been on nearly every LPS committee and served as president of the parent-teacher organizations at Damon Runyon Elementary, Powell Middle School and Arapahoe and Heritage high schools — the last two at the same time. Prior to having kids, she was a social worker. More recently, she says she took a leave of absence from her job as an education consultant at Xerox to run her campaign.

Her youngest two kids are still in the district, one in sixth grade at Powell and the other a sophomore at Arapahoe.

Why are you seeking this office?

My father used to say, “One thing no one can ever take away from you is your education,” and that has stayed with me. I have a passion for education. I want to keep striving to maintain the comprehensive educational opportunities that LPS offers. I want our high school graduates to receive a world-class education that will help them succeed in a global society. I want our board to keep striving for excellence and always look to the horizon to keep pace with the ever-changing future. I am running also to ensure that teachers are supported to do what they do best.

What makes you the best person to do the job?

I have extensive experience with LPS and have invested 19 years of my life ensuring its continued success, with duties ranging from room parent to chairing the District Accountability Committee. I was also involved in the 2010 mill levy, being PTO and school accountability at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Put simply, I have a panoramic view of LPS. Over the many years of my involvement in LPS, I have developed a passion for literacy as the fundamental building block of student’s success. I also have the vision to maintain LPS as a place where students get a world-class educational experience.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how you will approach it, if elected?

School funding is the most important issue facing Littleton Public Schools. Presently, our schools’ infrastructure average age is about 50 years old and in need of repairs. We need to provide a safe and modern environment for our students and teachers. There will be a school bond proposal to the voters in November, which if approved, will do much to modernize the current infrastructure. I am a supporter of this initiative. Potential increases in classroom sizes and changing demographics will also pose challenges, which we will need to prepare for. We are fortunate in LPS that the community has a history of always supporting our schools. I would take great effort in fostering and advancing the parent-teacher and community-school relationships that will make LPS to be even stronger in the future. I am champion for excellence in our schools.

Robert Reichardt

The Aberdeen Village resident has a doctorate in public-policy analysis and has worked as an education-policy researcher for the last 15 years. His two daughters opted into Centennial Academy of Fine Arts Education; one is a budding singer, he says, and the other studies violin.

He worked on Colorado School Grades, a private project that has sparked some controversy as to methodology but calls itself a tool for school choice — one of the hot-button topics stirring things up in neighboring Douglas County. He says he believes strongly in school choice, but does not support public money going to private education.

Why are you seeking this office?

I have 15 years of experience helping schools, districts, and states improve their education systems. I will use my background knowledge in education policy and programs to move our schools from good to excellent. I am a dad; Littleton is where I am raising my family. I have two girls attending third and fifth grade in LPS schools. I want to contribute to keeping this a great place for my family and all LPS families to raise their children.

What makes you the best person for the job?

My 15 years of experience as an education policy researcher make me the best LPS Board candidate. I am a data geek. This gives me extensive background knowledge of policy context and of education research. I work with schools, districts and states identifying goals for improvement, measuring progress towards those goals, aligning resources to meet the goals, and assessing if organizations have met those goals. I think this experience will be an asset in focusing LPS on continuous improvement. I have both a systems improvement and a parent’s perspective.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how will you approach it, if elected?

We must maintain high expectations and program accountability. Accountability will both focus our work and help communicate to parents and community members the return on their investments in our schools. We need to be able to clearly communicate the value of programs such as PLCs, coaches, and technology. Also, there are a large number of reforms coming from the state level (Colorado Academic Standards, SB 191, READ Act, etc.) which can easily become overwhelming. District leadership needs to make sure that reform pacing and implementation are effective. Finally, LPS is changing. This is a good thing, but we need to be prepared for the changing populations in our district. Good instruction is the key to meeting the challenges of changing demographics: our teachers need to be able to identify and respond appropriately when students are struggling with classroom expectations and when students have mastered classroom material.

Jack Reutzel

Reutzel, an attorney, is a 20-year resident of Bow Mar. His son graduated from Littleton High School and his daughter is a sophomore at Heritage.

He and his wife, Karen, maintained a private practice in the Coors Building on Main Street for several years, but they both now work at the Denver firm of Fairfield and Woods. Specializing in land-use issues, he earned his law degree from the University of Denver and his master’s degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania. He represented the developer of Littleton Commons, an apartment complex Littleton City Council recently approved for County Line Road east of Broadway.

Why are you seeking this office?

I want to be part of a district that is devoted to the success of kids. As a district resident for over 23 years and a parent for 20 years, I have seen the results of great teachers and the lasting effect they have. I have seen engaged parents, coaches and teachers provide great options for after school activities. I understand the value of a great school district to the greater community in terms of home property values, business growth and overall desirability. I have been active in the district for 10 years and am ready for this next step.

What makes you the best person for the job?

I have no agenda other than maintaining the excellence of this district for students and residents. I bring a diverse set of skills to the board. I have volunteered in the district for ten years so I understand how the district works, but I also bring a business and legal perspective that allows me to see the bigger picture for the benefit of the kids. I bring the perspective of a parent to decision making and I am an advocate for kids. I listen and ask questions to try to find consensus in all of my decision-making.

What do you believe the most important issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how will you approach it if elected?

Maintaining and enhancing the excellence of this district is the most important issue because it will require the management of many moving parts, including: (1) being diligent at the state to advocate for LPS and ensure fair allocation of resources; (2) making sure that we are spending money wisely and with the best interest of the students at the center of our decisions; (3) attracting and maintaining the best teachers and administrators in the state, (4) understanding the changing demographics of the district and vest principals and teachers to accommodate the student (5) integrating technology into everyday classroom applications and real world settings; (6) taking care of our buildings and infrastructure. My experience will enable me to help lead the district in a consistent, thoughtful and positive manner. I will listen and interact with the three pillars of the district; parents, teachers and administrators to ensure continued success.

Carrie Warren-Gully 

Carrie Warren-Gully lost to Nancy Doty in last year’s Arapahoe County commissioner race, but she’s been a volunteer in LPS for 13 years. Notably, she chaired the committee that got the 2010 mill levy passed despite the recession.

She’s also volunteered with Great Education Colorado, Boy Scouts, 9News Health Fair and St. Andrew United Method Church.

A Centennial resident, her three boys all went to Sandburg Elementary School, Newton Middle School and Arapahoe High School. With her oldest off to college, she’s now had the LPS experience from beginning to end and been active at the school and district levels throughout.

Why are you seeking this office?

We all know that Littleton Public Schools is one of the greatest school districts around. My husband Jim and I have raised three boys in Centennial, and they have attended LPS their entire school careers. I am running for school board because I want to continue the great work of this district.

Additionally, I am very concerned about the ongoing mandates and requirements we see from the Colorado State Legislature. New laws that have been passed over the course of the past five years are unprecedented and continue to drain time from the classroom and the district budget.

What makes you the best person for the job?

I believe that public education is the most important element of our democracy. Without education for all our children, regardless of their background, we will fail as a nation and not be ready for the global economy of today.

Through my volunteer service over the past 12 years, I have an expansive view of the district from elementary to high school and an awareness of the diversity of schools and families we have across the district. In addition to serving as PTO president at all levels and as chair of the District Accountability Committee, I chaired the 2010 successful mill levy campaign.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing LPS and how will you approach it, if elected?

Issues that will demand our attention are financial constraints due to budget cuts and unfunded state mandates.

The majority of bills passed in our state legislature regarding education do not include funding to pay for implementation. We as a state cannot continue to put more on the plates of schools without adequate funding to implement them.

Financially our district is running very lean. Over the past three years we have lost $17 million in funding from the state. If the budget cuts and unfunded mandates continue we could potentially see larger classroom sizes and a reduction in program offerings.

I would work to make sure we continue to be smart with our money, looking for more efficiencies and fostering community partnerships to make every dollar count. Furthermore, I would work with our legislators to make sure they understand the true economic impacts of their decisions on our children.

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