As a student who has never known schools without lockout and active shooter drills, I’ve seen firsthand how the choices we make for our schools define children’s lives.
I was raised in a single parent household, and grew up feeling the effects of addiction on both sides of my family. School was one of the few places that felt secure. I was fortunate to have teachers who cared, counselors to talk with, and free lunches when money was tight at home. Without those opportunities, I doubt I would be where I am today.
I graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder early thanks to a high-quality education in my public high school. In that time, I worked to empower youth activism with local nonprofit New Era Colorado and quickly rooted myself in my new community. In my time at Boulder I've been an advocate for the municipalization of Boulder’s electric utility, a campaign organizer Joe Neguse’s campaign for Congress. I also recently served as a legislative aide in the Colorado State House during the landmark 2019 legislative session.
During my free time, you’ll find me hiking along the Flatirons with my rescue husky, Ralph
For students to succeed, we need to take a comprehensive view of their care. Beyond just academic success, we need to take their emotional and behavioral wellbeing into account. I support making mental health counselors a budget priority; we need more psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers accessible to students.
Our schools are also coming to recognize that education looks different for different students; the future of education needs to be more individualized. I support targeting specific schools to reduce classroom sizes so that teachers are able to focus more on each student.
For students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, we should support more individualized education plans. I support expanding the existing dyslexia screening pilot programs to include other neurodiversities. These programs help students who would otherwise spend years frustrated in classes that don't know how to meet their needs.
We have to recognize that over decades of trying to close the achievement gap, BVSD has not had significant successes, in large part because the most reliable indicator of a child's success in academics is their parents' income and education level. By taking a comprehensive view of education before children enter school, we can plant the seeds of success much earlier. BVSD should invest and partner with community groups that are already close to the ground like Engaged Latino Parents Advancing Student Outcomes (ELPASO), we work to create equality of opportunity and level the playing field before our kids are even enrolled.
Once in schools, we also need to be prioritizing bilingual and dual immersion programs. In a globalizing world, it's crucial for both English language learners and primarily English speaking students to be multilingual. In addition, free and reduced lunch programs must be supported and expanded so students can get the nutrition they need to grow and learn.
Boulder Valley has persistent concerns that need fixing--among them the achievement gap, adequate mental health resources, and keeping BVSD accountable and responsible to our constituents who support the district with their tax dollars. In the next several years, however, BVSD is facing new and urgent challenges.
Boulder Valley's enrollment is declining, over 2018 and 2019 we've seen a drop in elementary school enrollment by roughly 278 students. These low enrollment levels are likely to persist until these classes graduate in the next decade, which means this isn't going away. We need to address these issues by attracting more students to the district before BVSD begins to lose funding, lose teachers, and face the possibility of closing schools.
We also face a changing Colorado, and for BVSD to succeed the board should encourage dismantling TABOR so that we can reverse decades of underfunding education. As a community organizer, I know how to be our advocate for better schools.
I am the only candidate for BVSD who has first-hand experience as a student in the active shooter generation, I know what school looks like when learning is interrupted by lockdowns.
When we regularly signal to our children that they need to be afraid of being shot in class, we shouldn't be surprised when it impacts their mental health. Research shows very little improvement in school responsiveness thanks to lockdown drills, but it does show significant damage to youth mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the median age for developing anxiety is now just 6-years-old and 32% of 13-to-18-year-olds have an anxiety disorder.
Teachers, administrators, and school resource officers should prepare for the worst-case scenario without needlessly traumatizing students. Given that many school shooters are often facing unaddressed mental health challenges, we need to invest in preventative care to treat seriously distressed students before they can escalate.
After several tense years between the Boulder Valley Education Association and the Boulder Valley School District, I recognize that we have settled into hard-won agreements. The consensus-based negotiations between education professionals and the district are beneficial, successful, and needs to be defended.
BVSD should interact with parents and parent groups as extensively as possible to understand their needs in the district. Nobody knows what's going on in a student's life better than their parents, and by listening to public concerns we can make marked improvements. I strongly agree with the current strategic plan's intention to improve school-parent relations.
Our best way forward is to not only collect input from those able and willing to give it, but by actively seeking feedback from all people in BVSD. Not everyone has the time to come to board meetings, and we need to be accessible and meet constituents where they're out so we can understand and address all concerns.
My first experiences with BVSD were as a student growing up in Boulder - I attended Baseline Middle School (the building for which now holds New Vista) and Boulder High School; my younger brother attended Summit, where my mother was a teacher.
After graduating from law school I spent a short time working in the law before I realized that my heart still lay back in the classroom with kids who were experiencing social, emotional, and inter-personal struggles, so I quit my job and went into teaching. I taught ESL/EFL overseas for a few years and then I began to engage with BVSD for the second time as a teacher at September High School. September School primarily serves students who have left the BVSD High School system because they were struggling in traditional classrooms due to learning differences, unmet social-emotional needs, etc.
Teaching led me into social services working with homeless families and children. I am now the Executive Director of Mother House, a homeless shelter for pregnant women and mothers of young children, several of whom are now attending BVSD (www.mother-house.org).
Finally, I am involved with BVSD as a parent who has two children at Eisenhower Elementary (my third child will begin kindergarten there as well in 2021). At Eisenhower, our neighborhood school, I am a classroom volunteer who works to support our teachers and students. As my oldest son has an IEP I have also been very involved with the social workers, counselors, resource teachers, and administrators at our school as I worked with them to plan out a series of different strategies and solutions to help support my son, his peers, and his teacher in the classroom. I will be a BVSD parent for the next 15 years, so I understand the real-world impact of every decision made by the school board.
Having grown up here in the Boulder area I know families across the district and I’ve spent substantial time in neighborhoods across BVSD. The Boulder area is incredibly important to me, and I will work to ensure that all of our families and students are lifted up by our schools and are given the same opportunities in education and beyond.
BA, University of Colorado 2002;
JD, University of Colorado School of Law 2005.
Our graduates should have increasing competency in critical thinking if they are to be well-prepared as stewards of the future.
Areas where programming should be enhanced to prepare our students for the future include climate change studies and trajectories and discussions of best environmental practices, navigating the internet carefully and judiciously and knowing how to check and confirm information, learning to distinguish peer-reviewed studies from misinformation, and courses on statistics and data analysis.
We need to prepare our kids with the tools they need to navigate a landscape of misinformation, disinformation, and the devaluation of evidenced-based practices
Resources and funding need to be directed to our schools/students on the lower half of the equity gap and the models being used that are currently working need to be replicated and expanded.
English Language Learners need more bilingual teachers/schools and more teacher ESL training so students stay in the classroom and on-track academically. Free/Reduced Lunch students need more family supports such as summer lunch programs, food banks, school Social Workers with family hours one afternoon a week, and in-school laptops that families can use to navigate Peak, TANF, SNAP, WIC, Medicaid, etc. Special Education students need more small group services to help accelerate their learning with fewer removals from the classroom so they are not constantly having that gap widened. Black and Latinx students need more Black/Latinx teachers/administrators, and curriculum that is reflective of an accurate history of the US that is inclusive of Black/Latinx experience.
Three issues that BVSD will be facing over the next ten years are (1) a decrease in enrollment, (2) an equity gap that needs to be closed, and (3) increasing socioeconomic disparities across the district.
Decreasing enrollment will lead to hard decisions about the number of schools BVSD will have and whether we will take increasing numbers of out-of-district students. Our clearest path to success is engaging more with our community and ensuring that our voters and tax-payers who are not using BVSD services see the value in our programming: increased outreach, volunteer programs, and community events are key to long-term success.
The equity gap needs immediate attention and increased resources so that we are extending the tradition of BVSD excellence to all of our students.
Increasing socioeconomic differences need large-scale solutions and we can do our part by engaging more with our low-SES parents as a community center helping to meet their needs with resources and hot meals.
Guns in schools increase the risk of harm to all students, and students of color and students with IEPs are in particular danger of being treated as a threat and shot. Our kids have enough to worry about in navigating the academic and social structures of public schools, they shouldn’t also have to worry that a mistake at school could get them criminalized, arrested, or shot.
As a parent nothing matters to me more than keeping my kids safe in school. I need them to be safe from violence from other students, safe from bullying from peers, safe from doing harm to themselves, safe in every possible way.
All of these fears have the same solution: increasing social workers, increasing social-emotional programs, and increasing mental wellness programs. When our kids have someone to talk to who will help them, and when that help is meaningful and direct, then so many of the worries we have about our kids’ safety start to fade. All of our kids are safer when each of our kids is supported.
Board members should be an ear to and a voice for the community.
As an elementary school parent I'm at our school every day, interacting with other parents, students, and staff, volunteering in classrooms, and learning about new initiatives. As a local, I know folks with kids in schools across the district, and I am regularly hearing about their experiences.
The board has a duty to monitor and evaluate the superintendent and to ensure transparency and communication. Teachers are the core of our school district and there is nothing we can do without them and nothing we can't do with them; along with the collective bargaining process there is an ongoing duty to listen closely to the needs of teachers and to understand their first-hand experiences with policies, curriculum, and programming.
As board members we have the duty to work with integrity, transparency, loyalty, and care, and to ensure that all decisions are made after thorough and thoughtful discussion and review.