District E applications

Below are the responses given by the candidates who interviewed for the vacant school board director position.

JOHN FREEMAN

I am a retired central office administrator from the Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools (with 100,000+ students) in Louisville, KY. For part of my career, I worked in the Grants & Awards department and was responsible for assisting senior management by ensuring that all of the District’s hundreds of grants were properly administered (i.e. all regulations and laws were adhered to, all financial and programmatic reports were timely filed, thus generating audits which were relatively free of material findings). Later in my career, I managed the Gheens Academy, which facilitated the majority of the teacher training sessions as well as hosting sessions for all other types of employees. I supervised a core staff of 10 – 14 people, which could grow to 50+ during the peak times when over 1,000 teachers (out of about 6,000) were being trained simultaneously in various aspects of literacy, math, science, etc. Part of the duties included providing all financial support for the curriculum / content specialists, so I was exposed to and learned expansively about the various instructional programs and practices used by the District. This position also gave me multiple opportunities to gain experience with security procedures, as I had to ensure the safety of everyone on the campus, and it gave me a great foundation for how to deal with difficult people.

Throughout my career, I directly managed many sources of funding, including:
• General fund (operations, salaries)
• State grants (safe schools, literacy, textbooks, after school programs)
• Private foundation grants
• Federal grants (Titles I and II)
While the amount varied each year depending on grants received and assigned duties, I directly managed $75+ million in funds at the peak of the financial part of my career. At various times, I also had indirect oversight over funding for dozens of other grants such as Titles III and IV. My budget experience was not limited to the public schools, as I also administered funds provided to both private and home schools. Many times in my career, I have made tough funding choices to best utilize the available dollars, and therefore understand how difficult it is to reconcile what the fiscal needs are (and what the public wants) with what can truly be provided.

I served an elected term on the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) Board of Trustees, which oversees the retirement plans for over 240,000 active and retired public employees and has investment assets totaling about $16 billion. In that role, I served on the investment and audit committees and was chair of the audit committee. This was a great growth experience for me in that I was exposed to large scale investment strategies, tactics for providing excellent support for our retired members across the country, and, quite simply, having the responsibility for the ensuring that our members could count on KRS to provide the benefits in a timely manner that they had earned over the course of their careers.

My excellent problem solving skills have served me well throughout the years. I love being “hit” with a difficult problem and coming up with a positive solution. It’s important to me that everyone feels they have contributed to the success of whatever the endeavor or “issue of the day is,” so I truly enjoy working to build consensus with all stakeholders.

Through my volunteer work at one of the Jefferson County (KY) Public Schools high schools, I gained tremendous appreciation for the arts. I was the theatrical lighting and sound engineer for countless productions by the show choir both at their school and around the country when we traveled for competitions. Our productions were significantly more elaborate than what a typical high school choir / theater department is able to do, because we had complete access to the sets and props of a company that designed and built them for the Oscars, Broadway and TV shows, and we were fortunate enough to be able to purchase the type of lighting and sound equipment usually only found in professional theaters.

I have been an active volunteer in my children’s (DCSD) schools for the past several years and look forward to continuing being active throughout their educational tenure. I have done odd jobs (such as assembling furniture) to assisting with book fairs, science fairs and athletic events to running the Holiday Shop. I am an active member of the Acres Green PTO and the Eagle Ridge PTA. I also volunteer for various functions at the church my family attends.

With one child in 3rd grade at Acres Green (in the Discovery Program) and twins in 1st grade at Eagle Ridge, I have a vested interest in ensuring that the DCSD continues to strive for the finest educational experience for all children. I always bring an open mind to the table, and when presented with difficult choices resulting from differing opinions, I will strive to listen to and understand all sides before committing to a decision that is best for our children’s future.

There is not one “right” way to increase or improve student achievement (both at the school and District levels), and therefore, it’s critical to include and listen to all of the District’s stakeholders before making decisions affecting the District’s prospective graduates. For instance, a given curriculum may be perfect for one school, but not for a neighboring school, and I’d like to ensure that parents continue to have wide access to a variety of programs (or educational approaches), cultures, management styles, etc

I am an exceptionally quick learner, and while I certainly have a lot to learn about the DCSD, my broad background in K-12 education will easily allow me to “hit the ground running” if fortunate enough to be appointed to the BOE. A personal goal would be to meet with the District’s cabinet level staff and several department heads within the first month for “DCSD 101 training” in order to develop a foundation for understanding how the District operates, who is responsible for what functions, the history of the District, etc. Along those same lines, I would also like to meet with front-line educators and staff to hear what is going great, what is not, and most importantly, what we can do to support them 100%. Being a stay-at-home dad gives me the distinctive opportunity to meet and interact with District and school staff as well as parents and other stakeholders during the day. It is certainly my intent to serve more than one year, and therefore, I plan on running for election to the Board when the appointed term ends.

LORENZO GONZALES

Summary of Qualifications:
Five years of classroom teaching.
28 years of full-time administrative experience at the junior, middle, and high school levels.
Five years as a principal of academic summer school.
Proven experience in the teacher evaluation process.
Developed and maintained positive rapport with students, staff, and community.
Supervised, mentored, and evaluated teachers through their colleges and universities seeking certification in teaching, counseling, and administration.

Volunteer Work:
Youth Celebrate Diversity, Board Member
Walk-about at Rocky Heights Middle School
Classroom assistant at Buffalo Ridge Elementary
SAC Committee representative at Buffalo Ridge Elementary
Boys’ Basketball Assistant Coach at Highlands Ranch High School
CHSAA, Appeals Board Member
Golf For A Future, Board Member
Boys’ Basketball Assistant Coach at Aurora Central High School
American Cancer Society, Member and President
RECCS Scholarship Committee

To leverage my 33 years of administrative experience within a public school setting to accomplish academic excellence.

BOB KASER

Summary of Qualifications:
* 31 year resident in Director District E and a registered Republican.
* I have been a long-time friend of the District, since 1990, which continues to this date.
• Earned Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management / Economics from University of San Diego.
• Active for seven years on the Board of Trustees of the Douglas County Educational Foundation, including two years as President. Instrumental in raising, in excess of $250,000, for worthy grants for students, teachers and parents.
• Served on several committees (budget, Special Education, deaf and hard of hearing) at the request of Rick O’Connell, then Superintendent of DCSD.
• Our daughter was a Special Education student in DCSD from Child Find pre-school to graduating with distinction from Douglas County High School.
• Gained important perspectives by participating in the tri-annual “Staffings” and annual IEP’s for our daughter.
• I supported and was very involved when Rick O’Connell asked my wife to co-chair for a DCSD Bond and Mill Levy campaign, which was successfully passed.
• Merchandise Control & Systems Manager for entire Sears’ western territory. Major responsibility was budgeting for all 800 + retail stores’ inventory.
• Regional Vice President for America’s Cash Express, 125 stores. Key responsibility was developing an annual line level budget for each store.
• Great sensitivity for employee relations, since I have had direct responsibility for over 250 employees during the last 30 years.
• Vietnam Navy veteran, 1968 and 1969, with a Construction Regiment (on-land).

I am fully retired and have the willingness and time to invest as a member of the BOE. I can make all time investments as stated in the application. My commitment is to visit all District E schools within the first 30 days to observe and listen. I have personal strengths consistent with the obligations stated in the application “Board duties and responsibilities may include: a. acting as an advocate for students and public education… d. establishing District priorities through approval of the budget…” As a member of the BOE, I would have as a focus, not only all students but, especially those students with disabilities as well as their parents. I have learned the difference between “advocating” verses being “adversarial” in order to work well with Special Education providers. I would be eager to use my background in budgeting to help inform the entire BOE on moving all possible budget dollars down to the “last three feet, where the students are.” I am pro “choice” by advocating funding for the great neighborhood, charter and alternative schools within DCSD. I believe in utilizing the ‘consensus model’ where we can reduce the heated rhetoric and increase the meaningful dialog on the BOE.

DEBORAH O’DELL

My husband and I have lived in Douglas County since we moved to Colorado in 1996. Our children both attend DCSD schools and we’ve had very positive experiences throughout the 11 years we’ve been part of the DCSD community. I currently serve as Vice President of Business Intelligence at CHI, the third largest non-profit health system in the country. In my role as VP, I lead a team of 65 people who design and develop information solutions to improve the health of our patients. In addition, I manage operational and capital budgets in excess of $10M annually and lead governance efforts with senior leaders and staff nationally. My role requires gathering various points of view, working through controversial topics, and fully understanding complex issues. I feel one of my greatest strengths is leading teams to consensus decisions making that aligns with the best interest of the organization. In addition to the skills I bring from my current role, my prior work and volunteer experiences would make me a valuable addition to the DCSD Board. I have Bachelor of Science in English Education from Illinois State University and taught high school English and Communications and coached speech team for several years. I also worked in higher education at Regis University for over 10 years in various positions including admissions, administration, and operations. My volunteer experience includes SAC member at Acres Green Elementary and district delegate for Highlands Ranch Community Association (HRCA). Previously I tutored through Douglas County Libraries for adult ESL. I enjoy volunteering at my kids’ schools and our church.

My family has had wonderful experiences being a part of DCSD and I’d like to see our district continue to have a positive influence and reputation within our community.

My experiences as a teacher, parent, and professional uniquely qualify me for this role. I believe my skills and personality will provide a positive impact to the current board and the DCSD community.

STEVEN PECK

Navy Officer with 6 years of Active duty service, 2 years in the Reserves – Healthcare Executive at UCHealth Anschutz – Previously employed at Davita Health Partners – MBA in Health Administration

The quality of our schools is a critical part of maintaining a dynamic economy over the next 50 years. Douglas County needs a highly educated work force that can thrive in the new economy. We need innovative schools that challenge convention, inspire our children and support our teachers.

I would be humbled by the opportunity to serve Douglas County on the Board of Education.

SALLY SIMMONS

I have a Ph.D. in education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During my 30-year career, I was a classroom teacher, administrator, education professor, researcher, international consultant, and consultant for Colorado Department of Education. I have been retired for six years, and currently do volunteer work in the Douglas County School District.

I have a granddaughter who attends a Douglas County school. She is 5 years old. I provided full-time daycare for her since her birth. I want her to have an education that ensures that she has both hard and soft skills, so that she can follow her dreams and meet the challenges of the 21st century. I have volunteered in her kindergarten class, and I love all those kids, too. I want for them and all students what I want for her. That is my only agenda.

My core belief is that public education is essential for the success of students, their communities and, indeed our nation. As such, those who are responsible for the direction of public schools must provide an environment for success held to diverse measures and standards which include input from children, parents, citizens, leaders and educational institutions. There is no single way to educate children. There is no single way to measure the success of education. Educational ideas, practices, outcomes and standards flourish in a climate of diversity, support, collaboration, trust, and belief in the merit of each other’s ideas.

MITCHELL WHITUS–Withdrew his application

As a recent 2010 graduate of Douglas County High School, and having attended school in Douglas County from kindergarten through twelfth grade, I experienced first-hand the school district’s education system from a student’s point of view. This is a unique perspective that I hope to bring to the Board of Education.

Additionally, I am the elected president of Liberty Toastmasters-Denver. Managing a team of six officers and over twenty members, I am comfortable setting and achieving goals in a team setting, and I can articulate my vision and values with clarity. We are currently on track to achieve President’s Distinguished status, which is the highest honor given from Toastmasters International for club performance.

During my time at the University of Colorado at Boulder, after being elected Vice President of the Arts and Sciences Student Government, I gained experience working with fellow legislators to prioritize a budget of nearly $100,000 and communicate with stakeholders.

Finally, in my current role as Director of Operations with a public affairs company, I understand the value of good communication. I am responsible for the development and oversight of numerous recruitment events and daylong leadership and educational training.

Being a former K-12 student in the Douglas County School District, I want to ensure that the county provides a world-class education. I plan on continuing to live in Douglas County long-term, and it’s important to me that the school board fosters an environment in which students have the greatest opportunities to succeed, teachers are respected, and parents have choice in their child’s education.

I want to serve on the Board of Education because I believe that I can provide value as a former Douglas County student, and I believe that I can contribute to a positive culture shift in the school district. At the moment, good communication between the board, district employees, students, and parents is critical. I believe that I could provide some of that communication with my skill set and background.

I have spent most of my life in Douglas County. Except for my time during and immediately following college, I have been a resident of the county, and I care very deeply about the education system. I would be very excited for this opportunity to serve the school district which provided me so many opportunities.