AURORA | When it comes to public schools, few regions of the state are as diverse as Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District.
From schools in northwest Aurora with heavy refugee populations in impoverished neighborhoods, to schools in Littleton Public Schools in wealthier enclaves, the district runs the gamut.
In this month’s Democratic primary for the district’s seat on the Colorado State Board of Education, two candidates — Rebecca McClellan, a former Centennial City Council member, and Ilana Spiegel, a former teacher — say that diversity means the district’s representative on the board is an especially important job.
“It’s very important to have your ears open and your mind open and be ready to accept that input,” McClellan said.
Spiegel said the 6th Congressional is a unique place when it comes to diversity.
“The six school districts in the 6th encompass some of the greatest wealth and the greatest poverty in all of Colorado,” she said.
The winner of the Democratic primary this month will face Republican incumbent Deb Scheffel in the general election.
The two candidates used the same term to describe what they wouldn’t do if elected: “micro-manage.”
McClellan and Spiegel said that too often the board has stepped in on district-level issues that are better left to local superintendents and school boards.
“We need the state board to stay at the policy level and stop directing local school boards and superintendents to carry out board and Colorado Department of Education created programs,” Spiegel said.
McClellan pointed specifically to the board’s decision on Heritage Heights Academy, a proposed charter school in Cherry Creek, as an example of the board meddling in a local school board issue.
In that case, the CCSD board rejected the charter’s application, citing a host of concerns, including their lack of a building and the involvement of a controversial for-profit charter organization from Florida. But backers of the plan appealed to the state board and the board over ruled the local school board, telling them to reconsider the application.
“I think we need to take these local elections seriously,” she said.
Spiegel said that when it comes to assessments and gathering data on teacher effectiveness, the board hasn’t given enough deference to local school boards.