GUEST COLUMN: APS school board focusing on itself, not students

Serving on a school board is a big job. We know because we have done it. To serve in this role effectively, it is imperative the school board set clear priorities and remain focused on achieving those priorities. As former Aurora Public School Board of Education directors, we know what it feels like to debate the hard issues, disagree with colleagues on how to achieve desired results, and consistently hold serving students above all else. Unfortunately, we do not see the currently seated Aurora Public Schools Board of Education’s main priority as students. So, we ask, what are the board’s priorities?

After review of recent news reports and board meetings, it appears that the board spends an inordinate amount of time focused on itself, rather than kids. Board meetings have been dominated by the board discussing:

  • Its own power and authority
  • Whether the board should get paid
  • Who gets to invite people to meetings
  • Free “swag” and meals
  • Trips to conferences

In the middle of a global pandemic and significant suffering in our community, the board dedicated 12 meetings since the beginning of 2020 to itself and how it thinks it should run the district. Even worse, it appears that over the last four years, the board has hired at least three separate people to train it on how to govern. According to recent reporting however, the board believes it lacks training and will not even follow its own policies once they have been adopted. How is this possible? We agree, effective and competent governance is key to the school district, but at what point will you consider yourselves “trained?” We must ask, what are you doing, and how is it improving the environment and outcomes for students?

The board’s lack of focus on students is seen in one director’s own comments:

  • In a recent meeting, the board president noted that when asked, no one on the board knew the achievement level of students in the district
  • At a recent meeting when asked about the number of kids in the district, one member was off by almost 10,000.
  • When considering whether to have virtual school, one member indicated they did not have kids in the district, so they had “no skin in the game.”
  • When the board’s own consultant told the board, they had not demonstrated a commitment to equity this comment was ignored by the board.
  • In a recent meeting, the board spent 9 minutes of the three-hour meeting discussing student results, even though they just committed to spending 50% of their time on student results.

We ask again, what are you doing and how is it serving students? We do not have to agree on everything, but we should all agree that as board members you have a duty to your constituents to improve student outcomes for the benefit of our district and city. Please, practice servant leadership and focus on the best interests of students as they deserve no less from you.

— Former Aurora Public Schools Board Directors Monica Colbert Burton, JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin, and Amber Drevon 

Monica Colbert Burton served on the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education from 2015-2019. JulieMarie Shepherd Macklin served on the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education from 2009-2017. Amber Drevon served on the Aurora Public Schools Board of Education from 2013-2017.

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1 year ago

No need to appeal and request that they spend time on what they’re supposed to do for Aurora Public Schools in an article some reason and they ignore. They need to be called out, but more emphatically and with a purpose from you and others to change their emphasis and do good for the district. They’ll do what the hell they want to do. Obviously by their answers they don’t have a clue about the subject they’re representing.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 year ago

I think this applies to most boards now days.

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy
1 year ago

I served on a school board for 6 years and loved it, I was surprised, I felt I was doing something good. But school boards are made up of cliques and while often they agree sometimes they do not, when this happens… Pain follows. Also I feel some board members look upon it as an opening and they really want to run for mayor or congress so they are simply placeholders. I urge anyone with common sense to run for any school board and leave your politics at home. Go for it, you are needed.

1 year ago

I’m confused why the Board hires a visionary, competent Superintendent and then tries to make policy decisions that they, themselves, have said are his responsibility to make, not theirs. Why hire those with expertise and then not listen to them or let them do what you hired them to do?