AURORA VOTE 2019 — 5 want to steer Aurora Public Schools district as it faces crucial changes

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Students walk through the halls during a passing period on Thursday March 10, 2016 at Aurora Central High School.
Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

AURORA | Five candidates are running for three open school board seats in Aurora Public Schools, giving district voters choices when they decide who will help lead the approximately 40,000-student school system for the next four years.

Three of the board’s seven positions are up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election. All school district board members are at-large.

The board decides everything between hiring or firing the superintendent, contracting with school lunch providers and whether charter schools can operate in the district. 

Candidates this year have taken up issues including bilingual education in diverse schools, school security, higher teacher pay and the use of private contractors in some district schools.  

Those open three seats will be vacated in November by Monica Colbert — who is not running for re-election —  and Dan Jorgensen and Cathy Wildman, who have both served two four-year terms and are termed limited. 

But past term limits aren’t stopping some of this year’s five candidates for the school board. Candidates Barbara Yamrick and Amber Drevon are familiar names to Aurora educators and parents. 

Yamrick served two terms on the school board between 1999 and 2007, and then another term between 2013 and 2017. She lost her re-election bid two years ago. 

Yamrick told the Sentinel her spending priorities would be raising teacher salaries and funding more language acquisition programs. State academic tests are administered in English, but APS has a high population of migrant and refugee students who speak English as a second language, if at all. 

Drevon also sat on the school board between 2013 and 2017, but declined to run for re-election. She’s changed her mind this year, driven to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio in schools and other issues. 

While school board races in neighboring Denver Public Schools are highly-contested and draw hundreds of thousands of dollars in candidate campaign funds, the APS races have thus far remained relatively cheap. 

So far in the race, the bulk of the existing campaign fundraising and spending has come from the two teacher union-backed candidates. The Aurora Education Association sometimes fields and usually endorses candidates to represent their interests on the school board. 

One of those candidates, Stephanie Mason, said her children and grandchildren have been APS students. She said she has long been involved in the Parent Teacher Student Organization at Columbia Middle School. Her top spending priority is investing generally into schools. 

The other union-backed candidate is Vicki Reinhard. She’s a former special education teacher in the district who said she recently retired. She was also the vice president of the teacher union. Her spending priority is attracting and retaining high-quality teachers. 

The fifth candidate in the race is Nichelle Ortiz. In a Facebook post, she said she is a parent to three APS students and a regular school volunteer for about a decade. She also said her spending priority is attracting and retaining high quality teachers. 

The November school board election could change the course of the district. 

APS has improved slowly but steadily as a whole in recent years, according to the Colorado Department of Education’s annual school and district ratings. Despite relatively low ratings at several schools — Aurora Central High School, North Middle School and Gateway High School — graduation rates and test scores are generally up.

Superintendent Rico Munn has cited the recent school ratings as evidence of improvement. 

But the election has in part become a referendum on Munn’s performance and priorities in leading the district since 2013. The school board can hold the superintendent accountable and approve or deny the executive’s proposals. 

Meet Amber Drevon
Amber Drevon

Amber Drevon
Amber Drevon previously sat on the school board between 2013 and 2017, but declined to run for re-election that year. Drevon earned a business administration degree from the University of Denver and said she works to improve company performance. While serving on the APS school board, Drevon served as board president for two years. Drevon also has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Drevon: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would choose the ability to take away pain. As a mother, nothing is worse then seeing a child in pain and being helpless to fix it.

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

I can watch Remember the Titans repeatedly, which is based on a true story about a high school football coach, in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia, who brings his players together after two schools integrate.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I was never able to pinpoint an exact career to wanted to pursue because I found, and continue to find, so many things interesting. I decided to study business because it would allow me to venture into many different arenas.

Do you have a talent that most people don’t know about?

I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which is something I was able to accomplish alongside my son.

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

Life Keeps Getting Better. I have truly enjoyed every stage of my life and the unique experiences each has brought, and I look forward to what comes next.

What time do you go to bed?

I make a point to be in bed between 8 pm & 9 pm. I’m at my best in the morning so I start my day very early.

What was the last book you read?

Women Who Think Too Much: How to break free of overthinking and reclaim your life. This book provides strategies on how to free oneself from negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences in order to enjoy current circumstances and move forward.

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

We find ourselves at El Lucerito, a small family owned Mexican restaurant, most often.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

My favorite is Family Movie Night, but specifically the process we go through in choosing what movie to watch. Several movies are presented as options, then voting, debating, and influencing begins. Let the best movie win.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Tranquility. One of my favorite hobbies is paddle boarding and this is the feeling I get being on the water under the sun.

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

Little Me by Little Mix. It’s a song about an older woman wishing she could encourage her younger self to be braver, more confident, and take risks.

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

I do not believe reality television is reality so I wouldn’t be good at any of them.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A pill that would meet all our nutritional needs while also satisfying hunger. We spend so much time thinking and worrying about food that if we could easily meet this basic need we could focus on more complex matters.

Drevon: Policy Questions

Describe how your career and experiences qualify you for an APS school board seat.

I previously served a 4-year term on the APS Board of Education, 2 years as a Director and 2 years serving as board President. I understand the role of a board member, the district landscape, and the changing Aurora community. I earned my degree in Business Administration from The University of Denver and currently work to enhance company performance by evaluating current practices and developing new techniques.

Research indicates that parental involvement in their child’s education is an important factor in student success. How would you engage with parents and the community as a school board member to foster that parent-child involvement?

I think the most important thing I can do as a school board member is to be present and available for questions and discussions. This can happen through attending school functions and parent organization meetings. Also, I enjoyed serving on the District Accountability Advisory Committee, which is made up of teachers, staff, community members, and parents, and would like the opportunity to connect in this way again.

From what you know so far, where do you see the greatest need for increased spending in the district?

I believe that classroom sizes are too big and teacher workloads too high. We need to allocate resources in order to reduce the number of students per teacher.

Many Aurora schools include students learning English, which can be a major barrier for their education. Should the district do more to accelerate English acquisition, even at the expense of something else?

Learning does not occur without comprehension so yes, we need to better support our English language learners so that they are better able to understand and process information. This is a basic need and a top priority.

School shootings are on the minds of parents, students and teachers. Is the district doing enough to protect the APS community from gun violence and to ensure that parents and students are confident about security? What initiatives would you support?

I believe APS has done a good job creating a solid relationship with law enforcement, investing in security personnel and building vestibules, which require all visitors to present identification. Now I believe we need to provide Crisis Management training in order to better equip staff to recognize, respond, and manage potentially dangerous behavior and situations.

College prep has long been a goal of this and other school districts. Should the school district do more to prepare students for real life and to become a better civil citizen? It could mean more focus on basic life, schools and how government and communities work.

We have a responsibility to prepare students for life and to become productive members of society. This includes a strong knowledge base, but it also includes financial literacy, conflict resolution, emotional resiliency, abstract thinking and dealing with failure. Yes, we need to be more intentional about recognizing and talking about these other aspects of learning.

New charter schools are opening in Aurora. School board responsibilities often include reviewing district-authorized charter schools and considering new applications. Describe your stance on charter schools and how that would inform your decision-making as a board member.

I am open to any partnership that benefits students and enhances learning. I will evaluate all potential charter schools for their ability to serve students needs in a responsible manner.

Superintendent Rico Munn has led the district since 2013. If elected, would you renew his contract? Why or why not?

Aurora Public Schools came off the state accountability clock in 2017, just 4 years after Rico Munn became Superintendent and since then has seen increases in graduation rates and achievement measures. APS needs to continue this momentum. Yes, I would renew his contract.

For generations, schools have practiced one form or another of “social promotion.” It means that, even if a student is not proficient at the bulk of grade-level skills, they are moved along to the next grade. Would you support ending this system, and holding more students back to acquire skills they need to succeed in the following grade?

I would like to see a competency-based system implemented where students are assigned grade level by knowledge and skill. This system would allow teachers to focus and direct learning on a smaller range in order to better cover all student needs.

Meet Stephanie Mason

Stephanie Mason
Mason has served as the Parent Teacher Student Organization president at Columbia Middle School for several years. Her children graduated from APS, and she said two grandchildren are currently APS students. Mason enjoys an endorsement from the Aurora Education Association teacher union.

Mason: Personality Questions

What time do you go to bed?

Between 9 & 11pm

What was the last book you read?

Michelle Obama

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Maggiano’s

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Opening Christmas presents at midnight

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Albert in honor of my husband for 41 years of marriage.

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

The best of my Love by the Emotions.

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

Lyanla, Fix My Life on OWN network

Mason: Policy Questions

Describe how your career and experiences qualify you for an APS school board seat.

A little about me, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 28, 1958. To proud parents Gwendolyn and Fredrick Gordon. I attended the University of North Dakota and Black Hills State University. My purpose has always involved helping our youth, providing them with skills and knowledge to be successful. After receiving a Bachelorettes degree in Sociology with a Minor in Psychology. I began work at, Dakota Department of Human Resource as a Social Worker. I help provide support for children lacking proper supervision or support and continued to advocate for youth. I transition onto The Girls Incorporated, as i continued to advocate and provide resources for troubled girls. Summer of 1995, my husband and I fell in love with Colorado buying our first home in Aurora. I continued to be engaged with my community and involved with youth enrichment as I always have. My involvement with groups like Ingredients and Crafty Brunch raised money granting scholarships for many youths to attend college. These our just some of my qualifications. As a grandmother of two, I often wondered what kind of education they were receiving? So increased my involvement helping with fundraiser activities etc, and the next year I was voted President of P. T. S.O at Columbia Middle School and held the position for three years. During this time I coordinated with the University of Metro campus tours for the eight graders, which remains a tradition at Columbia which I am very proud of. I also partnered up with a fellow parent Pat Davis, forming a new after school program called SAWS(Striving and Will Succeed) helping young girls with low self-esteem and giving them a sense of empowerment and support to succeed. You can see I am a qualified candidate but what makes me unique is that I have loved one’s in APS schools I remain on the same house for over twenty years. I understand were APS schools have been were they out today and were they need to be for our kids future.

Research indicates that parental involvement in their child’s education is an important factor in student success. How would you engage with parents and the community as a school board member to foster that parent-child involvement?

I would hold town hall meetings incongruence with teacher conference to address the concerns of the student and parents involving the schools and the community. I would also like to establish a parent advisory group. The more information parents have access to may give them a reason to become more involved with their child’s education.

From what you know so far, where do you see the greatest need for increased spending in the district?

We have schools failing in Aurora for a consistent four year. Although this is the first year that the citizens have been made aware of this. These schools have the potential to close schools that have been around thirty or forty years. I would like to see more money put into the school giving students proper and updated textbooks to provide students with the tools needed to pass these proficiency test. To give up on these schools is to give up on our youth and our future. We continue to have funds but there our not being investment into our school. Schools our failing because of the lack of investment into them.

Many Aurora schools include students learning English, which can be a major barrier for their education. Should the district do more to accelerate English acquisition, even at the expense of something else?

Not at the expense of something else.......the system we have in place now is broken and failing those students, along with putting a heavy burden on our Teachers and the other students.There is enough money in the Aurora’s new budget implementing additional tools to help these students without taking away from something else.

School shootings are on the minds of parents, students and teachers. Is the district doing enough to protect the APS community from gun violence and to ensure that parents and students are confident about security? What initiatives would you support?

Providing more counselors, health providers and outside resources for kids to go to when they feel they cannot go to adults. Mental stability is also something that has become an epidemic. Mental health needs to be addressed and and out of school and help should be given to those in need. Lastly, there needs to be a stance on bullying in schools if we continue to take this lightly the violence will continue. Address the issues before they become a tragedy.

College prep has long been a goal of this and other school districts. Should the school district do more to prepare students for real life and to become a better civil citizen? It could mean more focus on basic life, schools and how government and communities work?

Yes... our students deserve to be prepared for life, they are not robots and need more in life skills than just studying for a test.

New charter schools are opening in Aurora. School board responsibilities often include reviewing district-authorized charter schools and considering new applications. Describe your stance on charter schools and how that would inform your decision-making as a board member.

First.. I will state that a parent has a right to send their child to any school of their choice. But unfortunately not every parent has a choice...and those who do are already sending their child to a private school across town. Unfortunately, all parents do not have a choice, what makes a charter school better? The money we are using to open these charter schools should be invested in our public school. Investment creates opportunity which creates the school not the name. The investment should be in the community and in the schools already apart of that community.

Superintendent Rico Munn has led the district since 2013. If elected, would you renew his contract? Why or why not?

His contact has already been renewed it is sad and worry sume (sic) that are school system has become corrupt and unconstitutional.

For generations, schools have practiced one form or another of “social promotion.” It means that, even if a student is not proficient at the bulk of grade-level skills, they are moved along to the next grade. Would you support ending this system, and holding more students back to acquire the skills they need to succeed in the following grade?

Yes, we have created students that are not attending class, not receiving the education and still graduating. Yet they are not prepared for real- life, setting them up to fail. Continuing the cycle of keeping the poor uneducated keeping the poor poor.

Meet Nichelle Ortiz

Nichelle Ortiz

Ortiz is a Colorado native and has raised her family in Aurora for about 15 years. Her three children have attended APS schools, including a charter school. She has served as a parent volunteer in schools for over a decade. Ortiz identifies as Latina. She said in a Facebook post that the APS school board should reflect the demographics of the district. Hispanic students account for over half of all APS enrollment.

Ortiz: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I had to choose just one superpower it would be to fly. Not only do I love to travel and see new places; it would also be so nice to drop in and visit family that live further away. Not having to sit in traffic would be great too!

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

I love the movie Elf with Will Ferrell and have seen it at least 10 times. I laugh every time.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I knew from a young age I wanted to be a mom. As the oldest sibling I took care of my younger sister quite a bit while my single mom worked 2 jobs to support us. I liked the responsibility of planning meals, grocery shopping and being a decision maker.

Do you have a talent that most people don’t know about?

I consider myself to be a pretty good cook and pride myself on how fast I can get a delicious dinner on the table after working all day.

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

Nevertheless, She Persisted

What time do you go to bed?

I aim for 10pm but average 10:30 on most nights.

What was the last book you read?

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

BJ’s Brewhouse. Our kids love pizookies!

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. All the family gets together around dinner time; we stay up late talking, laughing, playing games and sometimes dancing. It’s the one night everyone is present and not worried about having to be somewhere.

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Rosie the Riveter– after my Grandmother, who was one of the toughest women I have ever known.

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

“King of Sorrow” -Sade

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

Iron Chef or Hell’s Kitchen. Again, I think I am a pretty good cook and I’m even better at thriving under pressure.

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

A cure for cancer.

Ortiz: Policy Questions

Describe how your career and experiences qualify you for an APS school board seat.

My career is focused on community nutrition and health promotion in which I can apply my ability to connect with families and encourage them to make important decisions about their health and apply that same dedication to their student’s achievement in school and being an engaged parent at home and at school. I also work closely with pre-school teachers and children and have seen how important and impactful early childhood education is and how valuable and hard-working teachers are every single day. As a parent I feel I have a ton of real-life experiences to bring to the board on top of my experiences as a parent volunteer for many years and in a variety of school settings. Lastly, I am also a parent advocate for children with special needs and can relate to families trying to navigate a complicated journey seeking out resources and education options.

Research indicates that parental involvement in their child’s education is an important factor in student success. How would you engage with parents and the community as a school board member to foster that parent-child involvement?I am a huge believer in parent-involvement and would do my very best to find out what the different needs are within the community to be able to have parents engage and participate in their student’s education. Factors such: as time of day, location/proximity, communication methods, language needs, childcare and commitment time; all need to be considered when trying to accommodate parents. It is also important for parents/families to feel welcomed and valued in any APS building or event.

From what you know so far, where do you see the greatest need for increased spending in the district?

Going off of what I know so far; the greatest need for increased spending should go to attracting and retaining high quality teachers.

Many Aurora schools include students learning English, which can be a major barrier for their education. Should the district do more to accelerate English acquisition, even at the expense of something else?

Yes, there should be more supports for English language acquisition in order to ensure our students can be competitive in a global job market. However, a student’s first language should always be embraced and carried on as much as possible.

School shootings are on the minds of parents, students and teachers. Is the district doing enough to protect the APS community from gun violence and to ensure that parents and students are confident about security? What initiatives would you support?

As an APS parent I do feel safe sending my children to school every day knowing of how safety protocols are implemented and practiced regularly. The districts investment into security and video systems and visitor identification. I also feel confident in the teacher’s
that are hired knowing they care about my student’s safety and well-being daily.

College prep has long been a goal of this and other school districts. Should the school district do more to prepare students for real life and to become a better civil citizen? It could mean more focus on basic life, schools and how government and communities work.

Yes, APS should continue on with the great work that has been done so far to prepare students for life after high school. Partnerships with CSU Global, the Anschutz campus and Community College of Aurora are great examples and pathways for those students who want to continue their education in a traditional college setting. However, we need more programs like Pickens Tech which really give students the skills and firsthand experience learning a trade. The APS Digital Badging program is also a step in the right direction in preparing students for the real world and recognizing strengths and assets that may otherwise be overlooked by potential employers and other agencies.

New charter schools are opening in Aurora. School board responsibilities often include reviewing district-authorized charter schools and considering new applications. Describe your stance on charter schools and how that would inform your decision-making as a board member.

I believe that families deserve to have choices and often times parents are empowered and more engaged once they have been involved in this piece of the decision making for their student. I also think it makes sense to have a school district oversee and regulate a charter school which operates within its boundaries. The school district would have the greatest understanding of the needs for a specific area and can better gauge on how a charter may or may not fit in to those dynamics and most importantly be able to hold a charter school accountable.

Superintendent Rico Munn has led the district since 2013. If elected, would you renew his contract? Why or why not?

Being that I have not had any experience working with Superintendent Rico Munn, I cannot make a decision on a renewed contract at this time. I do support the boards’ recent decision to handle the matter now with current board members who could provide background and justification for such an important decision.

For generations, schools have practiced one form or another of “social promotion.” It means that, even if a student is not proficient at the bulk of grade-level skills, they are moved along to the next grade. Would you support ending this system, and holding more students back to acquire skills they need to succeed in the following grade?

I would support a system that took into account a student’s needs on a more individualized basis as well as focused in on what academic benchmarks they are hitting.

Meet Vicki Reinhard

Vicki Reinhard
Reinhard is a retired special education teacher who worked most recently at Montview Elementary. She said she has lived in Aurora for about 20 years and parented two APS graduates. She is also the former vice president of the Aurora Education Association teacher union and enjoys the union’s endorsement.

Reinhard: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To wave a magic wand and create world peace

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

The Goodbye Girl

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I knew in first grade that I would be a teacher:)

Do you have a talent that most people don’t know about?

I am the world’s greatest grandmother!

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

"My Life with Children”

What time do you go to bed?

11 pm-ish

What was the last book you read?

Hamilton

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Jus’ Grill, East China Café, Las Hadas

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Opening gifts on Christmas Eve; rotating Christmas between here, Atlanta, & New York (where my sons live)

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

"My Anesthetic"

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

"Don’t Stop Believin'" - Journey

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

I really don’t watch much reality tv! If I had to choose, I’d choose a show that involves baking or cooking!

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

The perfect recycling system to clean up the earth and keep it clean.

 

Reinhard: Policy Questions

Describe how your career and experiences qualify you for an APS school board seat.

I am an educator whose career has spanned 36 years. I taught junior high language arts and social studies for 4.5 years, worked as a substitute in Nebraska and here in Aurora, and worked as a counselor and then a teacher at Excelsior Youth Center. Most recently, in the Aurora Public Schools, I worked as an elementary Special Education, Mild/Moderate Needs teacher for 25 years - 20 at Kenton and 5 at Montview. I retired from APS in 2018.

I have lived in Aurora for 32 years; both of my sons are Rangeview High School graduates and now, very successful adults. I am vested in this community and in the school district. Many changes have occurred in education over the course of my career. My experiences in the classroom, as a parent and community member, and one who understands the changes affecting public education, the needs of our student population, and the diversity of our district all qualify me for an APS school board seat.

Research indicates that parental involvement in their child’s education is an important factor in student success. How would you engage with parents and the community as a school board member to foster that parent-child involvement?

Parent support is crucial to the success of our schools and students. Recognizing this, I will attend outreach events and activities, listen to parents and community groups as they express needs and concerns, visit schools to both view and encourage parent-child involvement, work to communicate district forums and listening tours, and encourage district communication in the native languages of our very diverse student/family population. We need to identify the barriers to increased parental involvement and find ways to alleviate these barriers.

From what you know so far, where do you see the greatest need for increased spending in the district?

First of all, we need to review the current allocation of funds within our district. I see the greatest need for increased spending in the district to be in the areas of recruiting
and retaining high quality educators and in putting resources into our classrooms where it will most directly impact our students.

Many Aurora schools include students learning English, which can be a major barrier for their education. Should the district do more to accelerate English acquisition, even at the expense of something else?

To achieve on state mandated assessments (or any other assessment), by which schools and students are evaluated, without having acquired the language in which it is taken, is nearly impossible. Yes, the district should do more to accelerate English language acquisition. Specifically, our district should do more to increase our students’ knowledge and understanding of higher level English.

School shootings are on the minds of parents, students and teachers. Is the district doing enough to protect the APS community from gun violence and to ensure that parents and students are confident about security? What initiatives would you support?

Communication around incidents involving threats inside our buildings needs to improve at the district, building, and community level. Voter approved funding to allow increased mental health staff in our buildings needs to be maintained. Access to mental health services for all students is imperative to decreasing violence as we have seen among our youth in the recent past. Programs such as Safe to Tell are important to our students and families as a resource through which concerns can be reported.

Unfortunately, routine safety drills need to continue being held.

College prep has long been a goal of this and other school districts. Should the school district do more to prepare students for real life and to become a better civil citizen? It could mean more focus on basic life, schools and how government and communities work.

The goal of education is to prepare our students to be contributing members of society. Our district should provide opportunities that allow students to choose a career path that they wish to pursue upon graduation. Students should be prepared to enter college if that is the path they wish to take; they should be aware of programs other than 4-year degree programs if that is the path they wish to take. All students should complete coursework in how basic government works, financial literacy and what being a good citizen means.

New charter schools are opening in Aurora. School board responsibilities often include reviewing district-authorized charter schools and considering new applications. Describe your stance on charter schools and how that would inform your decision-making as a board member.

Aurora is currently home to 13 charter schools. Many of these are located in the northwest area of our city. I am not in favor of opening more schools which are not truly accessible to all of our students. We are taking already dwindling funds from our neighborhood schools to open these schools. I believe these funds should be used to repair and upgrade already existing sites and allocating resources to these sites that will meet the needs of our population. Charter schools receive a number of automatic waivers from the state and can limit services provided which are necessary to meet the needs of some of our most vulnerable learners. This does not create equitable access. Charter schools may also hire non-licensed educators and administrators to provide instruction and oversee the day-to-day operations of the school. I strongly disagree with the ability to do so.

Superintendent Rico Munn has led the district since 2013. If elected, would you renew his contract? Why or why not?

As of today, 9/17/2019, his contract has been renewed for 3 years. The current board felt that this would be too overwhelming of a task for the newly elected board. Had I been part of this determination, I would have wanted to review and ask questions regarding transparency, communication, and the reasoning behind a three – year extension. At present, I would have been a no vote.

For generations, schools have practiced one form or another of “social promotion.” It means that, even if a student is not proficient at the bulk of grade-level skills, they are moved along to the next grade. Would you support ending this system, and holding more students back to acquire skills they need to succeed in the following grade?

I believe we have to continue to look at adding supports in our buildings. If a student has a defined learning disability, he/she will need to access curriculum in a different manner than that of his/her peers. Refugee students enter our schools at all ages. Do we want, for example, twelve-year olds in third grade? How long would we hold students back and at what point would they become so discouraged that they would no longer try? When would students “age out”? We have to look at what is or is not in place that will help students catch up to where they need to be.

Meet Barbara Yamrick
Barbara Yamrick
Barbara Yamrick

Barbara Yamrick
Yamrick served two terms on the school board between 1999 and 2007, and then another term between 2013 and 2017. She lost her re-election bid two years ago. Yamrick served on the Regional Transportation District Board of Directors from 2004 to 2008. She has served on many organizational boards and has taught in district schools as a substitute teacher, according to Ballotpedia.

Yamrick: Personality Questions

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

To please all the people all the time

What movie will you watch again no matter how many times you’ve seen it?

Ten Commandments

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Teacher

Do you have a talent that most people don’t know about?

Let’s keep it hidden

If you wrote a memoir, what would you call it?

Persistence

What time do you go to bed?

When I’m tired -- naps included

What was the last book you read?

The Bible, Through the Eye of the Needle, Before She Was Harriet

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

Olive Garden

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Thanksgiving Dinner

If you had a boat, what would you name it?

Perseverance

If you could only listen to one song forever, what would it be?

West Virginia

Which reality television show do you think you’d be best at?

Family Feud

What do you think needs to be invented more than anything?

Mechanical capture of energy/heat from city sidewalks + roads redirected to heat/cool buildings

Yamrick: Policy Questions

Describe how your career and experiences qualify you for an APS school board seat.

As a previous school board member, I have learned that education and community involvement are extremely helpful in participating with policy curation and implementation. Namely, my 12 years with the APS Board; my education at Regis and CU Denver with degrees in education, social science and planning and my 20 or more years in voluntary community work have helped me interact and assist my neighbors. 30 years of substitute teaching in grades from early childhood to high school nearly every day in both Denver an APS have given me hands-on interaction with students which helps me understand learning opportunities which assist each one of them and varying needs required to complete their work.

Research indicates that parental involvement in their child’s education is an important factor in student success. How would you engage with parents and the community as a school board member to foster that parent-child involvement?

By participating and attending school events, creating a standing parental advisory board and conducting tours for independent groups to view teachers and students in classroom settings. The method of communicating must be at all times open and transparent.

From what you know so far, where do you see the greatest need for increased spending in the district?

Teacher salaries, student language mastery and social wellbeing of each child.

Many Aurora schools include students learning English, which can be a major barrier for their education. Should the district do more to accelerate English acquisition, even at the expense of something else?

There should be no tit for tat, either/or. There is a great deal of money in this world. We should not have short change our child’s education.

School shootings are on the minds of parents, students and teachers. Is the district doing enough to protect the APS community from gun violence and to ensure that parents and students are confident about security? What initiatives would you support?

At this time, I do believe that they have done a great job protecting our students. From my experience on the board, with Columbine, at the beginning, we had to make great decisions about whether to have dogs or metal detectors, and what route we would choose to keep students safe. I believe that the best way to do that is the current initiative for total involvement of police, community, social workers and teachers identifying the needs before they exist, perhaps, of some of the children that would benefit from interaction with them, as well as restorative justice which will keep down the anger and any suppressed feelings they may have.

College prep has long been a goal of this and other school districts. Should the school district do more to prepare students for real life and to become a better civil citizen? It could mean more focus on basic life, schools and how government and communities work.

Not everyone needs a college degree to excel in life. Therefore we should, and could, cooperate with the community college, so that, in high school, they can graduate with a diploma and an AA degree simultaneously. I believe that there should be emphasis in the first and second years of high school on leadership and government. A democracy is only as good as its participants’ experience in participation. Basic life skills should begin with early childhood education, built upon and expanded throughout all their school years.

New charter schools are opening in Aurora. School board responsibilities often include reviewing district-authorized charter schools and considering new applications. Describe your stance on charter schools and how that would inform your decision-making as a board member.

When public education has not answered the needs of parents and guardians regarding students’ educations their forces and actions have a right and obligation to be heard and followed. Thus far, charter schools seem to be the only outlet through which they can successfully effectuate their desires. The school board has an obligation to adequately look through the charters and see if they are meeting all of the requirements that would be normally placed upon students in the public environment. But there are other ways that can effectuate this same thing: Open dialogue with the community, community voluntary work, watching their sisters and brothers and other ways to gain credit for graduation.

Superintendent Rico Munn has led the district since 2013. If elected, would you renew his contract? Why or why not?

Probably not. The budget, especially his personally allocated moneys for travel and expenditures as well as the ballooning of the administration over that of the teachers, seems to point to poor management. Failure to set up a finance committee of citizens similar to city council would be a start to improving his expertise.

For generations, schools have practiced one form or another of “social promotion.” It means that, even if a student is not proficient at the bulk of grade-level skills, they are moved along to the next grade. Would you support ending this system, and holding more students back to acquire skills they need to succeed in the following grade?

It is my experience that holding students back generally results in lower self esteem and barriers to further education. Generally speaking it results in dropout rates, which increase, and to which give the public the perception of school failure. On total development of education as a part of their place in society is a much better way to get things done