AURORA VOTE 2019 — Cherry Creek schools candidates offer low-key messages

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Students board the bus at sunrise on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017 near Orchard and Parker roads.
Photo by McKenzie Lange/Aurora Sentinel

AURORA | Only one of three open seats on the Cherry Creek School District school board will see competition for voters’ picks on November 5. 

Four residents of the district — which includes much of southern Aurora and the southeast metroplex suburbs — are running to make big decisions for the 55,000-student school district, including managing hundreds of millions of mostly taxpayer dollars. 

Three of five voting seats are up for grabs this November. This year’s election will change the dynamic of the school board, which makes final decisions on everything from milk carton contracts to spending large amounts of taxpayer money on school construction, teacher salary and myriad initiatives. 

Only the District C seat has more than one hopeful, making the other seats a shoo-in barring surprise withdrawals. 

That seat was occupied by former board President Dave Willman, who resigned last spring after using a self-described racist term, “tar baby”, at a teacher appreciation banquet. Regardless, Willman would have been term-limited. The two candidates hoping to earn the seat for the next four years are both African-American. 

Angela Garland, one of those hopefuls, has four children that are students in the district. In a district questionnaire, she said she volunteers on the district Foundation Board, a fundraising entity. She said she has also served on the District Accountability Committee and Leadership Cherry Creek program. 

Garland said “each of these ‘appointments’ have provided me with a degree of insight, compassion and empathy for all the complexities within our school district with the most important being our students.”

Her opponent for the seat is Alioune Sogue, an environmental engineer and leader of the Colorado African Organization. The nonprofit has provided resources to over 80 percent of immigrants and refugees resettled in the state since 2004, he said in the district questionnaire. 

Sogue has said his priorities would be supporting new, innovative learning environments and focusing on the district’s immigrant population. 

Two other candidates are running unchallenged for separate seats. 

Janice McDonald is running for reelection to the District B seat. She was originally elected in 2015 and will serve another four years, barring a withdrawal from the race. 

The board’s District A seat is open after its current holder, Eric Parish, backed out of a reelection bid. Parish is a vice president of MGT Consulting, a for-profit group winning millions of dollars to manage struggling districts and schools in the region, including in neighboring Aurora Public Schools. Parish cited family responsibilities in his announcement not to run for reelection. 

Vying for the open seat is Anne Egan, who also does not face competition. Egan said she has volunteered in the district for almost 20 years. Like Garland, she has served on a bevy of district committees and groups and graduated from the Cherry Creek leadership academy program. 

Egan said three of her children have graduated from the district, and one is still a student. She said that student mental health is her priority. 

Meet Angela Garland
Angela Garland

Angela Green Garland

Garland’s four children attend Cherry Creek schools. She has graduated from the Cherry Creek district leadership workshop, served on the district accountability and equity boards as well as the district parent-teacher organization. She currently serves on the district foundation board and the budget task force, according to a district questionnaire.

Garland: Personality Questions

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

If I had one superpower it would be the ability to clone myself when my schedule is crazy.

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

There are three movies I watch no matter how many times I have seen them, Love &
Basketball, Finding Forester and Splendor in the Grass.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but chemistry was not my friend.

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

I’m not quite sure if it is an unknown talent, but I have been told I have an eye for
decorating

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

If I wrote a memoir, it would be called “Growing Up.”

What time do you go to bed?

On a great day, I will usually turn in around 10:30, but most days I am up until after midnight reading, tending to household issues, emails or preparing for the next day.

What was the last book you read?

I read two books, “The Last Baracoon” by Zora Neal Hurston and I read Trevor Noah’s
“Born a Crime” with my oldest son.

Which restaurant do you eat at most?

I am a Foodie and love all sorts of delights, but there are two restaurants I frequent most — Pho 97 (a local joint) and Chipotle. They are close to my home. My entire family likes it and it is quick.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

My favorite family tradition is simply gathering. Growing up my parents alternated hosting Christmas and Thanksgiving at our home. Sometimes it would be 75 or more people in attendance. My uncle, who was an Lay Officer in the AME church hosted Easter dinner. As many family members have grown up, moved away and elders have passed away, our family stopped gathering to celebrate holidays and other milestones. However, in the last couple of years, we have committed to doing it again. This year I am hosting Thanksgiving, we are at 35 and counting.

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

I have no interest in owning a boat, ever.

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

Picking one song forever to be on repeat would is hard, I cannot do it.

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

I am pretty decent at Jeopardy without the buzzer. The buzzer seems to be the key. I do
watch the Housewives franchise while I’m folding clothes or paying bills. I don’t have to
follow a storyline or pay attention to dialogue.

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

I would like for someone to invent a transporter, like the ones in Star Trek, because metro area traffic combined with four active children can be challenging. Although with as many things as my youngest son has taken apart and created, I may have one in the basement.

 

Garland: Policy Questions

Describe how your career and experiences qualify you for a CCSD school board seat.

Most of career has been spent in the area of youth and social services. I have always had a heart for young people. I am excited by their potential and possibilities. In addition, as a parent and resident of the district, I have been involved in multiple committees that focus on our schools. My experience and the knowledge I have gained serving the district has prepared me to be a member of the Cherry Creek School Board of Education.

How would you engage with parents and community as a school board member to foster that parent – child involvement?

Our district has great parent engagement. Parents engage when and where they feel comfortable or have the time. I would encourage administrators to brainstorm how we can engage ALL parents of ALL students. Are there tasks that can be done at home; areas where help is needed daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly? Work, family and community activities already have parents feeling pulled in multiple directions. Making sure that parents know whatever assistance they are able to provide is important to ensure everyone feels connected to the district. In addition, some parents/guardians may feel intimidated by the education process—homework, projects, technology may cause parents to feel overwhelmed. Services, sessions or website resources this may aide and increase parent engagement.

Student suicides are a concerning trend in Cherry Creek schools. What more should the school district do to address the problem?

The problem of student suicides cannot rest solely with the school district. It has to be a
community effort. School age children do spend the majority of the day under the care of
the district, however the CCSD is not the sole influencer on the lives of our young people.

As a community, we need to de-stigmatize mental health, whether it is a temporary
condition caused by life’s circumstances or a result of the physiological functions of our
bodies. We must communicate that our students are valued, we want them to be “here”
and that we (the community) can help them through any situation. The increase in mental health professionals and the video created by students are great additions to the resources available to our students and families.

The district is expected to lose students at a historic rate. If the district is faced with closing schools, what criteria would you suggest the district use to decide which schools might be closed?

The lack of growth in our district can translate to stability for our neighborhoods and
property values, but it more directly impacts per pupil funding. In general, I believe closing schools is an extreme choice. However, when the closing a school is on the table, I believe multiple factors ought to be weighed and that closing a school should be the absolute last resort.

Many Cherry Creek Schools especially those in Aurora include students learning English, which can be a major barrier for their education. Should the district do more to accelerate English acquisition at the expense of something else?

Yes, I believe that English acquisition is important to student success. I would challenge
our community to stop viewing education through a zero sum lens. We must acknowledge budget constraints, but students deserve a great educational experience. Working to establish a community engagement model so that students and perhaps their families have opportunities to learn, use and understand English outside the regular school day, be an innovative way to ensure English Language Learners receive an education that prepares them for their next stage in life.

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

Much like the suicide problem, the issue of school violence and safety needs to be a
community conversation to help find the solution. I applaud the efforts the district has
incorporated of increasing mental health professionals, increased security measures
facilities and structures, and more security personnel. The issue of violence is not limited
to our schools. Communities face domestic violence, road rage, interpersonal violence and other violent acts that impact our students and how they show up to face each school day. We must work together both inside and outside of our schools to ensure the safety and security of our communities.

For decades, Cherry Creek has struggled to close the achievement gap between racial groups. If it is not a lost cause, what would move the needle?

Closing the achievement and opportunity gaps amongst demographic groups is not a
“paper tiger” concept. Moving forward with the initiatives currently implemented by the
district including actively recruiting, hiring and retaining racially diverse staff; ensuring that ALL staff exhibit cultural competency which will ultimately lead to high expectations and engagement for all students.

Last year, Cherry Creek paid an 11.5 million settlement to five students after school administrators failed to report instances of sexual abuse. The district implemented policy changes including designating a point person to field abuse reports in each school. What should the district do to ensure policies are working?

Physical and sexual is a heartbreakingly, sad reality for some of our students. The district’s new guidelines and extensive training, and clarity on the reporting process makes it one of the most forward thing and prepared organizations to address issues of abuse. Mandatory reporting is not a new expectation or requirement. I think it is important to regularly review reporting steps, especially as staffing and job responsibilities grow and change. We need to ensure that each staff person is clear on the expectations and guidelines and re-visit them from time to time.

 

Meet Alioune Sogue
Alioune Sogue

Alioune Sogue

Sogue is an environmental engineer whose three children graduated from district high schools. He’s the co-founder and leader of the Colorado African Organization, a nonprofit that works with refugees that are resettled in Colorado, as well as asylum-seekers. Sogue said the group has worked with over 80 percent of people resettled in Colorado since he founded the organization in 2004.

Sogue: Personality Questions

No response to questionnaires.

 

Sogue: Policy Questions

No response to questionnaires.