Manitou Springs School District 14

Candidates are listed in the order they appear on the ballot.

Natalie Johnson

  • Contact Information:

    E-Mail: manitouartctr@gmail.com Phone: 719.200.1272 Education: BA: Art History and English, MS: Women's Studies Occupation: ED of Manitou Art Center & Manitou Springs Creative District

  • Why are you running for school board and what makes you the best candidate?

    On a basic level, I love my community and I love MSSD14! We have amazing teachers, administrators and students and I want to be a part of it. That being said, there is always work to be done and I am someone who gets things done. It is a perfect fit. I am also a child-less taxpayer and active in the community through my work and play. I can represent the School in all that I do--City Council meetings, Community Potlucks and more.

  • What are the most pressing challenges for your district this year and how will you address them?

    MSSD14 is more than just a place of learning. It has a food and clothing bank, school counselors, a TON of after school programming and often act as child care providers and more. Funding and Health /Wellness are some of its primary challenges. Currently, our District manages these issues through the PHC Prevention Coalition. Having recently won the Governor’s Award for School Health and Wellness, they are doing great things. Since this is an unending need that will constantly change, we need to keep it up and adjust as needed. I intend to work with the Superintendent and the Board to do just that.

  • How will you address the effect of reduced public school funding resulting from the imposed “negative factor?”

    Our Superintendent and CFO have been working with this in mind for years. During the Recession, they added programming and iPads and increased opportunities. With this next round of cuts, we are going to need to be equally creative. How do we increase what we offer and support our students when they need more than ever--with less? Collaboration. They have been working with City Council on this issue for years. Manitou Springs is home to Concrete Couch, the Pikes Peak Library District, Manitou Art Center, Manitou Springs Heritage Center and more. We need to tackle funding as a team.

  • What is your position on public school choice? Should taxpayer dollars be used for private school choice?

    This one is easy. I wholeheartedly believe in the public school system. I do not believe that taxpayer dollars should be used for private school choice

  • What steps should be taken to acknowledge the rights of LGBTQ students and create inclusive learning environments?

    In terms of keeping up with the needs of LGBTQ students, the Board is going to need regular updates from the GSTA--we have active organizations at the Middle and High Schools. As minority students in our District, they need our support and advocacy. Gender non-conforming students should be treated with respect and understanding. Training for the board, staff, administrators and students exists and is ongoing. Manitou Springs has been progressive in this area. They created transgender bathrooms before Palmer High School. Our Elementary Schools and Middle School need facilities. MSSD14 is working hard to support these students, staff and administrators.

  • What role should the arts play in public education?

    As the Executive Director of the Manitou Art Center and the Manitou Springs Creative District, I am incredibly biassed. The Creative Industries are integral to the economic success of our country. I believe in S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math). MSSD14 prioritizes art in in our District. Between Arts14, collaborations (Concrete Couch) and classes that include visual art, dance, music, design and theater opportunities for all ages, they excel.

  • Considering the frequency of youth suicides recently, how can your district better meet the social/emotional needs of students?

    As mentioned before, this is a huge issue that our schools deal with everyday. MSSD14 is actively working to get more counselors in our schools. They are also collaborating with our City Council and the community at large. Programs include: PHC Community Coalition, TAWC (so great), Mental Health First Aid training, Sources of Strength, Safe Communities-Safe Schools, Safe2Tell, Aspen Pointe and the launch of a Crisis Hotline--our District is actively working to support these kids as early in life as possible. I am proud of the work that is being done for our students.

  • How is your district responding to reported hate incidents?

    The students work on projects to eliminate/minimize hate on a regular basis. They do this through a variety of events that include mixing the seating during lunch and love your neighbor type events. The key is to create an environment that does not support this kind of behavior--EVER. This is another area that needs constant attention and must change with changing environments and students. Again, we need to expand all of these initiatives to include the entire community. We all need to be in on this

  • How should your district ensure a religiously neutral learning environment that respects all students? Do current district policies adequately address religious expression, intelligent design, and holiday celebrations?

    We cannot be afraid to have the tough conversations. That is why including religion in our political, historical, psychological and sociological conversations is important. Religion has impacted everything from wars to funding the arts. It needs to be in the classroom. That being said, it needs to be a part of a structured and educational program. It is not about proselytizing or bullying; it is about learning. These boundaries need to be clear and defined. Our district follows all American Civil Liberties Union recommendations and upholds the First Amendment of the United States.

Christina Vidovich

  • Contact Information:

    E-Mail: tmvidovich@gmail.com Phone: 719-354-5313 Education: BA Psychology MA Curriculum and Instruction Superintendency License Occupation: D49 Zone Operations Administrator

  • Why are you running for school board and what makes you the best candidate?

    I have spent nearly thirty years working in public education to better the lives of children and improve their communities. It is time for me to use that knowledge and skills to be of service to my own community. With my own child graduating from MSHS this year, I do not have any personal conflicts of interest, nor do I have the time constraint of having a school age child. This is the right time for me to partner with fellow BOE Directors to expand and enhance the already great practices in MSSD 14.

  • What are the most pressing challenges for your district this year and how will you address them?

    Communication is an area that is an opportunity for growth and improvement in MSSD 14. Technology is another area that has continued to be inconsistent in its instructional use by both staff and students. Feedback has been mixed on the effectiveness of iPads. There are bright points of light where they are being used well with intentionality. However, in other areas their purposefulness is less evident and even distracting from other, more important careful practices.

  • How will you address the effect of reduced public school funding resulting from the imposed “negative factor?”

    Funding is always an issue in public education, but especially in Colorado. However we can’t lose sight of the responsibility right in front of us; educating kids. We must simultaneously work with other educators, parents, and community partners to increase school funding, while still creatively problem solving to educate and care for students with the resources we have. Using our current resources will cause us to be more intentional about all aspects of our institutional program and district budgeting processes. More importantly, it will cause us to reach out to businesses and other partners to provide a full range of experiences for our children.

  • What is your position on public school choice? Should taxpayer dollars be used for private school choice?

    School Choice has taken on a life of it’s own in Colorado aside from vouchers for private schools. If we define School Choice as a parents’ ability to select a program, school or district, charter or non charter, that is funded with public dollars then I am for School Choice. Manitou Springs has over 50% choice students and would not be able to provide services or maintain its facilities if they did not. I do not support the use of public funds being used for private schools.

  • What steps should be taken to acknowledge the rights of LGBTQ students and create inclusive learning environments?

    First and foremost district and school leaders need to understand both the legal issues and humanistic issues around LGBT students. Policies and guidelines should be established at the district level with all staff educated on students’ rights. Legal compliance is a low bar. The real task is building supportive relationships and having an awareness of the daily issues faced by an LGBTQ stduent. The overall school community must model warm, accepting behavior toward all persons. Practices in each school should reflect individual student's needs not a “fix” based on a label.

  • What role should the arts play in public education?

    The arts should be both stand alone courses and embedded into other content areas. The arts present students with an avenue for expression and appreciation that enhances core content and satisfying in its own sake.

  • Considering the frequency of youth suicides recently, how can your district better meet the social/emotional needs of students?

    Being that our district serves both the small community of Manitou Spring and and choice students from a large geographic radius, we need to have a multipronged approach. We need schools that offer direct education, build relationships, establish programs to identify and address needs early, and that partner with agencies that specialize in suicide and depression. We need parent events and outreach. School staff need to recognize signs of depression, anxiety, mood disorders be able to refer to readily available resources.

  • How is your district responding to reported hate incidents?

    Incidents of this nature are addressed by school administration and in some cases in conjunction with our local School Resource Officer. Once The Situation has been investigated there may be school or criminal consequences. As a city and district that believe in restorative justice, the victim and perpetrator have the option of meeting and deciding on restitution. What specific changes would you suggest? Tracking hate crime data is useful in determining the source. Appropriate early indicators and root causes allow the district to develop proactive and responsive interventions.

  • How should your district ensure a religiously neutral learning environment that respects all students? Do current district policies adequately address religious expression, intelligent design, and holiday celebrations?

    The ACLU and Anti-Defamation League provides direction to schools that is practical and sound in this area. I don’t support a religiously neutral learning environment because that sounds like students of any religious or philosophical belief have to shut off a part of themselves when they arrive at school. I favor a learning environment that is open to all philosophies and can have discourse around difference in a positive and affirming way. The more we deny individual expression, the less opportunity we have to learn from each other.

Anna H. Lord

  • Contact Information:

    E-Mail: nylords@ix.netcom.com Phone: Home, 719-687-0123 Cell 719-352-6509 Education: B.S. Finance, UCCS Occupation: Instructor, YMCA

  • Why are you running for school board and what makes you the best candidate?

    An effective School Board Director requires the willingness to spend considerable time and energy to become knowledgeable on a variety of subjects from school finance and education law to long term planning and community engagement. Having served 8 years on the MSSD14 Board (2003-2011), including 6 years on the Colorado Association of School Boards BOD, I have proven my ability to be effective on the local, state and national level in defending and improving public education. I am passionate about public education and would like to use my experience to benefit MSSD14 and the citizens they serve.

  • What are the most pressing challenges for your district this year and how will you address them?

    Politicians at the state and national level continue to increase mandates in areas like testing and reporting while decreasing funding for education. I plan to continue to help MSSD14 find innovative and cost effective solutions to their funding issues that reflect the values of the citizens of the MSSD14 , while advocating strongly at the state and national level to address unfunded mandates.

  • How will you address the effect of reduced public school funding resulting from the imposed “negative factor?”

    In 2015 I led MSSD14’s effort to pass a mill levy increase. This successful mill levy campaign is the third I’ve participated in on behalf of Manitou’s students. The increased revenue, combined with innovative programs and careful financial management has put MSSD14 in a strong position. Having knowledgeable, passionate leadership on the Board of Education is essential to maintain that strength. We also need to be advocating for solutions at the state and national level, and I believe the relationships I have fostered with our elected officials in my previous time on the board will be valuable going forward.

  • What is your position on public school choice? Should taxpayer dollars be used for private school choice?

    MSSD14 has been positively impacted by Colorado’s “choice” environment. When I first was elected to the board in 2003, we were in a period of declining enrollment, looking to reduce programs and staff. We have improved our programs to attract out-of-district students, which have supported our schools by increasing student count which adds both energy and additional funds. While I support the right of parents to send their children to the public school of their choice, I do not believe taxpayer dollars should be used for private schools through vouchers or any other vehicle.

  • What steps should be taken to acknowledge the rights of LGBTQ students and create inclusive learning environments?

    It is important to insure that all children served by MSSD14 have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed. I believe that Manitou has generally been an open and accepting place for LGBTQ students, but it is important that district policies reflect a commitment to insure that students and staff are not discriminated against based on gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • What role should the arts play in public education?

    I believe the arts play an important part in public education. While I served on the Board of Education, we increased our arts offerings during a period where many districts were making cuts due to reduced funding and increased standardized testing. I believe this is one of the major reasons MSSD14 has seen a growth in their “choice” students. Exposure and education in the arts can increase fine motor skills, hone math skills and reduce drop-outs, but most importantly can help students foster creativity, which will help them in many areas of life.

  • Considering the frequency of youth suicides recently, how can your district better meet the social/emotional needs of students?

    As discussed above, school districts are working hard to do more with fewer resources. MSSD14 has been creative and innovative in forming partnerships with outside entities, such as Aspen Point to provide mental health and substance abuse services. I support the continuing commitment to Partners for Healthy Choices, a Manitou initiative dedicated to helping build supportive, healthy connections between our students, their families and other community members. But most importantly, MSSD14 needs to continue to strive to create an environment where all students feel valued, supported and safe.

  • How is your district responding to reported hate incidents? What specific changes would you suggest?

    MSSD14 has strong Intimidation, Harassment and Bullying policies, and works to maintain a “safe to tell” environment. At this time I have no specific changes to suggest, but I would recommend that the Board of Education have methods in place to keep updated, through interaction with district leadership as well as students and families on hate incidents and trends in this area so that they can make changes to the policies or enforcement of these policies as necessary.

  • How should your district ensure a religiously neutral learning environment that respects all students? Do current district policies adequately address religious expression, intelligent design, and holiday celebrations?

    I believe that a religiously neutral learning environment is critical in public education so that students with diverse religious backgrounds feel welcome and included. I believe that science curriculum needs to reflect current scientific research, but that a respectful atmosphere is maintained that allows student-led discussion on topics where religion may conflict with scientific theory. Our young people need to be free to discuss ideas and ideology in a non-confrontational manner if they are to become adults who can work together with people with different opinions and beliefs. Sensitivity and inclusiveness should be the focus of holiday celebrations.

Jonathan T Dooley

  • Contact Information:

    E-Mail: Dooleyjonathan@gmail.com Website: Chipitaparkpoolandspa.com Phone: 719-445-9710 Education: MBA, MSM, BA Occupation: Business Owner - Chipita Park Pool and Spa llc

  • Why are you running for school board and what makes you the best candidate?

    I am a parent and volunteer in School District 14 and the local community. I volunteer and interact with many of the youth in the district and I believe Manitou Springs is one of the best school districts in the Pikes Peak Region and I would like to see it continue to be an outstanding locally controlled district with rigorous educational standards and high quality teachers. All school districts are going to be faced with major funding problems in the near future and I believe strong leadership with a business focus is needed to overcome these pending obstacles.

  • What are the most pressing challenges for your district this year and how will you address them?

    Funding, Student and teacher retention, Arts and Humanities offerings. Manitou Springs SD-14 recently passed a mill levy for additional funding but it is time to have the parents and local communities stand with the school districts and put ballot initiatives before the voters to eliminate the legislature negative factor workaround as well as earmarking an additional specific percentage of the MJ tax money towards the schools and their operational budgets. Addressing these two issues will fix the financial stranglehold that all school districts face and allow for increases in teacher salaries, more money for arts and humanities, and more advanced level educational offerings.

  • How will you address the effect of reduced public school funding resulting from the imposed “negative factor?”

    The only real fix for the negative factor that the legislation uses to work around mandatory educational spending is to remove the option from the legislation. This would require all of the local communities, parents and school districts to work together to place a referendum on the ballot removing the negative factor workaround and clarifying the formulas that must be used to establish Amendment 23 funding levels for the state budget.

  • What is your position on public school choice? Should taxpayer dollars be used for private school choice?

    Public school choice is an exceptional tool for parents and students to use to find the best program available in the public school system that fits the students’ needs and goals. Private school and Faith based schools are an option for parents who choose to send their student to them but taxpayer dollars are NOT to be used to fund any private or faith based school.

  • What steps should be taken to acknowledge the rights of LGBTQ students and create inclusive learning environments?

    Manitou Springs SD-14 does a very good job of addressing and allowing for freedom of expression. All students have an inalienable right to be who they are and bullying and discrimination are not to be tolerated. There are designated safe places if a student feels insecure and trained staff to help with any questions the students might have. But the focus of the school is on education and the rights of the one student does not infringe on the rights of the other students to get a quality education.

  • What role should the arts play in public education?

    The Arts are what makes great students into exceptional people. Music helps teach mathematics, theater teaches public speaking, art teaches fine motor skills, Improv promotes laughter, and all of the Arts promote self-esteem and self-awareness. Students are given the tools to express themselves in multiple mediums through exposure to the Arts. The Arts should be just as important in the curriculum as the hard sciences.

  • Considering the frequency of youth suicides recently, how can your district better meet the social/emotional needs of students?

    Through healthy balanced role modeling, reinforcing positive mind sets, student inclusion in activities, and providing alternative exploratory curriculum opportunities. The students’ strengths should be acknowledged, nurtured, and cultivated. The students should have multiple outlets for their talents to be recognized and promoted.

  • How is your district responding to reported hate incidents? What specific changes would you suggest?

    Manitou Springs School District has a dedicated resource officer through the Manitou Springs Police Department along with policies in place to insure that bullying, hate crimes, intolerance, assaults and safety issues can be quickly addressed and mitigated. I presently would not suggest any major changes to the current system without extensive in-depth study.

  • How should your district ensure a religiously neutral learning environment that respects all students? Do current district policies adequately address religious expression, intelligent design, and holiday celebrations?

    Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion. Students should be allowed to personally express their faith as long as that expression does not interfere with the education of others or create unrealistic burdens on the school. Religious beliefs shall not and will not dictate the curriculum content taught at the school. Intelligent design, for example, will not be taught in science classes. It may be discussed in Political Science or Philosophy but not a Physical Science. Religious text may be used in Literature classes but should be discussed impartially due to the belief structure associated with the content.

Jack Sharon