Colorado Springs School District 11 School Board Candidates
Candidates listed in order they appear on ballot. These responses were not edited for grammar, punctuation, or spelling and were truncated if they exceeded the specified word count.

Mary Coleman

Darleen Daniels

Joseph Shelton

Conner Sargent

Jason Jorgenson

Parth Melpakam

  • Candidate Information

    E-Mail: electparth@gmail.com Website: http://electparth.com Phone: 719-301-9119 Education: Doctorate in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, University of Wyoming, Laramie Occupation: Engineer

  • In what ways have you been involved in public schools and how will you address the most pressing challenges for your district?

    As Chair of the District Accountability Committee (DAC), I have a proven track record of engaging the entire D11 community and building relationships - listening respectfully, communicating effectively, collaborating intentionally, and volunteering consistently. I actively served in PTA events and procured a $5,000 grant to start a student Outdoor Learning Center at Scott Elementary. To address declining school improvement, I am committed to putting students first in all critical decisions, providing a quality education for the whole child, promoting a collaborative, welcoming culture in our buildings, and empowering every student to succeed in college, career, and community.

  • What will you do to ensure equity among the schools in your district, accounting for varying needs of students and families? How do you ensure that your budget reflects these values?

    Educational equity and honoring our rich community’s diversity are at the heart of the new D11 strategic plan – Policy AD – which I helped develop as part of the Core Planning Team. We must eliminate disparities based on socioeconomic status, race, and ZIP-code so that our entire learning community, including all students and staff, can participate, excel, and reach their full potential. Each student is an individual with different strengths and needs. I am committed to developing policies and allocating resources to meet each student where they are academically, emotionally and socially to help them succeed.

  • What criteria would you use to accept or decline a charter school? How do you balance school choice when encountering the challenges of changing enrollment?

    I support parents’ right to choose the best education to meet their children’s needs. By providing safe and welcoming learning environments, unique and innovative educational programs, and neighborhood schools that are focused on meeting the needs of the whole student, D11 will be the premier choice for parents in Colorado Springs. Charter school applications should be evaluated based on quality, uniqueness, and proven track record of the educational program, demonstration of sound budgetary and governing operations, and compliance with required state mandates. These are the criteria we used when I served on the DAC to evaluate two charter school applications.

  • What steps should be taken to acknowledge the rights and needs of LGBTQ students and create inclusive learning environments? Specifically, how will you implement HB19-1032, Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education, to ensure that LGBTQ students are included in sexual education?

    I support the current D11 Board Policy IHAM which provides guidelines for a Comprehensive Health Education Program including medically accurate, evidence-based and age-appropriate sexual education that promotes safe and healthy relationships. The health and wellness need of all students, including LGBTQ students, must be met without shame, bias, or stereotyping. Bullying, harassment, and discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. I support the requirements of HB19-1032 to provide lessons on consent so that our students will learn to recognize boundaries and practice respect for others. Parents still have the right to opt their child out of sex education curriculum.

  • What role should the arts, STEM, workforce training, and athletics play in public education and how do you balance funding?

    Arts, STEM, and athletics are vital cogs in a student’s overall growth and development. Collectively they promote skills of creativity, teamwork, discipline, reasoning, resiliency, and responsibility, all of which are essential for success in a rapidly changing world. Through its concurrent and dual enrollment programs, D11 is providing unparalleled opportunities for our high school students to earn career, technical education and early college credits, thereby preparing them to enter the workforce with lucrative jobs or thrive in post-secondary institutions. I will resolutely support expanding these programs while still prioritizing and practicing responsible stewardship of available resources.

  • Considering the frequency of youth suicides recently, how will you guide your district to better meet the emotional/social/safety needs of students?

    The 2017 Mill Levy Override provided critically needed funds to hire additional school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and safety resource officers. I will advocate to continue the implementation of the Comprehensive Student Support Model and programs such as Capturing Kids’ Hearts as they provide social, emotional, and behavioral supports for staff and students. Building positive relationships in school with trusted adults will promote school connectedness and encourage students to share potential struggles or problems, thereby decreasing youth suicides. Student safety is of paramount importance and staff should be trained to recognize and react to any type of emergencies or threats.

  • How will your district ensure a religiously neutral learning environment that is inclusive of diverse religious traditions?

    The current D11 Board Policy IHAL ensures that D11 complies with judicial mandates for a religiously neutral learning environment. Teachers, staff, administration, and school board members should be provided training and support to ensure that our curriculum, classroom atmosphere, and all school activities adhere to the above policy. The rich diversity in the D11 community is strengthened by teaching our students and school personnel respect for, mutual understanding of, and sensitivity to various religious beliefs and non-beliefs.

Vincent Puzick

  • Candidate Information

    E-Mail: puzick4d11@gmail.com Website: https://puzick4d11.wixsite.com/puzick4d11boe Education: BA in English, CSU, 1981. MA in Teaching, Stanford, 1987 Occupation: semi-retired

  • In what ways have you been involved in public schools and how will you address the most pressing challenges for your district?

    I have worked in public education for over 32 years: high school English teacher, literacy coach, district literacy content specialist, and the Literacy/Language Arts Content Specialist for the Colorado Department of Education. As one individual on the Board, I hope to impact the community conversation by addressing the challenges in an inclusive manner: listening to the concerns of the public, considering the best research on complex issues, and tapping into the expertise of fellow Board members, district staff and administrators, and community stakeholders. It will be important to include multiple voices to increase equitable educational opportunities for ALL students.

  • What will you do to ensure equity among the schools in your district, accounting for varying needs of students and families? How do you ensure that your budget reflects these values?

    The District’s current strategic plan and the Board’s work on developing a policy are important steps to address equity issues in our district. Budget and funding have to be aligned to those values. We need to ensure that accountability measures are in place to make District policies actionable in the day-to-day work within our schools. Essentially, from a Board member’s perspective, we want to ensure that we remove systemic barriers to equity and move toward policies and practices that give all students access to quality resources, instruction, and educational opportunities. Our mission, vision, and plan should drive the budgetary decisions.

  • What criteria would you use to accept or decline a charter school? How do you balance school choice when encountering the challenges of changing enrollment?

    I would use the criteria of curriculum and programs offered, a transparent accountability and business plan including community partnerships, and whether the school brings a unique educational experience to the community. The school’s mission and vision should be clear and demonstrate a viable plan to fill an actual (and not just perceived) need in the district. As a standard expectation, we want all D11 schools to deliver a quality education with equitable access balanced by meaningful school choice for unique educational experiences. Schools need to have their own personality within the larger context of the D11 system.

  • What steps should be taken to acknowledge the rights and needs of LGBTQ students and create inclusive learning environments? Specifically, how will you implement HB19-1032, Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education, to ensure that LGBTQ students are included in sexual education?

    As stated in the Bill, human sexuality instruction must not “use shame-based or stigmatized language or instructional tools,” and it must not exclude the health needs of intersex, transgender, or LGBTQ students. Meeting the needs the LGBTQ student population requires quality instruction to deliver a meaningful research-based curriculum. The curricular materials and classroom instruction must seamlessly incorporate resources and discussion opportunities addressing healthy relationships regardless of one’s sexual identity. The needs of LGBTQ students cannot be met with an “add-on” unit or lesson; the instruction must, indeed, be inclusive and comprehensive in the broad realm of human sexuality.

  • What role should the arts, STEM, workforce training, and athletics play in public education and how do you balance funding?

    A well-rounded student, the “whole child,” is engaged in more than academic pursuits in the thirteen years experienced in District 11 schools. We need to prepare students for life beyond high school. We need graduates who can appreciate the arts as an expression of culture, heritage, and history. By being involved in arts, STEM, athletics, and workforce coursework, we increase student engagement and increase their chances of graduating on time. Finally, we fund what we value. These pursuits cannot be seen as an “add on” or (despite the name) as an “extra-curricular” activity. Funding should reflect that priority.

  • Considering the frequency of youth suicides recently, how will you guide your district to better meet the emotional/social/safety needs of students?

    While we certainly want our students to achieve academically, artistically, and athletically, none of those achievements happen in a vacuum. The school climate must be emotionally and socially safe. Students are experiencing incredible pressures and demands in and out of school, and we need to be conscious of and responsive to their experiences. We need to be proactive in meeting students’ emotional, social, and mental health needs by making our schools free of bullying, shaming, and discriminatory language and actions. We need to build partnerships with community experts to provide professional development for our staff and resources for our students.

  • How will your district ensure a religiously neutral learning environment that is inclusive of diverse religious traditions?

    District 11 is situated in the heart of Colorado Springs. Its diversity is its strength. We need to foster an environment of cultural awareness and respect for the varied religious values and traditions in our community. We need to lift the voices of people who may worship differently than we do, or not worship at all, and seek to understand even when we may not agree. We need to hear the stories of their individual lives. By fostering relationships between students and between staff and students, we can eliminate the fear that thrives where misunderstanding and lack of knowledge exist.

Chris Wallis