Douglas County

School board must blend old, new

Incoming members will replace three incumbents

Posted 11/8/15

Despite philosophical differences in their approach to education, board members on different sides of the election campaign are pledging to work together in the best interests of students.

Newcomers David Ray, Anne-Marie Lemieux and Wendy Vogel, …

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Douglas County

School board must blend old, new

Incoming members will replace three incumbents

Posted

Despite philosophical differences in their approach to education, board members on different sides of the election campaign are pledging to work together in the best interests of students.

Newcomers David Ray, Anne-Marie Lemieux and Wendy Vogel, who defeated incumbents Kevin Larsen, Craig Richardson and Richard Robbins, bring different ideas - particularly on the school district's reform policies - to the previously like-minded board.

On Nov. 4, the day after the election, Doug Benevento, board of education vice president, released an emailed statement.

"While last night's election results did not represent the choices I would have preferred, the voters have spoken clearly and I want to congratulate the winning candidates," Benevento said. "The new board has obvious differences but we all care for our kids and our schools. In the coming days and months, I hope we can unite and move forward around that common sentiment."

Benevento said he hopes to work with new board members on issues - such as school finance and safety - that are important to all in the district.

Ray, who served as a teacher and principal in the district for 25 years, said the newly elected members of the board look forward to working with current members as well. He also said that they are not opposed to progress or change in the district.

"I think what you're going to hear us talk about is what reform really is," Ray said. "Unfortunately, reform has got a bad, negative connotation. We are all about change. We believe that we can continually improve and enhance things for our kids. We're not anti-change or anti-progress. It's not so much a message about anti-reform as it is about listening to the people."

Larsen, the school board president who lost his seat, said he is proud of the work he and his colleagues have accomplished and believes their polices are still best for the district - including the controversial pay-for-performance evaluations for teachers and staff.

"I'm proud that we have actually challenged education and set the model," Larsen said. "You can compensate and evaluate and differentiate based on performance. Everything else in the economy does this. I'm sorry, no matter what your function is, you have to find ways to encourage and attract and reward the top talent."

The final meeting for the current board is Nov. 17. New members will be sworn in no later than Nov. 30.

Several community groups have criticized the district's policies for years and are celebrating the election outcome.

"For several years, Strong Schools Coalition has advocated for greater transparency and accountability in Douglas County School District," said Laura Mutton, the group's president. "I am hopeful that the results of this election are a step toward achieving this goal. We still have a long way to go, but by working collaboratively with our parents, teachers, students and community members, I believe we can move this district forward in a positive direction."

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