School board candidates for Colorado Springs School District 11 cite a long list of challenges facing the area's largest district.
What they want to do in office: Boost student achievement, use funds wisely, improve graduation rates, provide more teacher training, increase parent involvement, meet new academic and performance standards, decrease bullying and hire good teachers and pay them fairly.
Six candidates are running for three open seats on the six-member board of education.
Two, LuAnn Long and Al Loma, have been on the board for the past four years and are seeking re-election.
"The decisions we've made over the last four years, like closing Wasson, was best for kids," Long said, "and we must see that the Optimization of Utilization initiative we started last year is implemented smoothly and successfully. We must make sure we are utilizing our district resources to the best of our ability for the benefit of the students, the district and the stakeholders."
Loma did not reply to a Gazette questionnaire for the online voter guide.
Candidate Jim Mason also ran in 2011, but didn't win a seat. Mason is a retired Army officer with 30 years of military experience who now works as a defense contractor.
He said he is concerned about the number of students who fall short of performing at grade-level standards.
"We must modify practices and programs in such a way that as soon as reasonably possible, we reach the objective in which every student, within their assessed potential, meets or exceeds grade-level proficiency," Mason said. "The board must become more of a public communicator and strategic advocate for our students."
Candidate James Tucker taught social studies at Harrison High School in Colorado Springs for 24 years and coached girls basketball. He also served in the Army and was a Colorado Army National Guardsman for 18 years. Tucker publishes the African American Voice.
He favors giving teachers "the freedom to know and interact meaningfully with students as individuals."
That, Tucker said, "has to become a focus of the entire effort at creating the best learning environment."
He also cites "political mandates and dictates that are out-of-touch with effective pedagogies" and "restoring education as an investment in the public good" as top challenges.
Charlie Bobbitt, a local insurance agent, is a familiar candidate. He served on the D-11 school board for five years in the past and has been a member of several oversight committees, including building accountability and district accreditation.
"I've had many people say District 11 achievement numbers appear to be slipping, and all they can do is close schools. If the district is going to boost student achievement, we must understand why some schools succeed and replicate what is working," Bobbitt said.
"To succeed, a school must have a can-do culture, with a dedicated teaching staff and a principal that sets a positive, professional, secure and welcoming environment."
Linda Mojer is a web management and media consultant who owns With Substance Inc. She also has been the executive director of the Southern Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce since 2008.
Along with responding to state and federal legislative changes in education, she mentions "shifting boundaries, property management and community engagement" as top issues.
"I approach community engagement from the perspective of a longtime Colorado Springs resident and small business owner, whose investment in public education takes the form of support for D-11 as a major primary employer with far-reaching economic impact," Mojer said. "From day-to-day direct spending to outright impact on the income and property tax base, the size, scope and influence of the district workforce is a critical element of the local economy."
Occupation: Insurance Agent
Education: Bachelor’s degree in social science education, Colorado State University
Endorsements: Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors
Experience: Served as a D-11 board of education director for five years and on numerous D-11 committees, including six years on D-11 Accreditation Committee (2007-present), four years on D-11 District Accountability Committee and six years on D-11 Building Accountability Committee
The Rev. Al Loma
Did not participate in The Gazette voter guide
Education: Graduate of Mitchell High School; attended some college
Endorsements: Public Educators Advocating for Kids, Public Education Committee, Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors
Experience: Has been a D-11 board of education director for the past four years. Previously worked for D-11, with children with disabilities, as ESP training coordinator, crisis prevention intervention instructor and in other roles. Former Red Cross volunteer, co-director of the Make a Wish Foundation and co-chair of Women Helping Women
Occupation: Defense contractor
Education: Bachelor of arts, political science, Knox College; master of science, personnel management, Troy University; master of military arts and science, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; graduate, U.S. Army War College
Endorsements: Public Education Committee, Public Educators Advocating for Kids, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors
Experience: Retired Army officer with 30 years of experience leading and training young men and women; chairman of D-11’s Accountability Committee’s budget subcommittee, with more than five years total service on the subcommittee; board member, African American Youth Leadership Conference; member, Academy Optimist Club; president, Xi Pi Chapter, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
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Occupation: Small business owner; executive director of the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce
Education: bachelor of arts, Rollins College
Endorsements: Public Educators Advocating for Kids, Public Education Committee
Experience: My long career in academic and nonprofit environments draws me to public service. As a small business owner, I’m interested in a results-oriented public education system that makes good use of my investment as a taxpayer — to create good workforce and re-build a growth economy. My experience on both sides of board service (as executive staff and as a director) gives me a valuable working familiarity with a policy governance model, which firmly supports collaborative-yet-independent relationships between the strategic functions of the board and management duties of administrators and staff.
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Education: Bachelor of arts, history and political science, Rust College; master of education in counseling and student development from Tuskegee University; Honorary Doctorate of Management from Colorado Technical University; Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College.
Endorsements: D-11 board director Bob Null, Dr. Ruben Martinez, Dr. H. Malcolm Newton, Kevin Williams, Julie Reiskin
Experience: 24 years teaching social studies at Harrison High School and head girls’ basketball coach for five years; publisher, African American Voice and Colorado African Caribbean Heritage Guide; board member, Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition; board member, National Juneteenth Observance Foundation; life member of Veterans of Foreign War, Non-Commissioned Officers Association, The Retired Enlisted Association and the American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO.
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