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Sophomore students in Colorado Springs. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)

Should other school districts follow Monument’s lead and take a stand against new state parameters for sex education? Should values be taught at school? What’s the most pressing issue in your district?

These and other questions were posed to 10 school board candidates from four Colorado Springs school districts by about 75 people Tuesday night at a candidates’ forum at Church for All Nations.

All agreed on the state’s constitutional right of local control of school boards and districts, but they differed on whether districts should reject the new law on sex education, as Lewis-Palmer D-38 in Monument did.

If School District 49 doesn’t follow suit, candidate Rick Van Wieren said, he’ll champion a similar resolution if elected.

“I find House Bill 1032 abhorrent,” he said. “This is not what our state Legislature should be doing.”

Joseph Shelton, running in School District 11, said he supports the law to make “sure our students are getting the proper sex education that matters to them and is representative in all areas.”

Aaron Salt, one of three Academy D-20 candidates running for two open seats, said he favors echoing Monument’s move but isn’t sure the other board members would support him.

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The law “steps on the toes of local control,” he said. “We have politicians writing rules that are stepping over our responsibility and authority.”

D-11 candidate Conner Sargent said the law is “overreach trying to solve a problem that is up to the local school boards and parents,” though D-11 follows the same rules “pretty closely.”

D-11 incumbent Mary Coleman said school boards are nonpartisan and shouldn’t have political conversations. “We are there to do what’s best and right for kids: fiscal oversight, supervision of superintendent and approval of curriculum.”

By contrast, D-20 candidate Heather Cloninger said the issue “has no business in the Legislature period.”

Candidates emphasized their desire for local control and transparency, more parental involvement, controlling costs and better addressing students’ mental and physical health.

“I’m absolutely in favor of parents’ rights and local control,” said Will Temby, an Academy D-20 candidate.

The top issue facing districts?

“In D-11 we are landlocked, we are not experiencing the same growth — about 9,000 of our kids are choicing into surrounding districts,” said candidate Parth Melpakam.

“If we offer safe, welcoming learning environments, unique educational opportunities that meet the academic needs, social-emotional needs of the child, then D-11 can become the premier choice in Colorado Springs.”

“Quality instruction,” said D-11 candidate Jason Jorgensen, a D-11 alum and 10-year teacher.

“We have a fractured trust in the community with the district,” answered Lewis-Palmer D-38 candidate Ryan Graham.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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