Let's Talk

Susan is committed to engaging all stakeholders throughout her campaign. Only when we build strong relationships with students, teachers, families and community members can we best meet the needs of each and every student.

Please send your questions, concerns or anything you'd like to discuss. If you would like to ask Susan a question, please email or use the Contact form.

We look forward to hearing from you!

What is your background?

Clare from Parker asked, "Where did you grow up and attend college?"

A:

I grew up in Florida, where I was born, and moved to Highlands Ranch with my husband 18 years ago. We have two grown children who are both in college now.

I’m a first generation college graduate, who graduated in four year from James Madison University where I earned a double major in International Business and in Management, and also a minor in French. I was recruited by the U.S. Department of the Navy as a contract negotiator and attended classes in the evening while working full time. I graduated with an MBA in Business Economics and Public Policy from George Washington University.

With nearly 30 years of experience and the majority of it focused on public education, my work has mostly involved strategy and communications

Why do you want to run for the school board?

Sean from Highlands Ranch asked, "Why do you want to run for the school board?"

A:

Every student should have the freedom to attend a quality public school. They deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential and to participate meaningfully in the civic and economic life of the community. Public education is about closing opportunity gaps and opening doors for every student. 

Given my passion for public education and for serving, I cannot imagine a better volunteer role for me at this time in my life. My professional experience over the last 5+ years working with superintendents and school board members across the state has made me knowledgeable in understanding the role of school board members and the challenges that our schools face. More specifically, my skill sets are perfectly aligned with the work necessary in the school district. The district’s strategic planning process is well underway and my experience in strategy, state policy, school finance and board development would benefit the district leadership team.

 

How does working at CASB influence your ability to serve on the Douglas County School Board?

Laura from Parker asked, "How does working at CASB influence your ability to serve on the Douglas County School Board?"

A:

The Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) is a non-profit membership organization with the mission of advancing excellence in public education through effective leadership by locally elected boards of education.

All of Colorado's 178 school districts have chosen to be members of CASB and benefit from services, information and professional development programs to support school board members as they govern their local districts. My work at CASB as the Director of Strategic Engagement and Communications is focused on providing tools and resources to school boards across the state. Just like any other school board member, I will abide by DCSD policies and applicable laws regarding conflict of interest and will take the required steps, including recusing myself from a vote, if a conflict of interest arises.  

My work at CASB will help the Douglas County School Board in its work because I will be able to share:

  • innovative practices from other Boards of Education,
  • state-level resources that can benefit the District, and
  • lessons-learned when it comes to effective board governance. 

What is your education philosophy?

Sarah in Parker asked, "What is your education philosophy? In other words, do you believe children are more than a test score? Do you value arts and musical education? How will you work to apply what science is saying about how children actually learn to our district? What will you do to help children with special needs in our district?"

A:

Education of our students should be balanced, meaningful, and inclusive of all students.

Children are so much more than a test score. It is so often the arts and extracurriculars that drive our students. My youngest daughter was passionate about theatre and my oldest about soccer. It was these outside interests that helped drive their engagement in school. We talk about the need for skills in collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. The arts, music and other extra curricular activities provide great opportunities for our students to develop these other critical skills. We need to incorporate multiple measures in evaluating student learning to better reflect and communicate growth of the whole child.

As a professional in public education, I am continually reading about best practices in education, attending conferences and working with experts in the field in order to learn more and keep current. Public education is about closing opportunity gaps and opening doors for each and every student in the district. This is true for students with special needs, students learning English, students who are gifted and talented, and for all students. 

For children with special needs, the funding shortfall is significant. The federal law requiring schools to meet the needs of students with disabilities — Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) — offers current federal funding of approximately 16-17 percent of the actual cost, and not the 40 percent standard set by initial legislation. Currently, Colorado school districts are reimbursed approximately 17 cents for every dollar the federal government requires we spend on education under IDEA. As a school board member, I would advocate for full funding of IDEA.

By building on a foundation that values every one of the 68,000 students our school board is charged with servicing, Douglas County School District can build on the important work underway.

Can you describe your support for charter schools and school choice? And how they compare to neighborhood schools?

A:

I am in favor of public school choice, where public dollars fund public schools. Given this investment by our taxpayers, public accountability is essential. Public school choice includes charters. In contrast, I do not support private school choice, and I feel very strongly about that. Private school choice means using public tax dollars to fund private school options. We need to keep public tax dollars in our public schools. Douglas County has 91 schools – those 91 schools (charter, magnet and neighborhood schools) are our schools. We need to embrace all our schools and make sure that we are using our resources efficiently to serve all 68,000 kids in those 91 schools.

Another point worth mentioning is that both charter and neighborhood schools are harmed when there are inefficiencies as resources are not maximized to benefit all our schools. Prior boards (2009-2017) often approved charters without consideration of an area’s local needs or efficient use of taxpayer dollars. As a result, DCSD currently has over- and underutilized schools resulting in the current need for district-wide school capacity and boundary analysis.

How do you feel about school budget cuts and making choices

Kantan asked, "How do you feel about school budget cuts and the choice between Athletics vs Music/Arts?"

A:

Kantan,

Thank you for contacting me.  Regarding your question, I would like to see an increase in DCSD's funding, both locally and state-wide. I have been advocating for this for years at my full-time job.  

Unfortunately, difficult decisions do have to be made when there are funding shortages. I do not think one area (Athletics, Music, Band, Theatre, etc.) should have to sustain more cuts than another area.  All of these areas are important to our students, staff, and community. 

Also worth mentioning, I was able to spend time yesterday at ThunderRidge High School talking to several different classes and this topic was one that was brought up repeatedly. In addition to mentioning the need to advocate for more school funding, I pointed out that each school has a School Accountability Committee where funding priorities are discussed. I encouraged students to be engaged in that process and make sure their voices are heard during this important process.

I hope you are able to attend the student-led forum at Ponderosa High School on 10/21.

Would you be in favor of the reinstatement of a collective bargaining agreement between the district and the teachers' union?

Colorado Community Media asks, "Would you be in favor of the reinstatement of a collective bargaining agreement between the district and the teachers' union?"

A:

As a school board member, one of the highest priorities we have is to make sure the district is able to attract and retain the highest quality teachers. Teachers are, after all, the experts in the classroom that work closest with students. Therefore, the teacher voice is one of the most important stakeholder voices and is fundamental to problem solving and continuous improvement in the school district, whether we are talking safety, curriculum, class size, or student engagement and well-being.

In order to make the best, most effective decisions related to the teaching and learning environment, we need teachers to play an active, collaborative role with those decisions. Our neighboring districts, with whom we compete for highly-qualified teachers, utilize a collective bargaining agreement and I am open to researching the pros and cons as we determine how best to recruit and retain the very best teachers.

How has the proliferation of charter schools impacted the district?

Colorado Community Media asks, "How has the proliferation of charter schools impacted the district?"

A:

In 2011, DCSD served 60,000 students in 80 schools. Today it serves 68,000 students in 91 schools. The new schools added during this time frame were all charter schools and they were used to address this student growth.

Both charter and neighborhood schools are harmed when there are inefficiencies as resources are not maximized to benefit all our schools.  Prior boards (2009-2017) often approved charters without consideration of an area’s local needs or efficient use of taxpayer dollars.  As a result, DCSD currently has over- and underutilized schools resulting in the current need for district-wide school capacity and boundary analysis.

What can be done to enhance security at district schools?

Colorado Community Media asks, "What can be done to enhance security at district schools?"

A:

Student safety weighs on all of us. When I worked in the district, I was part of the District Crisis Team. That work was the most heart-wrenching and grueling work I did in the district. It also was some of the most important work to help the students, teachers, families and community heal after tragedies. 

 

  • Identify and act on warning signs
    • Bystander response & reporting – train on warning signs and how to report
    • Share information – develop systems
    • Threat assessment & management – ensure a trained, multidisciplinary team 

 

 

  • Create & maintain a positive school climate
    • Safety, respect and emotional support in schools
    • Physical and emotional safety; bonding to school; fair and consistent discipline; respectful and supportive relationships; systems for addressing safety concerns; respect for diversity; youth involvement/engagement

 

 

  • Focus on addressing the root causes of youth violence
    • Intervention and prevention

 

Nothing is more important than the safety of each and every student in Douglas County School District. No single step results in school safety. School safety comes from a comprehensive and multifaceted approach that must involve stakeholder engagement. 

We need to listen to the experts in the field and honor the research-based practices recommended by the experts. There is a comprehensive safety plan in the District and our focus should be on working the plan – a plan is only as good as the implementation of that plan. 

What is your plan for furthering mental health services in DCSD?

This question was from the student-led forum: What is your plan for furthering mental health services in DCSD?

A:

When I talk about why I am running for school board, I always lead with ensuring we have safe and welcoming schools. In order for students to thrive and learn, we need this foundation in place.

The prevalence of mental health concerns is truly concerning. While this is a societal issue, our schools are on the front-line in helping and partnering with other agencies to help address:

  • 1 in 4 adults have a mental health concern
  • 1 in 5 youth age 13-18 years old 
  • 50% of all lifetime cases of mental disorders begin by age 14
  • 50% of students age 14 and older with a mental disorder drop out of high school
  • ⅔ of youth with mental disorders do not receive treatment
  • 90% of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders
  • Colorado has the highest rate of youth suicide in the nation

What has been done so far?

  • Thanks to the local MLO override dollars passed last year, for the first time in its history, DCSD has a school counselor in every elementary school.
  • The DCSD Strategic Plan includes:

What can be done?

  • Include a more comprehensive response to mental health tips when they come through Text-a-tip or Safe2Tell. 
  • Fund assessments in each school in order to understand strengths, needs and gaps in mental health and student safety.
  • Fund programming including social emotional learning, mental health services, and suicide prevention and intervention, that is supported by the assessments.
  • Reducing the stigma of mental health.
  • Train staff and SROs on trauma informed curriculum and practices.

How do you plan to combat the abuse of Safe2Tell and other anonymous reporting services?

Question prepared for the student-led forum: How do you plan to combat the abuse of Safe2Tell and other anonymous reporting services?

A:

About a week ago, I was able to spend a day at ThunderRidge High School (along with a couple of other candidates) to hear directly from students and this topic is one that came up over and over again.

Safe2Tell was created in the aftermath of Columbine. The Commission’s final report found that “young people are reluctant to report threats due to a student culture that fosters and enforces a ‘code of silence.’” Out of this report, an anonymous process was created — Safe2Tell.

  • In 81% of cases, other people knew about an attack before it took place -- meaning that at least one person had information that the attacker was thinkign about or planning the school attack.
  • In 93% of these cases, the person who knew was a peer (friend, schoolmate, sibling)

Bystander response and reporting is a foundational area for school safety and this is what Safe2Tell is about.

  • 93.8% of actionable tips submitted in good faith for early intervention purposes.
  • Only 2.4% are non-actionable tips received with malicious intent that contain false info to harm, injure or bully another person.
  • The other 3.8% are non-actionable tips received with non-malicious intent

I was fortunate to help put on a conference last Friday for school board members where school safety, violence prevention and mental health were the key topics throughout the day. I talked with a program director for Safe2Tell about how to combat the misuse of the program and whether removing the anonymous nature might be an approach.

According to the Safe2Tell program director:

  • Other states that do not have anonymity in place, receive far fewer tips than we do. Removing the anonymity would likely reduce tips.
  • What we need to do is focus on educating and increasing awareness of the purpose of the program.
  • Enhance efforts to assist schools with cultivating positive cultures and climate.

Given the current situation in the district regarding buses, infrastructure needs, compensation, and operating budgets, what is your fiscal plan for the next several years?

Question from the student-led forum: Given the current situation in the district regarding buses, infrastructure needs, compensation, and operating budgets, what is your fiscal plan for the next several years?

 

 

 

A:

The root cause of all of these challenges ties back to the school funding crisis we have in Colorado. Our school funding ranks as one of the lowest in the nation. And yes, funding matters if we want to:

  • Decrease class sizes
  • Pay teachers more
  • Attract bus drivers and pay for buses
  • Pay for building maintenance needs
  • And the list goes on.

If the state were fully meeting its funding obligation to DCSD, we would have $41 million more through the School Finance Act. And since cuts were first made at the state level in 2009-10, DCSD has lost nearly $600 M in funding. ($585M)

What is my plan?

  1. Work with the Superintendent to understand the funding priorities and needs based on the new strategic plan. 
  2. Ensure that our funding priorities reflect the community’s input (student, teachers, parents, businesses, etc).
  3. Advocate at the state level for adequate, equitable and sustainable funding for our schools.
  4. Advocate at the federal level. Congress has never fully funded the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The federal law offers current federal funding of 16-17% of the actual cost. It is time we advocate to get to the 40% standard set by the initial legislation!

 

As a school board member, I will rely on my extensive history of advocating for our public schools, of bringing together diverse organizations and forming strong coalitions to move our district forward.

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