“I believe strongly in the ability of all children to succeed if they are given the opportunity. Opportunity comes through educational equity and looking closely at how we're supporting students across the district, regardless of zip code. I am seeking the school board seat to advocate for policies and practices that address the needs of Jeffco kids, so that all students see their future in Jeffco through high-quality college, career, and community readiness from early childhood through graduation. To get there, the district must prioritize competitive compensation for educators so we can attract and retain passionate and talented teachers and support staff within the county. We must also build upon the mental health and social-emotional supports provided to students so that they are able to learn and to succeed.” - Stephanie Schooley
What is your motivation to become a member of the Jeffco School Board?
My motivation to serve on the Jeffco board of education stems from my lived experiences centered around a core value for me: educational equity. I believe strongly in the ability of all children to succeed if they are given the opportunity. Opportunity comes through educational equity and looking closely at how we're supporting students across the district, regardless of zip code.
I am seeking the school board seat to advocate for equitable policies and practices that address the diverse needs of Jeffco students. I have two kids in Jeffco schools, have served as the co-president of the school PTA, have served on the district's accountability committee, and have been a vocal advocate for transparent processes in district decision making. I have a 20-year background in higher education and K-H partnerships and focused on conflict resolution and community organizing for my graduate degree. These connected experiences make me a strong advocate for schools, for families, and for kids.
What is your vision for education in the Jeffco community?
It is my vision that all students see their future in Jeffco through high-quality college, career, and community readiness from early childhood through high school graduation. I support Jeffco Generations, the district's strategic plan, and believe that we must focus on 21st century skill development in addition to content mastery for our students to succeed in our rapidly-changing world. Eighty-five percent of the jobs our kids will have after graduation do not yet exist.
Our communities need strategic thinkers, collaborators, individuals who can work across difference, and innovators in order to thrive. My vision is an engaged educational experience for all students that teaches them what they need to know and how their learning is connected to the world around them.
How can or does a district attract and retain quality teachers?
Jefferson County is an amazing place to live, work, and play. We have a responsibility to educators and support staff to provide competitive pay that allows individuals the ability to live in the communities in which they work. The district must continue to prioritize the people who make our schools great through increased pay that is competitive with surrounding districts.
We also need to continue fostering a climate and culture of respect and professional recognition for educators and administrators. One strategy for doing so is through professional development and investment in the continuous learning of educators. Professional development focuses resources on the keys to student success - their teachers and support staff. The district cannot achieve its vision and goals without an investment in educators.
How would you handle individual or special requests if approached by a member of the community? Special interest groups? Teachers?
I have a history and practice of collaboration across diverse groups and individuals. In my professional life, listening to the needs of stakeholders on campuses and within communities, bringing people together in solution-focused dialogues, and developing programming and next steps based on best practices and learning is central to what I do. I will bring these skills into my role on the board of education, listening to the needs and challenges of individuals and groups, convening diverse voices to contribute ideas, and bringing forward the very best of those ideas for our kids. I may not always make decisions that are unanimously supported but I will be thoughtful and open to all possibilities, keeping the learning and well being of Jeffco students front and center.
What is the role of a Jeffco School Board member?
The role of school board member can look differently to some than to others. As a member of the Jeffco Board of Education I believe we are thought partners with the superintendent to pressure test ideas, to challenge assumptions, and to support decisions that are in the best interest of the district. This can all happen in a collegial way that opens conversations and possibilities where they may have been stifled previously. Board members are also charged with ensuring accountability in the performance of the superintendent.
To administrators, I believe board members set priorities based on listening to the needs of educators, school support personnel, families, and students. It is the responsibility of board members to check district policies, funding priorities, and vision with the real needs of schools and communities. Members of the board of education can reinforce those priorities and set a high standard for organizational culture and leadership.
Any decision made through a board of education should answer the question, “Will this decision make it easier and/or more effective for educators and school support personnel to do their work?”. I believe strongly in community-informed decision making and do not think five members of a board of education should make decisions that affect 86,000 students without the input of educators and school support personnel.
Students are the reason why boards of education exist, to provide leadership and governance within the district that helps ensure a high-quality education for all K-12 youth. I believe strongly in community-informed decision making and do not think five members of a board of education should make decisions that affect 86,000 students without the input of those students and their families.
What is working well for Jeffco Schools?
I believe the Jeffco school board is moving in the right direction in terms of supporting a unified vision, articulated through Jeffco Generations. I believe that Jeffco Generations elevates more traditional learning and skill development with the human skills and engaged learning our students need to be successful in this world. The board of education is responsive to input from the District Accountability Committee (DAC) that includes feedback from individual school accountability committees, in prioritizing district funding. Jeffco is a diverse district covering 14 cities and towns in a large geographic area. One of the best things about Jeffco is the diversity of identity within the district. It is a strength, both for the county and for our school district, if we can honor it and make sure people feel like they’re being heard.
How can Jeffco Schools improve?
I do not think the district administration has created sufficient processes or policies for engaging with the community. This is more than school visits (though those are important). The district needs to integrate community input into decision making in a meaningful way.
There is also a disparity in how schools are resourced and supported across the district. I see schools in District 3 articulation areas that are getting left behind. A conversation about deep equity issues in the district and action thereafter is imperative.
Resource allocation is a huge challenge and has created serious chasms between the board of education, district administrators, and educators. I don’t pretend to understand the finer points of the district’s budget but I do believe strongly in taking care of people, first and foremost.