Election 2021 Q&As: Candidates for Littleton school board

Colorado Community Media
Posted 10/5/21

Voters in the Littleton Public Schools district, which includes parts of Centennial and Englewood, will select three Board of Education directors from among five candidates in the election that ends …

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Election 2021 Q&As: Candidates for Littleton school board

Posted

Voters in the Littleton Public Schools district, which includes parts of Centennial and Englewood, will select three Board of Education directors from among five candidates in the election that ends Nov. 2. Ballots go into the mail starting Oct. 8.

The top three vote-getters will win the election. The candidates are Angela Christensen, Dale Elliott, Andrew Graham, Jon Lisec and Joan Ripepi-Anderssen.

Colorado Community Media sent questionnaires to each candidate to help voters learn more about them. Here are their responses, edited for clarity.

Angela Christensen

Occupation: Board of Education director for Littleton Public Schools 

Campaign website/contact information: angelaforlps.com 

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

I want to continue my service on the LPS Board of Education because of my passion and belief in the power of public education and the impact it has on our entire community. I believe that a board of education is entrusted with the legacy of all boards that came before them while stepping boldly into the future of public education. We must be committed to providing a path for all students to find success while continuing to support our teachers, staff and administrators. I want to provide the vision, support and opportunities to make this a reality.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

Over the past decade, I have volunteered over 8,500 hours in LPS. I have a depth of knowledge at both the school and district level. My experience includes serving as a current school board director, co-chairperson of the Citizens for LPS Yes on 4C campaign last fall, president of the PTO President's Council, chairperson of the JPTO Scholarship Committee, Financial Accountability Committee, LPS Foundation Board of Directors and PTO and School Accountability Committees at every level. This experience and my understanding of the uniqueness of LPS will be key as I continue my role as a school board director.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

This will be the first time in eight years that the LPS Board of Education will have three seats up for election. My first priority in office will be to work with current and new board members to build a new, cohesive board that can work together for the collective good of all students, teachers, staff and administrators, as well as the greater community. A strong team working together can ensure our students the opportunity to receive the high-quality education that all previous students have received and we as a community have come to expect.

What in your view is the greatest single issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how would you address it? 

With declining enrollment and a poor funding model from the state, we have had to operate within very small confines. Our local community has continually supported us through mill levy overrides but that is not the ultimate solution. The state funding model needs to change. I commit to continuing my work with organizations such as the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado School Finance Project, in addition to advocating to our state legislature to help find permanent solutions to the ongoing funding crisis that is public education in Colorado. 

As things stand now, should students be required to wear masks in class, or should mask-wearing be voluntary? 

I would love for our schools to be back to the greatest sense of normalcy possible. With that in mind, LPS must operate within the rules and regulations defined by other agencies designed to protect the health and safety of our students and employees. Students need to be in school. The social and emotional benefits of in-person learning can't be overemphasized. Ultimately, I would like to see our parents have the option of masking their students. Until the public health order is lifted, I would support masking if we can avoid going back to remote or hybrid learning.

What are your views on the district's current policies regarding the teaching of racial issues in American society? 

While concepts such as critical race theory and the 1619 project are not currently part of the adopted curriculum for any Colorado K-12 school, I understand that this has become a divisive issue in our nation. Our current approach to teaching U.S. history is factual and age-appropriate while not making any child feel guilty for their race or background. My hope is that each student leaves LPS with a deeper understanding of our country, skills to listen to understand (even if they disagree) the views of others and that they will be respectful of all people.

Dale Elliott 

Occupation: President of E-Corp construction 

Campaign website/contact information: DALE.ECORP@MAIL.COM 

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

There are no other candidates that I see who opposed Critical Race Theory as I do. This is a crossroads in American education and I believe the voters must decide which way to go.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

I enjoy many years of perspective, both in the Air Force and in running my own business. My most important qualification is that I have a clear memory of what an idyllic time the later 1950s were, in which we did not have the contention or turmoil that we do now. I would wish any child could have that time to learn and grow as I did. 

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

I wish to determine if any, or how much of the Critical Race Theory curriculum has penetrated Littleton Public Schools. Until one is elected, a single person has little chance to penetrate the education establishment. A parent in Manhattan tried to do that and the teachers' union got her fired by her employer. 

What in your view is the greatest single issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how would you address it? 

I think the Critical Race Theory which is surging across our country today, is the single issue. Do we, as parents, want to instruct our children with the hopeless drivel that is contained in this theory? In fact, it is many theories, not a coherent theory at all. This is a catch-all for grievances and hatred against one another. It is a horror movie that should not be shown in our primary or secondary schools.

As things stand now, should students be required to wear masks in class, or should mask-wearing be voluntary? 

“Masks or not?” is an unsolvable problem. Many want masks to defend their children at all costs. Some want the independence and freedom to decide for themselves. The science of vaccination is accepted, and should be the starting point to guide our decisions. One solution would be to simply isolate the two different groups of children — a bad solution, but it would work.

What are your views on the district's current policies regarding the teaching of racial issues in American society? 

I am opposed to teaching racial issues other than history. I am specifically opposed to any teaching of Critical Race Theory in primary or secondary schools. In college, one is free to study what he wishes.

Andrew Graham

Occupation: President and CEO of Clinic Service

Campaign website/contact information: AndrewG4Colorado.com

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

To: Champion innovative new educational programs and opportunities. Let's go to outer space! Actively support increased mental health support services and programs. Integrate LPS with our business community, community leaders, government agencies and others and create partnerships for career exploration, sponsorship and supporting the desired learning outcomes. Utilize the principles of improvisation and collaboration to brainstorm, develop and champion cool learning opportunities. Ensure the safety and security of all LPS communities. Maintain fiscal responsibility. Facilitate current and long-term future prosperity pathways for all LPS students. Oversee the implementation of the LPS strategic plan.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

Listening skills. The Board is the voice of our community. We partner with teachers, administrators and students to implement the mission, vision and goals of the Littleton School District. One of my skill sets is to listen to many disparate voices and distill areas of commonality, consensus and direction. We have been LPS parents for 19 years. We certainly had many great school days and some not-so-great. My family has experienced a lot in that time, including the trauma and terror that impacts our students. It's a little bit of everything that brings me to this opportunity. 

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

In my first 100 days, I will be paying particular attention to the 2021-22 year and how we are progressing, learning of and attending the myriad number of events and activities in the district, understanding the budget planning process and meeting many of the key people who make LPS thrive.  I will also work with other board members to ensure we can collaborate well together. 

What in your view is the greatest single issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how would you address it? 

Keeping a good balance between school enrollments and the availability of high-quality programs across the district is an ongoing challenge. The board's role is to ensure all LPS students find pathways for success in their life. Some of our students will attend college, others serve in our armed forces, some will get jobs and others will march to their own drum. All of these possibilities offer a great and creative opportunity to champion and support more innovation in LPS. Having served on the Planning Team, I am an active champion for The Career Exploration Center, scheduled to open in 2023.

As things stand now, should students be required to wear masks in class, or should mask-wearing be voluntary? 

As I write this is an ever-changing situation. I watch the local stats nearly daily and they appear well managed. The politics around this are numbing. If wearing masks in school is what keeps schools open and my kids with their buddies, then I will support masks. Feedback from the kids is (that) they largely don't mind. I don't like masks or living in fear of cooties. That said, I am for taking personal responsibility for my health and the well-being of those around me. I am for my kids being in school with their friends. 

What are your views on the district's current policies regarding the teaching of racial issues in American society? 

LPS schools help students to develop skills and frameworks to view these past and current realities through lenses that consider political, social, environmental, legal, technological, cultural and many other impacts of those events.  We should have an open discussion, analysis and critical thinking of local, national and world events. Any theory should be reviewed against others objectively. When our kids become LPS alumni, we want them all to have eyes wide open, brains in their heads, character in their core, kindness in their spirit, collaboration in their hearts and contagious optimism that serves others and leads our future. 

Jon Lisec 

Occupation: Senior solutions architect at a software firm

Campaign website/contact information: jonforlps.com 

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

I am proud of LPS and its consistent reputation as a high-performing district. A strong school district is an important part of the community.  It brings in families and teachers to live and raise children, increases property values and provides well-educated citizens. I would like to contribute and give something back to the district that provided me many opportunities during and my time there, as well as for my children currently enrolled and for future generations as well.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

Important traits are my ability to listen, consider multiple viewpoints and work towards consensus. With a five-member school board, I believe my ability to work within a team environment and contribute to the development of highly effective teams is valuable. I see many similarities between the skills developed in my career, such as striving to be a lifelong learner and the ability to quickly come up to speed on complex topics and challenges. I have volunteered time as a PTO board member, an accountability committee facilitator and formed relationships that give me a start on understanding the district.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

It has been a challenging year for everyone, especially for educators. Specifically, in the near term, I would want to understand and ensure the board is providing support for the morale and mental health of all employees. In general, the priority would be developing relationships with the other board members, gaining a better understanding of the issues and challenges facing the district and contributing to policies to help address them.

What in your view is the greatest single issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how would you address it? 

One of my top concerns is to ensure we are able to continue to attract and retain the high-quality educators and administrators LPS has and is known for. Colorado ranks near the top with the level of workforce education but ranks near the bottom for teacher wage competitiveness and per-pupil funding, which frustrates me. Longer-term it would be beneficial to address the teacher shortage issue, examine how to make education careers more attractive and more effective management of the growing teacher workloads.

As things stand now, should students be required to wear masks in class, or should mask-wearing be voluntary? 

The past year has shown me, as a parent, as well as a community member, that students learn most effectively while in the classroom. While LPS went above and beyond to support multiple modes of learning (in-person, hybrid and 100% online) the consensus is that kids prefer being in school. Therefore, I support measures to protect in-person learning, as well as allowing interaction with friends, other students, teachers and administrators.  It is my understanding public schools are legally obligated to follow public health orders for the county they reside in. 

What are your views on the district's current policies regarding the teaching of racial issues in American society? 

It is my understanding the Colorado Department of Education is the primary provider of guidelines for the content and curricula for the districts across the state. One of the roles as a board member would be to advocate or provide feedback to the state legislature to potentially change those guidelines. That being said, I believe one aspect of a well-rounded, high-quality education is the presentation and discussion of a wide variety of viewpoints and perspectives.  Topics to promote discussion and encourage critical thinking are one facet of a quality education, aren't they? 

Joan Ripepi-Anderssen

Occupation: Economics and Finance faculty at Arapahoe Community College

Campaign website/contact information: joan4lps.com 

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

LPS is a great school district. I want to help build on the district's success.  I'm dedicated to using our resources well and enhancing and promoting early childhood education, career tech and concurrent enrollment. With my background in education and advanced classroom technology, I have the right skills to help contribute and I want to be involved.

What would you say are your most important qualifications for the office you're seeking?

I have 25 years of teaching experience and have been recognized as distinguished faculty. As a financial specialist, I understand school finances and budgets. I'm also a recognized leader (I have won several awards) in classroom technologies for instruction and for remote learning. I believe that we need to use all the tools available to provide an exceptional education, and I have the right experience to help the district make more use of those tools.

If elected, what would be your first priority in office?

Keeping the schools open safely is my top priority. I want to make sure kids are safely back in the classroom to the greatest extent possible. After that, I would like to help build a funding formula that focuses on student success. I also will work hard at building concurrent enrollment with Arapahoe Community College and build strong liaisons with the community for the Career Tech Center.

What in your view is the greatest single issue facing Littleton Public Schools and how would you address it? 

I believe the greatest issue facing LPS is safety, both physical and mental. Children should be in the classroom as much as possible, and whether in the classroom or remote they should not feel isolated. I believe firmly in the first of LPS's core beliefs: education prepares all students to succeed in a global society. 

As things stand now, should students be required to wear masks in class, or should mask-wearing be voluntary? 

Littleton Public Schools is bound by the Tri-County Health authority and must follow its mandates. Since isolation is a leading cause of mental health problems, I want all students to come to school in a safe environment. If masks are deemed by Tri-County Health to keep students safe, they should be kept safe.

What are your views on the district's current policies regarding the teaching of racial issues in American society? 

Teaching history is an important part of education, and it is important that we teach the facts of our history. I believe in the skills and dedication of our students and know they can handle the truth of our past.

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