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El Paso County Colorado District 49

New D 49 board members

Three El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education members were elected in November. Jamilynn DíAvola won in District 1, displacing Dave Cruson; Ivy Liu, incumbent, will continue to represent District 4; Lori Thompson won in District 5, replacing Kevin Butcher, who served eight years on the board.Board President John Graham, District 3, and Rick Van Wieren, secretary ó District 2, will continue to serve their term limits.Graham has served District 3 for six years; his term limit is 2023. ìMy position has always been that I will stay on the board as long as I am of value and people want me on the board,î he said. ìIíve been told, donít leave the board.îHe said the role of the board is to represent the voters of the district. ìThe administrationís job is to represent the staff; we represent the voters,î Graham said. ìIíve said that from Day One.î He said with over 133 square miles and about 32 schools, including charter schools, there are many stakeholders the board represents.With this election, Graham said the candidates won ìoverwhelmingly by at least a margin of two to oneî even when the candidates had opponents. ìThat is our community expressing their support for what those candidates stood for, which is to focus on student achievement and not on the things that were controversial during the election cycle, like masks, vaccines or critical race theory,î he said.District 49 is a terrific school district, Graham said. ìWe have dedicated employees and teachers who go the extra mile to create a positive experience for our students.îJamilynn DíAvola is a mother, a conservative and has a strong Christian faith, she said. She also taught for 13 years. ìI want to make sure our education system is teaching our children well,î she said. DíAvola said she believes all students deserve the best education; and, as a school board member, it will be her role to make sure that is happening.She said her experience as a teacher will be beneficial to the board. ìThereís a lot of things that people conceptualize, especially around curriculum and educational practices, but without being in the school system themselves, itís hard to really understand,î she said. ìI think it will be valuable for the board to have someone with an education background and experience in the educational system.îDíAvola said she received positive responses regarding her values and vision for the district. ìVoters apparently agreed that schools should focus on academics and avoid issues like†critical race theory†and†sex education†that†could go against family values,î she said.ìI am really excited to be serving my district. I will hold very strongly to the values I ran on; I am a person of integrity and what I set out to do I will accomplish. Ö I want my district to reach out to me and hold me accountable because I represent them.îIvy Liu, director, said the last six-plus months have been amazing and a ìrapid fire learningî experience. ìI feel very honored and am looking forward to working with the new board to strategize and collaborate intensively with the administration and staff toward strengthening D 49’s academic†achievements.îDirector district model drops some votersIn Novemberís issue of The New Falcon Herald, a letter to the editor addressed the districtís voting system for board members. The writer was surprised when she opened her ballot and found there was no D 49 school board candidate. In 2015, ballot measure 3A (referred to as the director district model) was approved, restructuring how the board members would represent geographical areas in the district. The letter writer asked about the ballot measure that changed things, and Brett Ridgway, D 49 chief business officer, responded.Ridgway said the ballot measure was initiated because about 20 years ago, problems related to district representation caused controversy among board members. Ridgway said they regularly saw large swings of influence back-and-forth across the district; usually†from the Falcon area to the Powers Corridor area and back; while the Sand Creek area (south Powers) usually had little to no representation.The district had already been reorganized in 2011 to define three geographic zones; therefore, it made sense to ensure the zones had consistent representation.†He said the director district model provides several benefits: It allows for school board candidates to be more localized, people living in that district have a better chance of getting to know their director (who might even be a neighbor), and directors have a better chance of meeting the people in their district especially since at present, D 49 has about 100,000 residents.ìThe ballot from 2015 passed overwhelmingly (3-1), and has led to a great era of stability in D 49,î Ridgway said. ìThe fact that the measure passed with over 75% approval is democracy in action.îGraham said he originally opposed the ballot, but has since changed his mind and understands the districtís reasoning. ìRegarding this last election, people seemed to want to vote for the very conservative candidates, and they might have been frustrated if the candidates in their district werenít conservative enough,î he said. In breaking down the areas, it decentralizes and gives people a more localized voice, Graham said.DíAvola said she originally thought everyone should be able to vote for any candidate. ìIn the end, having districts that represent different groups of people, ensures that each group of people, no matter where they live, has a voice on the board and not always just the majority,î she said.All board members were contacted for this article: Rick Van Wieren and Lori Thompson did not respond.

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