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Jefferson School Board

October 13, 2011 | 03:22 PM

Top vote-getters for the two open seats will serve a four-year term. There are no incumbents in this race.


1) With the reality of cutting about $70 million over two years from the budget, where should the district make cuts or look for efficiencies?

2) What are your top two or three priorities as a board member?

3) How do you rate the current board's ability to work as a team on a scale of 1-10, and what quality will you bring to the mix as a team player?

4) If necessary, will you support additional school closings in the district? Explain.

Preston Branaugh

Age: 42

Occupation: Attorney

Address: 13949 W. Colfax Ave. #107, Lakewood, CO 80401


Background: I am a Jeffco native and dad. Having attended Jeffco schools, I am now a business owner operating a law practice in Lakewood. A trained mediator and advisor to more than 100 nonprofits, I know how to solve problems and present creative solutions.

1) Running a successful business has given me the skills needed to make tough spending cuts while maintaining great service. Looking at $70 million dollars in cuts, everything needs to be on the table. As a fiscal conservative, I believe we need to look for efficiencies in all parts of the organization. We need to make sure that the cuts are kept as far from the classroom as possible.

2) As a board member, my top priorities would be championing policies that create the best possible educational opportunities for our students. I would also seek ways to recruit and retain top performing teachers and principals to our schools.

3) 5. My perception is that much of the current dysfunction on the board of education is based upon a distrust that has developed and likely resulted in all parties assuming the worst of each other instead of the best. I will bring the skills I have acquired in my mediation practice. I believe that every current member and candidate for the board of education has only the best intentions in mind for our schools and students.

4) Before more schools are closed we need to vision the educational requirements of the future to be sure we are not closing schools we will need again in five or so years. I would only support additional school closures as a last resort and only when I am certain that the academic needs of students will be met and that the health of our neighborhoods is taken into account.

Jill Fellman
Jill Fellman

Age: 53

Occupation: Retired Educator

Address: 12659 W. 84th Drive, Arvada, 80005

Contact: 303-378-2010

Background: I'm a proud graduate of Alameda HS (1975), a secondary math teacher (18 years at Bear Creek HS and Moore MS), an administrator in curriculum and instruction (12 years at the central level), and a parent of two graduates from Ralston Valley High School.

1) We need to look for efficiencies in the Facilities Master Plan. Making the most efficient use of our facilities will focus decisions on specific cuts that will have the least influence on our children's education. Every facet of the budget must be carefully examined, with priorities assigned in terms of impact on students.

2) I entered this campaign promising three things: leadership, team-building and educational advocacy. The district faces many challenges, all of which will necessitate strong leadership from the board. My first priority is to ensure that the board follows its written governance procedures.

3) While I expect a year from now, the board will be rated as a 10, I would have to rate the board as a 3-4 right now. Having attended many board meetings, I've witnessed the board's struggle to work as a team. I will bring collaboration and problem-solving skills to the board, which will help us craft creative and innovative solutions to the challenges the district faces. Our focus must never stray from the district's mission – to provide a quality education for all students.

4) School closings is always a painful option – but must be considered with all other possible solutions in our responsible stewardship of public funds. When school closings make economic sense, and when we can advance in that direction without negatively affecting quality education for Jeffco students, the board must actively lead the local school communities through those difficult changes.

Lesley Dahlkemper
Lesley Dahlkemper

Age: 44

Occupation: President, Schoolhouse Communications

Address: 12854 W. Harvard Dr., Lakewood, CO 80228

Contact: 303-987-1535 or

Background: As a small business owner, I know successful schools prepare our future workforce and keep property values strong. I lead a national award-winning communications firm and was a former education reporter for Colorado Public Radio. I live in Lakewood with my husband, Mike Feeley, and daughter Grace, a Jeffco third-grader.

1) Everything must be on the table. I will be one person on a five-member board that will collectively weigh the pros and cons of each budget decision, actively seek community input, look at best practices elsewhere, listen to the advice of staff and provide leadership to make difficult decisions.

2) 1) Ensure students receive a challenging, well-rounded education that prepares them for tomorrow's jobs, careers and college. 2) Make every school in Jeffco a top choice for students – whether it's a neighborhood, charter or option school. 3) Involve our community – tough economic times make community involvement even more critical. 4) Leverage taxpayer dollars effectively.

3) 3. Our school board needs proven leaders to work collaboratively with stakeholders to find solutions to difficult issues. I offer extensive experience in the private sector leading discussions to find common ground. I also have served in leadership positions on national and local boards. Our board must focus on how its work helps Jeffco students achieve success – not infighting or personal agendas.

4) In this budget climate, the board must consider everything – including school closures. No one wants to close schools, but I won't shy away from tough decisions as long as those decisions are right for Jeffco kids. Any decisions made by the board must be grounded in data analysis, lots of parent/community input and strategic decision-making.

Jim Powers
Jim Powers

Age: 44

Occupation: Architect

Address: 12081 W. Alameda Parkway, #409, Lakewood, CO 80228

Contact: Info@JimPowersfor

Background: I am a dad with four children from ages 2 to 10. I spent all of my school years in public schools. I am a successful business owner who operates an architectural firm that I founded in 1999.

1) Tough economic times call for more innovative solutions to Jeffco's expense reductions. The district needs to engage stakeholders to view spending with new ideas that can save money without impacting the academic performance of students. In addition to gathering community feedback, we should ask the front line staff; bus drivers, teachers, principals and others for their thoughts and look at all overhead for reductions to assure we spend as much of what we have as possible on what directly impacts students.

2) 1) Set meaningful and measurable objectives to improve student achievement. 2) Balance Jeffco's budget while maintaining high academic standards for students. 3) Support neighborhood and charter schools, option schools and innovative public schools to assure parental school choice.

3) I rate the current school board with a 3. As an architect, I am practiced at orchestrating agreements between project participants. I do this by listening to all sides and recommending solutions that address the concerns of the client as well as the builder. As a board member I will seek to resolve conflict collaboratively and creatively through clear, honest communication, careful listening, openness to new information and ideas, and respect for others.

4) School closings impact students, their families neighborhoods and property values. There are costs to relocate students, build new facilities, and add on to existing facilities. I don't support the current plan that closes 10 elementary schools, limits choice and costs $500 million to implement. I would not make such an important decision without thoughtful consideration of these issues.

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