Kevin Larsen, likely the next Douglas County School Board president, said he hopes to help mend the rift in the community created during the recent election.
Now vice president of the board, Larsen is expected to fill the lead position vacated by term-limited president John Carson.
A believer in the board’s education reform policies, Larsen said he’s pleased the candidates who share those beliefs won the Nov. 5 election. But he also recognizes that not everyone feels the same way.
“Part of my belief is I’m in the right place at the right time for what Douglas County needs,” he said. “I’m going to offer everything I can as a leader to get this community together, and to make education deliver what we need to for these kids.”
Larsen said the quantity of votes the losing candidates received exceeds that of any other school board candidates in any previous race.
“So I’m respectful and know there were many people who supported the other candidates,” he said. “I think what we got was approval from the majority of voters to say, ‘Continue the strategic plan, more of us are supporting it than don’t.’
“I think we’ve articulated what we believe. Equally, or maybe at this moment, more importantly, how we say it is going to make the difference of getting unity in the community.”
While the board hasn’t voted on any changes to meetings, Larsen has ideas he believes will improve interactions between the board, community members and teachers. Those include holding regular working session meetings as well as board meetings and limiting public comment during board meetings to agenda items to ensure meetings stay productive. Separate community forums would then serve as an opportunity for parents and others to express separate concerns.
He also hopes to address the concern many have about the amount of time the board spends in executive session.
“I don’t know if it means fewer, but I want to increase the perception and the reality of having a lot more things done out in the open where people feel they can observe it, see it, know what’s going on,” he said. “Executive sessions are still necessary for certain things.”
Larsen also said he wants to meet with principals and teachers and solicit feedback from them on the district policies.
“We’re going to need to listen and understand the questions they have,” he said.
Despite the campaign’s divisiveness, Larsen said he sees reason for optimism.
“Whether it’s painted cars or the volume of fliers and door hangers, the number of forums, this community is more awake than it’s ever been about education,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.
“I think we need to build on the fact that 100,000 people participated in this election. We need to have continuing conversations, discussions, places for people to weigh in on what we’re doing.”