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Dozens of people crowded around the front doors of the Douglas County School District Administrative Building in Castle Rock on Nov. 28. Inside, the conference room was maxed out at more than 100 guests, meaning those outside would have to wait for any seats that might become available.
Parents, teachers and community members were there to witness four school board members depart and four new members, each elected on Nov. 7, fill their seats. They also saw the appointment of a new school board president.
“I am here because I know that there is serious work to be done and you know that better than any of us,” parent Kristen Hirsch said during the public comment portion of the school board meeting. “But you have such community support.”
The addition of members Anthony Graziano, Kevin Leung, Chris Schor and Krista Holtzmann signals a change in the direction of the school board, which has been in the spotlight since the 2009 election of a reform-minded majority of members, who espoused policies such as pay-for-performance evaluations for teachers and a form of school choice that would later include a controversial voucher program.
For six years, supporters of the reforms held all seven seats on the board. They introduced new policies that, in the eyes of many, caused an exodus of hundreds of teachers and administrators. A shift occurred in 2015, when sitting candidates who opposed the reform policies — David Ray, Wendy Vogel and Anne-Marie Lemieux — each were elected to the board. The result was a divided board, with votes frequently falling 4-3 in favor of the former reform-minded members, Meghann Silverthorn, James Geddes, Judith Reynolds and Steven Peck. They were recognized for their service at the Nov. 28 meeting.
“We know that the sacrifice is tremendous,” Ray said to Silverthorn, Geddes and Reynolds, who each held a plaque of honor. Peck was absent.
At the meeting, Lemieux nominated Ray for board president, a motion that was unanimously approved. Ray succeeds Silverthorn in the position.
“You have been organized and thoughtful in your decision making, as well as how you have dealt with our staff, board members and community,” Lemieux said to Ray.
Ray and his wife have lived in Parker since 1989. His two children attended Douglas County Schools. Ray worked as an elementary school principal in Douglas County for 23 years, during which he oversaw the opening of three schools: Coyote Creek Elementary in Highlands Ranch, Prairie Crossing Elementary in Parker and Mammoth Heights Elementary, also in Parker. He helped launch the district's outdoor education program and has served on several committees, including the fiscal oversight committee and building specification and review committee.
Before accepting the nomination, Ray listed the type of leader his is not: he doesn't need control, he isn't charismatic, he has no political aspirations.
He said he is a facilitator. He will lead with integrity. He knows that the board will make mistakes and that there will be do-overs when needed.
“My job is to enhance the conversation and to make sure that all voices are heard,” Ray said.
Vogel, of Highlands Ranch, will serve as vice president. Vogel has two children in Douglas County schools. She serves on the district's Long Range Planning Committee, which studies facility and capacity needs, and several school accountability committees. Vogel previously worked in federal prisons doing substance abuse treatment and case management and now owns a quilting business.
“She builds bridges with a wide array of people,” Ray said. “She is one who will find the means to do whatever it takes to do this role well.”
Holtzmann will serve as secretary. She and her husband have lived in Parker for 17 years. Their two sons attended Douglas County schools. She worked as an assistant district attorney in child protection and as a volunteer attorney at the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center. She also has served on multiple school accountability committees.
Lemieux will be the treasurer. Since 2004, she has lived in Highlands Ranch with her family. Her two children went to Douglas County schools. Lemieux taught elementary school for seven years before becoming a stay-at-home mother. She helped develop Douglas County Parents, a group of parents and community members formed in 2013 to inform the community on issues in the school district.
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