Two Jefferson County school board members who are not seeking re-election this fall blame communication issues and personality conflicts that they feel exist within the body as reasons behind their decisions to not seek second terms.
In separate interviews, Jeffco Board of Education directors Paula Noonan and Laura Boggs listed several areas where they felt the board’s work was out of step with the desires of community members.
And Noonan and Boggs blasted their fellow board members for making them feel as if their voices were being ignored.
“I don’t think I had the support of my other board members,” said Noonan, who represents District 5, which covers the south end of the county.
“I felt that made it very difficult for me to be productive.”
Boggs, a conservative District 2 board member who represents the west and mountain area of the district, echoed Noonan’s concerns.
“Your vote doesn’t count unless it’s in the majority,” she said.
Boggs also said that the board isn’t transparent in many policy areas and that the community’s input isn’t being valued.
But Board President Lesley Dahlkemper took issue with those assertions.
“I strongly disagree with the view that we haven’t asked for community input,” she said.
When asked to discuss whether there were any personality conflicts on the five-member board, Dahlkemper opted for the high road.
“As board members, we don’t always see eye to eye,” she said. “But we have pretty rigorous discussions.”
Noonan said that the board is dealing with “many contentious issues right now”; chief among them being inBloom, a student data collection system aimed at helping teachers better personalize instruction.
However, detractors of inBloom — which the district hopes to pilot beginning in the 2014 school year — cite security and privacy concerns with the new system.
Noonan said during the interview that “the board does not have nearly enough input on the mission of the (inBloom) project” and that “the community needs to weigh in on that.”
Through a letter that she recently provided to Colorado Community Media, Noonan expressed concerned that parents don’t know enough about inBloom, and neither does the school board.
“Apparently, parents who want to stay out are going to have to leave the district, seek private school, or do homeschooling,” Noonan wrote. “Not great options for parents in a public school district.”
Boggs is no fan of inBloom either. And one of her biggest areas of concern over the board’s workings is that there has been “a lack of transparency” on issues like inBloom or the district’s teaming with LoudCloud Systems to provide an instructional data system.
“Despite the promises of running on transparency, what I saw on the board the last two years was a shutdown of community conversations,” Boggs said.
That’s just not the case, said Dahlkemper. The board president points out that the board has overseen forums on issues like inBloom, student achievement progress, and the annual budget, where community members can become more familiar and more engaged with issues.
Last month, the board held a study session that included a panel of educational experts from both sides of the inBloom debate.
And Dahlkemper points to a recently-adopted community engagement policy, which states that “the board’s policies and decisions should reflect community values, good educational practice and available financial resources.”
Dahlkemper cites outside praise on issues regarding transparency from groups like the Independence Institute and the Center for American Progress.
“To say that we’re failing in transparency and community input is just wrong,” Dahlkemper said.
Voters will decide on three open seats on the board this fall: Boggs’, Noonan’s and District 1 director Robin Johnson’s, who recently resigned from the board because she had moved out of the district.
Neither Dahlkemper nor District 3 Jill Fellman is up for re-election this year.