JESPA and CCG Leaders Host Board of Education Candidate Action



Jeffco Community Leaders Ask for Commitments on Issues Facing Jeffco Public Schools 


GOLDEN, CO – On Wednesday, Oct. 18, Coloradans for the Common Good (CCG) convened a Jefferson County Public School Board Candidate Forum with over 150 leaders countywide, including district Education Support Professionals and other educators, parents, students, religious leaders, and community supporters. Wednesday’s gathering was the county’s largest School Board Candidate event this election season. Attendees voiced their concerns to candidates about issues like the understaffing and the district generating millions of dollars from selling unhealthy snacks to students.

“My kids are not eating at school because they don’t like the food, and they don’t have enough time to eat,” said Adixa Carrillo, a mother and a leader with the Jeffco Food Policy Council. “Most of the time,  they have long lines waiting to get food because the kitchen is short-staffed. Last week, I picked up my son from school, and he only had two bags of chips for lunch.”

Chronic understaffing in the district puts students and staff members at risk. Recently, Eileen Wahlmeier, a paraeducator at Arvada West High School, shared a moment when understaffing has had a profound impact on the safety of our schools: “During a potential threat event, I had to run into the hallway by myself to get a non-verbal student who loved to plop and not come into the classroom. As I ran towards her, I was terrified and listening for screams and gunshots, but all I could think about was how two other paraeducators and I would protect and get eight high-needs students to safety.” 

Highlights of the Agenda include eliminating incentives for selling junk food in schools, increasing access to healthy food, and increasing students’ time to eat lunch. It also includes expanding wages for Education Support Professionals and developing a plan to end outsourcing in the district for student-facing positions by 2025. 

All five candidates, Michelle Applegate and Thomas Wicke from District Three and Joel Newton, Amara Hildebrand, and Erin Kenworthy, from District Four, committed to working with CCG. Four candidates, Applegate, Hildebrand, Newton, and Wicke, committed to working with CCG on the entire Agenda for the Common Good. However, one candidate, Kenworthy, would not commit to developing a plan to address outsourcing due to her concerns regarding the timeline, despite community concerns that the problems with the privatized companies put student safety in jeopardy.

“I recently witnessed a car service company let an autistic student out of their vehicle without properly escorting them to the school,” said Trevor Byrne, a bus driver in Jefferson County Public Schools. “Luckily, I was able to jump off my bus and intervene, but how much longer will we allow the district to gamble with the lives of our students before we say no more?”

“The delegation developed this Agenda from many conversations with education support staff, parents, and community members who came together to craft solutions to our common concerns,” said Memory Wollenweber, CCG Leader and Elder with Community of Grace Presbyterian Church. “These issues represent every delegation member’s worries, long nights, and hope. We look forward to working with whoever is elected to continue to advance this Agenda for the common good in our schools.”

Watch a video of the event on our YouTube Channel here:

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