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School board candidate Matthew Dhieux, District 2

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By Gabrielle Porter

Littleton resident Matthew Dhieux said he wants to bring a non-political voice to the Jeffco school board, rebuild a relationship with the teachers union and find a way to ask for more accountability from district charter schools.

Dhieux, a physician assistant and former elementary teacher in Adams 12 Five Star Schools, is running for the District 2 seat currently held by John Newkirk, one of the recall targets. Attorney Susan Harmon is also vying for the seat.

Dhieux said he can bring a neutral voice to the divided board. He said many educational issues don’t fall neatly into conservative or liberal perspectives, and he believes parents and teachers are frustrated.

“Regardless of where you fall politically, I think there has been such a growing sense of mistrust that a fresh perspective is needed …,” Dhieux said. “I think one of the frustrations that I have had … is a building anger (at the) over-politicization of the school board.”

Dhieux attended Pacific Lutheran University and taught fourth grade at Centennial Elementary School in Broomfield for two years before entering the medical field. He currently works at Wheat Ridge Internal Medicine and serves on the board of the Parent Teacher Association at Shaffer Elementary in Littleton, where his daughter is a kindergartner. Dhieux’s stepdaughter is a senior at Chatfield High School.

Dhieux said he opposes the pay-for-performance plan that the board implemented a year ago, and cited it as a case of politicization of a serious education issue.

“It’s a great example of a political term that really makes sense when you see it on a news blurb, in the sense that if we pay great teachers more and poor teachers less, then by default you’ll get rid of the poor teachers,” Dhieux said. “(But) the negativity associated with that actually drives away the best teachers.”

Dhieux said that, if elected, he would want to work with the teachers union to find a way to use evaluations to determine where professional development dollars should be spent: low-performing teachers would have the benefit of extra training, rather than being denied raises.

Dhieux also criticized the recent 10-month contract that the school board and the Jefferson County Education Association approved, saying the short duration and the pay policy together have driven down the district’s competitiveness.

Dhieux said he wants to see the district’s standards for charter schools change. Over the past two years, the current school board majority has upped the district’s per-pupil charter funding to the same level as that of district-managed schools. The conservative board members have pointed to charter funding as evidence of increased choice available to Jeffco families. But Dhieux disagrees.

“Charter schools do not equal choice …,” he said.

Dhieux said children have different learning styles, and that some charters can serve students in a customized way. He pointed to his stepdaughter’s former school, Montessori Peaks Academy, as an example of what he considers a supportive community that offers a quality alternative.

But, Dhieux said, charters don’t have enough spending safeguards in place to ensure that they’re using their funds wisely. Dhieux said he believes the district’s charter schools should be held to higher financial accountability standards.

“Charter schools are not financially efficient,” he said. “That’s just the way they’re designed.”

Contact Gabrielle Porter at gabrielle@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.