Board president discusses school choice

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Jeffco parents should have multiple quality options, Witt tells Evergreen audience

By Daniel Laverty

In an appearance in Evergreen on Monday night, Jeffco school board President Ken Witt said each of his four children had different experiences going through public schools.

“One loved school for school and excelled no matter what the environment or teacher was like,” Witt said. “Another really struggled and found it a challenge to focus in a classroom setting. I put value on the breadth of choice for educating children.”

Monday’s snowfall didn’t stop the 15 people who came to Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen to learn about school choice in Jeffco. The audience was made up of RMAE parents and mountain-area schools staff and administration.

“This night was really about academic achievement,” Witt said after the meting. “It was for parents, and I’m glad to see some came out. Obviously, the weather played a part in the low turnout tonight.”

Witt’s speech was one of 165 School Choice Week events across Colorado this week and more than 5,500 events nationwide. The goal of the annual event is to inform parents about education options in their areas.

“I asked (Witt) to come speak tonight because he ran on parent’s choice in Jeffco,” said Dina Walton, business manager at RMAE. “All children are different and have different needs.”

The three school board members elected in November — Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams — all made promises to increase parent choice in education during the election campaign.

“We need choice in Jeffco, but not for choice’s sake,” Witt said, adding that the quality of choices for parents is what’s important.

Jeffco PTA member Phyllis Albritton asked Witt to clarify what “choice” meant to him.

“Choice is so much broader than just charter schools,” Witt said. “Jeffco offers (gifted and talented) programs across the district. We offer a STEM program. The issue goes beyond just charters.”

The Jeffco school board recently commissioned a school choice committee made up of parents, teachers, district staff and board members. The board has charged the committee to look at the current status of choice options in Jeffco and where choices could be expanded.

“(The committee) will look at the hard questions,” Witt said after the meeting. “How do we maximize parent choice to increase student achievement?”

If Walton could choose between increasing choices for Jeffco or increasing the knowledge of current choices for parents, she’d pick the latter.

“So many parents out there don’t even know what their options are — and that there are even options,” Walton said. “I think there are many misconceptions when it comes to charter schools. We are not a private school. We receive funding from the district and act as a public school.”

For more information about School Choice Week, visit www.schoolchoiceweek.com.

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or Daniel@evergreenco.com. Check CanyonCourier.com for updates and breaking news. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.