How does this benefit me? How does this benefit my family? How does this affect my neighbors?
These are all seemingly common and innocuous questions that all voters think about when entering the polls. One might even suggest that the questions are simple—simple until you consider answering those questions from a short- or long-term perspective.
Douglas County has historically not been challenged to think long-term about its school district’s development until now. For too long, county voting has reflected the fact that a great majority of voters do not have school age children. Such short sightedness has made passing bonds for school improvements, new construction or any significant tax-based development impossible to implement.
And now this year, in what could have been a typically low-profile, off-year election, we find ourselves not only in the national spotlight, but also staring at the compounding effect of past short-term voting.
Lets face it, old, inefficient public buildings can’t seem to get an update. New buildings are only coming with new charter schools. And, vouchers—YES VOUCHERS—have become a necessary part of conversation due to a 10-year sequence of unstrategic, short-term solutions proposed to solve a challenge that continues to grow as the population grows.
If you’ve spent enough time driving around Douglas County lately, you’ve noticed cars adorned with paint sounding off on a bundle of candidates best suited to deal with the challenges that have defined the Douglas County School District (DCSD). If you ask most residents about their take on the unique identity of the candidates, they will have very little to say about the individuals themselves. Most will tell you the main issue facing the school board is the Douglas County Choice Scholarship Program, AKA vouchers. But, is that really true?
It’s not about vouchers; it’s about vision.
The central issue facing the DCSD is actually a lack of vision. How do we build a community culture focused on the long-term investment and development of education by leveraging the potential of one of the top 10 most affluent counties in the nation? Providing an excellent education for kids early has a direct impact on the social, political and financial capital of the community. More than ever, that capital is inextricably linked to the ability of our community to thrive or stagnate. Whether you have kids in school or not, the success of our entire community depends on the success of the community’s kids.
For the first time in U.S. history, we have six generations of consumers participating in the economy. Four of those generations are of voting age and can have a unique voice in redefining the community narrative around DCSD.
As a father whose school-aged children are 11 years apart, I clearly understand that the future of DSCD can not be relegated to the leanings or termed agenda of any of the current slate of board candidates. The decisions made by the new board relative to vouchers, teacher pay or even the next superintendent, will almost certainly affect my 13-year-old, but what is the larger framework and sustainable vision that can be implemented for the benefit of 2-year-old as he goes through school? It is unrealistic to believe that candidates’ current experience or term will yield a significant result, without a better framework to define what their ultimate objective as a board should be.
As we head once again to vote for bandaids on our district, I hope more of us spend more energy after pulling the levers to begin to ask the question: What is the long-term direction of the DCSD? How will we build a better school community to affect the lives of our future neighbors?
Kerron Stokes, also known as “K,” is a proud Colorado native. He and his wife Melissa are parents of three boys, two of whom currently attend schools in the Douglas County School District. He is a small-business owner and also the co-founder of the Big Dream Project, which was created to foster inspiration, self-discovery, and a sense of purpose in everyone he encounters.