By Sam Pfeifer
Colorado College’s Education Coalition, in collaboration with CC Democrats, hosted seven of the eight candidates running for Colorado Springs’ District 11 School Board of Education on Oct. 29. The only candidate not in attendance was Mary Coleman, the incumbent.
Candidates participated in a forum where they each received time to highlight their experience and their priorities followed by a semi-structured question-and-answer period.
Joseph Shelton, a product of District 11 schools, spoke first.
“The thing that got me wanting to run for school board is many students who come [to me] who are attending District 11 schools felt that issues that matter to them weren’t fully being addressed by the Board of Education,” he said. Shelton says he sees an issue with students being turned away from the table because of their age.
A prominent talking point for the night centered around the issue of declining enrollment in the District. More students every year are choosing to opt into other districts. As someone who takes pride in his District 11 roots, Connor Sargent is putting the issue front and center in his campaign.
“Without getting our school enrollment increased, we can’t fix our schools, and we can’t ensure that our students are getting the quality education that they deserve,” he said.
Candidates Darleen Daniels, Chris Wallis, and Parth Melpakam say their primary motivator was being parents to children in the district.
“My daughter has the luxury of having two parents who are very involved in her education, which is going to put her in a position to succeed,” Wallis said. “That being said, that is not a luxury afforded to far too many children in District 11.”
For Daniels, she says she has always held the belief that “if you are not at the table, you are on the menu.” For her entire life, this has been tied to her constant pursuit of education — something she has passed down to her kids.
“Education was my ticket out,” she said.
Candidates Jason Jorgensen and Vince Puzick stressed that their experiences as career educators made them the most qualified candidates.
“Our business is academic achievement — a rich educational experience,” said Puzick. He said access and opportunity are at the foundation of this pursuit.
Sophie Cardin ’22, one of the event’s organizers, said she was surprised and a bit disappointed in the “uniformity” of the candidate’s responses. However, she also said she felt optimistic coming out of the event.
“I am glad that so many students showed up to engage, to learn, and to promote positive change in the realm of education. The turnout showed that people care,” Cardin said. “As students at a liberal arts school, we have a unique perspective on what education means. We understand the benefits of a liberal education. By involving ourselves in the School Board election, we are pushed to think about what education means and what good education looks like.”
If you are registered to vote in El Paso County, Election Day is Nov. 5. You can receive a ballot in your Worner box and drop it off in downstairs Worner.