Q&A: Summit School District board of education candidate Jenniffer Gonzalez

Jenniffer Gonzalez
School board candidate
Jennifer Gonzalez is running for a Summit Board of Education seat in the Nov. 7, 2023 election.
Jennifer Gonzalez/Courtesy photo

During spending discussions earlier this year, the school district was said to be at risk of hitting a budget deficit as early as the 2025-26 academic year. How would you seek to avoid this?

Improving a school district’s budget deficit is a complex and ongoing process. It requires a combination of short-term measures to address immediate issues and long-term planning to ensure financial stability. Collaboration among district leaders, staff and the community is essential to successfully overcome budget challenges. Avoiding a Summit School District deficit is crucial to maintaining quality education and financial stability. Here are some strategies that I will suggest to prevent deficits:

  • Personnel costs, including teacher salaries and benefits, make up a significant portion of a school district’s budget. I will ensure competitive compensation and benefits to attract and retain high-quality educators. I will track where the money is going and cut unnecessary expenses.
  • Determine the most critical needs and priorities. Consider educational outcomes, equity and the well-being of students. Evaluate any special programs or initiatives that may be required, such as special education, English as a second language or vocational training. I will make sure to allocate funds accordingly for students tutoring.

What are ways you would seek to improve students’ test scores?

First, I need to make sure that current curriculum is aligned with Colorado Measures of Academics Success. Preparing students for standardized tests is vital. Schools can integrate test-taking strategies and practice tests into their curriculum to familiarize students with the format and expectations of these assessments. I would make sure to find out where kids are failing and provide the support that is required. I will work on encouraging parents whose kids are having truancy issues by motivating parents to be more engaged in their kids’ lives and find the proper help.  

Do you support or object to the district’s equity policy, which commits to identifying patterns of systemic inequity within the district and supporting the identity expression of students and staff?

There are things that I support from the equity policy, and there are some others that I do not. I believe in the quality of being fair and ensuring that all students have access to resources and opportunities. Addressing issues related to socioeconomic disparities, language barriers and special needs is crucial for achieving equitable test scores. Our school district is failing academically due to inequities in the system. I personally respect everyone’s expressions including students and staff, but I expect that the school district respects parents’ culture as well.

What are some decisions that the district or board have made that you support, and why?

I would like to mention that the school district has supported the Latino community by creating a Latino Parent Committee in 2022, which meets on a monthly basis. Families can bring issues and find solutions to some of their problems.  

I have noticed a huge improvement with the communication system, the school district is sending reminders in different ways, to keep parents informed about school early releases, activities, teacher conferences and more.

What are some decisions that the district or board have made that you oppose, and why?

I just found out a couple of months ago about School District performance. We need to focus on getting our kids on track and provide them all the resources and tools to make them successful. It is imperative that we all put our efforts in recuperating the time that students lost during COVID by getting parents, staff, teachers and students more engaged.  

Another issue is the Unified Improvement Plans and special education programs. These seemed very complicated and hard to understand by parents, teachers and other professionals involved in the system due to the use of high-register terminologies. There is no written, self-explanatory materials available to parents.

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