Q&A: Summit School District board of education candidate Vanessa Agee
School board candidate
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?
Budgeting is remarkably difficult when you don’t want budgeting to ever impact student success negatively and when 88% of the current budget is going toward supporting the most important resource responsible for delivering a great education: teachers, support staff and leadership wages. This means ensuring that the State of Colorado fulfills its funding obligations to Summit students is crucial, as well as pursuing grant funding and partnerships with nonprofits, other governmental entities, and the private sector to support large capital projects, such as teacher housing, student services and programs.
What are ways you would seek to improve students’ test scores?
Testing is one interesting component of determining success and should be joined with data about graduation rates, post high school acceptance rates at universities and trade schools, attendance, progress around student grades from kindergarten through 12th grade, multilingual and English learner student numbers and progress, and mental health. If I had relied on just test scores to gauge my own future success, then I might have anticipated a pretty mediocre professional and personal outcome. Not everyone is a good tester, me included. Also, talk to any student over 13 years old, and you will hear that standardized tests are not taken seriously by many older students, and it is not uncommon for students to complete testing quickly, rather than accurately.
It is evident that improving academic support, including for multilingual learners, and shifting student culture around standardized testing will lead to improvement not just in test scores, but also in student success. The school district has been making some major changes in curriculum, including a new math curriculum this year for all grade school students and the evaluation of middle school and high school math curriculum. Also, the recent introduction of school supported tutoring and testing for dyslexia confirms a commitment to providing students with more resources and support to learn and thrive.
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?
I don’t object to letting all students know that they will be respected and safe no matter how they show up at school — black, brown, white, struggling with language, LGBTQ+, differently abled, etc. Compassion, respecting differences, and the acknowledgement that not everyone experiences the world or educational system in the same way creates a space where students can focus on learning without shame or fear of not belonging.
The narrative that an equity policy means that students will be taught graphic sexual content or be forced to feel guilt is born out of fear and puts the comfort and personal beliefs of some adults ahead of compassion for students and their safety. I fully support a school system that honors and respects all students and their differences and spends its energy on encouraging all students to realize their full potential.
What are some decisions that the district or board have made that you support, and why? What are some decisions that the district or board have made that you oppose, and why?
I have combined these two questions because I think this approach reduces the district into single decisions and can’t possibly encompass the big and small decisions over the past 10 years that have taken the district through recovery from the Great Recession, significant changes in demographics and population, five superintendents, the ubiquitous rise and impact of cell phones and social media in classrooms and all of our lives, a historic rise in housing costs, and a pandemic that changed our basic understanding about how and where we learn.
The district deserves stability after this time of significant change, and I believe that the choice of a highly qualified superintendent, who over his first year has already taken on changes in curriculum and academic support for students, will bring stability and positive change to improve student lives and academics. There is always room for growth and improvement, and areas that deserve more attention include communications and community engagement, testing and resources for those students who have learning disorders, more support for the district’s multilingual learners, and an ongoing focus on the curriculum and academic resources that will enable every student to reach their fullest potential. It’s time to look forward as a community, fully appreciate our educators and their expertise, and commit to supporting progress.
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