Meet Joan Chávez-Lee, District 4 candidate for school board

Posted 10/8/19
Before Joan Chávez-Lee was a Jeffco principal, she was a Jeffco parent. She was raising her kindergarten-aged daughter on her own when, inspired by how impactful her daughter’s teacher was, …

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Meet Joan Chávez-Lee, District 4 candidate for school board

Posted

Before Joan Chávez-Lee was a Jeffco principal, she was a Jeffco parent. She was raising her kindergarten-aged daughter on her own when, inspired by how impactful her daughter’s teacher was, Chávez-Lee set out to become a teacher herself.

Just over a decade later, she became a principal, leading several schools over the years including Russell Elementary, Molholm Elementary and Wheat Ridge Middle School. In each, she sought to make a difference, she said, often by working to bolster the schools’ on-site programs for low-income and immigrant families: food banks, laundromats, health clinics and dual-language programs, to name a few.

Having since retired, Chávez-Lee is now running for the Director District 4 position on Jefferson County’s Board of Education.

In addition to her educator and administrative roles, Chávez-Lee has served on multiple PTAs and district committees. The Lakewood resident first decided to run for the board after being encouraged to do so by current board members, she said.

If elected, she would advocate for an increase to teacher salaries. She added that she would like to explore how Jeffco can work to earn public trust and funding to allow for greater salary increases.

When the district asks the public for financial support, she said, Jeffco needs to ensure “people understand the money’s being used for teacher salaries.”

Chávez-Lee would also focus on promoting student achievement, particularly as measured by standardized test scores.

Her approach to do so includes sticking close to the district strategic plan, Jeffco Generations. The plan calls on all Jeffco educators to emphasize six other skills, such as civic engagement and creativity, as much as the teachers emphasize content mastery.

Having met with many immigrant families while working as an administrator, Chávez-Lee believes education’s “job is to teach kids how to be a good citizen,” she said - which to her, aligns with the Jeffco Generations plan.

However, she also believes the district needs to “try to figure out how to interweave those (content mastery) skills and the authentic learning,” she said. “It can be done.”

She suggested further analysis of testing data to ensure the plan is working effectively. She would push for an analysis of test scores and teaching practices not only at the school level, but also at the classroom level, so district leaders could work with specific educators on implementing Jeffco Generations effectively.

Chávez-Lee also emphasized thoughtfulness when distributing funds to individual schools. She believes the schools most in need of funding are the “middle-of-the-road schools” — schools that may only have some low-income families, and therefore do not receive as much Title I funding as others but, at the same time, do not have an active parent-base to help raise funds.

Those schools are “where you would see the most impact” if funding was increased, she said; she would like the district to take a closer look at how it could support those schools financially.

“You have to evaluate the situation at different scales,” she said. “We owe all students the best education we can come by.”

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