Karla Esser, candidate for State Board of Education District 7
Profession: Retired Educator
What makes you the best choice for this office?
Voters in the district deserve a board member who thoroughly knows and understands the issues facing our public schools. I have equal amounts of experience in the German school system and the Colorado system. My entire career has been serving students, families, and educators in public schools. I have an extensive background in public education having worked as a teacher, school administrator, assistant superintendent, and university professor and director at Regis University.
If elected, what would your top issue be?
Provide parents and students ease of mind to focus on success. School safety is complex, and requires a multifaceted approach. COVID-19 has added a brand new area of safety. Colorado has the highest growth rate in teen suicide in the nation. Schools should provide the mental health services needed to support all students. The latest protests have shown how important it is to attend to the needs of our students of color and break the school to prison pipeline that is still prevalent. Our goal must always be to serve the changing needs of students so learning is equitable.
If elected, what would you want to accomplish in order for you to consider the term a success?
The SBE has a six-year term. It is good to remember that the main issues the SBE tackles are teacher licensure, accountability, and overseeing the Commissioner of the CDE. In order to get anything accomplished, we need to work tirelessly on getting the schools the funding for a world class education. We are 51st in competitive salaries according to an article in Chalkbeat, so nowhere to go but up. More money is needed for mental health services. Finally, SBE should address the opportunity gap that always leads to the achievement gap we have seen since the invention of standardized testing.
With CMAS school testing canceled last spring, how best do you think the state should proceed in terms of trying to gauge student learning in the COVID-19 era?
Unfortunately, we have relied on for-profit corporate publishing companies, such as Pearson Inc., MAPS, and ETS to determine how well our students are faring in comparatively healthy times. The accountability measures become the entirety of school and we have many organizations demanding ever more testing, all of which comes with a cost of time and money. With absolutely no way to compare which students are missing in-school classes due to COVID quarantining, and which students are experiencing a lack of digital access when school is remote, CMAS will be far too unreliable as a measure.
Districts, teachers and families are scrambling to adapt to multiple challenges right now. What's one way the state board can help?
The SBE needs to make sure to resist any pressure to maintain business as usual, when our community right now is anything but. I would plead for a moratorium on further requirements until this frightening pandemic is over. How attendance is counted will need flexibility until we have further data on when schools are closing and moving back to virtual learning. Our schools, students, and families ping ponging from in-person to virtual learning will require understanding and grace.
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