Matt Van Gieson was born and raised in Arvada. An A-West High School graduate, he is a father of four, including a newborn. He works as a systems analyst and project manager.
Van Gieson holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
Campaign website: www.matt4jeffcoschoolboard.com/
Why do you want to serve on the school board?
I have four small children that range in age from 7 years to 14 weeks. We have a combined 50 years of public education ahead of us and I want to make sure my children, as well as all Jeffco students, have access to the same great public education I had growing up. I lived in a trailer park; my mom drove me to the school right next to the hair salon where she worked so she could be engaged in my education. She taught me that getting a good education was the key to a successful future.
Your top three priorities if elected?
Significantly increase the number of third graders reading at grade level; keep neighborhood schools open and increase spending transparency.
Only 50 percent percent of third graders read at grade level; in our house that would be two of our four children being behind. We need to measure the effectiveness of programs helping students read and invest in ones that work.
My wife went to Swanson and I volunteered at Pleasant View and saw the damage school closures and threats caused. I don’t support closing schools and breaking up communities.
We need transparency on our billion dollar spending and the results produced.
What is one idea you have to improve student readiness/achievement?
To improve student achievement we need a board with balanced representation from our community. This board spent far too little time this year discussing the supports our lowest performing schools needed to improve.
The board needs voices willing to recognize that while great things happen each day, far too many Jeffco students, especially those at risk, aren’t on track to graduate with the skills they need. Having grown up poor, I know how important it is to have a great public education. I will respectfully advocate for understanding how to improve opportunities for all students with the resources we have.
What can be done to allow the district to keep its best and most experienced teachers at a higher rate?
I had many great teachers and have many friends who are teachers. They tell me they want to be respected and recognized for their great work. They also want the opportunity to do what they know they need to do to meet the needs of their students.
Teachers tell me they’ll stay in Jeffco if there are opportunities to be more impactful without having to stop teaching. That means creating career paths that don’t require teachers leave classrooms. They also want the time they spend in professional development trainings to teach them skills which help them improve their craft.
Would you support another ballot measure to help the district pay for capital improvements?
The majority of voters voted no on the 2016 tax increase. They didn’t support spending $100 million to build classrooms with declining enrollment. They say the board didn’t listen to the community priorities. They don’t understand the board saying they need more money while spending $50 million forcing sixth graders out of elementary schools and into middle schools. People don’t understand why the funds aren’t being used to build new schools to eliminate temps. Asking for more money in this environment is a waste of the quarter of a million dollars it costs to run the election.