election 2019

Meet Susan Miller, District 4 candidate for school board

Posted 10/8/19

Lakewood resident Susan Miller has two distinct backgrounds: a longtime finance professional, she has worked as an investment banker and company vice president; and a mother of four former Jeffco …

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election 2019

Meet Susan Miller, District 4 candidate for school board

Posted

Lakewood resident Susan Miller has two distinct backgrounds: a longtime finance professional, she has worked as an investment banker and company vice president; and a mother of four former Jeffco students, she has been involved in district committees, PTAs and the Jefferson County Association for Gifted Children, of which she was president for six years.

As Miller spent time in finance and education, she realized that principles from both can overlap — and, she said, they should. In Jeffco especially, it’s time for school board members to pursue better financial practices, she said.

“We have struggled to put measures in place and reassess,” she said. “The board needs to hold to task the superintendent and district staff.”

Hoping to bring this perspective to the district, Miller is running for the Director District 4 position on the Board of Education.

Miller works as associate director at Cooperative Strategies, a consulting firm for education agencies.

Having spent years as an advocate for Jeffco students and as a Jeffco parent, she has become increasingly concerned by the district’s “stagnant” growth rate on standardized tests, she said.

“We have to realize we’re not feeding our kids to be competitive in the 21st century,” she said. “We have to make sure our children are well-prepared.”

If elected to the board, Miller said she would prioritize boosting student achievement. Particularly, she would like to look into boosting third-grade reading scores, feeling too few Jeffco third graders are reading at grade level.

To do so, the district should reassess how effective its current achievement-boosting initiatives are, she said. She gave the 1:1 device program as an example — recently established, the district program will provide every student with a school-issued laptop or tablet.

The district needs to better outline what it wants the program to accomplish, she said. For example, the district could set a goal, such as a 10% increase in the number of 1:1 users reading at grade level after their first year in the program. If the benchmark is not met, the district could then reconsider whether to continue funding the program.

“That’s a huge investment we’ve committed to, and we don’t have any measures of success,” she said.

The same applies to professional development programming, she said, advocating for more data collection on how current professional development has boosted student performance.

Miller would also push to raise teacher starting salaries. This would likely require Jeffco to cut funding for under-performing programs and redirect it to teacher compensation, as well as “balance our (hiring) needs to the (downward) trajectory of enrollment,” she said.

As for student programming, she would like to see career pipeline programs available in every school. The programs allow students to earn credit while gaining real-world experience in industries like construction or hospitality.

Miller, who said her son benefitted greatly from such a program, suggested Jeffco work with other districts to create a state or regional program for students.

“We need to recognize that all children can learn,” she said, “and we need to have high expectations for all children.”

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