Candidate Questionnaire: Kevin Cox

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RISE Colorado did not edit or alter candidate’s responses in any way.

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1. Aurora is a unique and ever-changing community. Based on your research and understanding of key issues in Aurora Public Schools, what are the top priorities or concerns you have that you’d want to address and what do you see as the strongest assets of this school community?

My number one priority is to stop the encroachment of charter schools into our system. The way they are funded is creating a budget crisis for public schools; causing parents to take their children out of APS. Next, we need to increase the graduation up to or above the nation average. In this aspect, we are failing our children terribly.   I think the children need to be exposed to alternative career paths at an earlier age to show them that everyone doesn’t have to take one of the few common careers to be successful. Being a blue-collar worker myself, I think the children should have the concept solidified that you don’t have to be a doctor or lawyer or else you will work at McDonald’s forever. This line of thinking can cause a youngster to feel hopeless and give up on school.

2. As you know, in the 2016-2017 school year there were 19 schools on the accountability clock. What will you do to improve the lowest performing schools and keep them from closing? What strategies do you have to increase academic achievement in Aurora?

I will fight for incentives to bring the most talented teachers to where they are needed the most. We need attractive, competitive wages to keep our teachers free of financial struggle. We all know how high the cost of living is in Aurora, we know teachers don’t make anywhere near what they deserve and many are paying out of pocket for supplies. It is unrealistic to expect the best performance under those conditions; we have set our public school teachers and students up for failure.

3. A strong connection between high-level decisions made on the school board and the day to day realities of teachers, students, and families is essential. How are you connecting to teachers, students, and families at the school level? How will you remain connected while on the board?

I have been having one-on-one conversations with teachers, administrative staff and parents from all over Aurora. I have heard from principals who said they have never met any members of their Board of Education. My plan is to visit at least one school a week while on the board to remain connected and reassure the staff that they have a voice in the system. One thing I have heard from teachers in innovation schools is that once they were declared innovation, all communication stopped. The name of my campaign committee is Our Voice because I solemnly believe that we in the community need to have our voices heard. The Board cannot make informed decisions without a strong connection to the staff that is actually in the trenches, such as the AEA, along with insight from families and the community at large.

4. In recent years, we have seen improvements to academic achievement in Aurora Public Schools. However, transformative change and widespread improvements remain to be seen. Why are so many Aurora Public Schools in the situation we currently see with low performance? What is the Board of Education’s role in serving those students of those schools and what were the root causes that brought us to this point?

Two words: student flight. We are losing untold numbers of children to Cherry Creek and charter schools. This is the catalyst to that cycle I mentioned earlier that underfunds and under-compensates or education system; resulting in underperformance and failure. We need to take the “gutsy” move to fund our school system properly, make sure we have enough schools to lower the ballooning class size and compensate our teachers competitively. Without these essential needs being met, APS will continue its downward spiral. When our economy was in the depths of the recession, it took some spending to grow our economy out of the hole it was in. I think this principle can be applied in APS.

5. Considering the diversity in Aurora and the fact that new students and families arrive to the public education system daily from other countries, how do you intend to support new students and families with integrating into Aurora Public Schools successfully?

We sorely need to address language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. With over 130 languages being spoken in Aurora, an increase in cultural diversity of our staff would definitely make many more students feel more at home and promote understanding. Some things considered to be behavioral issues may be cultural differences that, once understood, can be addressed more effectively. This will drastically improve outcomes.

6. Many families express the desire for additional extracurricular activities for their children. Tutoring, clubs, enrichments activities, and sports all contribute to a holistic education experience for students. How would you support additional extracurricular activities for students from Preschool-12th grade?

I would fight like a bulldog to get more programs up and going. Coming from an impoverished, single parent background, afterschool and summer programs are huge reasons why I stayed out of trouble. With the influx of gangs and drugs into Colorado, we have much to be concerned about. Combine that with the fact that families absolutely require more than one income to make it in our economy, there is a lot of time we can expect children in Aurora to be left to their own devices. We need to fill that time with supervised, educational and safe activities. I realize we can’t be all things, but we have plenty of room for improvement. There are many programs in use around the country that APS could really benefit from.

7. Students continually express concerns around bullying and racism in Aurora Public Schools. If you become an APS School Board Member, how will you ensure the safety of all students in APS and help to build an anti-racist and anti-bullying community among students, families, and teachers from different cultures?

I want to increase diversity in the staff to exhibit a microcosm of what a world without racism would look like. I believe that positive exposure to different ethnicities is the best way to combat racism. Children are sponges and learn from whatever they see. If they see many people of all different colors, backgrounds and ethnicities working together in a positive environment, the racist ideas will have very little room to flourish.

On bullying, I want to empower our students to stand up to adversity. I think bullying is a natural occurrence of the establishment of dominance and we need to show the children how to deal with it in a healthy and positive way because they are going to encounter bullies throughout life. We currently have a bully running our country. The only thing we control is how we react to bullies. I would stress the idea of other students watching for the signs of bullying and reporting it to the teachers so APS can teach the students doing the bullying that they are hurting people with their actions and that will negatively affect their future; therefore, they are hurting themselves. Another angle is to look into the family life of the child who is bullying; there may be an abusive environment at home and this is the primary way the child knows how to communicate their feelings. This may open up an opportunity to teach a parent better techniques to deal with frustration or anger.

As for safety in general, we should have qualified security officers or police officers on campus and let them do their job. We don’t need teachers with guns. Let our teachers focus on teaching; that job is hard enough without having to make split second life and death decisions.

8. Based on the diversity in Aurora, how would you leverage the assets of the community to provide support to schools such as interpretation, jobs as Paraprofessionals, and mentoring opportunities for students from community members who speak their same language and reflect the student population?

APS is in sore need of an outreach task force. I don’t mind personally spearheading one. The community just won’t know about so many of these golden opportunities if we don’t reach out to them and tell them ourselves. The economy in Aurora has created a situation where people everywhere need extra earnings and APS needs many people from the community to just come in with minimal training and use their first language. We can offer fulfilling work to members of our immigrant community as interpreters and also as paras if they meet the educational requirements. I was surprised to learn from APS teachers that we have so few paraprofessionals. This is another angle of attack on the underperformance of APS as a whole, but we will have to spend some money, even though we are hurting financially right now.

Please respond Yes or No to the following questions and provide an explanation.
9. Families and students often struggle to receive the interpretation and translation services they need to interact with teachers and engage about academic achievement. Would you support an increased budget for interpretation and translation services to support ELL students and families across the district? Yes or No? Please explain your answer.

Yes, absolutely. Our nation was built upon immigration so it should be expected to have students from any nation in our classrooms. With that said, it would be illogical to expect the best from said students if we can’t even communicate with them. This is of the utmost importance to promote the success of children from our immigrant communities and those who live in homes where English is not spoken primarily or at all.

10. The community-led resolution to support students regardless of immigration status passed on May 16, 2017. Here is a link to the resolution: APS Resolution. Would you have voted in support of this resolution? Yes or No? Please explain your answer and provide your thoughts about the resolution.

Yes. This resolution fosters the type of compassion and understanding that our country as a whole needs to exhibit. We have to make sure school is a safe-haven for all children and no child can feel safe if ICE can walk into their classroom at any minute and deport them. The school is there to teach kids, ICE can do their job on their own without school involvement or assistance.

11. Do you plan to engage the community’s voice, ideas, and opinions in decisions made by the Board of Education? Yes or No? Please explain why and how.

Yes. As I stated before, I want to spearhead an outreach task force to engage in the community; primarily with the families of the most at-risk students. This can also provide us with valuable data on what the source of many problems are, most of which we usually only see the symptoms at school and have to make assumptions. Parent involvement cannot be guaranteed, but we have to do everything we can on our side of the equation to ensure the success of the children and I don’t mind making the extra effort. I believe the best way to help the children is to make the school environment like a second home to them. The more comfortable the children feel, the better they will perform and the less likely they would be to shut down and give up.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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