|Board Member, Douglas County School District, District G|
|Years in position||5|
|Elections and appointments|
|Last election||November 5, 2013|
|First elected||November 3, 2009|
|Term limits||Two consecutive terms|
|Bachelor's||University of Colorado at Boulder|
|Service/branch||U.S. Air Force|
|Profession||Department of Defense analyst|
- 1 Biography
- 2 Elections
- 3 Campaign themes
- 4 What was at stake?
- 5 About the district
- 6 Recent news
- 7 See also
- 8 External links
- 9 References
Meghann Silverthorn and her husband currently reside in Parker, Colorado. Silverthorn spent her youth abroad as her parents served as diplomats for the U.S. military. According to Julian Dunraven, Silverthorn believes in Austrian School economic principles due to her experiences in foreign countries. She graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder in 2001 with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering. Silverthorn conducted research on aerospace engineering projects for the Air Force Research Laboratory before taking her current position as an analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense.
|Douglas County School Board of Directors, Four-year term, District G, 2013|
|Nonpartisan||Meghann Silverthorn Incumbent||53.4%||53,648|
|Source: Douglas County Elections, "2013 Coordinated Election," November 21, 2013|
Silverthorn first won the District G Director seat in the November 3, 2009 general election by defeating first-term incumbent Emily Hansen. Although the school board is officially non-partisan, political affiliations impacted the campaign between Silverthorn and Hansen. The Douglas County Republican Party endorsed Silverthorn and fellow candidates John Carson, Dan Gerken, and Doug Benevento, while the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees union endorsed Hansen. In response to allegations by the Colorado Ethics Watch that Silverthorn had violated the Hatch Act banning federal employees from campaigning for partisan political office, she stated, "I didn't solicit the endorsement. I received it. I was not nominated by them. I am not their candidate."
|Douglas County School District, District G, Coordinated Election, 2009|
|Nonpartisan||Emily Hansen Incumbent||43.1%||19,548|
Silverthorn's campaign website listed the following campaign themes for 2013:
I am a strong proponent of parental choice. Douglas County schools have achieved their level of excellence with the help of involved and engaged parents. Parents are in the best position to determine their children's educational path and should be enabled to do so to the maximum extent. Alternatives such as charter schools, homeschooling and choosing between schools using open enrollment are already available to Douglas County parents. The Douglas County school system encourages parents to participate in current and future solutions for our children's education.
Pay for Performance
I believe teachers should be paid like professionals. Our school district was one of the first innovators of pay for performance in 1993. In 2010, the district collaborated with teachers to modernize the system. In 2012, the Continuous Improvement of Teacher Effectiveness (CITE) program was implemented. While the prior system was based on a group incentive, was more of a bonus for performing extra work, and was optional, the current system has no basis in the step-and-lane paradigm of the past. The district has the flexibility to reward our best teachers and to focus professional development where individual teachers need it. I am proud of the teachers in our district and am excited to promote teacher quality in the classroom.
Strong Financial Management
The district finances are in the best shape they have been in years. The Great Recession caused a significant decrease in available money from the state education allocation. I have worked toward ensuring that our budget is sustainable and responsible. In 2009, the district was funding its TABOR reserve, 3% of its fiscal year spending by law, not with cash but with a letter of credit that cost taxpayers $160,000 per year. In the last four years, the district has been able to transition to funding its TABOR reserve in cash, and also to build a rainy day fund of 4% (about $18M). This number represents about one month's salary and benefits for district staff. This number is a prudent hedge against unexpected events that would otherwise cause the district to take dollars out of the classroom to meet other needs.
I am focused on student achievement and ensuring that our students are prepared for whatever endeavors they might choose after they graduate from high school. Whether it is college, workforce, the military, or another pursuit, our students need the skills and abilities to be successful. Important markers of academic achievement indicate that the district is improving and growing in these areas. More students are taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes and tests. More students are proficient in TCAP state standardized testing. ACT scores are up. While standardized test scores are not a complete picture of how our students are doing, they provide an indicator. DCSD students consistently achieve at high levels. Hundreds of DCSD teachers contributed to the district's curriculum updates and revisions. Students will benefit from such localized expertise.
Transparency and Accountability
The district has instituted complete financial transparency during my tenure. I pursued the idea of having the district's financial records searchable and available to every citizen, and it has become a reality. Most school districts in Colorado do not have this level of visibility and, in fact, measures to mandate this at the state level have been unsuccessful. DCSD is a leader in this area.
I oppose Amendment 66, a ballot initiative that changes the way schools are funded and would levy a statewide tax increase beginning next year. This measure would raise state income taxes from 4.63% to 5% for incomes under $75,000 and 5.9% for incomes over $75,000. It would raise approximately $90M - $100M in additional taxes from Douglas County, but would only return $45M - $50M in funding. The funding that would then go to DCSD would come with strings attached, as the district would need to address several mandates such as full-day kindergarten, for which the district currently has neither the facilities nor the staffing available. This would also make raising any local dollars difficult due to the heavy burden on taxpayers. I believe that the state funding mechanism for schools must be reformed, but Amendment 66 is the wrong approach.
The district has expressed its opposition to the Common Core standards. I believe that individual districts are best suited to determine what their academic standards should be. While some districts may be interested in adopting Common Core, I do not think it is an appropriate set of standards for Douglas County. I voted, along with the rest of the Board, to reject the adoption of Common Core in DCSD. State law provides for this as long as we demonstrate that our kids are subject to standards that comparable or better to Common Core. Our teachers collaborated with district staff to create a guaranteed and viable curriculum that is tailored to our students' needs. An overarching set of national standards is not in DCSD's best interests.
Note: The above quote is from the candidate's website, which may include some typographical or spelling errors.
What was at stake?
Four seats, including that of the board president, were at stake. John Carson, the incumbent in District B, was not running for re-election. Barbra Chase Burke and James Geddes were running for election to the seat. Carson, who was first elected to the board in 2005, was ineligible to run for another term because of Amendment 17 to the Colorado Constitution, which says that no "elected official of any...school district....shall serve more than two consecutive terms in office."
The District D race included newcomers Judi Reynolds and Julie Keim running for the seat currently held by Carrie Mendoza. Stephen Boyd announced that he would run in the District D race but withdrew before filing his nomination petition so that he would not "split the vote." Incumbent Doug Benevento faced challenger Bill Hodges in the District E race. Ronda Scholting filed with the Colorado Secretary of State to challenge for Silverthorn's seat in District G.
DougCo Parents Want Change
Alleged campaign violations
District D candidate Julie Keim filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State on October 17, 2013, alleging that the school district used resources to support its preferred school board candidates and to deny challengers information regarding the involvement of outside groups and individuals in the election. Keim requested copies of emails between district officials with supporters including Americans for Prosperity, the Independence Institute and campaign contributors like Alex Cranberg and Ralph Nagel. Texas businessman Alex Cranberg and investment banker Ralph Nagel co-founded the Alliance for Choice in Education to promote school choice and contributed approximately 89% of the $156,701.50 in campaign donations reported by Doug Benevento, James Geddes, Judi Reynolds and Meghann Silverthorn.
District administration conducted a search for the requested correspondence that turned up more than 13,000 e-mails, 101 of which Keim had received by October 23. She criticized administrators for the slow pace and claimed, "I think they’re trying to delay so nothing can be exposed before the election. [...]I want them to be open and honest and truly transparent about what is going on with all these organizations. It’s concerning to me so many people who are not local have such a voice in our future." School board Vice President Kevin Larsen responded to her allegations by labeling them "[...]a patently frivolous political stunt masquerading as a complaint." District legal counsel Rob Ross explained the delay by stating that each e-mail must be reviewed by district personnel for legally protected information before being disclosed.
Administrative Law Judge Hollyce Farrell ruled in December 2013 that the district violated the Fair Campaign Practices Act by using public funds to commission a report that promoted reform policies during the 2013 campaign. The district used $15,000 in public funds to pay Rick Hess, an education expert with the American Enterprise Institute, to write a report titled "The Most Interesting School District in America?" Farrell concluded that the report was an improper use of funds on behalf of incumbents seeking re-election. Farrell did not require a fine from the district, which plans to appeal the decision in higher court.
Audio editing controversy
In late September, Silverthorn accused challenger Ronda Scholting of selectively editing a September 13 interview between Silverthorn and local radio host Mike Rosen. The interview featured a discussion of the motivations behind efforts to replace current board members in the 2013 election. Rosen stated, "These are nice, well-meaning, naive soccer moms who can’t distinguish between an individual teacher and the collective menace and intransigence of a teachers’ union with its political power" and Silverthorn agreed with the statement. Scholting's ad includes Rosen saying, "You’re up against mostly women. Nice, well-meaning, naive soccer moms," and audio of Silverthorn's agreement with Rosen. Scholting notes that her editing was comparable to techniques used by broadcast journalists while Silverthorn believes the ad does not truly represent her position on district policies.
Rally outside district offices
A September 27 demonstration outside of the district's administrative offices featured 200 attendees marching in support of local teachers. Demonstrators held signs that supported teachers and opposed the board's reform efforts over the past four years. According to interviews with the Denver Post, attendees argued that teachers were frustrated by limited instructional time, new evaluations and the district's attitude toward instructional staff. District officials have countered these claims by citing internal surveys with teachers that revealed high morale and greater flexibility in the classroom.
Involvement of community groups
Local groups ramped up efforts to support incumbents and challengers in the 2013 election. DougCo Champions for Kids is a non-profit that is also registered as a part of Texas-based firm C3 Solutions. This organization supported the reform efforts of the current board through direct mail and door-to-door campaigning. DougCo Champions for Kids received some funding from the Independence Institute, a Denver-based think tank that promotes free market principles. The C3 Solutions executive board features two officers who are affiliated with the institute. Another pro-board group is the Douglas County Education Alliance, which has been connected with an Arizona consultancy called DC-London founded by Republican adviser Sean Noble.
Challengers in the 2013 race were supported by a non-profit called the Strong Schools Coalition and a political action committee (PAC) called Douglas County Parents. Strong Schools Coalition received $4,000 in donations according to group president Lauren Mutton. The group stated that it is self-funded with contributions from Taxpayers for Public Education used for legal fees associated with a lawsuit against the district's voucher program.
Americans for Prosperity, "It's Working"
Board reform efforts
The board's reform efforts including a voucher program, dissolution of the teachers' union agreement and a pay-for-performance plan became the focus of attention in the 2013 campaign. Strong Schools Coalition led efforts to reverse some of these reforms and eliminate political involvement in board functions. The state chapter of Americans for Prosperity ran ads in the region starting in August supporting the board's reform efforts while admonishing critics.
Partisanship in board races
Though Colorado school boards are officially nonpartisan, Douglas County has drawn attention for the involvement of the local Republican Party in board elections. In the 2009 and 2011 elections, the Douglas County Republican Party endorsed the six current members and former member Dan Gerken. The party endorsed incumbents Doug Benevento and Silverthorn as well as challengers James Geddes and Judi Reynolds for the 2013 campaign. Former District G candidate Nicholas Land criticized the board as too loyal to the Republican Party and wanted the board to represent the entire community regardless of partisan affiliation. Former District D candidate Kevin Leung refused to interview with the Douglas County Republicans after starting his campaign. "I believe that local, nonpartisan school board elections should not be drawn into party politics. Decisions and agendas should not become strongly influenced by party ideologies instead of serving the people and the children in our schools," said Leung.
About the district
- See also: Douglas County School District, Colorado
Douglas County outperforms the rest of Colorado based on average household income, poverty rate and graduation rates in 2011. The average household income in Douglas County was $101,193 compared to $57,685 for the state of Colorado. The poverty rate in Douglas County was 3.5% compared to 12.5% for the entire state. The U.S. Census also found that 54.6% of Douglas County residents aged 25 years and older attained a bachelor's degree compared to a 36.3% in Colorado.
Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100.0%. Each column will add up to 100.0% after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages.
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Meghann + Silverthorn + Douglas + County + School"
- All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.
- Colorado school districts
- Douglas County School District elections (2013)
- Douglas County School District, Colorado
- District website
- Office website
- Campaign website
- Facebook page
- Twitter page
- Colorado TRACER page
- Follow the Money page
- Campaign website, "About Meghann," accessed July 12, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurParkerNews.com, "School trustee wants four more years," August 5, 2013
- Slapstick Politics, "Meghann Silverthorn for Douglas County," accessed July 17, 2013
- LinkedIn, "Meghann Silverthorn," accessed July 12, 2013
- Douglas County School District, "Member Directory," accessed July 12, 2013
- Colorado TRACER, "Candidate Detail," accessed December 20, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurLoneTreeNews.com, "Local Republicans endorse candidates," August 19, 2013
- Douglas County GOP, "Douglas County Republican School Board Endorsements," September 28, 2009
- Douglas County Clerk and Recorder, "Coordinated Election Results, November 3, 2009," accessed July 15, 2013
- Jeremy P. Meyer, The Denver Post, "Douglas County school board race turning into partisan battle," October 20, 2009
- Meghann Silverthorn - Douglas County School District, Board of Education Director, "Issues," accessed October 24, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurParkerNews.com, "Candidate field changes as election draws closer," August 22, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurHighlandsRanchNews.com, "Candidate alleges campaign violation," October 23, 2013
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- Zahira Torres, Denver Post, "Judge: Douglas County school district violated fair campaign laws," December 27, 2013
- Jane Reuter, Our Colorado News, "Radio show cut ignites candidate controversy," September 30, 2013
- Carlos Illescas, Denver Post, "More than 200 people rally against Douglas County school policies," September 27, 2013
- Jane Reuter, Our Colorado News, "Variety of groups joining school fray," September 25, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurLoneTreeNews.com, "Petition decries politics in school elections," August 21, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurLoneTreeNews.com, "School board election gearing up," July 8, 2013
- Jane Reuter, OurCastleRockNews.com, "Douglas County GOP hosts school board," January 19, 2013
- Jane Reuter, Highlands Ranch News, "Local Republicans endorse candidates," August 19, 2013
- Clayton Woullard, DenverPost.com, "Douglas County teen to run for school board," June 26, 2013
- Kevin Leung, EdNews Voices, "Voices: Declining a party endorsement in school board elections," July 25, 2013
- U.S. Census, "Douglas County Quick Facts, accessed July 16, 2013
- Colorado Secretary of State, “Voter Registration Numbers,” Accessed July 19, 2013
- United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014