In what the county calls one of its highest turnouts in a non-presidential election, voters in Douglas County threw their support behind school board members in favor of the controversial school voucher program.
Unofficial election results showed two incumbents, both of whom voted to approve the voucher program, will be joined by a third pro-voucher candidate on the Douglas County Board of Education for four-year terms.
In District A, covering the northwest corner of the county, incumbent Craig V. Richardson garnered about 46 percent of the vote, prevailing against Susan D. Meek and Kevin Reilly.
Richardson was appointed to the school board in June 2010 and looks forward to his first full term representing the district. He sees voters’ decision as a message of support for the innovations proposed by the sitting school board, with an eye on program efficiency.
“(The school board is) going to have to pursue expanding choices for parents and a pay-for-performance system for our terrific teachers in our district … in a way that doesn’t require additional revenue,” Richardson said. “I think we’re up to the task. I think this is the best board in the country that is able to innovate with scarce resources.”
The voter support of pro-choice candidates reflects approval of a number of board resolutions, including the blueprint for choice, giving greater decision-making power to individual schools and the design of the district’s leadership team, Richardson said.
School district superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen has assembled a leadership team committed to innovation and took the step to let school principals decide how best to allocate the resources available to their schools, Richardson said.
Voters in District C, which covers central Highlands Ranch, elected freshman candidate Kevin Larsen with 57 percent of the vote over Gail Frances.
Larsen comes to the school board after 15 years of volunteering at the district. The decision to run for the school board seemed a natural choice following his experience with school volunteer duties that began when his children started at the district, he said.
He has been involved in a number of school committees that have had to make unpopular choices over the years, arming him with the experience to sit on a school board familiar with community reaction to change, Larsen said.
Larsen watched the debate over school vouchers take shape from his post on the district accountability committee and approached the issue from an analytical standpoint, he said. He opted to support the school choice scholarship program.
“What I wanted to bring was this vast experience I’ve gained from being in classrooms with the teachers, being at events with parents, being at meetings and especially with the voucher program being debated heavily,” Larsen said. “I’ve been firm in saying ‘I’m going to do what’s right,’ and weathered the storm of handling some people taking issue with that.”
In District F, representing Franktown, part of Parker and the northwest portion of Elbert County, Justin Williams won 51 percent of the vote against candidate Susan McMahon.
The Douglas County election office estimated it received more than 67,000 ballots in the 2011 election and counted ballots until about 10:30 p.m. Election Night, according to Jack Arrowsmith, Douglas County clerk and recorder. Arrowsmith made the decision to close operations on Election Night because of hazardous weather conditions and resumed counting the remaining ballots the following day.
The unofficial results will be certified Nov. 18 by the Douglas County board of canvass, at which time the results will become official, Arrowsmith said.