Amanda Stevens

Approaching the Finish Line


The finish line of my campaign is nearing; Election Day is almost here.

It’s a good thing elections are still won by votes cast, not dollars spent. But that could change.


It’s a good thing Jeffco community members and stakeholders value each other in the hard, worthy work of building up all students toward flourishing lives. But that could change.


It’s a good thing Jeffco has a track record of nonpartisan service in the best interests of students. But that has changed, and we need to come together to replace extreme political agendas funded by outside money with grassroots leadership focused on our kids.


We still expect another 100,000 ballots to be cast, and so far it looks like it is going to be close. Very close. Will expensive commercials and fancy AFP flyers drown out hours of effort, miles of walking neighborhoods, and thousands of conversations with voters about the disrespect, wastefulness, and division we’ve seen from our current board majority? Not if we are informed and informing others.

SO VOTE! Then talk to 3 people who know and trust you, so they can be informed voters, too.

Soon Jeffco will know more about the future of its school board and public education in our community. Recently, someone asked me: “If you win by 51% of the vote, what will you do so that in a year Jeffco will be in a better place than today?”

It should be noted, the question was asked with a slight tremor. It was not the first time words betrayed deep emotion. I have met teachers who are considering leaving our district or even the profession they love if things don’t improve. I’ve met parents who are considering selling their homes and finding a place that feels safer, more committed to their children than the recent Jeffco school board firestorm. I’ve heard from charter parents who are fearful the progress made in funding at their schools will evaporate “if the board turns.” People are afraid. Some are preparing for drastic change. It leaves me feeling terribly sad.

Fear and division threaten unity, excellence, and shared service to all Jeffco students and our community. In a school district of strong outcomes, proud partnerships, and honest work in areas still needing improvement, this shouldn’t be.

Jeffco must find a way back to Trust and Trying. It is time to be Unified, not divided. We must Be Daring and Be Kind. We are in this together for the sake of 86,000 students. So it is time for each and every 1 of us to VOTE!

What must Jeffco do differently? We must set aside the broken, bought, polarizing politics of the last two years and elect a Clean Slate for Jeffco Schools. We are ready to serve one sacred mission – the success of all students – and purposefully listen to all community voices. We will bring strong advocacy from differing backgrounds and perspectives, and we will bring humility – an awareness that none of us has all the answers. What we can accomplish is sustainable, positive improvement for our schools and community. Our kids deserve nothing less.

In the years after my first child was born, I became a half-marathoner. After my second was born, I became a marathoner. It was a surprising development for this half-hearted athlete, but it brought a sense of balance and strength. Don’t be too impressed; I’m slow enough that I’d only qualify for the Boston Marathon if I were a 70-year-old woman. Still, I finish the same course on the same day in the same conditions as the best in the world.

Why mention this here? Because what better metaphor for what our children need from us now at our school board. We are nearing the finish line of Election Day, but we should hold a far more important finish line in our heads and hearts. When it comes to our children, they need us to choose lofty goals, and enable them to run the long, hard, joyful race to the finish line of Graduation. We aren’t doing this because of politics, ideology, or personal ambition. We want to see each and every student find her path to a thriving life. We want graduation to be a joyful finish line and an even more hopeful starting line. Today, 86,000 students need our strength so they can be strengthened. They deserve our endurance so they may endure.
So VOTE! (Please fill out your ballot, be informed (, and deliver it to the nearest ballot drop box location; it is too late to mail in your ballot.,

Money Matters

Money matters. It is a tool, but who wields it and for what end makes all the difference.

Students in Colorado continue to fall far below the national average in K12 funding. Since the Recession, $1,000 per child per year has been withheld from their education, with no solution on the table and further cuts coming. In a booming economy, this is nonsensical and inexcusable. Families, schools, and districts are faced with impossible either/or decisions that shortchange children and all of us. We can do better.


What might we provide for students if we worked together to close Colorado’s funding gap?

  • Reading and math interventionists for increased academic achievement
  • Science labs for hands on learning
  • Graduation requirements that match our state college entrance requirements
  • Greater access to vocational/technical learning pathways, 21st century technology tools, and arts enrichment in all schools
  • Affordable high quality early childhood education for all families

What might we lose if we don’t find the will to do right by our children?

  • World language graduation requirement (Jeffco had to cut this temporarily a few years ago; thankfully we got it back, but things really do go away in tough times.)
  • Adequate numbers of teachers, teacher-librarians, counselors, principals, and instructional coaches
  • Increased student-based budgeting dollars for flexible, wise investment to meet specific school community needs
  • More and more teachers lost to Boulder, Denver, and other districts who are choosing to spend more to support children in K12 education

A little good news: Colorado was recognized as the second most effective and efficient education system in the nation, though our safety ranking was an abysmal 47th.

Jeffco has a vital challenge before it in this November’s school board election. We will choose between public education as the great equalizer it has always been or a path to privatized education that sorts students better than it serves them. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and maybe others to send mailers and broadcast commercials in support of a board majority that cares more about outside agendas than our children and community.

Can you make a donation to my campaign to help me reach the voters who will decide this critical election?

Will you commit to volunteering at least once to knock on doors or make phone calls with my campaign? Please email my campaign manager at

Will you have one conversation everyday with a neighbor, a friend, a person in line with you at the grocery store–anyone you can–about this school board election?

We can be the ark our schools and children need to save our community from this flood of outside money, but it will take all of us! I have confidence in Jeffco. We are the right people for our kids, and I’m excited for the whole nation to know it!

Clean Slate for Jeffco Kids

My campaign to serve a four-year term for Excellence, Transparency, and Cooperation on the Jeffco School Board has been in full swing for 4 months. For the final weeks of my campaign, I am excited to partner with four other stellar school board candidates who I am convinced share my commitment to honoring all community voices and serving all students.

I launched my effort for the District 4 seat on Jeffco’s Board of Education long before a recall campaign began. Now as then, I am prepared to serve with whomever sits at the table with me working in students’ best interests. From the beginning, I spent long hours exploring some of the common ground that I could build on with our current board majority. Collaboration has always been a core value of my campaign.

I am thankful that Jeffco has new pathways forward for our schools’ and students’ success. After the controversy and loss of trust of the past couple years, our team brings fresh, diverse perspectives and backgrounds with a unified commitment to serve Jeffco in a nonpartisan way.

It was a tough decision for me to join a slate. I am a lifelong unaffiliated voter whose parents would sit at the kitchen table with their blue books and joke about their votes cancelling each other’s out. I come by my independence honestly, and I know no side of the political aisle has a corner on the truth.

I was ultimately convinced to join the Clean Slate for Jeffco Kids as I spent time in conversation with the other candidates, learning about their expertise, personal histories, and honest examination of the strengths and shortcomings in Jeffco’s schools. If we serve together, you can expect hearty debate around compensation, testing and accountability, and of course how best to provide direction around limited funding each year. You can also count on our laser-like focus on all Jeffco students. I look forward to disagreeing without discord, and successfully building long-term, durable solutions for our school district by listening respectfully to all community and stakeholder voices.

I am excited as a Jeffco parent and a candidate about the strong candidates with whom I am partnering for the final push of my campaign. Learn more about them, and you will be as excited as I am!


Bright Beginnings for All Jeffco Students: Early Childhood Education

All Jeffco students deserve a supportive foundation for educational and lifelong success. In Jeffco, early childhood education is our shared opportunity and challenge to help all children thrive now and long into the future.

Did you know that for every dollar invested in quality early childhood education, $3-$7 dollars are saved? ( That is a smart investment!

Did you know major long-term positives correlate to a child’s access to quality early childhood education, including higher graduation rates, higher incomes, and lower crime and teen pregnancy rates?

Did you know quality preschool and kindergarten classrooms prove helpful to ALL students–typically-developing children AND children with special needs, English language learners AND native English speakers, children in poverty AND middle class kids?

Jeffco faces a unique challenge in assuring all students benefit from this crucial foundation.

Wonderful programs and partnerships exist, like the Parent-Child Home Program which supports young families in creating nurturing learning environments from the beginning of a child’s life, and the Jefferson Success Pathway which aims to connect all stakeholders to help all students succeed from cradle to career. Also, the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) and ECARE identify and fund access to half-day preschool and full-day kindergarten for students who qualify due to family, economic, or developmental need.

Jeffco sadly lost access to over $1 million dollars in CPP and ECARE funds last year due to a school board decision. School board members must practice due diligence in protecting these critical pathways of support for Jeffco’s students and families.

Our school district is currently trying a new mechanism for providing free full-day kindergarten to children who qualify for free and reduced-cost meals – now we must evaluate its effectiveness. Communication, family privacy, and student-based budgeting must be carefully navigated so that full-day kindergarten is a high-quality service delivered to all families who choose it, not an unfair revenue stream with clear winners and losers among our school communities.

Jeffco must maintain high-quality preschool and kindergarten programming that develops play with purpose, social and emotional health, planning and follow-through skills, and bedrock academic abilities. In well-equipped classrooms with well-trained, well-supported early childhood educators, young children learn to actively and joyfully participate in learning, setting them on a path toward greater lifelong success.

I am so thankful for the passionate, professional preschool and kindergarten teachers in Jeffco who launched my children on a path of positive engagement in learning. I will work to ensure all Jeffco families are served with the same age-appropriate excellence for our youngest learners.

(For further reading, click here to read a letter I submitted last Spring to Jeffco’s school board regarding kindergarten, student-based budgeting and equity.) 


All Students Are Safe and Celebrated in Jeffco

In honor of Be Kind to Humankind Week, and Bystander Awareness Month, both in August, please take a moment to read the letter I wrote to the school board last school year after a concerning Facebook share from a school board member. Join me in celebrating diversity and ensuring safety for all students!

April 21, 2015

Thank you for your hard and worthy work on behalf of all Jeffco students. I am respectfully submitting the following letter, which addresses the recent controversy around the “Day of Silence”. Thank you.

To the Jeffco School Board Members:

Recently, the “Day of Silence,” a student planned demonstration against bullying and in solidarity with LGBTQ youth, caused new controversy in Jeffco.

In our public schools, we guarantee a safe place for all students–one child at a time.

We don’t ask a child where she was born.

We don’t ask a child who he loves.

We don’t ask a child how he prays.

We welcome each and every child. More than that, we celebrate the beauty and strengths of diversity!

For a quiet moment, feel the weight of the high numbers of depression, homelessness, and suicide among LGBTQ youth. Though only 4% of youth identify as LGBTQ, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ–they are ten times over represented–and thirty percent of LGBTQ youth attempt suicide near age 15.

Feel the sting of the hurled slur as if it were meant to shame you out of sight. Sit with the stone in your stomach, wondering if you are an okay person, and upon finding the confidence to embrace yourself, having to realize some people will refuse your embrace on principle.

Every school board member must be able to look in the eye of each and every child in our schools and say, “I am here to serve you, to protect your place here, and I’m so glad you are with us.” This role, governing our public schools, is a sacred trust. When an action creates a real wound, real reconciliation requires more than fast apologies.

Amanda Stevens
Jeffco parent


When people come together for a purpose, structures form. Like a body needs a backbone and a house needs a frame, organizations need the support of shared policies and practices.

Cooperation is essential to the health of these structures in Jeffco Public Schools.

Students and schools don’t exist to serve school board agendas, but the other way around. The Jeffco school board exists to serve 86,000 students–whose goals and needs are as diverse and numerous as they are.

I will be uncompromising in my expectation that all Jeffco schools will work to prepare each and every student for success in whatever path they choose. However, I know my ability to cooperate and collaborate–and to compromise–is integral to supporting all students.

I will consider the input of community members in decision-making, and I will preserve the avenues through which it is offered, like public comment, committees, and surveys.

I will respect the voices of our classified staff, administrator, and educator associations.

I am committed to working with all stakeholder groups–educators, support staff, leadership, families, students, and community members. Their voices and input are the roots which nourish our schools. Without them we weaken and wither.

During my four years as chair and co-chair of my children’s elementary school’s Accountability team, I saw firsthand the importance of fostering a community’s ability to cooperate. Our success requires all stakeholders’ participation. All voices deserve respect; their input must be pursued. Disagreements are certain. Sometimes the temptation can be to control conversations or diminish stakeholder voices. Unilateral decision-making seems so much easier. In truth, partnering with stakeholders creates sustainability and durability, whereas acting unilaterally creates conflict. Inflexible leadership leads to brittle, breakable outcomes at best. Jeffco students deserve better.

Just as a growth mindset is important for students’ success, our efforts on their behalf must be dynamic and improving–not fixed. In that sense, the work of a school board is not to land on the right answer once and for all, but to have the right kinds of conversations. Through respectful debate, we can foster policies and practices that value stakeholders’ voices and build enduring structures for all students’ success.

The politics swirling around education must not be allowed to petrify or polarize our work as a school board. Cooperation, compromise, and an unwavering focus on the success of all students can protect us as an institution so that our efforts serve students rather than use them in service to other agendas.

We are better and stronger together than we ever could be alone.

Just ask Big Bird (click below):

Transparency is the Safeguard

As a parent with young children, I am familiar with the ritual of the first day of school. New school supplies, maybe a new outfit, and nerves. We get nervous because we care–about all the joys we want captured and challenges we want conquered for and by our children.

Jeffco School Board decisions impact students, families, educators and staff, and ultimately our whole community. It is critical that Board of Education decisions and processes are transparent. Transparency looks like speaking to issues directly and listening purposefully, not hindering public comment or redacting invoices. In order to deliver high quality, sustainable excellence, we must be transparent regarding the development of goals, the evaluation of effectiveness, and the stewardship of resources.

Transparency safeguards a sustainable, increasingly successful school district.

While transparency sometimes sounds like an empty political buzzword, for me it is personal. Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak makes him seem transparent, but in truth invisibility is the opposite of transparency. In high school, invisibility was my shield of choice. I tried to disappear, and it worked too well. I became disconnected and left, missing out on 18 months of learning in a connected school community, instead earning my GED in isolation. True transparency makes people and practices visible so that through connection, collaboration, and understanding all members of the Jeffco community are better served. Therefore, transparency that serves students requires courage and trust from all of us.

All Jeffco residents count on a strong school system to support our great quality of life. Homeowners count on it to maintain and build the value of their biggest financial asset. Businesses count on it to deliver a workforce ready for 21st century challenges. Most importantly, families count on it to partner in preparing our children for success in futures we cannot predict but must work for everyday.

If we want students to learn and grow, educators, administrators, and staff to work for continuous improvement, and citizens to get a strong return on taxpayer investment, then we must transparently articulate shared goals to which we hold ourselves accountable.

Accountability is not an us versus them proposition. We are in this together. Each community member benefits from great schools, and each of us is responsible to help all our schools be great. I welcome the streaming of board meetings. I find value in occasionally holding board meetings in a Jeffco high school, especially if that board meeting study session is dedicated to hearing from an articulation area’s school communities about their educational and budget triumphs and challenges.

I am committed to genuine transparency, with open ears and honest intentions. I will answer questions and speak to issues directly. I will also ask questions to unearth information and stories relevant to decision making. I will listen to the insights communicated to me, knowing my ability to serve Jeffco depends on my ability to listen well. I will attend community events and meetings ready to listen to the people of Jeffco and learn from them.

I will work for transparency and trust-building, so that decision-making is open, compromise is possible, and students’ best interests are sacred.

The work of schools matters. Jeffco is currently navigating this worthy work with an elevated sense of conflict and controversy. Transparency can bring more light and less heat–more practical insight and less partisan conflict–so that students are the center of school board business.


Excellence is the Aim: Relationships

My experience, as a Jeffco student, then as a teacher, and now as a Jeffco parent, has refined my vision for education. It is laser-focused on all students’ best interest. I believe the Jeffco community deserves nothing less than a steadfast commitment to Excellence, Transparency, and Cooperation.

I want to articulate what I mean by Excellence, recognizing that Jeffco schools already aim for excellence. Everyone in Jeffco whole-heartedly working for it has my profound respect and gratitude. In support of ongoing efforts:

Students in Jeffco need

  • Excellence in learning
  • Excellence in opportunities and
  • Excellence in relationships

I’m amazed at the support the Jeffco community has shown me in my campaign for Jeffco’s school board. I know it is rooted in a commitment to our schools and students. Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision of Excellence with you.

Part One

Part Two 

Part Three: Excellence in Relationships

A final dimension of excellence Jeffco students deserve is relationships. We win great outcomes for all students one student at a time. In addition to navigating the demands of the school day, Jeffco students navigate various strengths and challenges in themselves, their neighborhoods, and their homes.

When Jeffco students are connected to peers and professionals in their school, not merely as widgets or data points but as human beings, then we may hope to maximize their unique journeys toward successful futures. I know firsthand how helpful it is to not have to go it alone. Sometimes I wonder if a small amount of individual attention might have redirected my path from a GED back to graduation.

Through excellence and care from counselors, social workers, teacher-advisors, teacher-librarians, paraprofessionals, and support staff, every child has multiple opportunities to be valued and understood by school and district staff everyday. It matters that in addition to the tasks they complete, these staff members build a culture of safety and connection to students.

Action Steps: Deliver systems that protect student information privacy, allowing only families and relevant staff access to transparent, individualized information for shared discussions and decision-making around student learning, like the Classroom Dashboard currently under development. Explore models for delivering small-group advisory support through teachers, particularly at the middle and high school levels, to compliment current high ratio student-counselor advisement, to better individualize personal and educational supports.


When I hear about education policy issues today, I see students’ faces. I remember my former student who reached the 6th grade reading at a 3rd grade level. It took two years of data-driven intervention and support, but he entered 8th grade a Proficient reader. I see the transfixed gaze of the student for whom the meaning of a Shakespearean sonnet flowed and flowered in her nimble mind at the first hearing. And of course I see my own children’s faces, and wonder what they will accomplish–what they will be supported to accomplish–in Jeffco schools.

Jeffco’s best gift to kids is a strong education, developing for all students deep understanding and broad opportunities, so each child is ready to confidently follow–or trailblaze–whatever path they choose.  They will also need to be connected to people who know and value them as individuals, and who have the expertise to make learning work for them. We must also care about the systems and standards, the tools and resources, the aims and assessments, that make this a unified effort that reaches beyond intentions to outcomes.  We get there together. I’m ready to turn away from partisanship and back to the worthy work of providing robust excellence to all students–one student at a time.

Excellence is the Aim: Opportunities

My experience, as a Jeffco student, then as a teacher, and now as a Jeffco parent, has refined my vision for education. It is laser-focused on all students’ best interest. I believe the Jeffco community deserves nothing less than a steadfast commitment to Excellence, Transparency, and Cooperation.

I want to articulate what I mean by Excellence, recognizing that Jeffco schools already aim for excellence. Everyone in Jeffco whole-heartedly working for it has my profound respect and gratitude. In support of ongoing efforts:

Students in Jeffco need

  • Excellence in learning
  • Excellence in opportunities and
  • Excellence in relationships

I’m amazed at the support the Jeffco community has shown me in my campaign for Jeffco’s school board. I know it is rooted in a commitment to our schools and students. Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision of Excellence with you.

Part One

Part Two: Excellence in Opportunities

A well-rounded education is more than classroom learning, and Jeffco wins accomplishments worth celebrating. We have regional and state championships in athletics and students receiving athletic scholarships to invest in their futures. We have STEM education that builds award-winning hydrogen-fueled vehicles and launches projects to the International Space Station. This year, we saw a Jeffco student reach the finals in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. There have been numerous other recognitions awarded to educators and students–and seeing them honored is my favorite part of school board meetings!

Whether it is Outdoor Lab or debate, instrumental music or student council, theater or athletics, IB, AP, or concurrent enrollment, Jeffco schools offer a wide variety of opportunities for students to explore their interests and extend their learning. We will know we are achieving excellence when we pay as much attention to access and participation in these activities as we do to standardized test scores.

All Jeffco students deserve to learn lessons about experimentation, teamwork, risk-taking, perseverance, and fun through activities that move beyond sitting in a desk. Let’s banish the opportunity gap from Jeffco. Let’s measure our ability to provide and support these opportunities equitably for all students.

Action Steps: Explore possible proxies or data points for monitoring accessibility and participation in extracurricular activities and project-based learning. Articulate traits of quality programs and endeavor to deliver high-quality, accessible opportunities across district schools and across student populations.

Excellence is the Aim: Learning

My experience, as a Jeffco student, then as a teacher, and now as a Jeffco parent, has refined my vision for education. It is laser-focused on all students’ best interest. I believe the Jeffco community deserves nothing less than a steadfast commitment to Excellence, Transparency, and Cooperation.

I want to articulate what I mean by Excellence, recognizing that Jeffco schools already aim for excellence. Everyone in Jeffco whole-heartedly working for it has my profound respect and gratitude. In support of ongoing efforts:

Students in Jeffco need

  • Excellence in learning
  • Excellence in opportunities and
  • Excellence in relationships

I’m amazed at the support the Jeffco community has shown me in my campaign for school board. I know it is rooted in a commitment to our schools and students. Thank you for the opportunity to share my vision of Excellence with you!

Part One: Excellence in Learning

Jeffco can be proud of a decade of measurable improvement in student learning outcomes, despite a season of deep budget cuts. In Jeffco, there is a legacy of continuous improvement, with a record of creating student achievement and growth and narrowing the achievement gap for students living in poverty, with special education needs, and more. This work isn’t finished, and every gain must be won again for each new set of kindergarteners moving toward graduation.

Jeffco has a proven track record, with remediation rates comparable to districts with much higher median incomes and fewer students in poverty. Additionally, Jeffco was recently recognized for having the 2nd highest graduation rate among the nation’s 50 largest school districts, outperforming demographic expectations by 12%. The other two districts in the top three had median incomes tens of thousands of dollars higher than Jeffco and invested thousands more in each student every school year.

Our school communities–the staff, families, and community members who come together for students–have proven themselves effective, and always willing to aim higher. Thus, I am worried that increased teacher turnover and a partisan school board are putting these wins for students at risk. Jeffco’s students are rightfully at the center of our efforts to win educational excellence in our schools and district, and must remain so.

Action Steps: Monitor and respond to student learning outcomes, including achievement and growth, to find exemplars and areas of challenge, then build systems of support and collaboration, not punishment and competition, to move all schools and students forward. Listen to teachers and school communities, who can move us beyond the measurements of learning–always limited–to the art and science of accomplishing learning. Honor and pursue excellence in all subjects through collaboratively developed systems, not merely in the subjects scrutinized with standardized testing under state accountability laws, but also in Health, World Languages, and the Arts.

Amanda’s Half Marathon Post-Race Video

Each and every Jeffco student deserves all our effort to provide educational excellence.

Their journeys will not all look the same; each will be as unique and individual as the students themselves. May our focus be on them. May Jeffco swiftly find a way out of conflict and controversy and back to a united, tireless effort to serve all students. Running this race was a symbol of the strength and stamina I will show the Jeffco community when I win a seat on Jeffco’s school board.

Thank you for supporting my half marathon fundraiser; I hope you enjoy my post-race video! Please donate to my campaign so I can successfully finish my race for the Jeffco Board of Education.

Jeffco Students Deserve Great Teachers

Tests measure.

Curriculum guides.

Resources enable.

Opportunities enrich.

However, none of these tools are most essential to student learning. What is most essential is our teachers teaching well, for they bring all these tools together in service to students. But Jeffco teachers are leaving. In droves.

I have two young children in Jeffco schools, so when I hear that we are facing a higher than 50% increase in teacher turnover in the last year, I grieve. When I learn of another beloved teacher exiting our building for a nearby district’s classrooms, I worry. Losing effective, experienced educators  is a deep wound, and especially painful when it is caused by an unnecessary culture of disrespect, fear, and conflict. Replacing and training new teachers is a costly, slow endeavor–while my children’s time in the classroom ticks on.

To the teachers who are leaving Jeffco to find respectful leadership, quality collaboration, and sustainable livings elsewhere, you are already missed. When Jeffco is once again the destination district for teachers looking for these things, then we will know we are back on the right track for all students.

However, I want to spend my words today communicating with the teachers and staff who are staying.

Thank you.

You willingly sacrificed by living with pay cuts and pay freezes during the Recession. You are committed to high quality and life-enabling education for all students. You work to challenge and nurture learners in your classrooms, serving children as whole, unique individuals, and tailoring your work to their needs. You spend your own time and money to build vibrant classroom activities and communities.

And now, during a time of controversy and extreme partisan agendas, you maintain your resolution and commitment to providing Jefferson County students with the world class education they deserve.

Each of you is an antibody that speeds our district’s healing. As a parent, community member, voter, and now school board candidate, I will speed that healing too.