BY FREDA MIKLIN
On August 14, we ran into Bill Leach and his wife Karen, along with two of their six children, Grier Laughlin, a freshman, and Julia Leach, a sophomore, both at Cherry Creek High School, at the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Open House at 13101 E. Broncos Parkway. All four were wearing tee shirts that said, “Bill Leach for CCSD (Cherry Creek School District).” Leach told us that he had not yet been certified as a candidate but expects to be soon. He said that he is running for school board District E in partnership with Jen Gibbons, who is running for school board District D.
Leach told The Villager that he wants to, “bring a little more accountability, a little more partnership from the board to the parents and the rest of the community.” He said that he and wife Karen’s six kids, including two who have graduated from CCSD, “have had a great experience with CCSD,” but that he “has some current concerns with curriculum that people have come to me for, some various aspects of it.” When we asked what those concerns were, he pointed to, “some of the equity-based bullet points that they have,” and, “in K through six, a little bit of a change in how they’re going to go about the social studies portion of it.” He continued, “It is a change to more equity-based social studies and stuff like that…A lot of the people are concerned that…one of the bullet points in kindergarten is skin tone…and we have some concerns about that…Why are you silo-ing (sic) people into groups based on skin color even at that early of an age, and …There’s other stuff, the accountability and the communication of the board.”
On the subject of equity, at the August 9 meeting of the school board, Chris Smith, CCSD superintendent, said, “CCSD has maintained equity as a core value for 30 years…It is our job to support all students…regardless of race, culture, academic needs, language acquisition, or any other factors…We pride ourselves in being dedicated to excellence, however, our data shows that we are underserving some of our students and it is my job to examine systems and structures in our organization that are limiting students from reaching their highest potential…and change those. This is what’s best for all students…Our students should see themselves in educators who teach them and the curriculum that is taught…Our staff (should be) representative of our student population. Our curriculum…should reflect the contributions of all races, of all cultures that made the United States what it is today…This isn’t about taking from some and giving to others, nor is it about shaming one group to uplift another.”
When The Villager asked Leach what he would do differently, he replied, “I would bring the curriculum changes to the community and to the parents…to the teachers and the broader community versus doing some of this stuff a little more unilaterally than what they have been doing. Anybody who thinks it’s all just kind of fine…it’s not.” He pointed to the unusually large number of people who had offered public comments at the last two school board meetings, which he said were the most who had done so in ten years. Karen Leach added, “Parents and teachers are angry and they don’t feel like they are being heard. They don’t feel represented.”
The candidate said that he had been going to back-to-school nights at some of the elementary schools. “As I just walk around meeting people, there’s a lot of people that are glad to see there’s some more choices for school board this year,” he reported, adding, “There’s some school resource officer (SRO) issues that we’re trying to get sorted out.” His wife added, “And let them know that we support and appreciate them, too.” Leach talked about the fact that Arapahoe County, Greenwood Village and Aurora provide the SROs to the schools located in their jurisdictions, adding, “There’s funding issues. There’s availability of staff issues. We want to make sure that the SROs always have a place in the security of the schools.” He said, “There needs to be some conversation between the district and the police agencies to try to make sure that this thing can continue.” He went on, “There could be some schools that aren’t covered due to staffing and budgetary issues; we need to have a conversation about who else can pick up those shifts.” We pointed out that CCSD’s public information officer had previously said that the district was already talking to Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and Greenwood Village Police Department about picking up some of the shifts at CCSD schools in Aurora that Aurora Police Department was unable to fill due to staffing shortages.
Summarizing his reasons for running for the school board, Leach said, “We just want to increase the partnership level…The district does a pretty decent job of communicating about some things…They don’t send everything to the parents that I think they should. There is some stuff that should be front and center in their communications.”
Leach works for the state at the Governor’s Office of Information Technology on the operations team for the Colorado Benefits Management System, “providing the big system that does eligibility for public assistance.”