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District 3 Candidate Carrie Olson Q&A


Biographical information

Carrie Olson is a middle and high school teacher at West Leadership Academy. She has been teaching in Denver Public Schools since 1985. She received a BA from Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, and a master’s from the University of Colorado at Denver.

When looking at the past four years, how would you describe DPS’ legacy? 

DPS’ legacy is one of privatizing a revered public institution, an institution that is a cornerstone of our democracy. With its board composition of 6-1 and currently 7-0 the district has wholeheartedly embraced the national agenda of privatization: school choice, unlimited charters, non-union workforce, high stakes testing, teacher evaluations based on test scores. The current unanimous board has accepted most of the national “reforms” and yet the academic outcomes continue to be disappointing. While implementing these reforms, curricula have narrowed, physical education, the arts and other non-tested subjects have been cut. DPS has outsourced its educational responsibilities.

What should be DPS’ top four priorities in the next four years? 

  1. Stop closing schools.
  2. Enforce a moratorium on new charter schools
  3. Hold accessible meetings in communities to really listen to what students, families, and the people who live in the community have to say about what they want.
  4. Transparency in DPS’ budget by providing a detailed, line item budget.

Many families enjoy the ability to “choice” into a desired school. This benefit, however, comes at a price. Please describe some of the negative repercussions of the “choice” system and ways to mitigate those repercussions. 

The real choice most families really wish for is the choice to walk students, especially for elementary students, to their neighborhood schools. Families want to be able to attend school events and participate in school. School communities have advocated for DPS to resource existing schools. Choice in Denver appears to be a large factor in increasing both a re-segregation of our schools and an increase in overall inequity. Working to make a situation better for all kids in a particular school has declined. In several Denver neighborhoods the only choices available have become stringent charter schools that are not inclusive of all students.

A July 2017 report by the NAACP’s Task Force on Quality Education re-iterated its call for a moratorium on new charters until there is accountability and transparency in their operations. What will you do in response to this, if elected? 

I will insist that we follow this call from the NAACP. I will insist that existing charter schools be held to the same accountability and transparency as our non-charter schools. It is very difficult to find out the real amount charters spend on their students; it is also very difficult to find out general operating expenditures. I would insist that charters must allow all of its financials, including grant and private money, to be easily accessible to the public. In addition, they must report the salaries and educational preparation of their staff and allow their teachers to unionize if they desire.

What are the pros and cons of allowing people who do not have a formal teacher education to teach Denver’s students? For example those trained by the Teach for America program or the Relay Graduate School of Education. 

I cannot think of any pros of having people who do not have formal training be in charge of our children. The cons are that both TFA and Relay produce temporary employees who tend to view educating students as a temporary assignment. It appears that they spend a few years educating our students and move on to another job. They do not expend the energy and time to bond with the communities to which they are assigned as traditional teachers do.

Who do you expect will be the three top funders to your campaign? Are there any organizations or individuals from which you will be declining contributions? 

My top three funders will more than likely be Denver Classroom Teachers Association ($5,000), Jack Thompson ($1,000, a friend), and I am not sure who else will be able to donate large amounts. I will decline contributions from any corporations that support charter schools, private schools, vouchers, or school closings.

On a grade of A to F, rate Superintendent Tom Boasberg’s performance over the last four years.

C+. While I appreciate the strong support for DACA, resources are still lacking, segregation has grown, teacher turnover is high, and DPS has outsourced education through charters and school closures.

What is your position on vouchers?

They do not have a place in public education.

What is your position on “choice?”

Some TRUE choice (i.e. that is accessible and understood by families) is acceptable but as it stands it has further segregated our city.

What is your position on enrollment zones?

The district needs to re-examine its use of enrollment zones.

What is your position on high-stakes testing?

Too many high stakes testing is harmful to our students and takes up an inordinate amount of teachers’ time. Some testing is needed in high school such as the PSAT and the SAT but not all the tests we are currently administering.

What do you bring to the board that is new?

I bring 33 years of teaching experience and a PhD in education. I am passionate and am a hard worker to make DPS the best system in the nation.

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