ARCHIVE - 2017 Board of Directors Election - Candidate Q&A Responses

Board of Directors candidates were asked to respond to 5 questions summarizing why they're running for the Stargate Board, their views on key issues facing the school and the expertise they'd bring to a Board position. The candidates are running for 2 open parent seats on the Stargate Board of Directors. One of these seats will be for a one-year term and one will be for a three-year term. 

All information was provided by the candidates running for election.

Among its key responsibilities, the Stargate School Board of Directors is responsible for the Stargate budget, review of the annual audit, evaluation of the school's Executive Director and compensation, policy approval and corporate level sponsorships. The Governance Board focus is longer term and “big picture”. For more information about the work this group does, visit the Board of Directors page.

Stargate community members will receive voting instructions the week of May 1 - either in their Monday folders (grades K-5) or via the U.S. mail (grades 6-9). Eligible voters may cast ballots between May 1 (midnight) and May 8 (4pm MT). If you have any questions about the election process or about the voting instructions provided to eligible voters, contact

#1 - Why do you want to become a Member of the Stargate Governance Board? 

Paul Darrah: I am interested in dedicating my time and experience to help Stargate maintain its momentum as it strives to meet its goals for serving our gifted students. I frequently attend the governance board meetings and am familiar with the requirements of our board. While I believe that it is necessary to allow our administration significant latitude to execute operational activities, I think that we need to support the administration with definite and clear direction, and feedback when necessary. The GBOD should provide a vision for the future that considers the requirements of all stakeholders as well as help focus the administration on areas that are in need of attention when they arise outside of current KPIs.

Taylor Johnson: I would like to continue to build on Stargate’s growth and update and implement policies for the size of the school we are becoming. Transparency, communication, and clearly defined policies are critical to serving the best interest of the students, staff, and the Stargate Community. As a self-governed Charter School we are dependent on our community members to survive and thrive. In order to create a culture of inclusion and participation we need to better communicate and tap in to our volunteer resources.

Rob Kauffman: I want to continue serving our Stargate community. I am enthusiastic about the future of Stargate and want to see it become the top charter school in the State. My desire is to increase the two-way communication and transparency between the parents, administration, teachers, and students. I want to support the Administration in the implementation of innovative ideas, while keeping an eye on the mission to support gifted children.

Amanda Szymanski: I want to become a board member because I feel that leadership is the most important determinant in the success of our school. Leadership can and should be seen not only from the board members, but also by the administration, staff, parents and even students. I believe having solid leadership within our Board helps empower everyone else in our community and I strongly feel I would be an asset to the Stargate Board because of my determination and passion for our school. I am determined to make things the best they can be for our families and I have a strong desire to give and share with those around me.

#2 - How long have your children been at Stargate and what has been your involvement with the school?

Paul Darrah:  
My son has been a student since the start of kindergarten. I have volunteered in the classroom helping with grading papers, for parties, and to help with science lessons. I have participated in the D.O.G.S. program, served on the Accountability Committee, and am currently helping on the Bond Allocation Committee.

Taylor Johnson:  Our family has been part of the Stargate family for six years. My daughter is in fifth grade and my son is in first grade. I have been very involved in the Community Relations Committee as the Chairperson and I have been active in the Fundraising Committee in the past. With an amazing group of volunteers and their families we have seen attendance at Community events quadruple over the past several years. I have tried to attend every School Board Meeting and have witnessed incredible strides and have appreciated the opportunity to learn about our school and the governing process.

Rob Kauffman:  I have been a Stargate parent for 7 years. I started attending board meetings after I had a job change that allowed for me to be in town on Wednesdays. Soon after, I ran for the School Accountability Committee (SAC) and was honored to be elected. I was the parent co-chair of the SAC from 2015 until two months ago. Two months ago, I was selected to fill a vacancy on the Governance Board.

Amanda Szymanski:  My oldest is in the third grade and has been at Stargate since kindergarten. My daughter will join the Stargate family as a kindergartner this fall. I first began my involvement by volunteering in the classroom on a weekly basis as well as sharing my love of baking homemade sweets with the teachers and staff! Towards the end of my son's kindergarten year I discovered the Fundraising Committee, as another way to get more involved within our community. This year I was in charge of the Entertainment for our annual Gala. I was excited to be appointed by the current Board to the Bond Advisory Committee where I am helping to educate the community on how our portion of the Adams 12 Bond money will be spent.

#3 - What skills do you bring from previous experience and/or your profession? 

Paul Darrah:  I am a certified project manager with experience in defining goals, specifying requirements, and most importantly evaluating performance. As previously mentioned, I have experience managing and reporting budget performance and understand the financial requirements of complex operations. I believe my experience managing and developing a diverse workforce will help as we further develop our HR management processes as we grow our staff to support our growing student body. My experience as head of a facility will help with understanding the management needs of our facility and capital assets as well as with operations requirements. Although I do not have a background in education, I am experienced at researching and applying regulatory and administrative requirements.

Taylor Johnson:  My professional project management and strategic planning skills would be an asset in board planning. Working with franchisees for over 25 years, I have experience evaluating individual needs and incorporating them to benefit a greater group. With my efforts as a special needs advocate, I bring an understanding of Special Education and twice exceptional children.

Rob Kauffman:  As a chair of the SAC, I've had experience with the Administration, the Board, other committees, teachers, and parents. I've had the chance to study the governance documents for Stargate and the laws regarding public schools and charter schools in the State of Colorado. I've helped shape UIP, surveys, and State of the School presentation.  In my professional career, I've worked as a Consultant with the Department of Defense (DOD). This role has allowed me to lead a project that affected over 400 Air Force bases and had over 100 people implementing the project. Leading projects of this size requires attention to details and the ability to trust others with their responsibilities. The DOD taught me how to work inside a bureaucracy that sometimes appears to care more about the rules then what is right. I've been effective in creating consensus and leading change in all environments. 

Amanda Szymanski:  As a Director of a summer camp I learned how to uphold and implement the values of the YMCA mission statement, work within a budget and set goals for long term success of the program. While obtaining my doctorate I was the President of the local Student Association where I increased membership participation from 20% to 100% in one year. During this time I also was the liaison to the State of Colorado Board Association where I defended a bill presented on the floor of the House of Representatives. As the President and Owner of my company, I have gained invaluable knowledge and experience in business management, training, accounting, marketing and quality assurance.

#4 - What do you see as the most pressing issues for the School and the Board in the upcoming 1-2 years? What do you hope to contribute and accomplish while serving on the Board of Directors?

Paul Darrah:   The most pressing task that we have to complete is the successful integration of grades 9-12 into the Stargate model while looking for the opportunities that presents us with to improve and standardize processes and curriculum between the secondary and elementary schools. As we continue to grow into our new capacity, we will undoubtedly encounter points where the growth results in not just a bigger Stargate, but also a need for different approaches to various elements. It is essential that we keep our focus on our Mission Statement and continue to refine how we evaluate our performance in that regard.
From a curriculum perspective I would like to see a greater focus on science and technology at Stargate and more validity and support conferred upon career paths that may not include immediate transfer to a four-year college. I also would like to support creative paths to providing AP and college credit opportunities to our students.

Taylor Johnson:  Managing growth while maintaining our standards and staying true to our mission is the most pressing issue facing Stargate. I hope to help build on Stargate’s progress and update and implement policies accordingly. With that growth we need to create an atmosphere of inclusion through communication and volunteerism.

Rob Kauffman:  I am excited about the potential of the Adroit program. Design thinking and Stargate's implementation, Adroit, has a chance to shape the student’s school experience in incredibly positive ways. Unfortunately, the implementation has been uneven. One of my priorities would be to assist the Administration in the implementation of Adroit. My second priority would be to work with the Administration on how each grade builds on the preceding grade. 9th and 6th are known for having a substantial increase in difficulty from the preceding grade. This increase may be standard in other public schools, but being a full 12-year school we should be able to increase the difficulty in a gradual way that best prepares the students. I will work for campus-wide integration to optimize the natural progression of the curriculum. I have one more issue that I see as pressing. Due to space limitations, I placed it at the top of the Mission and Vision question.

Amanda Szymanski:  I foresee a couple challenges that our school and Board will face in the upcoming years. I worry about our community once we are at full build out because part of what makes Stargate so special is the closeness of the community. How do we maintain this closeness of parents and staff, willingness of families to help in the classroom and at community events as well as students continuing to feel like they matter once we are at capacity? I also see us needing to make a cohesive decision in regards to how we spend the Bond money appropriately and effectively so that it will best suit the needs of our kids. I would love to implement a "Coffee with the Board" once a month (with childcare of course!) as well as a website or Facebook page where parents can ask questions and voice their concerns directly to the Board. I feel ensuring our community feels heard by the Board will help give them the confidence and desire to partake in their children's future.

#5 - What is your understanding of the Stargate Mission and Vision? What role do you perceive the Board plays in serving the Mission and Vision?

Paul Darrah:   
I believe that the commitment to a differentiated program for our gifted learners is of central importance. The flexibility to allow students to proceed faster or more slowly than their peers in the various curriculum areas is vitally important. Being able to recognize a student that is bored, or a little over their head is one thing but having the ability to provide that student with appropriate options is what will enable them be a success. The explicit acknowledgement that parent involvement is a crucial part of our approach is an important element. We are fortunate to have parents with diverse experience and expertise. To the degree we can properly coordinate their generous inclination to help, we will be able to offer uncommon value to our students.

Taylor Johnson:  Stargate’s Mission spoke to our family as it caters to students strengths and the whole child is considered including social and emotional needs. It’s the Board’s responsibility to implement the mission and vision by overseeing committees and through informed and thoughtful decision making.

Rob Kauffman:  There was a recent proposal to the Board regarding Stargate’s communication pathways. The proposal did a wonderful job of researching the communication processes and making recommendations. As a board member, I volunteered to take these recommendations and create policy proposals that can be approved by the full Board and implemented by the Administration. I am eager to work as a board member to see these recommendations implemented. 

Mission and Vision: As a parent the mission of Stargate is very important to me. Stargate is a place that not only teaches my intellectually gifted learner the "3 R's" but works to shape them into a happy adult that loves being challenged to be the best they can be. Meeting this mission is the key to being a board member. Every decision needs to be looked at in regard to how it meets the mission and how it will affect the students.

Amanda Szymanski: I love that our Stargate Mission encompasses wanting to support the whole child. It states that it will challenge them academically while supporting their emotional needs and encouraging a lifelong love of learning. This balance is critical in developing a well rounded individual. I feel our vision could be used to help strengthen our community because it states that the Stargate Community will be a leader and innovator by creating an environment to meet the needs of our gifted and talented kids. I feel our community extends beyond the stereotypical classroom to our Board, Administration, Teachers, Parents and Students. I would love to see our community continue to come together to support the well-being of all of our Stargate children.
Election - Quick Links

Candidate Bios
Candidates' biographies and backgrounds page

Skills Profiles
Candidates' areas of expertise and professional skills page

Cast Your Vote
1. Go to the Simply Voting site between May 1-8
2. Enter the information provided in the election letter you received in your Monday folder or via the USPS
3. Follow the on-screen instructions to make your selections and cast your vote

Elections at Stargate
Overview page, click