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2017 School Accountability Committee - Q&A Responses

Stargate School Accountability Committee (SAC) candidates were asked to respond to 5 questions summarizing why they're running for the Stargate SAC, their views on key issues facing the school and the expertise they'd bring to a SAC position. The candidates are running for 3 open parent seats on the Stargate School Accountability Committee. Two of these seats will be for a two-year term and one will be for a one-year term. Those elected will determine among themselves who takes which seat/term, per the election policy.

All information was provided by the candidates running for election.

Among its key responsibilities, the Stargate School Accountability Committee is responsible for providing input to the Board of Directors to assist in establishing (and evaluating progress toward meeting) school goals and improvement plans, including the school's Unified Improvement Plan (UIP). As part of a continuous cycle of planning, evaluating, measuring and reporting, Committee members also conduct the school's annual surveys of the stakeholder community and work to analyze data collected, glean insights and develop recommendations for further supporting the school's progress toward fulfilling its mission,vision and strategic plans. For more information about the work this group does, visit the School Accountability Committee page.

Stargate community members will receive voting instructions the week of Sept. 18 - either in their Monday folders (grades K-5) or via the U.S. mail (grades 6-11). Eligible voters may cast ballots between Sept. 18 (midnight) and Sept 25 (4pm MT). If you have any questions about the election process or about the voting instructions provided to eligible voters, contact electioncommittee@stargateschool.org

NOTE - there are 8 candidates running for election. If you cannot view information for all 8 candidates, please open your browser in a desktop environment to view all of the candidate information.

#1 - Why do you want to become a Member of the Stargate School Accountability Committee? 

Rob Cernich: I want to be more active in the school community and believe the accountability committee is the best fit given my previous experience.

Paul Darrah: I would like to help our school better serve our students.

Kathy Henson: Now that my kids are in Middle School and volunteering in the classroom is no longer necessary, I am looking for other ways to support Stargate. We are happy that our kids attend such a special school, and believe that it takes many people working together to make Stargate the best it can be for all students. I am passionate about education and in an effort to be more effective as an advocate, I applied to and was chosen to be part of the Adams 12 Five Star Leadership Academy for this year. It is a parent group that will meet with district leaders to learn about our district, state education legislation, school finance and more. I am excited about all I will learn and hope to use it to support our school and district.

Kellie Herbert: Please see the answer for my bio but in short I feel drawn to use my professional experience to help Stargate continue to be a place of excellence for current students and all of our future students.

Hannah Lapperre: I would like to serve on the Accountability Committee to be an active member of my community and child's school. I look forward to the collaboration and unity of each section of school government to reach our purpose of guiding our students and helping them achieve their post secondary goals.

Adrian Miller: As a mom of a Stargate Elementary student, a Stargate Middle School student and a Stargate K-8 Graduate (who chose a different high school), I bring a broad perspective in understanding needs at different grade levels, students with different learning styles, and how the needs of gifted students are being met even in other schools. While I would like to see Stargate High School be the preferred choice for all of our 8th graders, this is still not the case, and we need to listen to our students to understand what it would take to provide that edge. These next two years are crucial on the timeline of our Stargate community, as we build-out enrollment through 12th grade.

Patrick Millmore: The development of a Unified Improvement Plan (UIP)can be extremely tedious. Strong UIPs take time and also need the input from others not enmeshed in the school or district. I believe my experience developing UIPs for my current school (not in Adams 12) as well as three years on an Adams 12 elementary school accountability committee provides me with experience that will be helpful in evaluating how Stargate goes about developing and implementing their UIP.

Amanda Szymanski: I want to become a SAC Member because I feel that transparency and accountability are two of the most important qualities in determining the success of our school. I believe being transparent to the community is essential in allowing parents to make an educated and well informed decision in regards to their children's success at school. I also firmly believe holding the Board and Administration accountable for their actions and policies is critical to ensure a system of checks and balances. I strongly feel I would be an asset to the Stargate SAC because of my determination and passion for our school; I am determined to optimize the school experience 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?

Rob Cernich: One year with minimal involvement beyond financial support.

Paul Darrah: This is our sixth year at Stargate. Over the years I have volunteered in a variety of ways: as a Destination Imagination coach, classroom volunteer, field trip chaperone, lead parent organizing/hosting many classroom holiday parties, I have assisted with vision/hearing screening, graded Geography Bowl tests, and spoken at an Adams County Open Space Commission meeting in support of Stargate winning grant money to add park space near campus.

Kathy Henson: Since Kindergarten, now in our sixth school year.

Kellie Herbert: My son began this year. I have accepted the volunteer position of room mom but believe I can also serve the school in a much greater capacity.

Hannah Lapperre: This is my daughter's second year at Stargate, she is currently a high school freshman. I have been part of the CRC, but did not know of it to join until late last spring so I only have helped with the 8th grade graduation last year, thus far. I also helped in a middle school Adroit hour when using power tools. I have attended the curriculum nights and conferences and enjoy watching my daughter play in the sports programs. She is a soccer player but is currently this season on the Ultimate Frisbee team.

Adrian Miller: Since 2007, I have taken an active role in my children’s education at Stargate. At the Elementary level, I volunteered in the Kindergarten and 1/2 classrooms and on field trips (my favorite was 5th grade “Math in the Mall”). At the Middle School level, I chaperoned Band/Orchestra field trips, served as a Science ""Roller Coaster project"" judge, and assisted in Ms. Root’s Language Arts with Reader's Theater and introduction to Debate.
During the Spring of 2016, I served as Parent Liaison for Stargate School Walk to Stop Diabetes, visiting your students in every K-8 classroom to educate about this disease. Our Stargate community responded overwhelmingly, contributing $10,000 to American Diabetes Association kids’ camps in Colorado. It gave me so much pride last summer to see Stargate School Community listed as a Sponsor on the campers’ T-shirts - thank you, Stargate!"

Patrick Millmore: This is my second year having a student at Stargate.

Amanda Szymanski: My oldest is in fourth grade and has been with Stargate since kindergarten. My daughter has joined the Stargate family as a kindergartener 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! Toward the end of my son's kindergarten year, having gotten my feet wet at Stargate and wanting to get more involved, I discovered the Fundraising Committee. This past spring I was in charge of the Entertainment for our annual Gala. Also this past spring, I was excited to be elected by the current Board to the Bond Allocation Committee where I am helping to educate the community on how our portion of the Adams 12 Bond money will be spent. And most recently this fall, I was appointed the Chair of the Fundraising Allocation Committee where we fulfill monetary requests made by our community of staff and students.

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

Rob Cernich: I have served on the accountability committee at our previous school for four years where I learned the purpose of the committee, how a school functions, and what is required of a school at the state and district levels. I have also served on the district's gifted and talented advisory committee which helped me better understand the many challenges presented by gifted students: social emotional needs, providing appropriate challenges, dealing with perfectionism, accommodating different learning styles (visual-spatial vs auditory-sequential), addressing motivation, etc.

Paul Darrah: Project Management, Planning, Engineering and Data Analysis, Root Cause Analysis, Management of Human Resources and Capital Assets.

Kathy Henson: Throughout my work in the arts, I served in leadership positions: as a cruise staff manager, cast liaison with producers, and was I was part of the first Denver Liaison Committee communicating the needs of Denver's professional actors to the national office. When I direct or choreograph, working as part of a production team requires a certain skill set to bring any production to successful fruition: situational management, organizational skills, time management, negotiation and collaboration. There are a lot of moving parts in any production, and I have to keep my eye on the big picture, work within an allotted time frame, not waste people's time and take the needs of other departments into account, all while getting 20-60 people (depending on the production) where they need to be and ready to work. It's intense multi-tasking with a lot of collaboration involved.

Kellie Herbert: I have two decades of high level leadership experience as well as a Masters in Business with a minor in Human Resources and Finance. Skills include but not limited to: navigating complex HR issues, loss prevention, performance management, managing and measuring work, employee engagement, conflict management, P&L management staffing, training and curriculum development as well as other relevant experience.

Hannah Lapperre: My skills from the Adams 12 long range planning committee include bond accountability, budgetary review, vision planning, evaluation of school enrollment projections, collaboration with others and presentations to the Adams 12 school board. I also mange a rental property and have experience with contractors and licensed tradesmen. I was a quality control manager at Glidewell Dental Laboratories and oversaw the distribution of our finished products to the dentist.

Adrian Miller: For the past 15 years, I have taught private music classes for preschoolers, including many students who were later identified as gifted and came to attend Stargate. In my professional work, I served on a national review team to survey parents about music classes and to filter and categorize their feedback. What we learned from our parent surveys was how education needs to adapt to the expectations of millennial parents, which is a similar challenge we face here at Stargate, given the generational change of the Stargate parent profile. As the Accountability Committee is tasked with our annual Stargate Community Satisfaction Survey, I am prepared to contribute my time in listening to parent/staff feedback and classifying those results for the benefit of the administration, staff and parent community. It is critical to report the feedback accurately, to identify patterns in community feedback vs. single-individual concerns, and to be transparent with the results, even if it’s not what we want or expect to hear. Confidentiality is imperative wherever comments are addressed personally.

Patrick Millmore: First and foremost I bring with me a strong dedication to our students knowing that with superior instruction, proper support, and assistance with developing post-secondary plans that all students can become self-sufficient adults with a clearly defined purpose or mission. Other experiences/skills:
  • Current Treasurer and Board Member of Council of Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) 
  • Former chairperson of College Board's Western Region Guidance and Admissions Committee 
  • American School Counselor Association College Admissions Specialist
  • PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision
  • Master of Science in School Counseling K-21
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
  • Twenty three years as a School Counselor at the middle school, high school, and college level
  • Good sense of humor/ability to laugh at myself
  • Dedication to commitments
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 the 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. As part of the Fundraising Committee, Bond Allocation Committee and now the Chair of the Fundraising Allocation Committee, I have gained experience in working with other parents and staff at the school, how to stay within our budget for the allocation of Bond money and how to set up the charter and policies for the newly formed Fundraising Allocation Committee.

#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 Stargate School Accountability Committee?

Rob Cernich: The most pressing and persistent issue is finance. Beyond that, 1) maintaining the unique culture of Stargate following last year's influx of new students and families, 2) establishing Stargate high school as a producer of academic talent that is sought after by college admission boards. As a member of the accountability committee, I would provide recommendations, as permitted by the committee's charter, to help ensure these issues were being addressed as best they can be given available resources.

Paul Darrah: Recruiting and retaining high quality teachers, continuing to identify the changing needs of our students, getting our curriculum to match our needs, and creating assurance that we have an open and responsive administrative structure.

Kathy Henson: Stargate is a growing school, and will finally have a full student population in the 2018-19 school year when we have the first class of high school seniors. The growing student population and the wonderful new campus have brought many changes to our school in the last few years. The challenge facing the school and board in the face of all this change is to be flexible and responsive to the many needs of our community. I think the new personal technology device guidelines in the secondary building this year are a good example of that. Concerned that kids were spending too much time on their phones/devices during school, there is a new policy this year that restricts tech time and encourages inter-personal communication. I think it's great and that is the kind of positive leadership I would like to support as a member of SAC. I would like to help facilitate as much communication among our community members as possible, as I feel that is the key to a healthy, successful school that can best serve all its students.

Kellie Herbert: From my limited experience it seems there there are a group of parents disatisfied and possibly disconnected from the school leadership. I would like to use my professional skills to continue to move the broader population of parents towards a great relationship with leadership; a relationship built on trust, understanding, transparency and partnership.

Hannah Lapperre: I believe the challenges Stargate faces are associated with the growth it has experienced after the move to the new building along with the expansion to include a high school. There will be a lot of firsts coming up with our first graduating class as we set up the future traditions and opportunities of our school in preparation for post secondary achievement. The sports program will also expand and athletic and transportation needs may arise as well. There's also the addition of the Amazon facility across the street as well as the future retail on the corner. There may be traffic or security concerns, possible additional fencing might be needed. There is also the appropriation of funds from the bond to be spent according to district guidelines on new facility improvements. As a member of the Accountability Committee I will do my part to listen and help keep the projects accountable to the mission statement and budgetary boundaries.

Adrian Miller: 3 main priorities:
  1. The NEW K-5 math curriculum. We need to hear from our teachers regarding effectiveness at the classroom level, and we need to hear from parents as to how you are perceiving that effectiveness at home. It is also important to align that curriculum with the textbooks in the Middle School, where math placement continues to be an issue for students entering 6th grade.
  2. Writing deficiency. The recent announcement of our standardized test scores revealed a concerning drop in Middle School English/Language Arts writing. This drop in performance was even more significant at the High School level. While I have personally been an advocate of “less testing,” these tests have identified gaping curricular holes that need to be addressed if we are to maintain our status as the #1 Middle School in Colorado.
  3. The NEW Performing Arts Center & Adroit Space. As the building takes shape over the next two years, we need to ensure that the programs built within are properly funded and resourced so that the caliber of excellence is reflected inside and out. Performing Arts programming is key to the success of a High School that meets the needs of gifted students.
Patrick Millmore: I see two pressing issues: Increased enrollment and preparing students for their departure from the nurturing Stargate community.
If given the opportunity to become a committee member I hope to assist Stargate with the two identified issues through my work with the committee. The Accountability Committee is in a unique position that lends itself to track Stargate's progress while also seeking input from students, parents, business leaders, interested community members, and other stakeholders about what they view as current strengths and potential items needing attention.

Amanda Szymanski: I foresee a few challenges that our school will face in the upcoming years. I’m concerned about the lack of involvement from our community once we are at full build-out because we cannot succeed without the support of our parents and staff. I think maintaining high standards of quality throughout this tremendous growth, in cooperation with administration, is critical. I would like to see a true Ombuds department implemented to help with staff issues and concerns. As enrollment continues to increase, I would also like to make staff compensation equitable and update the pay scale to ensure competitiveness. I feel ensuring transparency to the entire community is essential in allowing parents and staff to make well informed and educated decisions.

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

Rob Cernich: Stargate's mission is to challenge the academic abilities and support the emotional needs of intellectually gifted learners while promoting individual character and encouraging a life-long love of learning, through education, quality and hard work, self confidence. personal accountability, diversity, community involvement, and continuous improvement. The role of the accountability committee is to ensure the school is meeting its obligations as required by state regulations and the school's charter. Furthermore, the accountability committee can make recommendations to the school regarding how the school might best meet those obligations. The mission and vision should be accounted for in the programs, policies and practices implemented by the school to meet its obligations.

Paul Darrah: Our unique opportunity as a charter school is the ability to tailor our operational procedures and approach to our own specific student population. Our mission is to provide identified gifted students the tools and opportunities that are unique to their individual needs with the goal of helping them achieve more than they could in a district-wide curriculum with district-wide procedures that by nature must serve a wider set of requirements.
The GBOD must accept the above opportunity and be actively involved in setting very specific goals that directly connect to our mission. Having a local board is entirely about being close enough to our students to be tightly engaged. The GBOD and committees must effectively monitor the school's performance toward these goals and communicate frequently and openly with the administration on an involved level.

Kathy Henson: I love our mission statement because it takes the whole child into account. We want to provide a differentiated education to gifted kids, and also recognize that they need social-emotional nurturing to be happy and successful. It is an ambitious statement. Being gifted doesn't mean everything at school is easy - far from it. Many gifted students have sensory sensitivities or learning differences that complicate their education, despite their giftedness. With a population of 100% gifted learners at Stargate, we are going to have a good portion of our population who need extra support (twice exceptional students). Over our years at Stargate, I have seen steps being taken to support the social emotional needs of our students and feel Stargate is working toward fulfilling our mission statement for all students. The role the SAC plays is to facilitate and participate in as much open, honest communication with parents and staff to best support Stargate in fulfilling our vision for every student, every day.

Kellie Herbert: One of the most compelling parts of the mission to provide a differentiated experience is not only the focus on the whole individual but also that the skills are sustained lifelong. As a member of the Accoubtability Committee I see myself as a not just a part of the whole but a conduit for progress and positive change that keeps our school successful long term.

Hannah Lapperre: The mission and vision of Stargate as stated is to provide a differentiated program designed specifically to meet the needs of identified intellectually gifted learners in order to challenge each student's academic abilities, support their unique emotional needs, promote individual character development and encourage a life-long love of learning. I believe the school government exists to support this vision and to keep it always in the forefront of our minds when evaluating issues brought before the board and its committees. We are of structure but not of confinement.

Adrian Miller: The Stargate Mission & Vision is to meet the needs of our identified intellectually-gifted learners. Everything that is done at the Board and Committee levels must uphold and support that mission and vision. In everything we do, we need to ask ourselves as a litmus test, “Does this meet the needs of our gifted learners?

Patrick Millmore: I see the mission and vision of Stargate as one that creates opportunities for students to thrive academically, personally, and socially through differentiated educational programs. The board and all its committees have an obligation to evaluate how well Stargate is achieving their mission. This evaluation should not be evaluated exclusively on standardized testing outcomes. Each committee should work within their boundaries acknowledging the great work that is being accomplished with a keen eye on areas of potential improvement.

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 all of our kiddos, parents, staff, administration and board. I would love to see our community continue to come together to support the well-being of all of our Stargate children.
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