Jane Shirley toutes her 35 years in education, including 9 years as principal of William Smith High School in Aurora, as her biggest strength as a candidate. “I know what’s possible,” the East Denver resident gave as her reason for running. “What I see is missing is people with deep, deep experience.”
That lack of deep experience for both staff and the board has led Shirley to see DPS treating symptoms too often and the root cause of problems too rarely. “We don’t have a strategic plan for Denver,” she said, noting that the last one was The Denver Plan 2020. Shirley, now an executive coach, believes she can use her skillset to guide the new superintendent and fellow board members who may have less background in education.
She doesn’t see herself squarely on either side of the education reform debate and sees DPS as a patchwork of policies that lack cohesion. “I’m looking at a really incoherent system…wasteful of time, wasteful of money, and wasteful of talent. There’s no plan to make it better.” As an example, she noted how different schools operate with different levels of oversight and management: some she sees as virtually micromanaged by the district, while others seem to operate with little to no oversight.
Regarding student performance and academic achievement, she’s frustrated that the current system has “little to do with learning and growth” and she sees many of the metrics as inherently biased.
All candidates were asked about the consent decree regarding English Language Learners, a ruling that said DPS needs to provide additional education time to tens of thousands of struggling students. DPS has repeatedly failed to meet the requirements. Shirley noted that she believes it’s the 3rd violation the district has actually had and reiterated her view that the district doesn’t have concrete plans, but instead the District frequently jumps on bandwagons of ideas presented by nonprofit organizations and others for the solution of the year. For Shirley, the frequent latching onto new trends also means there’s “no measurement or accountability for the things that didn’t work,” adding that real results “take time and take focus.”
All candidates were also asked whether they would have voted to censure Director Anderson. Shirley said she “can’t speak to how I would have voted,” adding that there’s information board members have that the general population does not. She said had she been on the board she hoped it wouldn’t have reached that point, noting that the board is only now writing a code of conduct, another indication for her that the district lacks the overall leadership needed.
Shirley said campaign fundraising has not been a priority for her, nor has chasing endorsements. Instead, she’s spending time educating herself on DPS policy and talking to voters at events and small groups. As of October 5th, the most recent filing, she has raised $1,275, her largest contribution of $500 came from a retired teacher now living in Oklahoma. She is supported by several current and former school leaders.
You can read more about her at www.janeshirley.com