Meet the 2021 CCSD School Board Candidates and Debates


Lily Deitch

Many don’t know how the school board elections are conducted. Here’s a quick explanation of how.

Lily Deitch and Amanda Castillo-Lopez

District E:

Photo courtesy of Bill Leach

Bill Leach (Leach is running with Jennifer Gibbons):

“[The] education excellence that Cherry Creek Schools has is also a priority,” -Bill Leach 

Background: Leach is the father of six children, who have all attended the Cherry Creek school district. Leach wants to give back to the district which has given his children so much opportunity. He is committed to closing achievement gaps and making the school a good place for teachers and students. 


  1. Close the achievement gaps: find the root causes of those gaps and add student based funding models to find solutions.
  2. Continued excellence: both Leach and Gibbons want all kids to thrive.
  3. Keep teachers at our schools
  4. Partnership: Make sure the voices of parents are heard.

Kristin Allan

Photo courtesy of Kristin Allan

Kristin Allan:

“We recognize that cookie cutter education does not work. Diversified hands-on learning, providing students the opportunity to ask questions, learn what it means to work as a group, and to work to find their individual pathway….That’s the true definition of education, not just  the reading, writing, and arithmetic.” -Kristin Allan

Background: Kristin Allan was inspired to run because of her family. Her daughter has dyslexia, and the road to finding her a diagnosis was a long one. She wants to help students like her daughter find their paths. Allan is also very passionate about the district. Allan has been attending every function possible to gain a deep knowledge of the district and the needs of the community.


  1. Help kids find their path both socially and academically.
  2. Hire and retain the best teachers along with diversifying teachers to reflect the student body.
  3. Increase student reading rates.
  4. Promote equity and rigorous academics (which Allan believes go hand in hand). 
  5. Keep obligation to the taxpayers to maintain the excellence of the district.

Photo courtesy of Jason Lester

Jason Lester:

“I want to see every student at CCSD get on an elevator, and I want to see them go all the way to whatever floor as high as they can go.” -Jason Lester

Background: Lester was inspired to run because the district supported his son (who has autism) through some hard times. He was also heavily impacted by his past — by the time Lester was 16, both his parents had died, and he was placed into foster care. Lester had trouble making it through high school, but along the road, Lester became a therapist for disadvantaged youth to help kids like himself. Lester has also done social work and is currently the Director for the Colorado Coalition for the homeless and a professor at the University of Denver. 


  1. Equity: address disparities and disproportionality by representing minority groups within the teachers.
  2. Create a safe space for all students: Make CCSD a place where students of all races, genders, health issues, etc. are welcome.
  3. Community and Connections: Lester said that he represents the entire community. He wants everyone to feel accepted and heard and will do everything he can to connect the community to the district.
  4. Build a true care management process: not everyone comes from a two parent household. This system will help students going through rough patches find support and draw out their hidden potential. 

District D:

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Gibbons

Jennifer Gibbons (Gibbons is running with Bill Leach)

“I want to focus on…teaching kids to think and to learn and to achieve and to care.” -Jennifer Gibbons

Background: Gibbons is the founder of the K-8 charter school, Heritage Heights Academy. Parents at her charter school have asked her to run for years, but this is the first year she has the time. She volunteered to teach her son’s kindergarten class math when she noticed a gap in their education. She believes that her proactive nature makes her a great contestant in this election.


  1. Close the achievement gaps: Close achievement gaps between races.
  2. Continued excellence: Both Leach and Gibbons want all kids to thrive.
  3. Keep teachers at our schools
  4. Partnership: Make sure the voices of parents are heard, even the ones that don’t share her beliefs. “Parents don’t feel like they’re heard with some of the changes implemented with the [social studies CRT] curriculum. And I don’t know that I agree with them, but I do feel like they deserve to feel heard,” Gibbons said.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Bates

Kelly Bates:

“I will continue the fight to protect our legacy of excellence so that every child, receives an education where they are valued and equipped to go on to become the next generation of leaders.” -Kelly Bates’s website

Background: Kelly Bates is running for re-election. Bates was elected to the CCSD school board four years ago. She started off as the assistant secretary and treasurer, and later advanced to her current position as Vice President. She has been a part of the school district for 17 years, and during that time she has been an avid volunteer. Bates has four children who all go to CCSD, and one who graduated this past year. She is proud of the CCSD legacy and hopes to uphold it.


  1. Address health and safety by implementing new school based health centers and building a mental health facility.
  2. Excellence in education: “We need to keep that legacy of excellence that we already have.”
  3. Closing Achievement gaps affecting people of color and special needs students.

Photo courtesy of Schumé Navarro

Schumé Navarro:

“I can attest to the excellence our district is known for. I personally have experienced what it is like when our district looks at a child as an individual and what it is like when we create an educational path for that child to be successful in their future as an adult. I want to continue expanding on that excellence for each child in our district, no matter what area, socio-economic background, or history.” -Schumé Navarro 

Background: As a former CCSD student, Schumé Navarro believes in the excellent education and unique opportunities that CCSD provides. Navarro’s career as lead artist of her beauty business company allows her the flexibility to be involved in the CCSD community — specifically in advocating for marginalized, young moms. Navarro is passionate about connecting with parents and students from a variety of backgrounds and hopes to do so if she is elected. She is also passionate about mask choice. 


  1. Transparency: communication between parents and educators.
  2. Mask Choice: Navarro is in favor of mask choice. She is currently suing the district because she did not want herself or other CCSD citizens to be subject to wearing a mask. 
  3. Input in Education: making sure parent’s voices are heard in regards to curriculum.

The Slate Debate: Controversy Over the Collaboration of School Board Candidates

A slate is a group of candidates that run on a common ideology and separate seats. Some people believe that the 2021-2022 election is the first time in CCSD history that a partnership like this has shown up, and are concerned that the voices of those in this type of partnership will be more prominent than those who are not. 

Jennifer Gibbons and Bill Leach have distributed joint signs and flyers and have a joint website, but they are not outwardly declaring themselves a slate. Gibbons wasn’t sure how a slate was being defined, but didn’t believe that she was part of a slate.

In an interview with Colorado Community Media, Bill Leach said that his collaboration with Gibbons was incentivized by the overlap in their ideas for the district. Gibbons agreed and added that sharing resources was another motive for their partnership. 

“The school board race is an expensive one, and we wanted to pull our resources,” Gibbons said. “We are sharing the same team and the same money.”

The worry is whether this type of collaboration would be a slate, and if having a slate allows for enough diversity and independent voting on the board.

“When a slate comes in, there’s block voting, meaning instead of having five different voices and lived experiences on the board, we’re down to four with two people always operating [together]… and that’s a concern,” candidate Kristin Allan said.

Current school board president Karen Fischer said that CCSD had never had a slate election, but other surrounding districts like Douglas County have had them. Fischer’s worry is that CCSD would be affected in the same way Douglas County was when their slate was voted in. 

“What we’ve seen in other districts like Douglas County, [slates] come in and change the board drastically. Their board does not get along, and we see they’re divided,” Fischer said. “And then that plays down into our classrooms, and then teachers end up leaving the district because they’re unhappy. So I’m fearful that [a slate campaign] will change the trajectory of what Cherry Creek is.”

But Gibbons and Leach were insistent on their values. Gibbons said she didn’t know why “that would be a fearful situation if it was a slate.”

“If I don’t win, I don’t think CCSD is going down the toilet,” Gibbons said. “But I do feel like I could make improvements.”