Knocking on Doors

I have been knocking on doors since June, and have really enjoyed the conversations I have had with constituents. I’ve spoken with thousands of constituents across our district. On front steps. At farmers’ markets. In my car on the way to the airport (you can discuss a lot in an hour!). At school events. In neighborhood meetings. At rodeos. In local fire houses. In friends’ backyards.

Some are happy to engage or invite me in. Some aren’t interested. But nearly everyone is polite.

So if a candidate invites you to tag along, go! People are far more divisive on television or hiding behind their keyboards on social media. You might be pleasantly surprised that in person, most people are still pretty decent. Canvassing is an awesome reminder that we are all in this together, and we have far more in common than all media suggests.

The Problem with Endorsements

One of the things that we often see during election cycles are candidates bragging about endorsements. These tend to be a good indication of where a candidate stands on various issues, based on the organization or person offering the endorsement.

I’d like to share my experience with a recent endorsement experience, and explain why sometimes an endorsement is NOT a good thing.

As is typical, once a candidate is accepted by the Secretary of State, several organizations, and special interest groups reach out, and ask the candidate to fill out a candidate survey.  The surveys are confidential, and vary in length from 10 short questions via an online questionnaire, to dozens of essay questions in the form of a mailed packet.

Some organizations politely ask candidates to complete the survey. Some threaten candidates with negative outcomes if they DON’T fill out the survey.

I filled out a survey honestly in the past month from a certain special interest group. The group then reached out and requested an in-person interview. Prior to the interview, they sent me a PDF to prepare for the issues that most interest their members.

The PDF had several pages of issues and their take on the issues. The document then a few questions after each issue that they planned to ask me.

And then, the PDF had an answer key.

The organization was clear that they only wanted me to repeat their answers back to them.  They were looking to endorse a puppet.

For some issues, I agreed with their take, generally. For others, I didn’t, based on other information I had learned. I asked about other data that I was aware of, and while they acknowledged it was correct, they disagreed with my suggestion for realistic solutions that hinted at a compromised approach.

I’m not a puppet.

And I will be PROUD to not receive the endorsement of some special interest groups.

The most important endorsement is YOURS.

Douglas County School Board Comments

I spoke during the public comments at the Douglas County School Board meeting on August 21, 2018.

Here is the transcript of my remarks, reflecting on my experience as a parent and more in Douglas County:

Thank you to the School Board and Dr. Tucker for taking public comments regarding this Mill Levy Override and bond issue. My name is Kamala Vanderkolk. I live in Roxborough, and am a mom to two kids (classes of 2027 and 2030) as well as a host mom and local supervisor to over a dozen high school exchange students from around the world the past three years.

I won’t talk about the year that my son was bused by himself 40 minutes one-way to a high-needs preschool in Castle Rock for free (because federal laws protect his access to education), but my daughter was billed $150 to ride the school bus along with 30 other kids to the neighborhood elementary school 2 miles away.

I won’t talk about the time when my son was three and I was told by multiple Douglas County schools that per his medical diagnosis, he was “not welcome” to apply for charter school lotteries, making it clear that “school choice” is a myth for anyone outside the “norm.”

I won’t talk about all the generous families who were denied hosting a high school exchange student, which would bring much needed diversity to our community and promote international connections, because the high schools are too full, and getting fuller every year, with no relief in sight.

I won’t talk about how the state mandates our high schools offer 1,080 hours of instruction annually, but somehow the district considers study hall to count as teacher-pupil instruction time, or how it is common for students to be denied or discouraged from taking a full schedule.

And I certainly won’t talk about how Mark Baisley is THE reason our school district is in this mess, and he is now running for State House of Representatives for District 39, which includes most of Douglas County, and how I am doing everything I can to DEFEAT HIM for that seat.

I WILL talk about the future. My kids, like everyone else, are full of potential. It is our job as parents and educators to help them realize that potential, and ensure they become productive members of society. I understand that vocational and career-training programs have been nearly abandoned in our district. Not because of stigma, or lack of interest, but because of cost. My daughter, while only in 4th grade, is likely going to follow the college prep path that is readily available to her (with at least a $160K price tag). My son may or may not follow the same path.   His struggles with school are not unique. For all the kids who don’t want to spend high school preparing for MORE school, we need to ensure they get an education that includes skills that make them hireable. Our district has an obligation to ensure that ALL of our students have real-world skills and opportunities after graduation.

My name is Kamala Vanderkolk, and I am in full support of both the bond issue and the Mill Levy Override, as I consider both to be necessary investments in our students’ and county’s long-term success. Because the choice for our families shouldn’t be crushing student debt or living in mom and dad’s basement forever. I look forward to sharing the ballot with your request this fall. Thank you.