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Castle Pines Gets Educated on Schools

Erin Kane, DCSD superintendent

Douglas County School District (DCSD) Superintendent Erin Kane is getting out into the community in her first few months on the job. At the beginning of June, Kane presented a community forum at The Exchange Coffee House in Castle Pines. Kane discussed DCSD’s history, challenges and needs for the future.

Kane hit the ground running after the Douglas County Board of Education voted on March 23 to hire her as superintendent. She visited 45 schools in the last six weeks of the school year.

“Building trust and bringing the community together are important for me,” said Kane.

As the new leader of Colorado’s third largest school district, Kane oversees nearly 90 schools, 64,000 students and 8,600 employees. According to Kane, the two biggest challenges school board leaders currently face are addressing growth and competitive pay. Growth is evident in the neighborhoods on the south side of Castle Pines off Lagae, as well as The Canyons development on the east side of I-25.

As a former resident in Castle Pines North and the founder of American Academy Charter School in Castle Pines, Kane has seen much change over the years. “I’m astounded every time I drive into The Canyons,” said Kane. “It has gone from four houses to a lot of homes. We need schools.”

Kane would like to have three new elementary schools built in newly developed neighborhoods such as The Canyons, Crystal Valley and Sterling Ranch. The last new DCSD neighborhood school was built in 2010.

The second challenge according to Kane is paying teachers competitively. Neighboring school districts, including Cherry Creek, Jefferson County and Littleton, offer better salaries to teachers.

“We were competitive in 2008,” said Kane. “Other districts have outpaced us.”

The average DCSD teacher salary is $58,000. Cherry Creek School District has an average teacher salary of $76,000. Kane acknowledged it is not just teachers being underpaid.

Principal, assistant principal and educational assistant (EA) salaries are below average. For example, an EA starting salary is $12.81 an hour.

“Amazing programs we offer throughout our schools come from people,” said Kane. “We have to keep these people.”

Kane said she believes the only way DCSD can be more competitive and build new schools is with the help of taxpayers. She said it will be left up to the school board to decide if a measure will be put on the November ballot.

By way of example, Kane shared that a $60 million mill levy override would cost $295 per year for a homeowner in Douglas County with an average house value of $559,000. A $450 million bond would yield no net tax increase for taxpayers because of the cycle affirmed by previous bonds.

According to DCSD Public Information Officer Paula Hans, “More specifics will come if the DCSD Board of Education votes to place a mill levy override/bond on the ballot based on what those dollar amounts are.”

Kane concluded, “It will be an uphill battle. We know taxpayers are not interested in paying more, but it comes down to what we want for our kids.” Kane recommended a grassroots effort taking on this issue so our schools have the potential to thrive in this prosperous and ever-growing community.

Last month, DCSD Superintendent Erin Kane spoke to a group of residents at The Exchange Coffee House in Castle Pines.

By Mindy Stone Tappan; photos by Terri Wiebold



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