Grant Nelson, his wife and three children have lived in the city of Castle Pines since 2007. They bought their first home in Castle Rock in 1993 and moved to Castle Pines north in 1997.
Nelson graduated from Evergreen High School and received a B.S. in business administration with an emphasis in real estate and international business from the University of Colorado Boulder.
He started his professional career in 1992 as a commercial real estate broker for a local development company. In 1996, he transitioned into retail commercial real estate development. He has since developed more than 3 million square feet of shopping centers in three states. Nelson is currently a managing partner of a number of limited liability companies and an investor in five other companies.
Campaign website: www.elevate douglascounty.com
Why do you want to serve on the board of education?
As a Douglas County resident and father of three, who have attended DCSD charter and neighborhood schools, I am running to provide options for parents, respect for teachers, accountability to our community and to continue the tradition of education excellence for kids. We must bring stability and respect to the board.
Following years of dissension, what can be done to bring a sense of unity to the Douglas County School District community?
I have spent the past 25 years in retail commercial real estate development I have developed over 3 million square feet of shopping centers in three states. I have completed deals with Wal-Mart, Costco, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kohl’s, Albertson’s, King Soopers, and numerous mid-size and smaller tenants. Each of these projects had its own unique set of entitlement, financing, and timing issues, which has required me to work closely with the retailer, and the community they are in to work together for the common goal of building the center. I will bring those collaboration skills to the board and find common ground from which to work.
What are the most important traits to look for in the next superintendent?
The superintendent must be a proven leader with solid and clear leadership skills. The next superintendent must continue the work of the interim superintendent to reset the culture in DCSD. The superintendent must be an excellent communicator who can create a positive culture where people want to come to work.
Should interim Superintendent Erin Kane be considered for the job on a permanent basis?
Interim superintendent Kane has re-established a culture of trust and communication. She should be the top consideration for the position. Parents, teachers, and district employees have told me that she has done an excellent job. She has been accountable to taxpayers by finding savings to help address DCSD budget shortfalls.
The existing set of neighborhood and charter school options provide our community great choice in their education. There are three new charter schools scheduled to come on line for the 2018-19 school year and the enrollment at all charter schools remains high. I think we must continue to strive for the best possible choices in our neighborhood and charter schools and at the same time take the recommendations of the CART committee into account. A current board member recently disparaged this volunteer committee in a social media post. While the ultimate decision on whether or not to approve a charter rests with the board, we should respect the knowledge and experience of our volunteer committees and pay careful attention to what they say.
Do you support the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay for students to get an education at a private school?
My opponent partnered with the ACLU to challenge DCSD’s program, so it’s a moot point. The case has traveled for six years through the courts and now sits in the Colorado Supreme Court. I have great faith that the American judicial system will resolve this issue fairly and according to law. Everyone has an interest in seeing this question resolved. It’s puzzling that my opponent, Kevin Leung, does not want an answer to a question that he asked. When the court gives a final ruling on this issue, we will talk with the community to determine whether it’s right for us.
Would you be in favor of a larger influence by the teachers’ union?
No. First and foremost, I don’t like the idea of allowing an outside special interest organization to intervene between our community and our educators. In fact, most school districts in Colorado are not unionized. I am confident we can and will care for our educators and district staff without inserting a third party between our teachers and our community representatives.
What can be done to allow the district to keep its best and most experienced teachers at a higher rate?
The new board needs to work collectively to find money in the current budget to pay our teachers more. As an employer, we must be competitive in the marketplace. The board may have to make very difficult budget cuts to areas of the budget that have not been considered, but retaining our top teachers must be the number one priority for the district. Great teachers drive great outcomes.
Would you support a ballot measure to help the district pay for capital improvements?
The new board must work hard to stabilize the board and work even harder to regain community trust. The recent community survey revealed that only 19 percent of the community members without children in the district believe that the school district appropriately manages its funds. With a $680 million dollar budget and a very low approval rating, we need to show our community where each and every dollar is spent prior to asking for new capital improvements. The taxpayers must trust the board with their money before we can ask for more money. Without community trust, the initiative will fail.