Meet DPS school board At-Large hopefuls Michael Kiley, Barbara O'Brien, Joan Poston
- Age: 57
- Former microbiologist for Denver Health, Denver Zoo; former DPS paraprofessional
- One daughter who went to DPS for elementary and middle school, and recently graduated from Littleton High School
- No website
Poston, a Colorado native who went to Wheat Ridge High School, was inspired to run by a mid-July visit to a Dallas museum chronicling the assassination and legacy of President John F. Kennedy. "I was considerably moved by the experience," she says. After listening to some of his speeches, she says she realized that JFK's era "wasn't Camelot, but it was good. And a lot of people did things for their country. Then I came home and I was in the bathtub, and I was reading the newspaper and saw this little clip and it said the rules for running for school board."
So Poston signed up.
She's worked with DPS in the past, having served on the PTA of her daughter's elementary school and then on the district School Accountability Improvement Committee, which evaluates policies and makes recommendations to the district. She also worked as a reading-and-writing paraprofessional in DPS schools for five years.
Poston believes DPS is mostly headed in the right direction. She likes charter and innovation schools as long as the community supports them, believes in school choice, and thinks some low-performing schools should be closed. "There are certain situations where you open the doors and you let the flood waters through," she says.
But she's less supportive of the way DPS has gone about its reforms. Parent and community voices have often been ignored, she says. "I think change happens when you have buy-in from the community, and I don't see sometimes the buy-in happening."
Poston believes the key to turning around low-performing schools is "re-culturizing" them. Her theory, she says, "has a little bit to do with being a microbiologist and knowing that after you've been on antibiotics...your gut loses its normal flora and it becomes just one organism, and then it becomes bad. You have to have all sorts of things in your gut in order for it to work properly." It's the same for schools, she says. "It's not school uniforms; it's not a certain curriculum. It is a combination of them. And it can be as simple as one popular kid standing up and saying, 'I'm going to do this.'
"I don't have any magic potions for what to do when a school is burning down," she adds. "I do think that DPS sometimes doesn't give the stew enough time to cook." If a school is showing improvement, however incremental, Poston thinks it should be left alone.
Poston doesn't back the statewide Amendment 66, which would raise an additional $950 million for education, because she says it's a "global" initiative, not a local one. She did support 3A and 3B, last year's mill-levy override and bond for DPS.
Asked whether she's a reformer or a non-reformer, Poston says she's neither. Instead, she says, she makes decisions based on her experiences. To illustrate, she tells a story about how she once got out of jury duty by telling the court that she believes the police are always right because every time she's been pulled over, she was speeding.
"I'm an underdog and a very, very, very dark horse," Poston says. "My motives are different than other people's motives. I'm actually doing this because I want to serve.... I'm not doing it because I think I'm going to be governor one day."
For more candidate interviews, check back in with our cover story, "Drawing the Line."