Amid the controversy of new Englewood School Board member-elect Davon Williams and his criminal background, residents have questioned whether or not he would be permitted to volunteer at the district he’s representing based on its background check requirements.
Williams, who is scheduled to be sworn in to the Englewood school board at 6 p.m. on Dec. 5, has a court appearance set for 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 6 for a felony car-theft accusation stemming from an incident in 2019.
The Colorado Judicial Branch online docket shows Williams’ appearance on bond is set for a one-hour appearance on bond hearing in Adams County Court Division 6 in Brighton.
According to Superintendent Joanna Polzin, the background requirements for the district are “based on Board Policy KI and IJOC.”
Polzin said there are different requirements for school board members to interact with students and for people to volunteer at school events such as field trips.
“Visiting a school and volunteering are viewed as two different purposes in Englewood Schools according to our board policies,” Polzin said.
District 3 State Rep. Meg Froelich, D-Arapahoe County, did not have a lot to say about the issue, but told the Englewood Herald in a Nov. 13 email that she is “upset about this situation but (has) only begun to look into state law (or) possible solutions.”
“I need to meet with my local Englewood activists and community members,” Forelich said.
Board Policy IJOC states that because Colorado law requires school districts to conduct background checks for potential employees applying for positions the Englewood School Board “determined that the need exists for similar background checks of volunteers who work with the school district’s students.”
“Such background check may include but not be limited to making an inquiry to the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and/or other law enforcement agency to determine if there is any information on record indicating that the individual has been convicted of a crime involving unlawful sexual behavior or unlawful behavior with children,” the policy states.
Additionally, it says people who fail to provide the proper information to complete a background check will not be able to volunteer with the district.
“The decision made by the school district concerning an individual’s fitness to volunteer in the school setting shall be final,” the policy states.
Duane Tucker, president of the Englewood Schools Board of Education, said the qualifications for school board candidates are “established by Colorado Revised Statutes Section 22-31-107.”
“Candidates are required to file an Affidavit of School Director Candidate on Qualifications for Office with the Designated Election Official (DEO),” Tucker said. “The DEO is allowed to rely on the Affidavit and the candidate’s certifications therein without further investigation.”
According to the Englewood school board candidate site, those qualifications include: “Be a registered voter in the school district for at least 12 consecutive months before the election; not have been convicted of committing a sexual offense against a child; and because school director elections are nonpartisan, candidates may not campaign as members of a political party.”
Polzin said Board Policy KI, which references the procedure for visits from school board members, recently underwent some language changes, which the board approved on Nov. 8.
Polzin said the board “will have a second reading under consensus items on Dec. 5.”
The language changes added that “all requests for visits by board members must be coordinated through the superintendent.”
“Board members have always been expected to coordinate school visits through the superintendent; this was the practice of the previous superintendent as well,” Polzin said. “This is the recommended practice by Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) in their Leadership Workbook for board members.”
Polzin said during the school day she is with board members when they visit any campus.
Before they enter a school building, Polzin said school board members are expected to ring the doorbell and be “buzzed” into the office like any visitor.
“They have to present their driver’s license, then the license is run through a system we use called Raptor, and they must wear the sticker name badge that Raptor produces while in our school,” Polzin said. “This is the same practice for any visitor, parent or guardian who comes into the school. We also ask the board members to wear their gold name tag that indicates they are a board member.”
Williams and fellow director-elect Katie Wilberding Cross, who also ran unopposed in the election, are scheduled to have their photos taken and be sworn in at the board’s next meeting on Dec. 5.