“I'm not as young as I used to be,” he says. “I'm going to turn 76 on my next birthday. I've battled cancer for 20 years, had a heart attack, a bone marrow transplant. And my energy isn't what …
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“I’m not as young as I used to be,” he says.
“I’m going to turn 76 on my next birthday. I’ve battled cancer for 20 years, had a heart attack, a bone marrow transplant. And my energy isn’t what it used to be, to continue to do what needs to be done for the people of Jeffco.”
Those are the words of outgoing Jeffco School Board Member, Ron Mitchell, explaining why his official association with Jeffco Schools, going back more than six decades, came to an end on Nov. 12.
Mitchell traces his connection with the district all the way back to when he was a third grade student at Lawrence Elementary in Arvada, where a teacher managed to get him to read a book every week. As he speaks about it, you can hear the pride and fondness in his voice.
Mitchell graduated from Arvada High School, joined the Army Reserves, earned a masters from the University of Northern Colorado and returned to start teaching at Arvada West in 1969. He would eventually become an assistant principal, principal and area administrator in the district, before retiring “a bit too early,” he said.
Then, five years ago, a time Mitchell describes as contentious, he was urged to throw his hat in the ring for a seat on the Jeffco school board. A recall effort was underway, targeting three conservative board members, and friends thought he had the calm leadership qualities the board would need moving forward. Mitchell agreed to run and was part of a group of candidates known as “The Clean Slate.” After winning his race against incumbent board member Ken Witt, Mitchell was sworn in, Nov. 19, 2015.
Of all the things the board accomplished during his time serving, the one he seems most proud of is conceptual.
“I truly believe that we changed the climate in the board room from day one,” he said. “We did it in a simple way, with respect. We began to value people across the organization, and people felt it.”
Jefferson County Education Association President, Brooke Williams is one of those people. She said the JCEA is sad to see Mitchell go and they’ll miss his advocacy for educators.
“He’s given so much to the community and students,” she said. “He’s always put us first, even before himself. We wish him the best.”
The change of atmosphere in the board room isn’t the only accomplishment Mitchell is proud of. He believes 2018’s bond election and mill levy override, allowing the district to make major improvements, modernize schools and increase educator salaries, were significant achievements. The new Warren Tech South, also a benefit of the passed bond, is another accomplishment high on Mitchell’s list.
“Its a big deal that our kids, a year from now, and for generations to come will benefit from,” he said. “It will make us more adaptable as we move into the future and I’m proud to have been a part of it.”
Fellow board member Stephanie Schooley first met Mitchell when her children’s elementary school was in danger of being shut down by the district. She said reaching out to Mitchell for advice about how to better advocate for the school was the first step on her own path of involvement. Schooley admires Mitchell’s dedication to have stayed on the board for this long.
“This year there’s just been one more thing to be able to vote on, or one more thing to do. It’s been like 10 years rolled into 6 months,” she said. “We’re just grateful that he stayed, to help shepherd the district though some of the issues. He’s the biggest cheerleader and supporter for Jeffco Schools.”
Her thoughts on the matter almost seem prophetic, because when asked about his retirement date, Mitchell said he chose Nov. 12 because there was one last vote he wanted to take part in on Nov. 11 — phase 2 authorization of the district’s 2018 capital improvement bonds.
Now that the 12th has come and gone, he’ll get some well deserved time to spend with family, and the job of filling his seat on the board for the remainder of his term will fall to his fellow board members. Mitchell is positive that will all work out fine.
“If you bring the right values and apply them to every decision, You can find the answer that you need to find,” he said.
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