Candidate profile: Jeff Wilhite

For Jeffco Public Schools District 1


Profession: Banking and Construction Lending

Residence: Westminster/Westbrook

Campaign website:

Why are you seeking this office?

Superintendent Tracy Dorland wants to make Jeffco, once again, one of the highest performing districts in the nation. She will fail without a competent, professional Board of Education to support her efforts. Governance is not management. It’s about asking tough questions of the district’s leaders and holding them accountable for substantially improving the results. For the district to dramatically improve, Jeffco needs effective board governance. I have the knowledge, skills, and experience to provide it.

What makes you the best candidate for this office?

I have deep experience in areas critical to addressing the challenges facing Jeffco. I began my career as a mental health therapist, and later became an expert in construction lending. I also have extensive governance experience, having chaired two school boards. I have been extensively involved in education at the state, district, and local level, including membership on the Colorado State Educational Success Task Force, and Jeffco’s District Accountability and Capital Asset Advisory Committees.

What are your top three priorities if elected?

Improve financial management. Jeffco’s Capital Improvement Program is more than $100 million over budget, and we don’t examine whether our $1.4 billion operating budget is used effectively and efficiently. Student achievement results have declined at an accelerating rate, even before COVID. This is no way to prepare our children to thrive in the 21st century economy. They must dramatically improve. We must provide parents better information to make well-informed choices for their children.

Student test score results were flagging across the district even before COVID. What is the number one way you would improve student achievement?

There are many leverage points for improving achievement, including having stronger and more consistent curriculum, better instructional resources, professional development, and more tutoring. But how to improve achievement is ultimately a question for management, not the board. In our governance role, board directors must question management about the alternatives they considered, the evidence that underlies their decision, and hold them accountable for delivering the results they promise.

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when making COVID-related decisions?

That COVID19 is a classic “wicked problem” that involves multiple competing goals that elected officials must trade-off against each other, and then clearly explain their reasoning to the public. For example, minimizing COVID infection risk in our schools is important. But so too is minimizing student learning losses, and minimizing the number of parents, especially mothers, who lose their jobs because they have to stay at home with their children.


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