Janice McDonald has a sense of historical perspective when it comes to the Cherry Creek School District.
Voters chose McDonald to take over the Director B seat on the Cherry Creek School District Board of Education in 2015, but her roots in the community go far deeper than a single election. Since McDonald and her husband moved to the district in 1976, the landscape surrounding their home in the Overland High School feeder area has transformed fundamentally.
“I was able to witness the district evolve in to what it is now,” McDonald said. “When I first moved here, we used to call it ‘Country City’ and we used to think of the school district as a rural school district. We used to have farms near Eastridge Elementary.”
Just as the city of Aurora expanded and developed, so did the Cherry Creek School District. McDonald and her family took an active role in the district’s evolution – all five of her children attended Cherry Creek schools, and she took an early active role as a volunteer and an employee. She volunteered at Eastridge and Ponderosa elementary schools; she worked with the I-Team at Smoky Hill High School in the late ‘70s and moved on to a role as a family school community liaison at Prairie Middle School before retiring in 2010. These posts in the district came in addition to McDonald’s extensive work for the city of Aurora, Aurora Mental Health and other community organizations.
That long background in the district and the larger community played a big part in McDonald’s decision to run for a seat on the Board of Education. Long after her youngest child graduated from Overland High School in 1997, McDonald still felt like she had a role to play in the future of Cherry Creek and its ever-evolving approach to excellence for every student.
“As I began to look at running for the school board more and more, it just fit. The district has been very good to me and to my family. I’ve always enjoyed working in Cherry Creek, and I just thought that this was a way to pay it forward,” McDonald said. “I have all of this experience, and now I can use it again in a different way.”
Indeed, McDonald’s 40 years in the Cherry Creek School District have supplied plenty of valuable connections. For example, Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull was McDonald's son's football coach in high school. After graduating from Cherry Creek, McDonald’s children have worked jobs in buildings across the district. With 19 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, those family connections to district schools is only bound to continue.
“It’s a bit like a reunion,” McDonald said, adding that her daughter-in-law, Claudine McDonald, is also her predecessor for the District B Director seat.
Even so, she’s intent on making her own way in her newfound role as a board member. McDonald’s campaign for the seat saw her staking out distinct priorities and goals for her service on the board – the election cycle pushed her to formulate a specific vision for the future of the district. She sees the support of voters as an encouraging ratification of those goals.
“In relation to District B, I really want to strengthen community involvement and hone that. I want to focus on the achievement gap. We already do such a great job on that issue, but I want to make sure that we continue so that we can meet our goals in this district,” she said. “The thing that has always impressed me about the district is their dedication to excellence. I think they actually live up to that vision.”