Former East principal, John Youngquist, is running for the Denver Public School Board at-large this November 7th. Mr. Youngquist has dedicated his career to Denver Public Schools and is committed to bring, as he explains in an interview, a “culture shift” to the school board. Mr. Youngquist values integrity and in that, he will one, accomplish what he pledges to accomplish, and second, ask for his fellow board members and school community to hold him accountable. Mr. Youngquist states, “I will do what I say I will do”.
After a drain of hope in last year’s school board, Mr. Youngquist strives to rebuild trust among the Denver Public Schools. Mr. Youngquist understands that the results of a decision or policy are unpredictable. However, he explains unpredictability is not an excuse to impede progress when, “our community needs us to support them”. He wants to hold the school board to a higher standard and foster responsible leadership that gives people confidence in their representatives. Mr. Youngquist states that there must be an expectation to “change things that need to be changed”.
Mr. Youngquist believes that trust derives from transparency, especially when it comes to allocations. Mr. Youngquist explains that the Denver Public School Board is budgeted 1.3 billion dollars a year. Various schools have shut down throughout the years due to a lack of resources. And yet, parents are in the dark when it comes to how much money is left in their district, or simply where the money is going. Mr. Youngquist believes that the Denver community should be able to ask questions and receive an honest response from the school board.
In terms of policy, Mr. Youngquist was one among 17 other Denver public school principals who made a request three years ago to keep School Resource Officers in the buildings because the school board “had not developed another plan for what they would do instead.” Mr. Youngquest explains, “I am sort of pro school resources officer along with the context that we are supportive of all the needs students have and beyond.” Mr. Youngquist strives to create a baseline of support that sets students up for success and helps them in times of need.
As for youth violence in Denver Public Schools, Mr. Youngquist explains that to have really strong restorative justice programs is to get, “a lot more support earlier in their experience” and to have, “consequences of behavior”. He believes students should have the opportunity to “restore commitment and trust with the school, but there is a balance.” In creating this balance, he seeks to bring more teacher, counselor and administrator employment that will bring easier accessibility to student support.
Muddled in last year’s derangement, the school board needed a mediator to keep peace in official meetings. When asked how Mr. Youngquist would handle conflict, he explained that he would find compromise no matter the animosity surrounding a decision. He explains that his biggest priority is to “every single day, focus on learning.” Youngquist affirms that personal disputes are beside the point when your job is to serve a community you have committed yourself to support. Mr. Youngquist pledges to respect his fellow board members for who they are as a person, and to respect the opinions they bring to the table.
When asked about lawsuits that may arise against numerous school board members in the next year or so, Mr. Youngquist understands that this may cause distraction. He explains, “Whenever you have really hard times, it's like an earthquake, there is one big shake followed by several tremors.” Mr. Youngquist acknowledges that there will be tremors, but “you cannot let them shift you away from your effort.” With this, Mr. Younquist strongly believes that outside complications should be separate from the board and its focus on education.
Mr. Youngquist vouched that as a school board member, he will have, “Challenging conversations”. He explains, “We will not get better without challenging conversations.” Mr. Youngquist strives to bring the change and accountability Denver East has been looking for.