Student elected to school board

She’s a student. A mother. A community advocate. A daughter. And now Mary Nichols can add another title to her resume: elected official.

Nichols, a student in the law and society program at DU’s Women’s College, was elected to the board of education for the Littleton Public School system. Nichols won 30.62 percent of the votes, securing a four-year term on the board. She was sworn in Nov. 27.

Her decision to run was an outgrowth of her involvement with school committees within the district. Her daughter graduated from Heritage High School in 2006. Her oldest son is a sophomore there, and she has another son who is a fourth grade student at Mark Hopkins Elementary school.

“Running for the school board seemed a natural extension because of my involvement with and passion for public education,” Nichols says.

Nichols’ background includes stints as a banquet manager, a conference and group sales coordinator, field representative for a child care food program, and an instructional paraprofessional at an elementary school in Littleton. She enrolled in the Women’s College in fall 2006.

“I had been contemplating returning to school and completing the undergraduate degree I started after high school,” she says. “I saw an ad in the newspaper that described the Women’s College and the law and society degree. The program described what I had been doing as a citizen, mother and daughter — advocating for my community, for my children and for my parents.”

She decided to run for a seat on the board of education in July 2007. During her campaign, she contributed to local newspapers, attended “meet and greets,” participated in a community forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and attended local civic association meetings.

Nichols says she knows that the board of education will face challenges in the years to come, including issues surrounding declining enrollment, changing demographics, the struggle to meet high achievement standards, equity and access to technology for all students, and state-mandated graduation requirements.

“It is my goal to be deliberative about the possible changes the district faces,” she says. “At the heart of purposeful decision making will always be the question, ‘How is this best for students?’”

Linda Cobb-Reiley, director of the law and society program, says she hopes Nichols will be able to share the things she learns through her experience with her fellow students.

“I hope that through Mary others might catch the bug and decide to run for office as well,” she says.

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