(1945 - )
Raised in Chicago and educated in Catholic schools, Jon DeStefano became a lifelong advocate for public education – as a teacher, coach and school board member. He started his career as an English and journalism teacher at Skinner Middle School in Denver and taught at North High School. While teaching, Jon took on the role of editor of The Slate, the official publication of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, in 1970, launching him into a new career as president of The Publication Company.
Founded in 1973, the company published newspapers for nonprofits such as teachers’ associations, Realtor’s associations and youth soccer. His unique business plan included writing the stories, designing the layout and selling advertising, so the newspapers were printed at no cost to the nonprofits.
He and his wife, Peggy, who met while she was at Loretto Heights and he was at Regis, decided to move to Jefferson County when their children were young on the advice of a friend, who said Jeffco had one of the best school districts in the nation.
The family first moved to Lakewood and in 1979, after going to a barbecue at a friend’s home in Evergreen, decided to move up the hill. Their four children – Sam, Jon, Joe and Katie – attended Jeffco schools. Three of the four are now teachers.
Jon coached youth soccer leagues in Evergreen, Lakewood and Bailey, and coached boys’ and girls’ soccer at Evergreen High School for five years. He served as president of Evergreen Junior Soccer Association (Evergreen Stingers) and Colorado Youth Soccer, and was a consultant to US Youth Soccer and United States Soccer.
Having suffered through the strife of a teachers’ strike as a young teacher in Denver, Jon was concerned in 1989 when Jeffco teachers and administrators were at odds. He knew the damage that such discord could inflict on the cohesiveness of a school staff, and he feared Jeffco was facing a strike if things didn’t quickly improve. He found out that there was an upcoming Jefferson County School Board election, and turned in a petition to run just days before the deadline. “I thought I could help bring people together,” he said.
Surprised to be chosen after a contentious election, Jon served a four-year term, working hard to create a collaborative team with the board, administration and teachers’ association. He decided not to run for a second term because he became the caregiver to Peggy’s dying father. When a school board member resigned a couple of weeks after Peggy’s dad died in 1996, Jon applied for the vacancy and was appointed, then elected. He served until 2004, including six years as president of the board. He resigned when he and Peggy moved to Park County where they could have more land and horses.
“I am proud that, for the most part, our boards were able to help create a cohesive team with staff and the community even during the hardest times,” Jon said. One of the things he loved the most about serving on the board was choosing Cindy Stevenson as superintendent. “She was the best person for the job,” he said.
Jon served three years on the Jefferson Foundation Board of Directors, a nonprofit that raises funds for special programs in Jeffco Schools. He also served as Board member and president (2003) of the Colorado Association of School Boards, (CASB), the state professional association for school board members and superintendents. The association provides such services as consultation, training and legal services. It also lobbies for public education in the Colorado Legislature. He believes the “stellar work” that CASB has done in policy governance helps define the role of school boards. Through CASB, Jon has also worked hard to maintain nonpartisanship of public schools and school boards.
In 2011, Jon and Peggy began raising their grandson, Paul, and Jon became re-engaged in public education. He was appointed to the Platte Canyon Board of Education in 2014 and elected the following year. He is proud of the hiring of Superintendent Brenda Craig and the smooth transition with the help of longtime superintendent Jim Walpole. The district has been accredited “with distinction” from the Colorado Department of Education.
Jon was elected to another term on the CASB Board in 2015, this time representing Platte Canyon School District, and is the association’s representative to the Colorado High School Activities Association, which provides oversight to ensure equal opportunities and fair play in athletics and activities across the state.
His work in public education has garnered much recognition, and his honors include the McGuffey Award for Outstanding Leadership from the Colorado Association of School Boards; Outstanding Leadership and Support of Athletic Programs, Colorado Athletic Directors Association; and International Sports Ethics Fellow, Institute for International Sport. His service has been honored by Jeffco Public Schools and Jefferson County Administrators Association.
In May 2016, Jon went back to work in public education. “Raising our grandson changed my life, and I felt I wanted to get back to work in public education,” Jon said. When he heard there was an opening as executive director of the Jefferson County Administrators Association, the professional association for principals, assistant principals and other district leaders, he jumped at the chance. The association’s most important role – in addition to professional development – is making sure the voice of Jeffco leadership is heard, Jon said. “We are all about what’s best for kids.”
“I love working in public education. It’s a core thing in my life. I go to work every day with a smile on my face, and I come home, tired, and with a smile on my face.”