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Bloomberg campaign stops in Glenwood Springs

Republican or Democrat, Michael Bloomberg is still Michael Bloomberg.

That’s what the former New York mayor’s campaign surrogate and partner Diana Taylor told an audience Monday in Glenwood Springs.

“He believes in healthcare for everybody at an affordable rate, he believes in combating climate change, he believes in education, he believes in all the things that I think everybody wants for themselves and their families,” Taylor said at a campaign stop in Glenwood Springs.

“The Republican Party has gone way to the right, and (Bloomberg’s) values are now more affiliated with the Democrats than they are with the Republicans. But he has not changed his values one iota,” she said.

The Garfield County Democratic Party has asked every presidential campaign to come to the county, but only Bloomberg’s campaign responded according to county chair John Krousouloudis.

Taylor, a banking industry executive and former New York superintendent of banking, who is also Bloomberg’s romantic partner of 20 years, recently stepped into the role of campaign surrogate. Monday’s informal stop at Morgridge Commons was one of several events on the Western Slope.

Many of the 50 people in the audience had already made up their minds for Bloomberg.

“As soon as I saw that he was in the race, I thought, ‘this guy’s built a business empire, he’s run New York City, I think he’s going to be really effective,’” said Eagle County resident Claire Noble, who as already mailed in her primary ballot.

“Running New York City for 12 years really, really, really impressed me,” said Chris Coyle of Carbondale.

Open questions

A frequent criticism of Bloomberg’s political record is his support of stop and frisk, and his comments defending them.

“The way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the walls and frisk them,” Bloomberg said at a 2015 Aspen event, according to recently resurfaced audio from former Aspen Times journalist Karl Herchenroeder.

Bloomberg has apologized for the policy multiple times since announcing his campaign in November.

“Because I didn’t fully understand the unintentional pain it caused young black and brown kids and their families, I should have acted sooner and I should have stopped it, and I didn’t, and I apologize for that,” Bloomberg said at a Saturday campaign stop in Virginia, ABC News reported.

Taylor, responding to a question about the wisdom of apologizing for stop and frisk, defended the reasoning behind heavy policing of minority areas.

“New York City, and a lot of other cities, had a huge problem, and that was, the kids were dying in the street,” Taylor said.

“If you look at black and brown boys and young men, (guns are) the highest cause of death,” Taylor said.

Bloomberg looked at the fastest way to solve the problem, and decided that if you get guns off the street, they can’t shoot each other, according to Taylor.

“The fastest way to do that was through stop and frisk,” she said, adding that Bloomberg also addressed education and community issues, founding what eventually became President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program.

Getting to the White House

Bloomberg has been running a campaign against Trump while the other Democrats are focused on the early primary states, according to Taylor.

“Michael is everything (President Donald) Trump wants to be,” Taylor said.

But to get the nomination, Bloomberg will have to win big in the March 3 primary extravaganza known as Super Tuesday.

Bloomberg’s self-funded campaign has 10 times the number of people on the ground in Colorado as other campaigns, according to one staffer.

Colorado is one of 15 Super Tuesday states where candidates seek a big win March 3.

One attendee said he appreciated the event, but that he would still support Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar in the primary.

“It didn’t change my mind. I think Mike Bloomberg is a fair enough candidate, but I worry about two rich guys from New York City fighting in the battle for the presidency,” said Nick Kelly.

tphippen@postindependent.com

New Castle, Silt elections headed for cancellation; Carbondale’s still on

New Castle and Silt will likely cancel their municipal elections this April due to a lack of candidates running for council and trustee seats.

And, had it not been for a tobacco tax question already on its ballot, the town of Carbondale would have canceled its election altogether, too.

The smaller towns in Garfield County hold their elections in April of every other even year, while Glenwood Springs and Rifle city elections are every other odd year — Glenwood in April and Rifle in September.

Carbondale proceeds

According to Carbondale Town Clerk Cathy Derby, three incumbent trustees filed to run for three open seats on the town’s Board of Trustees. Those candidates include current trustees Ben Bohmfalk, Lani Kitching and Marty Silverstein.

“I think we accomplished a lot in the first four years, but there is still more we can do,” Silverstein said.

Silverstein commended the board for its handling of controversial issues such as adopting stricter tobacco regulations.

Carbondale’s April ballot will ask residents whether they support the implementation of a $4 tax per pack of cigarettes sold, along with a 40% tax on all other tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The filing deadline for turning in nominating petitions with the necessary 25 signatures was Jan. 27.

According to Derby, no official write-in candidates had come forward by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, either.

Trustees serve four-year terms and earn $900 a month, according to Carbondale’s Municipal Code.

New Castle

Grady Hazelton and fellow New Castle Councilors Crystal Mariscal and Graham Riddile are the only candidates running for three town council seats up for election, according to Town Clerk Melody Harrison.

With no other questions on the town’s ballot, Harrison will ask the council at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday to cancel the election.

Candidates had until Jan. 27 to turn in nominating petitions with the necessary 15 verified signatures; only Hazelton, Mariscal and Riddile did so.

Additionally, no write-in candidates filed affidavits of intent by the Jan. 31 deadline.

“I think we have a really good team and have a lot of things going on in New Castle that we’re excited about,” Hazelton, who currently serves as mayor pro tem, said. “I think Graham and Crystal, both, are great young minds that add to the team, for sure.”

Residents do not elect the town’s mayor pro tem. Instead, the council selects one of its already elected members to serve in that capacity.

The mayor pro tem conducts council meetings and signs documents in the event of the mayor’s absence.

New Castle town councilors serve four-year terms and earn $370 per month.

Silt

The town of Silt will also cancel its April election after only four candidates filed to run for five trustee seats up for election.

According to Town Clerk Sheila McIntyre, current board members Justin Brintnall, Kyle Knott and Sam Walls turned in their nominating petitions by the Jan. 27 filing deadline.

Additionally, Trustee Andreia Poston filed an affidavit as an official write-in candidate.

Subsequently, all four candidates will be appointed to the board at either the Feb. 24 or March 9 board meetings, McIntyre said.

According to McIntyre, the town will advertise to fill the remaining vacant seat at a later date.

Silt trustees earn $400 a month and serve four-year terms.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Democrat announces challenge to Martin’s Garfield County Commission seat

Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars announced Saturday that she will run for the Garfield County Board of Commissioners, challenging current Chairman John Martin for his District 2 seat.

Byars, 40, said she is running to focus on environmental sustainability, protecting natural resources and “healing the political divisions that have kept people from working together.”

 “I want to run for Garfield County commissioner to bring the county together, so that we can put aside our differences and collaborate on solutions for the future,” Byars said.

As a native to Garfield County and now a resident of Glenwood Springs, Byars has a close connection to many communities and the surrounding environment.

Byars went to school in Garfield County, and received her degree in sustainability studies from Colorado Mountain College. She recently completed her master’s degree in legal studies at the Sturm College of Law at Denver University.

She also founded Sustainable Planning and Development, a nonprofit that is about to launch a sustainability journal.

Byars served most of one term on the Carbondale Board of Trustees, resigning in 2017 to move to Glenwood Springs after struggling to find housing in Carbondale. She also ran for Carbondale mayor in 2016.

Byars has worked on several projects with the county, including the Garfield County clean energy plan, but said she thinks it’s time for new voices leading the county.

“While I personally respect the service of our sitting Garfield County commissioners, I don’t feel that they always represent the range of diverse opinions and people in this county. I think I could do that better,” she said.

Announcing her candidacy at the Garfield County Democrats’ Martin Luther King Day dinner, Byars said she was unaffiliated until a few months ago.

Byars believes the slowness to change is due in part to the longevity of Martin’s tenure.

“When a leadership role is held by a single person for decades, it can be difficult for things to change. My opponent, who I have a great deal of respect for, has been serving for almost a quarter of a century and it’s time for a changing of the guards,” Byars said.

More than half of Garfield County’s current budget comes from property taxes from the oil and gas industry, a reality that Byars recognizes.

“The appropriate level of oil and gas extraction in Garfield County or anywhere is one that protects human health and water quality, while providing the resource. I don’t think that is what has happened up to this point,”

One area Byars would like to focus on is protecting waterways, and restoring any streams that have been contaminated.

“I have friends and family in Rifle that don’t drink out of their tap because they don’t trust their tap water,” she said.

Starting with the county party assembly process this spring, Garfield County Democrats and Republicans will each formally nominate candidates to run for both the District 2 commissioner seat and the District 3 seat currently held by incumbent Republican Mike Samson of Rifle.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Glenwood Springs Democrat Colin Wilhelm to run for Colorado Assembly

Glenwood Springs attorney Colin Wilhelm will run for Colorado House District 57 as a Democrat in 2020.

If he makes it through the primary, Wilhelm would likely face incumbent Rep. Perry Will, R-New Castle. House District 57 is made up of Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

Wilhelm announced his campaign at the Rifle library Monday.

“I saw that there were some deficiencies in our representation, and I felt that the people needed to be represented more,” Wilhelm said in an interview. “I feel I have the opportunity to go out and work for the people, and represent the people directly.”

Economy and health care

Wilhelm mentioned jobs and health care as two major issues facing his northwest Colorado district.

“We’re on the brink of economic transition out here, and we need to embrace that transition,” Wilhelm said.

The economic risks aren’t just related to oil and gas, but to single-industry towns, Wilhelm said.

“We need to work with current stakeholders, local and state governments to keep the jobs we have while transitioning to new jobs in multiple fields to allow for economic growth,” Wilhelm said.

The current representation doesn’t appear to be looking in that direction, he added.

As an example, Wilhelm mentioned that rural towns reliant on single industries like coal extraction have the opportunity to become leading producers of outdoor recreational equipment.

“Also, we need to increase access to healthcare. And particularly, mental health care access is lacking in Colorado, so I plan on taking that head-on,” Wilhelm said.

A new incumbent

In 2018, Wilhelm challenged then-Rep. Bob Rankin for the same seat, but lost by a 9% margin, or about 2,000 votes.

“I learned a lot from the last campaign, what to do and some of what not to do. I’m going to take that information and move forward. I feel confident about our chances,” Wilhelm said.

Both Rankin and Wilhelm ran primarily based on issues, and avoided more rancorous campaign rhetoric. Rankin commented after his victory that the race against Wilhelm “was almost too civil.”

“We sort of agreed on everything,” Rankin said on election night.

After the 2018 election, Rankin, a Carbondale Republican, was appointed to replace former Sen. Randy Baumgardner in the Colorado Senate. A Republican panel selected Will to fill Rankin’s seat in the house.

Wilhelm directed supporters to follow his campaign Facebook page for more information.

“We’re looking forward to getting out, and there will be many events over the next year,” Wilhelm said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Ramirez holds lead in contested Roaring Fork school board race over incumbent Larson

UPDATE — A Thursday morning update in the latest multi-county vote tallies now has Jasmin Ramirez up 80 votes over Roaring Fork school board incumbent Shane Larson for the lone contested seat in Tuesday’s election.


After an extra half day of ballot counting Wednesday, Jasmin Ramirez took a 60-vote lead in the election for the District D seat on the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education.

If the margin holds, it would mean Ramirez would take the seat now held by incumbent school board member Shane Larson.

However, a couple hundred rejected and held ballots could still come into play, leaving the school board seat undecided until after Nov. 14, according to Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico.

Ballot counting was suspended Tuesday night until the following morning when more than 2,000 outstanding ballots still needed to be counted in Garfield County. Ballots were also still being counted in the Eagle and Pitkin county portions of the school district Wednesday morning.

By afternoon Wednesday, unofficial final results in the three-way school board race gave Ramirez 2,467 votes districtwide, or 39% of the total, to Larson’s 2,407, or 38%.

A third candidate for that seat, Amy Connerton, garnered 1,474 votes, or 23% of the vote, according to the unofficial final tally.

Alberico said she had 107 ballots that were rejected for reasons such as missing IDs, no signature on the ballot or a signature discrepancy.

“These voters have all been sent a letter with instructions on how to cure the deficiency,” Alberico explained. “Voters have until 5 p.m. on Nov. 13 to return the affidavit so their ballot can be counted.

Any cured ballots received by the deadline will be processed and scanned on Nov. 14, after which the results will be audited and Canvass Board can certify the election results.

Ramirez ran on the message of bringing greater diversity to the school board and representation in a district where more than 50% of the students are Latino.

Regardless of the final outcome, Ramirez thanked voters for participating and listening to what she had to say.

“I’m really grateful that a lot of our district community saw a need for diversity and representation for students and families with different life experiences,” Ramirez said late Wednesday.

“I do have the ability to connect with the families of the valley, and to listen and share those experiences, because I’m bilingual,” she said.

With the final outcome still uncertain Tuesday night, Larson said he heard a strong message from school district voters that, while the district is moving in the right direction, there’s still work to be done.

He said the contested race, “made me stop and think about why I want to be on the board, and why I’m running. But at the end of the day I think I have some things to contribute.

Two other Roaring Fork school board seats were decided Tuesday.

Joining current board members Jen Rupert and Jennifer Scherer will be Natalie Torres for the District B seat, and Maureen Stepp for the District C seat.

Torres and Stepp were the only candidates listed on the ballot in this fall’s mail ballot election, though a pair of official write-in candidates did garner some votes for those seats.

According to school district officials, the current school board will preside over the next scheduled board meeting on Nov. 13. Once the election results are certified, the new members would be sworn in come December.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Unofficial results for Western Garfield County are in

Early results are in for Western Garfield County including Re-2 and District No. 16 School Board Directors.

As of 9:07 p.m. Tuesday night incumbent Director — District A Tom Slappey held a 59.90% to 40.10% vote lead over Seth McMillen.

The race for the open Director — District B was tight with Kirk Wilson edging out Chris Miller by a little over 200 votes. (Wilson: 53.76%; Miller: 46.24%)

Katie Mackley and Meriya Stickler both ran unopposed for Director — District C and D respectively.

“As a District, we are grateful for so many Garfield Re-2 citizens willing to throw their hats into the ring, to support kids, and become leaders in their school district. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there and have your name appear on a ballot,” Re-2 Director of Communication Theresa Hamilton said.

“We congratulate the apparent winners and are excited to begin working with this new team.” 

In the Parachute/Battlement Mesa elections early counts for Garfield County School District No. 16 School Board’s two open seats are in with incumbent Lynn J. Shore garnering 37.51% of the votes, with Brittany Van Teylingen not far behind at 31.67%. Duana L. Lawrence had tallied 30.82% of the votes counted.

Voters were strongly in favor of Garfield County School District No. 16 Ballot Question 4A – nearly 63% for and only 37% against. The measure, which wouldn’t increase taxes, allows District 16 to provide advanced services including telecommunications and cable television services for the district.

kmills@postindependent.com

Race for contested Roaring Fork school board seat tightens

The three-way race for a Roaring Fork School District Board of Education District D was too close to call Tuesday night as ballots continue to be counted.

With unofficial results still being tallied in Garfield County and the portions of the school district in Eagle and Pitkin counties, as of 10:45 p.m., incumbent District D representative Shane Larson and challenger Jasmin Ramirez were in a virtual dead heat at 38% of the vote each.

Larson had a razor-thin lead of 13 votes over Ramirez. Challenger Amy Connerton was a distant third with 24% of the vote.

There was minimal contest for the two other open seats on the local school board, which governs public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

Natalie Torres will take the District B seat formerly held by Matt Hamilton, who moved away and stepped down from the seat in June. Write-in candidate Matt Cova did receive a handful of votes in the election.

Maureen Stepp will take the District C seat on the school board, as current board member Mary Elizabeth Geiger is stepping down. A write-in candidate for that seat, Molly Peterson, also garnered some votes.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Roaring Fork school board candidates weigh in on volunteering expectations for teachers

A pending policy regarding volunteer vetting procedures in the Roaring Fork Schools could have an added benefit of taking some pressure off of teachers.

One question posed at a recent forum to candidates running in Tuesday’s mail-ballot election for three local school board seats had to do with non-academic expectations for teachers.

District schools often ask teachers to pull extra duty during off-hour athletic, social and student project-oriented events or field trips.

A bargaining agreement between the district and the local teachers union, the Roaring Fork Community Education Association, formalizes that arrangement.

It allows that, “in recognition of the time teachers spend outside of the school day on planning and attending school events or trips, each school must establish a workday for teachers.”

Also under that agreement, school administrators are to schedule no more than an average of two hours per month for certified staff in certain non-voluntary assignments outside of the regular workday. 

RFSD Teacher Time Agreement

The Roaring Fork School District Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) agreement regarding before- and after-school time and supervision of students states:

  • In recognition of the time teachers spend outside of the school day on planning and attending school events or trips, each school must establish a workday for teachers. 
  • School leaders and certified staff will work together to schedule no more than an average of two hours per month on non-voluntary meeting time outside of the established workday (not including unique annual events such as open houses, literacy/math night, etc.)

The designated teacher workday is an 8-hour day and may include duty before school, during lunch or after school.

The IBB agreement also notes that “certified staff members with issues that relate to the IBB Time Agreement will make every attempt to address the issue at the building level with the Building Leadership Team, and/or administrator and/or the building IBB rep. In the event the issue is not resolved at the building level within 30 workdays the issue will be forwarded to the HR Director.”

Source: Roaring Fork School District

But many of those duties could easily be fulfilled by parent and community volunteers, with the right approach, school board candidates said.

It could be a simple matter of communicating better about what those needs are, said Shane Larson, incumbent District D school board member and candidate for reelection.

“As a district, one of the things we’ve talked about is how the communication side of things needs to be worked out,” Larson said when the question was posed at the Oct. 21 Issues and Answer Forum

“A lot of it comes down to, how are schools communicating about those opportunities?”

A new board policy that’s pending final approval later this month would make it more flexible for outside volunteers to help out in a supervised capacity without going through a full background check.

When it comes to taking tickets or monitoring hallways during an athletic event or school play, that duty doesn’t necessarily have to fall to teachers, Larson and other candidates said.

Jasmin Ramirez and Amy Connerton are challenging Larson for his seat on the school board.

Ramirez acknowledged that, in talking with teachers across the district, those extra duties as assigned cut into their effectiveness in the classroom.

“I do think that we need to connect better as parents, educators and community members … with the resources in our community that give us those opportunities to alleviate some of the pressures that our teachers have,” Ramirez said.

“It goes back to relationships, and creating community and unity between our schools and the organizations surrounding them.”

Connerton warned about a “slippery slope” if the school board micromanages issues such as building-level staffing assignments.

“We’re here to ensure the mission and vision [of the district] and to hold the superintendent accountable …,” Connerton said. That includes making sure the superintendent’s dealings with school-level administration issues are in keeping with the mission and vision, she said.

“It does go back to the question of, how can we be more creative for teachers?,” Connerton said.

Involving more parents, grandparents, retirees and local businesses in those volunteer capacities is a worthy goal, Larson added.

“But if you have to seek it out, it’s that much tougher to volunteer. If there were easier access … I think you would have more volunteers in our schools,” he said.

Natalie Torres, who is the only candidate on the ballot for the open District B seat on the Roaring Fork school board, agreed.

“A lot of parents want to be an active part of their kids’ school, but they don’t really know in what capacity they can help,” Torres said. “We need to reach out to those people to help take some of the responsibility off of our very busy teachers.”

Added Maureen Stepp, who is unopposed on the ballot for the District C school board seat, “It’s pretty obvious in talking to a lot of teachers that they are overworked and underpaid. Whatever the district can do to recognize what they do above and beyond the classroom and help alleviate some of that is important…”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Meet the Garfield 16 school board candidates

For the first time in over a decade, the Garfield 16 School District will have a contested election for the five-member board of directors.

The Citizen Telegram sent out questions to all the candidates before the upcoming election.

Residents of Garfield 16 school district should have received their ballots that are due by next Tuesday.

Profession, how long have you lived here, and any relevant family or personal information you would like to share?

Brittany Van Teylingen: I work as the Programs and Finance Director for the Rifle Animal Shelter. I have worked with Rifle Animal Shelter for 6 years. I have three kids, including one that started in kindergarten this year at the Grand Valley Center for Family Learning.   

Lynn Shore: I have lived in the district since 1987.  From 1987 to 2008 I was responsible for managing all rental property in Battlement Mesa. I also participated in other real estate businesses owned by Battlement Mesa Company.  I have had a daughter and four grandchildren attend school here.

Whitney Bryan: In the summer of 1999 my family moved to Battlement Mesa from Carbondale. I attended school in Garfield 16 from then until I graduated from Grand Valley High School in 2008. I am now a Compliance Specialist for Alpine Bank. Two years ago I returned to working after staying at home with my kids for three years. Previous to that I worked for a company primarily in the oil and gas industry.

 Angela Knudson: I have lived here since 2008, and lived in battlement mesa since 2009. We have three children,  my oldest graduated from grand valley 2018 and my two youngest are in Bea Underwood. I work at Grand River Hospital and  have a cosmetologist license and do hair on the side. 

Why are you running for the Garfield 16 Schools Board of Education?

Brittany Van Teylingen: As a parent that is newly involved in the Garfield 16, I experienced the start of a school year here. While the majority of the experience was fun, I believe that, as with any endeavor, there may be areas which could be improved. I also want to bring fresh eyes to the board and I think that should include people that are invested in the district and have children in the district. 

Lynn Shore: To continue the programs we have instituted over the last six years that I have been on the Board. 

Whitney Bryan: Very simply, I want to be involved in my children’s education anyway that I can. While at the same time attempting to make improvements for all students by listening to parents and teachers concerns and needs. I feel that the district needs to improve communication and transparency. As well as, improve the accountability of our educators and staff.

Angela Knudson: I love our little community and love our school district.  Having our oldest gone through the schools here. There are some things I think we can improve on and not only help our kids but make our school become the best in Garfield. 

What qualifications do you bring to the table, and how do you believe that will benefit the organization?

Brittany Van Teylingen: I previously sat on the town council for the Town of Parachute and believe that will help me to understand the inner workings of the board. Working on budgets for both Rifle Animal Shelter and the Town of Parachute will benefit the district in my advanced knowledge of the creation and execution of budgets. Working for a non-profit helps me to understand the needs of the district and the obstacles that they face.   

Lynn Shore: Many years of experience managing multi-million dollar budgets in both private and governmental organizations. Experience in serving on special district boards. 50 years experience managing employees and contractors. I have seen most everything that comes with managing a large organization and know how to handle the many situations. Doesn’t mean I know everything.

Whitney Bryan: I am a mother of two. My daughter attends school in the district and, my son will be starting school next year. I believe having parents of students in the district is an important qualification for a board member. Working for a bank I feel that will help me to better understand the district’s financial outlook. Also my position in the bank is overseeing compliance with government regulations and policies. 

Angela Knudson: The qualifications I have is having three kiddos in all grades and being an involved parent.

What proposals do you have to best meet the needs of the district’s diverse student population?

Brittany Van Teylingen: I think the district has some amazing programs that should continue, and the district’s idea of whole child education is important. Children cannot learn if they are hungry or don’t feel loved or safe. I’m excited to see the competency-based learning program rolled out in the district so that parents, teachers and all schools are speaking the same language. I think the district will be a leader in this program in the future. 

Lynn Shore: The District already has in place policies, practices and cultures to meet the needs of all of our students. We do have a diverse student body and each is treated as valued member of the community. 

Whitney Bryan: I would like to see more encouragement of parent involvement from our diverse population. A translator is provided at the PAC meetings, which is a great start. Right now I don’t know that parents feel encouraged or welcomed to share their thoughts with the district. There is very little community attendance. I would like to see that changed by making the information of when and where meetings are more accessible.

Angela Knudson: My proposals would be to go back to 5 days a week and or get the same days off as the rest of the district schools since most of the parents work in Rifle or Glenwood. Especially spring break.

What one thing do you believe the Garfield 16 Schools should be doing better for students, and why?

Brittany Van Teylingen: Communicating, parents and community needs to be actively involved in the education of our children.

Lynn Shore: Accomplishing higher academic achievement for obvious reasons.

Whitney Bryan: Since pursuing a board seat I have been able to better understand the direction the district is going with our children’s education. We are working to move away from the “no child left behind” teaching style and more towards a personalized and well-rounded learning experience. Preparing our children for life as a whole. This change takes several years to implement and we are just at the beginning. I would like to help facilitate this process.

Angela Knudson: We should be encouraging our children more and not playing favoritism. We should be also working on the bullying. I do not believe we have a good handle on this.

Are there any changes you propose be considered for the school district, and why?

Brittany Van Teylingen: I want to see all the schools speaking the same language to help communication between teachers, students and the community. I would like to see an increase in the districts social media presence to help communicate with the community the way they all communicate.

Lynn Shore: I am not proposing any major changes. We are constantly evaluating our results and finding ways to be better.

Whitney Bryan: In order to better protect our children in the event of the unthinkable I would pursue having all staff participate in personal safety training courses. With that I think it would be beneficial for all staff and athlete parents to participate in a concussion recognition course, not just the coaches. I would like to explore better avenues of communication between the district and parents/community. I see this as a weakness we have in the district.

Angela Knudson: What I named in 4.

What solutions do you propose to increase teacher pay?

Brittany Van Teylingen: The obvious answer is another mill levy, but no one wants to see yet another tax increase just for the sake of another tax increase. If the community actually knew about all of the good that the school district and staff do everyday for the children of the community they may feel differently. 

Lynn Shore: It is essential to have a competitive compensation package for all of our employees. The most practical way to assure teachers are paid competitively is to minimize cost for administration, maintenance, food service and transportation. 

Whitney Bryan: From what I have learned, our teacher pay is competitive with similar districts. Our district also offers a paid program for teachers to pursue their master’s degree as long as they commit to the district for 5 years. This draws good teachers that have a desire to continue their education and stay. Not just become stagnant. I would however like to see child care options for our educators. Most are parents as well.

Angela Knudson: NA

kmills@postindependent.com

School board candidates share thoughts on listening to teachers, parents

Truly hearing what parents and teachers are thinking is more than just gathering information, candidates for the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education emphasized at a forum in Carbondale on Wednesday.

“I’m all about evidence-based practices,” said Amy Connerton, one of the three candidates vying for the board’s District D seat in the Nov. 5 election along with incumbent Shane Larson and fellow challenger Jasmin Ramirez. 

“It’s really important to take whatever evidence we have and applying some of our findings,” she said at one of two candidate forums earlier this week, this one in Carbondale.

With staff, “It’s important to really listen to that feedback,” Connerton said.

And, with parents, it’s crucial to allow flexibility in how that feedback is given, she said.

The forum was co-sponsored by the school district and the Roaring Fork Community Education Association, which serves as the local teachers union. 

It was one of two forums inviting the school board candidates this week, in followup to one hosted by the Glenwood Springs Chamber on Monday.

Each of the candidates on the ballot that’s current in voters hands — including District B candidate Natalie Torres and District C candidate Maureen Stepp — was asked if the board should learn what parents and staff are thinking, and put that knowledge to use.

“Surveys are great, but where you find real conversations is being out there as a board member, introducing yourself and listening,” Larson, the only incumbent in the election, said.

“As a board member, I don’t feel that I’m here to represent my opinion, but to represent the people who reach out to me and say, ‘this is a concern or a problem.’”

The other candidate in the District D race, Ramirez, said her conversations out in the community with parents, families and teachers, is what prompted her to run for the school board.

“It is great to have surveys, but they’re not always to the point of what’s really happening in the experience of our teachers,” Ramirez said. “We need to try to build a relationship with our teachers, so they feel that they can come and have conversations with us … and know that we care, and that they know that they’re valued.”

Stepp and Torres are the only candidates on the ballot for their respective seats. Two declared write-in candidates — Molly Peterson for District C, and Matt Cova for District B — opted out of participating in the two forums.

Responding to the staff and parent input question, Stepp said she was impressed with the response rate in a recent teacher survey, as well as the feedback.

“It seems like the district is on a good path, especially with the strategic plan that was put in place five years ago,” Stepp said.

“But, every year, the board needs to go out and do that listening tour … and act on what we hear.”

Torres offered that it’s not only important to listen and share problems and concerns with the rest of the board and the administrative team, “but also the stuff that is going well … the celebrations.”  

Candidates also each responded to a question about their approach to collaborative problem-solving and what they believe are the top two priorities for a board member. And, each was given a random question on a particular topic. 

The RFCEA forum was recorded on the Roaring Fork School District’s Facebook page, and is still available for viewing.

jstroud@postindependent.com