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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.


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.


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.


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.


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…”


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


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.


Meet the CMC Board of Trustees District 6 candidates

Editor’s note: Read answers from District 2 candidates here.

Five of the seven seats on the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees are up for election Nov. 5, though just two of them are contested.

Voters in the six-county special college district will be deciding those seats, along with a ballot question (7A) asking whether the Salida area should be annexed into the CMC district. Ballots were mailed to registered voters in the district on Friday.

The Post Independent is profiling the candidates running for the District 2 (Roaring Fork School District boundaries) and District 6 (Lake County School District) seats on the CMC board in a question-and-answer format.

Running to replace outgoing District 2 Trustee Kathy Goudy are former CMC professor Mary Nelle Axelson, and Marianne Virgili, the longtime former director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

And, running to replace District 6 outgoing Trustee Pat Chlouber are former CMC Timberline Campus professor and campus dean Bob Hartzell, and Christine Whittington, a former CMC Leadville library director.

Running unopposed for reelection in the other trustee districts are Patricia Theobald (District 4-Summit County); Bob Kuusinen (District 5-Steamboat Springs); and Chris Romer (District 7-Eagle County).

Q&As with District 2 candidates Axelson and Virgili were published Friday. Following are responses from District 6 candidates Hartzell and Whittington.

Profession, how long have you lived in the Colorado Mountain College District, and any relevant family or personal information you would like to share?

Bob Hartzell: I moved to Leadville in 1970 and have lived in the CMC District for 49 years. I married Kay Schneiter, a Leadville local since 1963, and we have three children all born, raised, and graduated (high school) in Leadville. I taught in the local high school, worked in the ski industry, spent 25 years with the CMC Timberline Campus, and ran the National Mining Museum for 5 ½ years.

Christine Whittington: After long careers in academe, my husband, Stephen Whittington, and I moved to Leadville in 2014 when Steve became executive director of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. A few months later, I became library director at CMC Leadville. Steve grew up in Denver and, since the beginning of our careers, we hoped to eventually land in Colorado. We are thrilled to be here. We have two adult children, son Daniel and daughter Quinn, plus two dogs and two cats, all rescues, and seven tarantulas, one a rescue.

Why are you running for the CMC Board of Trustees?

Whittington: I was so impressed by the CMC faculty, staff, students, and the support of community members that I would joke that I would pay to work at CMC! I worked on CMC’s 50th anniversary celebration and was inspired by the history of the college and campuses. I retired in January 2018. When Pat Chlouber’s last term was ending, friends from CMC and Lake County encouraged me to run. I considered it, and when a student encouraged me to run, I decided to take the plunge.

Hartzell: I spent over 25 wonderful years working for and serving CMC. They provided me the opportunity to grow as a teacher and a leader in the process. Good things are happening at CMC and I want to be a part of the process of keeping Colorado Mountain College a community college leader in the United States.

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

Hartzell: In the ski biz: Director of Lift Ops at Copper and chairman of the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board. Locally: City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem, President and Executive Director of the National Mining Museum, and Professor and Campus Dean on our CMC campus. I currently serve as the VP of Leadville Boom Days Inc. and Vice Chair of the Lake County Airport Board of Advisors. My goal is to get involved to make positive contributions and I would continue in that vein as a Colorado Mountain College Trustee.

Whittington: I had a 40-career in academe: librarian at Penn State and University of Maine, and library director at Greensboro College and CMC Leadville. I taught credit courses, including congressional and legal information sources to pre-law and journalism students. I directed the first-year seminar program and study abroad at Greensboro College. After retiring, I was a librarian for the Ask Academic online chat reference service. I keep up with best practices related to teaching and learning. I ask questions. I have an inquiring mind and an independent voice. 

What do you see as CMC’s most significant contribution to the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County in particular?

Whittington: The most significant contribution has been bringing degree and certificate programs to residents who might not have been able to obtain degrees otherwise and serving as models for CMC in providing degrees that fit the location, e.g. hospital management in Aspen/Basalt, elementary education in Glenwood Springs, and applied engineering at Rifle. The graphic design program at the Isaacson School is stellar. One of the most important contributions is attracting and retaining excellent faculty and staff.

Hartzell: The obvious is economic with campus and office sites at five locations from Aspen to Carbondale to Glenwood Springs. Beyond that, contributions at all campus sites include training citizens for an ever-changing job market, offering higher education opportunities to all citizens, and community enrichment activities promoting a greater awareness of cultural, intellectual and artistic happenings.

Do you support the annexation of the Salida area into the CMC District boundaries; why/why not?

Hartzell: I support the possible annexation of the Salida area into the CMC District boundaries. Salida has been part of the CMC service area for as long as I can remember. Now is as good a time as any for Salida to be part of the CMC District. With their climate, access to recreation and Certified Creative District designation, their population continues to grow. Many of their community leaders favor annexation and that support is important to the success of any CMC campus.

Whittington: I support annexation of Salida as a CMC district and hope that voters will also see the myriad benefits, including lower tuition. As a board member of the Collegiate Peaks Forum Series, which offers lectures in Salida and the Upper Arkansas area, I have noted the desire for intellectual and educational opportunities in Salida and the enthusiasm of the highly-educated retiree population who could teach as adjuncts and share ideas. The Salida Annexation Feasibility Study outlines the advantages of including Salida in the CMC fold.  

Would you like to see CMC’s four-year degree programs expanded? If so, into what areas?

Whittington: Creation of baccalaureate degree programs at CMC is addressed by the Colorado Revised Statutes (Title 23, Sec. 23-71-133). Requirements include workforce and student demand for the programs, accreditation potential, and cost-effectiveness. These are important — and legal — factors for adding degree programs. Employers, including nonprofits, find it difficult to attract employees to CMC’s district due to housing costs. Working with businesses to provide an appropriately educated workforce helps everyone win. I would add that the ability to attract and keep excellent instructors to engage and inspire students is critical.

Hartzell: The access to four-year degrees in the high country is an exciting development. Nursing, Business, Education, Leadership & Management, and Sustainability constitutes a great start! CMC has done a wonderful job of offering AAS degrees in Ski Area Operations, Resort Management, Ski Business and the like. Articulation of these degrees with four-year colleges has been good, yet we might want to consider expanding into four-year degrees in areas such as these.

Do you support CMC’s income-share agreement loan program for immigrant students who don’t qualify for traditional loans? Elaborate.

Hartzell: The key is, as stated, do they have financial need, do they have no access to federal financial assistance, do they qualify as in-state or in-district students and do they have U.S. work authorization? If we are truly a community college providing educational opportunities to our local residents, and others, yes, I support the income-share agreement loan program. No money comes out of CMC’s pockets and repayment of the funds provides continuing opportunities for others who do not personally have the funds to attend college.

Whittington: ISAs are controversial. Some critics label them “indentured servitude” that hurts students, including immigrants, who do not qualify for government loans. Sen. Elizabeth Warren sent letters about the dangers of ISAs to colleges considering them, including CMC. She underestimates colleges’ abilities to create sensible guidelines. My alma mater, Purdue University, offers ISAs through their Back a Boiler program. We must not allow Sen. Warren and other critics to insult our intelligence and that of our students. We should offer immigrants (and other debt-averse students) creative options for paying for college.

In tight financial times, do you prefer to look to taxpayers or student tuition to balance the budget? Explain.

Whittington: Tuition for in-district students must not be raised. Families living in CMC districts are already paying taxes to support CMC. I am also opposed to raising taxes. We should instead be working to make CMC the best possible steward of district resources. CMC should also not cut or reduce salaries or benefits for faculty, who are vitally important for student success and engagement and must be encouraged to stay. Instead, CMC should scrutinize expenditures to ensure that everything we pay for is supporting our mission, including services for our communities. 

Hartzell: Colorado Mountain College is already a low-cost alternative bringing benefits to the student as well as to each community. I would look first towards raising tuition to weather tight financial times. The taxpayer has not seen an appreciable rise in the mill levy for quite some time. A property tax increase is also a viable alternative as the entire amount raised would not come directly from community residents but would include second-home owners as well.

Meet the CMC Board of Trustees District 2 candidates

Five of the seven seats on the Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees are up for election in the Nov. 5 election, though just two of them are contested.

Voters in the six-county special college district will be deciding those seats, along with a ballot question asking whether the Salida area should be annexed into the CMC district.

Today and Monday, the Post Independent will profile the candidates running for the District 2 (Roaring Fork School District boundaries) and District 6 (Lake County School District) seats on the CMC board.

Running to replace outgoing District 2 representative Kathy Goudy are former CMC professor Mary Nelle Axelson, and Marianne Virgili, the longtime former director of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

And, running to replace District 6 outgoing Trustee Pat Chlouber are former CMC Timberline Campus professor and campus dean Bob Hartzell, and Christine Whittington, a former CMC Leadville library director.

Running unopposed for reelection in the other trustee districts are Patricia Theobald (District 4-Summit County); Bob Kuusinen (District 5-Steamboat Springs); and Chris Romer (District 7-Eagle County).

We posed the following questions and received responses from candidates in the two contested races. We start with District 2 candidates Axelson and Virgili.

Profession, how long have you lived in the Colorado Mountain College District, and any relevant family or personal information you would like to share?

Marianne Virgili: I’ve lived here 37 years. When we moved to Glenwood Springs, the first thing I did was enroll our son in Mini College at CMC’s Blake Center. It was where the kids took pottery and dance and where everyone in my family has either taught or attended classes. I have served the college for decades, lobbying at the Capitol for 4-year degrees, chairing the successful 7D for CMC Election and partnering in the Glenwood Visitor Center. I still feel nostalgic when I enter the Blake Center — it feels like home.

Mary Axelson: I am an educator who retired from Colorado Mountain College as a full time professor in 2016. I have lived in Glenwood Springs for 39 years. I am married, and we raised two daughters here who continue to make Glenwood their home. In my more than 40 years spent in education, I’ve had the privilege of helping students of all ages and backgrounds achieve their dreams. I am most fortunate to have a profession I love.

Why are you running for the CMC Board of Trustees?

Axelson: Colorado Mountain College gave me enormous opportunities for growth and leadership in my career. Although I have retired, I remain passionate about ensuring our communities have access to quality and affordable education. I want students to be at the forefront of every decision made, and faculty and staff supported. There are possibilities as well as challenges in higher education, and I would like to be part of helping CMC stay on a positive and financially responsible path.

Virgili: It’s personal. When I was a kid my dad said if I continued to get straight A’s, they’d have to send me to college. I couldn’t believe my ears! My immigrant mother went to work to help pay for tuition, and I was the first in my extended Italian-American family to earn a degree. Education is a gift that can only be repaid by giving it to someone else. I’m passionate about being a Trustee because I will get to make decisions that change lives by assuring accessible, affordable education. 

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

Virgili: As CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber for three decades, I understand small town values, challenges and opportunities. I know how to engage people and diverse community groups. My collaborative leadership skills promoted a chamber of commerce and a community to national prominence. I have local, state and national board governance experience, and I understand the importance of having a visionary board as well as transparency and stewardship. I feel I have something to bring to the table and that I’ve been preparing for this role for 30 years.

Axelson: Knowledge of education and the college is a perspective that needs to be represented on the board. As a CMC faculty member for more than 30 years, I served on committees in almost every area of the college, including budget for the Roaring Fork Campus and College-Wide. In addition, I have experience at the state level with Colorado Commission on Higher Education and Colorado Community College System. I believe that this background and my community volunteer experience will serve the college well.

What do you see as CMC’s most significant contribution to the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County in particular?

Axelson: CMC was created specifically to fill a void for our communities and make it possible for our residents to pursue education while remaining in our valley. CMC offers opportunities from high school equivalency to four-year degrees and classes for lifelong learners. Garfield County has nurses, teachers, paramedics, vet techs, law enforcement, and so many others that CMC has helped prepare. This is an amazing contribution.

Virgili: There are three important contributions: Affordable education, job preparation and lifelong learning. Most importantly, CMC provides superior and affordable education for students to be able to study, work and live within their community. Education translates to jobs and trains local first responders, nurses, teachers and law enforcement. It means our businesses can meet their needs today and it prepares the workforce of tomorrow. Also, there is no age limit on learning. At its heart, CMC is a  Community college with a wide array of classes for students of all ages.

Do you support the annexation of the Salida area into the CMC District boundaries; why/why not?

Virgili: Definitely! In 1965, CMC founders had an inclusive vision for a college that met the needs of all our mountain communities. The original charter allowed local school districts to vote to annex into the CMC District. CMC classes have been available in Chaffee County for a long time, but annexation will allow those students to pay in-district tuition. If Salida School District voters approve annexation, their property tax bills will include a new mill levy to pay for CMC services without additional cost to the residents of the current district.

Axelson: I think the Salida community could be a great fit for CMC. Like all mountain towns, there is a desire to provide education. The area is growing and would add another tax base for the college; however, while the College has stated that district taxpayers won’t be impacted, I am interested in learning more as this addition will bring changes in resource allocation for all our campuses.

Would you like to see CMC’s four-year degree programs expanded? If so, into what areas?

Axelson: Yes, I am open to expanding our four-year degree offerings in the future. There is a process in place to seek input from community members, college employees and state offices in four-year degrees, and I would need this information before making a new degree decision. I believe that we should focus on supporting and growing our present two-year and four-year programs that require resources to maintain their excellence.

Virgili: Yes! Change is so rapid that it’s hard to imagine emerging fields. CMC’s qualified administration researches that. I strongly feel new degrees should meet the needs of our students, communities and businesses and would assess their wants and needs. I look at degrees in terms of jobs, so areas like health information technology, physician’s assistant certification, software development, data analysis, digital transformation, organization development, the clean energy economy and green building certification come to mind. I also favor more vo-tech training and expanding existing degrees in high demand (e.g., nursing).

Do you support CMC’s income-share agreement loan program for immigrant students who don’t qualify for traditional loans? Elaborate.

Virgili: As a member of the CMC Foundation Board, I support this philanthropic initiative. Traditional student loan debt suppresses college aspirations for first-generation students. DREAMers are authorized to work in the United States but are ineligible to access federal grants or loans because of their undocumented status. This program provides financing for undocumented students and others, but is not a free ride. It enables enable students to pay for college through income-share agreements, in which students pay no up-front tuition in exchange for a fixed percentage of their income after graduation.

Axelson: I applaud and support CMC for initiating the innovative Dream Fund (Fund Suenos) in 2018. This donor-funded income sharing program can provide access to all students not eligible to receive federal financial aid.

In tight financial times, do you prefer to look to taxpayers or student tuition to balance the budget? Explain.

Axelson: CMC has been a state leader in keeping education affordable for our communities, and since tuition is a small part of the college’s budget, I would look more to state and taxpayer support as CMC prepares for increased enrollment.

Virgili: I chaired the 2018 7D initiative to retain CMC  tax revenue that would have otherwise been lost. Voters passed 7D by 71%. It stabilizes today’s mill levy. Therefore, I do not favor increasing taxes. The mill levy combined with generous philanthropy make CMC the most affordable bachelor degree in Colorado. (The CMC Foundation raises $3 million – $4 million annually for students and programs.)  While no one wants to see higher tuition, if modest increases occur, the Foundation works to make CMC accessible to anyone wanting to further their education.

School district, teachers association to host school board candidates forum Oct. 23

A forum inviting the candidates for the Roaring Fork District Board of Education is scheduled prior to the regular school board meeting in Carbondale on Oct. 23.

The school district and Roaring Fork Community Education Association are co-hosting the forum, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Bridges High School, 444 Weant Blvd. in Carbondale.

The forum will be moderated by Cristal Logan from the Aspen Institute. The school board meeting will immediately follow at 7 p.m.

The following candidates have confirmed that they will participate in the forum: 

  • Natalie Torres (District B)
  • Maureen Stepp (District C)
  • Amy Connerton (District D)
  • Shane Larson (District D) 
  • Jasmin Ramirez (District D)

Two write-in candidates, Matthew Cova (District B) and Molly Peterson (District C), have said they will not participate in the forum, according to the organizers.

The format is to include time for candidates to share information about themselves. There will also be questions about candidates’ experience with collaborative problem-solving and working with groups and on topics related to public education and district priorities, according to a press release. 

The public can also suggest questions to be posed to candidates through a form available in English and Spanish.

The forum will also be live-streamed at https://www.facebook.com/RoaringForkSchoolDistrict/.