Biggs challenges incumbent Rovig for Re-1 board
The Post Independent continues its question-and-answer series with the candidates for the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board of education. Today, we profile the two candidates for the Director District D seat, incumbent Myles Rovig and challenger Daniel Biggs.The Nov. 1 mail ballot, which was sent this week to registered electors in RFSD Re-1, includes contested races for the Districts C and D seats on the five-member school board.The RFSD oversees public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, and takes in portions of eastern Garfield and western Pitkin and Eagle counties.Although school board members must reside in a particular director district within the larger school district, they are elected at-large by all Re-1 voters to represent the entire school district.
Myles Rovig, 63, lives in Glenwood Springs with his wife, Winnie. They moved to Glenwood Springs from Woodland Park in 1990, and originally came to Colorado from North Dakota in 1969 when Myles accepted a teaching position in Colorado Springs. They have four adult children, including two daughters still living in Glenwood Springs, and four grandchildren in Phoenix. Rovig has been serving on the Re-1 board of education and the Mountain Board of Cooperative Education Services for the last four years. He is a real estate investor associated with Sopris Realty.Daniel Biggs, 42, and his wife, Connie, relocated to Glenwood Springs from Mesa, Ariz., in 2005. They have nine children ranging in age from 5 to 18, all attending Glenwood Springs public schools. Their oldest graduated from Glenwood Springs High School last spring is now attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.”We are natives of Arizona and love Arizona, but we’ve never looked back,” Daniel Biggs said of their time in Glenwood Springs. “There is something special about the mountains, and we feel blessed to be here.”Biggs works as the director of human resources for Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.
Q: What interests you in seeking election to the RFSD Re-1 school board?Rovig: Kids First! That statement has governed my passions and my professional life for more years than I want to declare. My mother and father always told us that we must get ourselves educated, and so my three siblings and I did just that. We always put our kids first right along with the neighbors’ kids, and the kids at school. That is just what our families have always done.Biggs: We are fortunate to live in one of the best places if not the best place on Earth. Helping where I can is a privilege and some small payback for the honor of living here. Obviously, with nine children, I am interested in the quality of our schools. Given some of the recent, more public personnel issues, and from personal experiences and observations as a parent, I believe we could do better. We have extraordinary talent in teachers and some exceptional leaders, but there are also some areas needing improvement. I want parents to be heard and teachers to have a safe and confident voice.Q: What skills do you believe you would bring to the board?Rovig: I have a master’s degree in alternative education from the University of North Dakota. The degree was wildly innovative at the time and was really a management program for classroom teaching and learning. Even after I quit teaching, that training helped me in my banking career where I was in senior management. I was responsible for creating revenue, controlling expenses and keeping the business profitable. This education also applied to our career college business (Glenwood Beauty Academy) and our real estate business. These skills have helped me better understand the operations of the Re-1 school district.Biggs: I have been in the human resources field for nearly 20 years. I have also been a board member for a large credit union in Arizona. I am not seeking election to be a human resources director for the district. I can, however, bring an insight to the board when personnel management issues are elevated. I would also drive a new attention toward opening communication between the board and those we represent. As a parent, as an HR executive, as a former board member of a large financial institution, I can bring a higher level of human resources thinking to the board.Q: From your perspective, what are the primary issues facing the school district?Rovig: 1. We must improve communications about our board work among all the participants of the district. 2. It is absolutely critical that our standards-based program continues to move forward with the successful implementation of our Moving On initiative. 3. We must continue to work the “Closing the Gap” effort. 4. Because of our reduced revenue resources, we must manage those resources to maintain a level of service that meets the needs of students and staff. 5. With the infusion of marijuana in our communities, we must continue to emphasize the education of our students, staff and parents in order that good decisions are made.Biggs: One of the more pressing issues facing our school district is a lack of trust in the board. Given a lack of trust, we are reluctant to vote in favor of more financial support, and concerned when we see personnel issues mismanaged. Many teachers don’t feel they can voice their concerns or criticisms. Therefore, positive adjustment is too slow. When we have hundreds of parents who want to be heard but are not, even dismissed and avoided, it only diminishes this trust.Q: What is the school board’s role in addressing these issues?Rovig: The board is responsible for providing conceptual direction and oversight guidance to our administrative professionals. Part of the fun in being a board member is to have the opportunity to be creative and share my experience in providing that oversight.Biggs: We must restore trust and confidence in the board. This comes best by listening, listening, listening, and remembering who our constituents are. We also must refine our district strategy. This isn’t throwing out all that is good. To the contrary, it is recognizing what is excellent about our district and enhancing it. We also have to be honest about our challenges. We need to define a better approach to long-term funding. This may of necessity include local funding, but should reduce the tax override approach for funding operations.Q: How would you address the sometimes negative opinion people express about the public education system in general, and Re-1 schools in particular?Rovig: When I have the pleasure to observe the wonderful activities in which our graduates and students participate, I do not see negativity. I see hope and independence growing all around us. One fine element of public education is that people can always voice their opinion. When the opinion is based upon good and accurate information, the message is generally positive or instructive. My kids are positive products of the public school system, and they are thriving members of their communities.Biggs: There is much more positive than negative with public education. When, to this day, I can recall the names and influence of my grade school teachers, something must have been and still is right. Teachers have an incredible opportunity to influence children from their earliest youth throughout their entire lives. There are areas where we can improve. Among those would be to rethink the funding mechanisms for our schools and a new professional incentive-driven compensation strategy for our leaders and teachers.Q: What is your opinion of the “Moving On” levels approach to student placement now being employed in Re-1 schools?Rovig: It is simply revolutionary for an entire district to take on the challenge of meeting the needs of each child by assessing the child’s needs and working with the student to design a learning program to meet those needs. I accomplished this in my teaching programs, and Winnie and I developed this same program for our career college students. Over 17 years, we saw positive results with our students’ passing rate at state board being over 98 percent. The key is to work with the student (and parents) to determine needs, provide targeted instruction, and give the student sufficient time and opportunity to learn and master skills. Our district’s challenge will involve bringing parents up to speed with the process as they may not have ever experienced that learning opportunity.Biggs: Conceptually, the “Moving On” program makes sense. I have nine children and each learns a little differently and at different speeds. However, I am particularly concerned about this program being “another program.” I worry about adding more things to teachers that takes them away from being teachers. I would by no means stop the program in its tracks, but I would suggest serious scrutiny and very objective measurement to adjust and correct; significant adjustment if necessary. We need to protect time for teachers and limit shuffling students. This would allow time to develop all important trust and relationships, particularly in the younger grades.Q: Do you support the proposed mill levy override?Rovig: Because I felt the district should be reflective of the very difficult economic conditions in our community, I promoted a strategy to the board that postponed the need for a mill levy until 2012 or 2013. I felt we should live with the resources provided by making strategic cuts in areas that minimized the effect on students and programs. We accomplished that in 2009, 2010 and now in 2011. These cuts were identified by our administration, teachers, support staff and citizens after six or more open special meetings with hundreds of participants over about five months. After gathering an amazing amount of input, the majority of the board decided that a mill levy question should be presented to the voters. I was in agreement that the voters should have the opportunity to make their choice, but I would have preferred we wait until 2012 and assess conditions at that time.Biggs: I do not support the mill levy on this ballot. I will be voting no on 3E. Pass or fail, we need to do more to prioritize teacher salaries and education materials. Raising taxes directly or indirectly on student’s families right now is not well timed. Many are struggling, and while it is discouraging to see our property values go down, having some welcome relief in the form of reduced taxes is a silver lining.Q: If the override does not pass, how should the likely resulting budget cuts be handled?Rovig: If the mill levy does not pass, we will need to reset our level of service without diminishing our level of expectation. As our communities have, we will have to adjust and adapt with a new strategy. Because of the financial messes at the national and state levels, we may have to ask for a mill levy again, as most of our budget cuts are not sustainable. We must protect our students and staff while maintaining our facilities and programs. It all comes down to what level of service the community wants to provide for its students.Biggs: Whether the mill levy passes or not, there will likely be adjustments. Regardless, our priorities must be best education by teacher retention. We may have to continue to adjust in all areas. While some I talk to feel the schools have cut too far already, we have only to look to the parents of our students. Many have made some of the most significant financial adjustments in their lives, as have many of their employers. I am personally voting no because I put the family and home first, even above school.Q: What is your opinion of charter schools?Rovig: Over 30 years ago, charter schools, or model schools, were envisioned to meet the needs of a special population of students through innovation and demonstration. These academies were sometimes hugely successful but many times failed. As with all business ventures, the idea is the easy part. The management is the hard part. I can support a charter school within and authorized by a small district, as long as it performs and adheres to being an innovative incubator of effective teaching and learning strategies. I think our Carbondale Community School presents a great example for our district. This school was initiated by parents, enabled by our district’s cooperation, and is a valued partner in providing services to students from all over the district.Biggs: I am in favor of competition for our schools and for our teachers. If we become the employer of choice, then competition raises the benefit for all. When it makes sense, we should make charter programs part of our district. We should also be quick to incorporate many of their good ideas. As to recruitment and staffing, we should not think shortage. The shortage only applies when we don’t make our schools the best place to work. One thing is certain, because we live in such a wonderful place, there will always be enough teachers and staff who want to live and work in our valley. The question is, will they want to work in our district? They will if we get our own house in order. We can have an abundance of teachers.Q: What about vouchers?Rovig: School choice is a great feature within the public schools of Colorado. However, we must be cautious when vouchers are designed to enable school choice by using public funds for private schools.Biggs: I support vouchers. We can be confident enough in who we are that we are attractive to parents and students. As public schools, we have great teachers, and if we adjust and be more fluid and business-like, then we can be the place where parents will want to choose us and where teachers want to teach. Again, it raises the bar for us all and forces us to adapt and be better ourselves.
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