D16 candidates state their cases
Western Garfield County Staff
PARACHUTE ” Nine candidates running for three board of education spots for the Garfield County School District No. 16 touted their qualifications to a small audience Sunday night.
About 30 people gathered at Grand Valley High School, most of them district teachers, former teachers or others with direct interests in board leadership.
Parachute Branch Library head librarian Holly Klinzman organized the forum.
“So many people just live their own lives and ignore this,” Klinzman said. “That’s not good. It puts a huge burden on the school board because they don’t have the input of the people they represent.”
Each candidate had three minutes for opening remarks.
Several of the questions posed by audience members focused on a controversial issue that occurred last spring. Dan Hoey, the former principal at St. John Middle School, recommended at the end of the last school year that the board not renew two teachers’ contracts. When the board approved that recommendation, the teachers and several parents and community members fought the decision to no avail.
Dani Christensen made a motion in the spring to reconsider the decision to not renew the two teachers. Her motion was not seconded.
Wayne Wolcheck, the other incumbent candidate, responded to an audience question.
“The board does not make decisions just because the principal wants it,” he said. “We call in the teachers and hear their side. It’s not just carte blanche. Sometimes we make mistakes and regret our decisions, but that’s just part of life.”
Audience members also asked the candidates what they would do to improve teacher retention.
Denise Gallegos said she would support a staff survey to get an understanding of staff concerns and needs.
“We just need to ask them what they need in order to stay,” said candidate Beret Brenckman, a teacher whose contract was not renewed at the high school last year. “Do you need more money, better insurance? I sure thought we did. We just need to ask. These people are adults. They’re intelligent. We’ve trusted them with the education of our children. They know what they want.”
Candidate Tom Matza added that he believes the bigger problem is with overall stability.
“Teachers need to feel comfortable when they come to work,” Matza said. “When there’s a new principal every year and new staff in the staff lounge, there’s no sense of community.”
Confronting a rumor that the board is trying to stack the election, one audience member asked which candidates were asked to run by a present school board member or someone at the district office.
During his closing statement, Bill Middleton, a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy, said that while someone else gave him the idea, he is running because he wants the job.
Audience members also asked the candidates what they would do to improve the district’s low Colorado Student Assessment Program scores. Mary Ellen Denomy, a certified public accountant, said the district needs to focus on teaching to the standards and encourage consistency between classes.
Brenckman suggested the district create new administrative positions, including a testing coordinator, in order to accomplish greater consistency. Beasley challenged that the district might not have the money to hire new administrators.
To conclude the forum, each candidate gave a short closing speech. Most candidates reiterated that they felt all of the candidates were worthy and that the community is lucky to have its pick of such qualified people.
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