Garfield Re-2 board picks Maness to replace Mackley on school board, over objections the decision was political; Paugh out as District A candidate
The Garfield Re-2 Board of Education went with what it said was experience in governance and finance in appointing a new board member Monday night to replace Katie Mackley, who resigned last month amid the political upheaval over the district’s mask requirements.
Holly Miller, one of the other two candidates who applied for the vacancy, accused the board of having its mind made up before the special meeting and ultimately making a political decision.
The board, on a 4-0 vote, appointed Christina Maness to fill the Director District C seat for the remaining two years of Mackley’s term.
Maness is a 1997 Rifle High School graduate who just moved back to Rifle last year after 18 years working as a registered nurse in Denver, according to a resume she provided to the board for its consideration.
She has three children in Re-2 schools and currently works as the farm office manager at Colorado Mountain Honey in Silt.
But what swayed the Re-2 board in its decision was her experience serving on the volunteer board of trustees for her children’s previous school, St. Elizabeth’s School in Denver, and her knowledge of school budgets.
“For someone stepping in to fill the void that was left, board governance is going to be extremely important,” outgoing Re-2 board member Tom Slappey, attending the meeting via Zoom while in Wisconsin, said in making the motion to appoint Maness.
“Christina has some financial understanding, and I think it’s very important to understand that and keep that on the forefront,” he said. “We need someone who understands that from the get-go.”
During her interview, Maness expressed support for the district’s public health policies aimed at maintaining in-person classroom learning in Re-2 schools.
She said the district should “continue to follow the data” in making those policy decisions as long as COVID-19 continues to be a concern.
The board’s decision to appoint Maness was not received well by Miller, who also grew up in Rifle but left for several years before returning with her family in 2018.
“I feel like this was already pre-determined before stepping in here tonight,” said Miller, who owns a small business and also has a son in Re-2 schools.
During her interview Monday, Miller was critical of the board for not seeking out “opposing views in the medical field” in making its policy decisions around the pandemic. She said the local school board should steer away from politics, but felt that’s where it went with the appointment decision.
“Am I just a pawn in a game … pacifying my time for a political agenda?” Miller asked while addressing the school board after the decision. “This is dirty politics, and it’s rearing its ugly head.”
She said during her interview that she was taken aback by Mackley’s comments when she resigned from the board Oct. 13 over the public backlash from a vocal anti-mask contingent in the community.
“It broke my heart,” Miller said of the criticism. “It’s unacceptable behavior, and I won’t tolerate it.”
The third applicant who put in for the vacancy, Re-2 parent and local banker Fathom Jensen, steered away from the political controversy, but said she did worry about Maness’s continued association with her children’s former school.
“I fear there could be a conflict of interest,” she said.
Maness also attended the Monday meeting via Zoom. Reached after the meeting, she declined to comment on the political climate as she embarks on her new school board role.
Outgoing School Board President Anne Guettler noted after the appointment was made that Maness will need to be sworn in within 10 days, per state law regarding school board appointments. That must occur by Nov. 11.
The board had hoped to wait until the Nov. 17 regular school board meeting to do the swearing-in for the appointed seat at the same time as two other new board members are to be sworn in.
Voters decided in balloting that ended Tuesday, Election Day, between just one contested race for the District E seat on the board, after District A candidate Jessica Paugh recently withdrew her candidacy.
Unofficial election results released Wednesday had Tony May winning the District E seat over Caitlin Carey for the seat being vacated by Slappey.
Britton Fletchall was left as the lone candidate for District A after Paugh ended her bid on Oct. 21. Both Guettler and Slappey are term-limited.
District B board member Jason Shoup was running uncontested for election to the seat he was appointed to fill last year.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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