Meet the Garfield Re-2 school board candidates — Part 2 |

Meet the Garfield Re-2 school board candidates — Part 2

Q&As with the six candidates seeking the four seats open on Board of Education

Re-2 Board of Education candidates, from the left, Seth McMillen, Katie Mackley, Kirk Wilson, Meriya Stickler, Tom Slappey, and Chris Miller intertact with the crowd during last weeks forum in Rifle. Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram

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Voters had a chance two weeks ago to meet the Board of Education candidates for the four open seats in the Garfield Re-2 school district.

The six candidates met with the public during a forum held by the West Garfield Education Association at the library.

With more than 30 people in attendance listened to the candidates answer a half-dozen questions during the nearly two-hour event.

Katie Mackley, and Meriya Stickler are both running unopposed for Director District C and D respectively; both seats are for four-year terms.

Chris Miller and Kirk Wilson are both vying for Director District B, which is also a four-year term.

Seth McMillen is challenging incumbent Tom Slappey, Director District A, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year for the two-year term.

For those who were unable to attend the forum, the Citizen Telegram sent out questions to all the candidates before the upcoming November election.

Ballots were mailed out last Friday; they must be dropped at one of the drop boxes and in hand by 7 p.m. Nov. 5.

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

Katie Mackley: In terms of our ethnic diversity, I think it is imperative that the district provide Spanish speaking translators at district/school informational events. This is something the District Accountability Committee has identified as one of its top priorities and it needs to be a priority of the school board to partner with them to achieve this goal.

Kirk Wilson: I would like to explore the various methods our district uses to teach our diverse population and compare those with other school districts that have found success. Additionally, we should be looking at every possible way to increase involvement with all of our parents.

Meriya Stickler: Before proposing changes it is important to do my time in the chair, for now I will let the people who do the work bring the recommended changes for Board consideration.

Tom Slappey: I would like to work on teacher recruitment and retention. Focus on attainable housing and childcare solutions for our staff, I believe that if our teachers are happy and consistent we will have a better experience for our students.

Chris Miller: It is vital that we work as a community to meet the needs of all of our students. Our district has started making gains in this, but we still have a long way to go. For example, we just started offering opportunities for our Hispanic families to receive interpretation at district meetings, but we need to have a district interpreter on staff full-time to ensure every district meeting, IEP meeting, PTA meetings.

Seth McMillen: I don’t necessarily believe we need to come up with any new proposals for the diverse population here, I think we should try to improve the programs that are already in place, at the schools that they’re already in place at, for those diverse students.

What one thing do you believe the Re-2 Schools should be doing better for students, and why?

Katie Mackley: I think it is time for the district to become much more innovative in the way it educates our children. For many years, public education has offered a “one size fits all” model and it’s time for that to change. I hope to see Re-2 evolve into a district that provides learning systems that engage our kids in the ways that they individually learn. I would love to see more experiential and expeditionary curriculum utilized.

Kirk Wilson: Other than continuing to find new and innovative programs to increase scores. We should be looking at programs that address our students’ social and emotional learning. I also believe we could be doing more in the area of mental health.

Meriya Stickler: The school district has amazing programs in place, programs I would encourage growth in agriculture, trades, and skills to take into adulthood like banking/budgeting.

Tom Slappey: Retaining teachers, and recruiting the most talented staff available. See above.

Chris Miller: One thing I think our district should be doing for students is offering more opportunities for students to chose various tracks for their education. We offer some opportunities for high schoolers to take Dual Enrollment, IB, and AP courses, but the number of students accessing those is too small. We should be pushing partnerships with more local businesses to help prepare our students for college, career, and specifically careers within our community.

Seth McMillen: I think the district needs to make sure that every student is given the opportunity to thrive. Not just select populations of students.

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

Katie Mackley: I would love to see more communication within the district. Our staff is a wonderful resource and we need to be listening to them about what is working and what is not. I would also love to see more communication with the community. I know that members of our community have felt that Re-2 isn’t as transparent as they would like it to be.

Kirk Wilson: I would like to see an increase in vocational opportunities within the district. Although I have advocated for students to consider a college education, there is an absolute need in our community to provide alternative opportunities to our students.

Meriya Stickler: Before proposing changes it is important to do my time in the chair, for now I will let the people who do the work bring the recommended changes for Board consideration.

Tom Slappey: I would rather answer this question if and when I am elected to the Board.

Chris Miller: First, our district needs to be more transparent with our schools and community. We need to have a Board meeting agenda that allows the public to access the documents in real-time. Right now, when the public attends a Board meeting, they are only able to access the agenda and hear what the Board members discuss. Trust is built through transparency and honesty, I hope to build trust through this, and many other initiatives. 

Seth McMillen: I don’t necessarily think we need to have any new programs, like I said above, until the programs that are already in place are up to speed and proving that they’re doing what they’re supposed to. Although I do believe that the district needs to get more community, and parental involvement in all of the schools.

What solutions do you propose to increase teacher pay?

Katie Mackley: I think that passing the Mill Levy Override was an excellent place to start. That has made us fairly competitive in the state in terms of salary. Ultimately, I think that teacher pay is something that needs to be addressed at the state level. The cost of living in Colorado is high compared to many states and our teacher salaries, across the state, don’t reflect the cost of living. 

Kirk Wilson: I’m interested in finding innovative ways to increase pay for teachers. We need to find new ways to retain the great teachers we have. I think there are several entities within our community that the school district could partner with. We could hold events for single professionals to meet one another, affordable housing, providing roommate finder services, childcare services, and more. This will make our community more attractive to incoming and current professionals.

Meriya Stickler: Pay is always a struggle for our valley and so I would like the district to keep this on the list of top priorities.

Tom Slappey: Honestly in my opinion there is no “one size fits all solution” to this question, we have limited resources and must find ways to appropriate these funds accordingly. I believe that there are multiple options the can be explored in an effort to increase “teacher pay” and all options must be on the table. 

Chris Miller: Last year, our district passed a Mill Levy Override, or MLO, and teachers, para-educators, bus drivers, and all employees received a pay increase. This does a lot to keep and retain highly qualified staff. However, our community can’t keep funding all of the pay increases to staff through MLOs. There are some ballot initiatives at the state level that might help with this.

Seth McMillen: Right now there has already been a mill that was passed for that specific reason.

I think the focus now needs to be attracting not just good teachers but great educators. 

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