Newcomers Lott Richardson, Weir vie for seat in District C
The Nov. 1 mail ballot election includes contested races for two Roaring Fork School District Re-1 board of education seats. One candidate is also running uncontested for a third open seat on the five-member school board.The district oversees public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt, and takes in portions of eastern Garfield and western Pitkin and Eagle counties.Running for the open District C board seat are Phil Weir and Terry Lott Richardson, both from Glenwood Springs. Incumbent Bill Lamont is not seeking re-election.The race for the District D seat has incumbent school board member Myles Rovig facing a challenge from Daniel Biggs. Both are from Glenwood Springs.A third seat, District B, is also up for election, with incumbent Debbie Bruell not seeking re-election. Matt Hamilton of Carbondale is running unopposed for the seat.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.The Post Independent presents a series of biographies on the candidates this week, followed by a question-and-answer section on key issues in education. We begin today with the candidates for the District C seat, Phil Weir and Terry Lott Richardson.
Terry Lott Richardson, 46, is a single mother with twins in sixth grade attending Glenwood Springs Middle School. She has lived on the Western Slope for 26 years, including stints in Aspen, Carbondale, up the Fryingpan Valley, Grand Junction, and in Glenwood Springs for almost seven years.Lott Richardson works as a medical assistant for Women’s Health in Glenwood Springs.Phil Weir, 65, resides at the Ironbridge subdivision south of Glenwood Springs with his wife,Patty, and three children, ages 2, 9 and 11. Their older children, and a niece who also lives with them, all attend Sopris Elementary School.Weir was born in Columbus, Ohio, grew up in Nebraska and went to high school in Downers Grove, Ill. He graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1969.He moved to Aspen from Dallas in 1976 and was in the real estate and restaurant business. He lived in Roatan, Honduras, for 17 years where he was a diving instructor and worked in the real estate business before moving back to Colorado in 2008 so his children could attend school here.Weir is a Realtor with Mason Morse Real Estate.
Q: What interests you in seeking election to the RFSD Re-1 school board?Lott Richardson: To ensure the education of my children and the children of the Roaring Fork School District.Weir: The only reason I moved back to the U.S. from the Caribbean was the fact that I had kids and I wanted to have them go to school here, so I have a passion for education. I believe by being an older dad and having kids in school that I can bring a different perspective to the board. Plus, I believe I have learned much about serving on boards as I have served on five boards here in the Roaring Fork Valley over the last three years.Q: What skills do you believe you would bring to the board?Lott Richardson: Honesty, integrity and a willingness to listen.Weir: Having served on the Aspen Board of Realtors, the Aspen/Glenwood MLD board, the Ironbridge HOA board, as president of the Roaring Fork Public Education Foundation, and last year as the first male president of Sopris Elementary PIE (Parents in Education) committee, I believe I have gained tremendous skills as a functioning board member. I know how to work towards viable solutions to problems.I have also spent much of my last two years going to school board meetings, currently being on the Mill Levy Steering Committee, and involved in the education foundation and being on Sopris PIE. Thus, I have learned much about what goes on in our schools here in Re-1.Q: From your perspective, what are the primary issues facing the school district?Lott Richardson: Communication, funding and teacher support.Weir: Funding, the achievement of our Hispanic students, and loss of programs due to budget cuts.Q: What is the school board’s role in addressing these issues?Lott Richardson: Primarily to create a safe and confidential arena for communication and listening. To establish education goals for this diverse district.Weir: Board members are responsible for working with the superintendent and school leadership in determining the direction of the district. They then are responsible to adopt policies and budgets that support that direction. Board members seek feedback from all groups of employees and the public, depending on the issue at hand.Q: How would you address the sometimes negative opinion people express about the public education system in general, and Re-1 schools in particular?Lott Richardson: By listening! Listening to what the faculty has to say and what the parents have to say. To create transparency so that the people of the district feel informed and educate themselves as to what is going on in the district and the schools.Weir: Talk to people, listen, make myself accessible and available, encourage attendance at board meetings.Q: What is your opinion of the “Moving On” levels approach to student placement now being employed in Re-1 schools?Lott Richardson: It is a terrific concept. Certainly, children need to master the material of each grade before advancing to the next. Unfortunately, not all children of the same age and grade learn the same way. It can’t be a fixed system. There needs to be room for alternative teaching approaches. This is prohibited by funding issues, of course. I also feel there is too much scoring and evaluating that takes place with standards-based education; taking away from teaching and lesson planning.Weir: I think the concept of “Moving On” is a good program, but I do not think it has been in place long enough to know yet how it is working. I think it is much for everyone to learn, and I hope it works.Q: Do you support the proposed mill levy override?Lott Richardson: Certainly! Budget cuts have already impacted the schools. No one wants to see more.Weir: I definitely support the mill levy. First of all, I believe the real problem we have in the Re-1 school district is in the way our state funds education. The fact that our funding is based solely on property taxes and the fact we have some of the lowest property taxes in the country, makes it difficult to raise needed funding.The TABOR, Gallagher and Amendment 23 also complicate adequate funding. If you look at the last 30 years and factor in inflation, the amount we fund education in Colorado now compared to 30 years ago is almost half the amount it was. All of this, coupled with the fact the state is projected to cut next year’s budget by somewhere between $200 million to $300 million, will make school funding extremely difficult if we do not pass the mill levy, and our schools will be in grave financial trouble.Lastly, the amount a person would pay as additional taxes per $100,000 valuation of their property is just $36, so on a $350,000 house, the amount of tax for the mill levy would only be $144. Overall, the property taxes on that house would have gone down over $1,000 from 2010.Until we come up with funding solutions for education on the state level, the mill levy override is the only available solution we have at this time to ensure good education for our kids.Q: If the override does not pass, how should the likely resulting budget cuts be handled?Lott Richardson: Perhaps parents need to help with time and talent. I have heard enough people worry about things that are cut. Volunteering will become even more important. Education is a privilege. Extras are a luxury. Maybe we have to cut back and do without for a time.Weir: The choices we will have will be very few and we will be forced to have further cuts in teachers, cuts in sport and arts programs, cuts in transportation, and even the possible closing of certain schools.Q: What is your opinion of charter schools?Lott Richardson: I have never had any experience with them. They are certainly an option.Weir: I do not think that I know enough at this time about charter schools to answer with adequate knowledge.Q: What about vouchers?Lott Richardson: Again, I have had no experience with this. If they are available they certainly are an option.Weir: From what I understand, they are not currently legal in Colorado in that a Denver judge recently blocked Colorado’s first school voucher program.
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