School board candidates share thoughts on listening to teachers, parents
Truly hearing what parents and teachers are thinking is more than just gathering information, candidates for the Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education emphasized at a forum in Carbondale on Wednesday.
“I’m all about evidence-based practices,” said Amy Connerton, one of the three candidates vying for the board’s District D seat in the Nov. 5 election along with incumbent Shane Larson and fellow challenger Jasmin Ramirez.
“It’s really important to take whatever evidence we have and applying some of our findings,” she said at one of two candidate forums earlier this week, this one in Carbondale.
With staff, “It’s important to really listen to that feedback,” Connerton said.
And, with parents, it’s crucial to allow flexibility in how that feedback is given, she said.
The forum was co-sponsored by the school district and the Roaring Fork Community Education Association, which serves as the local teachers union.
It was one of two forums inviting the school board candidates this week, in followup to one hosted by the Glenwood Springs Chamber on Monday.
Each of the candidates on the ballot that’s current in voters hands — including District B candidate Natalie Torres and District C candidate Maureen Stepp — was asked if the board should learn what parents and staff are thinking, and put that knowledge to use.
“Surveys are great, but where you find real conversations is being out there as a board member, introducing yourself and listening,” Larson, the only incumbent in the election, said.
“As a board member, I don’t feel that I’m here to represent my opinion, but to represent the people who reach out to me and say, ‘this is a concern or a problem.’”
The other candidate in the District D race, Ramirez, said her conversations out in the community with parents, families and teachers, is what prompted her to run for the school board.
“It is great to have surveys, but they’re not always to the point of what’s really happening in the experience of our teachers,” Ramirez said. “We need to try to build a relationship with our teachers, so they feel that they can come and have conversations with us … and know that we care, and that they know that they’re valued.”
Stepp and Torres are the only candidates on the ballot for their respective seats. Two declared write-in candidates — Molly Peterson for District C, and Matt Cova for District B — opted out of participating in the two forums.
Responding to the staff and parent input question, Stepp said she was impressed with the response rate in a recent teacher survey, as well as the feedback.
“It seems like the district is on a good path, especially with the strategic plan that was put in place five years ago,” Stepp said.
“But, every year, the board needs to go out and do that listening tour … and act on what we hear.”
Torres offered that it’s not only important to listen and share problems and concerns with the rest of the board and the administrative team, “but also the stuff that is going well … the celebrations.”
Candidates also each responded to a question about their approach to collaborative problem-solving and what they believe are the top two priorities for a board member. And, each was given a random question on a particular topic.
The RFCEA forum was recorded on the Roaring Fork School District’s Facebook page, and is still available for viewing.
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The three incumbents are declared, and challengers have until Jan. 25 to gather nominating signatures to run for Glenwood Springs City Council April 6.