OPINION: Your vote matters in this school board election
Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist
An acquaintance recently asked me: “Who did (unnamed organization) endorse in the school board election? I want to make sure to vote against them.”
Your ballots are in hand if you are a registered voter. It makes good sense that perhaps you and I pay more attention to this election than to School Board elections past. The battle for dominance on our school board will greatly impact our children and our community in the immediate future.
We seem to have three slates running locally. The first designated slate was that announced by the Republican Women and later endorsed by the local Republican Party. There is a slate endorsed by the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, and a third supported by what the first named organizations would probably declare to be the radical liberals.
Without reference to any of those three slates, I decided to work with a small group of friends to assemble a slate based solely on what could be learned about the candidates based on their responses to set questions as reported by the Daily Sentinel. Remember, this is for entertainment purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate by the writer, his confederates or the Free Press. We are not professionals, and we would encourage you to study the candidates to the degree possible and reach your own conclusions. So, yes, do this at home.
Each candidate was posed a set of eight questions. For purposes of our attempt to find suitable candidates, we determined that how long one has lived in Grand Junction would not be considered as it reflects a “we were here first” mentality long used to belittle talented citizens who do not display “pioneer” tags on their personal vehicles.
District C features a race between John Williams and Pat Kanda.
Williams claims some involvement in education but his response is not sufficient to determine if his involvement resulted in a positive outcome for our schools. Kanda served on the School Board 16 years ago. No winner on this issue.
On the issue of Amendment 66, Williams skirted the issue and Kanda is against it. Both support additional class days and do not feel there is significant if any waste in school budgets. Williams seemed to have at least one concrete program idea (reading coaches) while Kanda seemed to get lost in jargon about differentiation and 21st century technologies without any specifics or personal views. In this race, a slight edge to Williams.
District E is a contest between John Sluder and Greg Mikolai.
In referencing his past education-related experience, we found Sluder’s responses to be vague. His lack of specificity was of concern. Mikolai has served on the school board for four years and teaches at CMU.
As to questions posed regarding student performance and teacher evaluations, Sluder seemed more interested in discipline and “ineffective ideas” and “real performance” again without specificity. However, his responses frequently seemed empathetic to the needs of teachers. On the same questions, Mikolai referred to specific legislative requirements regarding teacher evaluations and noted the failure of “merit pay” in some circumstances. His responses were perhaps more analytical and detached.
Insofar as expenditures were concerned Sluder wants to find savings to increase school security. Mikolai hopes to see teacher coaching/mentoring programs introduced to improve teacher performance. In a race between these two, Mikolai would be a more likely choice.
District D pits Tom Parrish against Michael Z. Lowenstein.
To some, Parrish’s responses seemed noncommittal, evasive and generalized but Lowenstein’s answers reflected an understanding of the question and underlying concerns. While both appear well qualified, Parrish seems to understand that situations are not black and white but have nuances requiring consideration; Lowenstein sticks with a “yes” or “no” approach that may be off-putting to some.
In regards to how much money is being spent unwisely, Lowenstein acknowledges a lack of knowledge, but would propose to shift any wasted funds into direct support areas. Parrish does not acknowledge any area in which savings can occur. While one would not desire a board member that is uninformed, one should also be concerned when a board member is absolutely certain there is not any area in which savings can happen. This race is rated a toss-up.
All candidates, excluding Sluder, favor more instructional days/time. One only need to look outside the U.S. to see nations greatly surpassing us in educational achievement seem to have more instruction time as at least one common element. Without a great educational system, America cannot continue to be great, and, contrary to some prevailing thought, a great education is not one that adheres to a political agenda.
Jim Hoffman is a local Realtor and investor who, when not working, loves skiing, camping and fishing (in season). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kuhlenberg for school board