The Dolores school board has a full election race coming up, with six candidates vying for three seats.
The candidates gathered Wednesday night at the Dolores Community Center for a well-attended forum, where they were asked a series of questions about their beliefs, perspectives, and experiences. Superintendent Lis Richard introduced the event, and Matt Margeson, a Dolores parent and assistant district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District, served as moderator.
Two of the candidates will replace departing board members Deanna Truelsen and Vangi McCoy, whose terms expire this November. The third open seat is currently held by Treasurer Lenetta Shull, who is seeking reelection.
Key questions posed to candidates included how to recruit and retain teachers, what the role of the school board should be, and how to bring students back to the Dolores School District Re-4A, in light of the declining enrollment in recent years.
The candidates are:
Maegan CrowleyMaegan Crowley owns and operates Iron Maegan Metalworks downtown, and her daughter attends Dolores Elementary School. She has taught metalsmithing and blacksmithing at the university level, along with at some craft schools.
Crowley said she is running because she cares about education and wants to invest back in the community, especially as a business owner in town.
She was a strong proponent of small class sizes and outdoor education, as an extension of the district’s project-based learning initiatives.
“Having kids get their hands dirty, and try and work together as a team and not just sit in a classroom,” Crowley said. She added that another benefit to more outdoor education programming was that it wouldn’t strain the district’s facilities as heavily.
As a school board member, Crowley also said she doesn’t want to “micromanage” the administration.
Phil KasperPhil Kasper touted his experience at all levels in the Colorado and New Mexico education world, from teaching to administration. Most recently, he served as interim superintendent of Re-4A, after Scott Cooper resigned from the post in May 2018.
He said he was running because he wants to be involved in improving the district, and would “love to see our board also strive for excellence and embrace continuous improvement.”
Key priorities for him include improving the district’s aging facilities, along with teacher recruitment and retention.
“I’ll always believe that teachers are always the key to any organization in education,” Kasper said, adding that Dolores would need to be “very creative” in order to attract quality educators.
Considering the district’s declining enrollment, he also suggested reaching out to the local homeschooling networks.
When asked at the end of the forum about his relationship to Justin Schmitt, the newly hired secondary dean who is currently being indicted in California, Kasper said Schmitt was his nephew, and he would remain impartial “to the best of my ability in all areas” should a possible conflict arise.
Alexandra PrimeAlexandra Prime is a Dolores Elementary School parent, and has worked as an educator and in the nonprofit sector, most recently as the community engagement coordinator for United Way of Southwest Colorado.
She said she is running for school board because she is passionate about education and supporting teachers, having been one herself.
Some of her priorities include pushing project-based learning efforts in Dolores and looking to alternate forms of compensation to attract high-quality teachers, such as implementing a four-day work week.
“We need to talk to our teachers and have them have a voice so that they are expressing what it is that they need to feel compensated and appreciated because that’s the most important thing,” Prime said.
She also suggested the board get involved in lobbying the state for higher pay.
Joe ‘Spark’ ReedJoe “Spark” Reed is a former parent and current grandparent of students enrolled in Dolores schools, and is the husband of Alesa Reed, the district’s curriculum director. He also served on the school board from 1992-2000, and previously worked in the banking industry, primarily in the area of agricultural lending.
He said he is running because he believes it takes a village to raise a child and he “want(s) to be part of that village” and support Dolores youth.
He would like to see the district improve relations with the town, along with its general communication with all constituents.
“Parents are the customers and children are the product,” Reed said. “And we need to get the best product out of here that we can.”
He was asked if his wife being on the administrative team would present any conflict, to which he responded no. “I stay out of that part of it,” he said.
Lenetta ShullLenetta Shull is the one incumbent running for Dolores school board. She has grandchildren in the district and has worked at several local businesses, including Teddy Bear Preschool. Currently, she works for Summit Ridge Wood Design.
She said she is running because she wants to support all students, especially ones who might get overlooked or discouraged in school because “our system is broken.”
Shull said a key component of a board member’s job is to hire a superintendent, along with following the district’s long-term Strategic Plan, in a focused and step-wise manner.
“We start at home base and we’re headed to first base,” Shull said. “And we’re so focused to get there, sometimes we get distracted. And I think my role on this board is to keep us on-track, keep us moving forward.”
She added that a successful school is good for the whole community.
Clay TallmadgeClay Tallmadge is a former Dolores teacher and coach, and currently a parent in the district. He left teaching in 2016 after he and his wife bought Pleasantree Farm, so he could devote his time to the tree nursery.
Tallmadge said he is running for a board seat to serve the community and based on his knowledge base and experience, being on the school board was the best way he could do so.
He emphasized the district’s need to upgrade facilities, prepare students for future jobs, and re-establish community trust through leadership transparency and committee work.
“There is a trust deficit in our school community at this time,” he said.
To address the issue of teacher shortages, he suggested looking into alternative programs to attract quality educators, such as through the Boettcher Teacher Residency Program.