Mancos is gearing up for its own school board election this year, and the competition is steep – eight candidates are vying for three seats.
Candidates gathered in the new school cafeteria Monday night for a community forum, moderated by Roger Good, an independent education consultant.
They answered questions from Good and the community, sharing their perspectives on standardized testing, the ongoing Mancos construction project, the district’s project-based learning push, and enrollment challenges, among others.
The candidates are:
Pam CoppingerPam Coppinger is one of two incumbents seeking reelection. She has lived in Southwest Colorado on and off since her youth, and is a former teacher in the Mancos School District Re-6.
Coppinger said she is running because she loves children and wants to see through the projects the board has started. She sees the school as the heart of Mancos.
In particular, she pointed to the potential of project-based learning, PBL, both to better prepare students for the future and as a creative way to help attract and retain teachers, in a funding-strapped educational landscape.
“Trying to make the curriculum fun, and I think project-based learning is doing that,” Coppinger said. “It’s amazing, if you walk around into the different classrooms in this school, you will see teachers excited.”
She also spoke, as a former teacher, in favor of using MAPS and NWEA testing to assess students, rather than using standardized tests which take up hours of instructional time, she said.
Katie Cahill-VolpeKatie Cahill-Volpe is a parent in the district, who formerly served on the accountability committee. She works as a sales manager for a publishing company.
She said she is running on behalf of her children and all community members, and would like to engage in the new PBL initiatives and tackle the challenges of the new school campus, along with being a strong voice for equity in education.
Cahill-Volpe emphasized the importance of reaching out to the community at large, including those who don’t have kids in the district.
“I think a really important piece about project-based learning is pulling all of those different community resources, business people and members, and bringing those people to speak to our children, so that they can learn from all different kinds of people, and so that everyone can feel that they are included in raising this community of children,” she said.
She also advocated for more outdoor education programming, and making good use of the resources in the school’s own backyard.
Tim HunterTim Hunter is the other incumbent seeking reelection. He moved to Mancos in 1994, and he owns and operates a building business in town.
He said he is running to help see through projects that have been started, and will continue to listen to the community and “be straight” with anyone who wants to come speak with him.
Hunter said that trusting and supporting teachers, particularly those working with young people at transitional ages, is the best way to prepare students for a changing future.
“The board’s part of that is to support our administration, to make sure that we give the tools necessary to our teachers and staff,” he said. “And also we need to be in communication with the parents.”
He also was not in favor of standardized testing, and expressed support for the large majority of Mancos families who have chosen to opt-out of testing in recent years.
Bridgett JabourBridgett Jabour is a district parent who has lived in Mancos since 2001. She works at Southwest Health System as an executive assistant.
She said she’s running to bring a fresh, open-minded perspective to the board, and to help keep Mancos schools on their upward trajectory.
Jabour spoke in favor of collaborating with other agencies, and of the board’s responsibility to be a strong advocate to the state and provide big-picture oversight.
“I feel like that’s truly a huge part of being a board member,” she said. “It is our job to go out there and share as much as we can, what it is that we struggle with in our community.”
She also spoke about enrollment challenges she anticipates happening in coming years, due to a rising town population, and students wanting to come to Mancos because of the new campus.
Tressa JukesTressa Jukes is a district parent who moved to Mancos from Juneau, Alaska, in 2015. She previously served in the U.S. Coast Guard, currently works as a paralegal, and is a Girl Scouts troop leader.
Jukes said she’s running because she feels she’s a goal-oriented problem-solver, and she wants to bring her leadership skills and experience to the board.
She highlighted what she sees as safety needs, including working on drills and focusing on social-emotional learning.
“Drills and just making teachers more aware of things going on with administrators, and stuff like that,” Jukes said. “They know that, but just reinforcing it.”
When candidates were asked about the value of sports, she noted the value of keeping kids away from video games, and on the scholarship opportunities offered through athletics.
Gina LoveGina Love moved to Mancos in January 2018 to help her friend Kate Wall operate Zuma Natural Foods. She is a parent in the district.
Love said she’s running because she previously served on the leadership team at a food cooperative in Minnesota, and she felt the board played a crucial role in the coop’s operations. She also believes she’s good at hearing “different voices at the table.”
She was a strong proponent for expanding students’ horizons beyond the Mancos Valley, and for giving them more opportunities to tour colleges and show them a variety of career options.
“Giving them the tools that they need in order to hone in on what it is that they are going to make the world a better place with,” Love said.
She also spoke on the need to see tangible results from the new facility, so the community can see the value of the large construction project.
Nick ManningNick Manning grew up in the area and moved back about a year ago, after traveling around and working in various jobs. He has taught classes in Durango, and runs a company that focuses on international education, with an emphasis on social innovation, service work, and experiential learning, among others.
His first encounter with the Mancos school board arose after he attended a meeting to voice some complaints about noise from the construction project – as a neighbor. He was so impressed by the board’s professionalism, he said, that he decided to run himself.
Manning was a firm proponent of innovation, and sees PBL as a better method of preparing students for the world than more traditional practices, although he said it would take some time and the board would need to maintain a long-range vision for the initiative as a whole.
“Big-picture initiatives like this take five or seven years before we really see success,” he said.
When asked about Superintendent Brian Hanson’s tendency to push back against “one-size-fits-all” state requirements, Manning agreed that school districts don’t all fit one model, but added the board should make sure to understand the rationale behind administrators’ decisions.
Adam PriestleyAdam Priestley is a Mancos parent who has worked in education for over a decade. He previously served as Mancos secondary principal until he resigned in November 2018, citing personal and family reasons.
He said he is running to support the school’s growth, and to help prepare students for a future in which the full range of careers are as yet unknown.
To do this, he advocated for focusing on 21st century learning and PBL, and for asking students and the community what they need, from social-emotional learning to gifted and talented or special education classes.
“Really reaching our students and finding out ideas to help them get an education that they can move forward with, in areas that they’re choosing to go down that path,” he said.
Priestley also said it was important that the district uses its new facilities to the fullest of their capacity.
This article was updated Oct. 10 to correct the occupational information for board candidate Tressa Jukes.It was updated again Oct. 11 to correct the title of moderator Roger Good.firstname.lastname@example.org