At a public forum Tuesday, seven candidates running for two open seats on the Dolores School Board fielded a variety of questions.
The candidates are Sandra Corbitt, Rebecca Frasier, Lisa Holz, Casey McClellan, Kay Phelps, Eugene Reininger III and Jerry Whited.
Questions focused on the reasons for running, budget experience, how to handle community concerns, whether a career tracking system is a good idea, and general priorities if elected.
Sandra CorbittSandra Corbitt said she is running to give students more of a voice, and that curriculum should be diverse and not just teach for the tests.
“Each student is an individual and learns differently. “Schools should not try to have the same outcome for each student,” she said.
She is concerned about excessive homework, and worries that computers and conformity are creating “robots” out of kids, with not enough room to become a unique individual.
Regarding budgets, Corbitt touted her experience managing budgets for Destination Imagination and science fairs, and her experience with fundraising and finding sponsors for events. On career tracking, Corbitt said a student’s future should not be determined too early. On communication with the public, she said she is available and recognizes that student and personnel confidentiality is important during public meeting discussions.
Rebecca FrasierRebecca Frasier has been serving as an appointed board member for the past year, and said the experience sets her up to serve a full term. Her priorities are financial oversight and school policy. She is concerned about losing students to other school districts, and said “fostering academics and student success” should be the main focus of a school. On budgets, she said school finance is complicated, but she has become more familiar with it.
“It is important to ask a lot of questions, and look to the experts for advice,” she said.
Regarding career tracking programs, Frasier said she would like to do more research on the idea. She is open to it as long as students can switch career paths easily, and still be on time to graduate.
“It is good to have direction, but also choices because kids change their minds a lot,” she said.
On public communication, she said issues that are brought up at a board meeting need to be addressed and not dropped. When issues arise regarding specific students and teachers, names should be kept confidential during open meetings, she said.
Lisa HolzLisa Holz said the school needs to be adaptive to the ever-changing world, and that education needs to be as comprehensive and inspiring as possible.
“My top priorities would be to inspire and instill a sense of motivation for students to learn, because that is the key to the educational experience,” she said.
While she does not have a lot of experience with budgets, she said she is detail-oriented and keeps “the broader picture in mind.”
Learning technology is important for a student’s future, but there should also be a focus on connecting students to the natural world, she said.
Tapping into local businesses to support the school, such obtaining food from local farms, is important and supports the local economy, she said.
Holz is not a big fan of career tracking programs, but said it could work for some kids. She said that schools should be ready to adapt to a student’s interests “in real time to help inspire and motivate them.” Regarding communication with the public, she supports a proactive approach where the community is better informed on what will be discussed and decided on at meetings.
Casey McClellanCasey McClellan said his priority is to focus on academic success, retaining teachers and students, and budgetary oversight.
“We used to be a school of academic distinction, but then we lost that, and I want to find out why,” he said.
One way to improve academics is to retain quality teachers, he said, and make sure their salaries are competitive.
McClellan said bullying has been a school problem, and that disciplinary action is needed. Regarding budgeting, he said he has experience based on his career in construction and aerospace. McClellan is skeptical of seeking too many grants “just because they are there. Eventually, grant money disappears, then you’re left paying for it out of the budget, so you have to be careful.”
On career tracking, he said specific career goals could work based on the student, but it does not have to be an official policy.
On communicating with the public, he said he is available, and said at meetings when the public has a concern, “it should be hashed out right there to get a resolution, and not be pushed aside.”
Kay PhelpsKay Phelps said she is eager to serve on the local school board in a district where she taught for 13 years. As a professor of education at Fort Lewis College, she also brings knowledge of teacher training and curriculum.
“In this culture of change, it is important for students to learn to ask deeper questions, foster collaboration, and respect different perspectives,” she said.
Utilizing the latest technology is important, but face-to-face interaction with peers and teachers is equally needed, Phelps said.
She has experience with budgets working as a professor, and said the way to attract better teachers is not only better pay but also the school culture. “The new infant-toddler center is a good way to attract teachers with young children,” she said.
Critical of career tracking, Phelps said her experience indicates that kids may not show the aptitude or passion for a career at an early age.
On public communication, she said discourse must be respectful, and that community forums would help to involve people in the process.
Eugene ReiningerEugene Reininger said he brings professional experience to the board, and wants to serve as part of civic duty to the community.
He said academics and technology are important to prepare a student for the future, but appreciating the natural world is also necessary for a balanced education.
“Our school should teach on a more personal level because we have the advantage of smaller class sizes,” he said.
“We live in a beautiful place, so let’s use that as part of the education experience as well so our kids aren’t in front a computer all day.”
As a survey manager for a large company, he deals with budgets daily, he said, and has reviewed the Dolores school budget.
“Besides academics and sports, the budget is also campus maintenance, food service, custodial,” he said.
Regarding a career tracking policy, Reininger said he is not in favor of it because it restricts young students.
But teachers who see a student could benefit from a college or vocational track, should pursue it with that student, he said.
He said the school is heading in the right direction, and that he has the time and enthusiasm to serve on the board, and work with the public on issues and concerns.
Jerry WhitedJerry Whited said one of his priorities would be to make sure that all students at the school are treated equally and given the same opportunities to succeed, including those with special needs.
“Let’s not let anyone get left behind. If there is a troubled student, then it is the school’s job to give them more attention,” he said.
A safe learning environment is paramount, he said, and promoting a positive atmosphere is key to making school a place where kids want to be. He is concerned about yearly teacher turnover, and said more effort should be done to keep quality teachers. He added that while education is a priority, sports is also important because of the lessons it provides that are different than a classroom.
On budgets, Whited said he does that as part of his career as a firefighter and EMT1. “I understand needs are a priority over wants in a budget,” he said.
Regarding career tracking, he said it could work for some students, and that freshmen should be interviewed by career counselors to determine if a specific career plan is a good option.
Whited said public concerns in and out of a meeting should be acknowledged and addressed, and that all the facts be heard. He said meetings need to be run professionally and follow Robert’s Rules of Order.