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Candidates for school board express vision for education

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Forum lets public hear goals

By Patty Unruh

Candidates for the Board of Education of Gilpin County School RE-1 District addressed the public in a question-and-answer forum on Wednesday, October 23 in the school auditorium. The forum was facilitated by members of the high school student council. Those running for two Board vacancies in the November 4 election are Charlotte Taylor, Steve Boulter, Kris Icenogle, and Kat Kroll. Kroll was unable to be present due to her work schedule, so was interviewed later and her answers to the same questions included. Kroll noted that a recent change in her work schedule would enable her to be present for Board meetings.

Taylor, the incumbent, has served for four years and is running for reelection. Board member Rusty Hardy has served for eight years and is not eligible to run in the present election.

Delainey Lepro, student council president, welcomed the audience and presented questions to the candidates. Her brother, student council vice president Tatum Lepro, timed the candidates’ responses. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer six questions that were provided to them in advance, followed by a time for the audience to submit written questions through School Sponsor, Kellie Bayne.

Introduction, Background, and Goals

Taylor: I was on the school board in 1997, when the bond issue passed that built the present school building. I served for three years, then left when a personal family situation called me to Missouri. While in Missouri, I graduated magna cum laude with a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and also earned a degree in women’s and gender studies. I then returned and was a news editor for eight years. I am currently employed at the Gilpin County Clerk and Recorder’s office.

I served on the District Accountability Committee during the time that there was debate over whether to have a four or a five-day school week. I was elected to the Board in 2009, have served for four years, and would like to serve another term.

Boulter: I grew up in Boulder County and graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in political science. I have lived in Gilpin County since 1988, and my wife grew up here. I have children in the elementary, middle school, and high school here. My work demands have freed up so that I now have more time to be involved at the school. I like the direction of the school and want to continue in the present direction.

Icenogle: I grew up in Colorado and served in the army; my husband was also in the military. I have helped care for my mother, who has had lung cancer for several years. I have a daughter at Gilpin and have volunteered with the District Accountability Committee, the Montessori door-to-door organic co-op, and the Peak to Peak swim team.

Kroll: I have lived in Gilpin County since 1994. I have been a parent volunteer at the school since 2006, including serving as a member of the PTA since 2011 and a member of the Booster Club since 2012. Since I volunteer for everything, I am known as the “volunteer extraordinaire.”

Q. 1: Do you have sufficient time/energy to devote to this position?

Taylor: You always have time and energy for what is important to you. It is very important to be involved in education. You must be flexible, because some issues take more time than others. For example, the mill levy override issue has taken a great deal of time.

Boulter: Our children are the most important thing in our lives. Education is the number one factor for our children, who are the foundation of our community, and it is a priority of mine. I own a business and can control my own schedule. I have volunteered with Little League baseball, am the president of Mountain Football, and have coached sports for 15 years. All the boards I am on are voluntary. I am concerned about 3A [mill levy override]; that has been my push.

Icenogle: Education is always a priority. As a disabled vet, I have extra time and volunteer here a lot. I have talked to people in the community at the coffee shop and at the fair about the mill levy override and other issues. I enjoy talking with people and asking how they feel.

Kroll: I have made time to volunteer since 2006. I am energetic with all school activities; I volunteer and support the school. I will have the same energy and integrity with the School Board.

 

Q. 2: What is your vision for education in this community?

Boulter: We are on a good track, and I want to stay on it. I was on the interview committee for the new superintendent, and I was impressed when he said that technology is going to grow, and we need to embrace it. I want to see us be more high tech than any other school in the nation. I’d like to see more parent involvement with that as we monitor our kids. We have the resources. The first two smart boards here at the school were bought by my wife and me; we were amazed that such technology existed. We have progressed and want to see that continue.

Icenogle: It’s my vision to keep our community together. I get a dagger in my heart when a child leaves because his needs are not being met, whether it’s for a course, for a bus route, or another reason. We should meet all their needs.

The preparation in the elementary school needs to support the middle school, and the preparation in the middle school needs to support the high school. If we get parents involved, there is no stopping us.

Taylor: Education and society are changing. The way we teach should be evolving and changing to prepare kids to meet changes in the world. Our body of knowledge is exploding exponentially, so kids need to learn how to learn and have the skills to evolve as the world evolves. Change is stressful, but in order to give kids the best tools, we need to become an ever-changing environment for them.

Kroll: My vision is to raise current test scores and to focus on why some families choose to send their children to other schools rather than to Gilpin. We must raise the bar and make Gilpin School one of the best choices for Gilpin County families.

Q. 3: Do board members/the board have a role in the day-to-day operation of the district? Can you/should you support a board decision that you were not in favor of?

Icenogle: Board members have to create policies, and each one affects the day-to-day operation of the school. We are here to represent others. We have to go with the majority rule and support it to the best of our ability.

Taylor: A major job of the Board is to create policies that guide the administration, staff, and students. Much of what goes into our policies is required by state and federal law. We have to turn that into a living document that reflects the values and needs of our own community. As community representatives, we listen to people and report back to the superintendent. We direct people who have questions to the proper place to resolve their issue and then check to see if they got satisfaction.

If there is a different opinion, we still support the policy.

Boulter: No, the Board does not have a day-to-day role. The superintendent is the Board’s employee. They choose that person to the best of their ability and let them run with it. The Board’s job is to be involved in the community and be open and available.

If I believe in something, I will fight for it and promote it. Then when the decision is made, we present a united front.

Kroll: I am not sure what the by-laws are for the Board having a day-to-day role in the operation of the district. We have a great leader in Dr. Dave [Superintendent David Mackenzie], and I support him and the District one hundred percent.

We always have to make decisions in life about things we are not in favor of. I believe in standing strong and speaking the truth for what I believe in. It’s all about what’s right for the school, not for me. We need a great amount of integrity and need to support each other’s ideas and comments. We must lead by example and walk together. “Together we can.”

Q. 4: What kind of relationship should a district/the board have with its community? With its parents and families?

Taylor: Our community is small, so we should have an intimate relationship with them. If people don’t see us when they want to, they know where to find us. We should be open and accessible. Our role is to guide people who don’t know the structure at the school.

Boulter: We have an open and close community. It is important for Board members to be available as community members and as business leaders. Everybody can call us and give an opinion. Since our community is small, the Board can’t hide, like DPS [Denver Public Schools].

Icenogle: The Board should be open, honest, and approachable. We should have listening ears. We have to be the same at school as we are at home. “Heart” – that’s what it’s about.

Kroll: We need to have a strong bond with the community. It is the community that makes the school. We live in an awesome place and have awesome kids and families. Since we are a small community, the Board must walk the walk and talk the talk. We need to get more families involved in their children’s education and activities. This is a must.

Q. 5: How can a board know if its goals are being accomplished and its policies carried out?

Boulter: We know through monitoring the superintendent, through actions, through the budget, through an open channel of communication. We do what we say and say what we do.

Icenogle: I talk with people and help the teachers in the elementary school. It’s important to be able to talk to people and have people feel they can be honest with you.

Taylor: For the Board to know if its goals are being accomplished, it must set goals. The present Board has goals to make Gilpin a school of destination. We pay attention to enrollment, morale, and how people feel about being here. We dialogue with the superintendent and the principals. Because our community is small, if our policies are not being followed, we learn about it and amend our policies accordingly. We instruct the superintendent that we need to tighten up in that area.

Kroll: We’ll know that our goals are being accomplished by being part of the goals, being involved with what’s going on and communicating with the District, the parents, the teachers, and the students and by being present and paying attention. The attitude of everyone and their school spirit will show that the policies and goals are carried out and if they are happy about it.

Q. 6: What are the current challenges facing education/school boards?

Icenogle: We face challenges that are different than those faced by DPS. We don’t have the violence, or the drop-outs. Our challenges are integrating Senate Bill 191, the evaluation of teachers. It’s difficult to make changes. We have to understand the state standards and teach them. We have a new superintendent and a new principal, and it is a challenge to add new people.

Taylor: Free public education is the foundation of our country. It’s an ongoing challenge to work to maintain free and excellent education for anyone. In Colorado, money is a challenge. We are fortunate to have the support of Black Hawk with its education enhancement tax. That has kept us even, but costs are going up. We have had to choose which programs and teaching staff to cut. We have been able to create momentum in our programs and want to keep it going. We are being challenged through teacher evaluations and changes in testing. It’s important to use our resources wisely and get more funding to create the best learning environment.

Boulter: Our challenges are our limited resources of time and money. I am concerned about issues such as Senate Bill 191, 3A, and Amendment 66 [that would increase state income tax rates for education]. We have to continue the push for funding. The challenges are the budget and maintaining involvement of the community.

Kroll: The biggest challenge is funding. Secondly, we are our own district, and a lot of Gilpin residents think that our school is not a good school. We are here to help make it a good school that the parents and grandparents will want to send their kids to.

Audience Question: How would you build parent and community involvement?

Taylor: We need to bring our resources to bear on increasing communication. In the 3A campaign, we have made use of social media. Our school web page is getting better all the time, and we may need a Facebook page. We also have telephone announcements. We could have a larger presence in the newspaper, announcing future events such as games.

Boulter: We need to increase our use of social media and listing events in the paper. More in the community might partake if they knew about events and were able to put them in their schedule. In sports, we have found that the best way to communicate is through texting, but everyone has a preferred means, whether it’s the Alert system, Twitter, etc. We should use every means possible. It starts with pride that kids and parents have in the school, reaching out to encourage more to come to meetings, and encouraging parent involvement.

Icenogle: It would help to have everyone on an email list. Every person has a different way that they prefer to receive communication. I read flyers that come home. I believe we should communicate in every way possible.

Kroll: I would build involvement through communication. The key to any good relationship is great communication.

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