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Bayfield School Board candidate profiles
10/18/2013 By: Carole McWilliams and Melanie B. Mazur
Our report on all of the school board candidates for the Bayfield district is below
Times staff report
La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker reported Wednesday that Bayfield School Board candidate Justin Ross does not meet district residency requirements, and votes for him will not be counted.
Based upon an inquiry to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office and upon further research of the La Plata County Assessor’s records, it has been determined that Ross does not meet the residency qualifications according to state law, even though he has a Bayfield address.
Any votes cast for this candidate will be deemed invalid and will not be counted as required or set forth by state law. Parker said ballots that have already been mailed in or deposited at an official drop site location cannot be changed. However, a voter who has completed his or her ballot but has not returned it and would like to change it may request a replacement ballot.
“I have been in touch with Mr. Ross and the Bayfield School District to advise of this determination,” Parker said. “Given these unfortunate circumstances, we all want to do our best to inform the voters and ensure a fair and accurate election.”
For additional information, call Parker at 382-6294.
Eight candidates vying for two school board seats
By Carole McWilliams and Melanie B. Mazur
Bayfield School District has six candidates for two four-year board seats in the Nov. 5 election, and two candidates for one two-year seat.
Board president Barb Wickman is leaving because of term limits. Board member Don Mooney opted not to run again. Incumbent Tim Stumpf is seeking re-election.
Candidates for the two four-year seats are Stumpf, Daniele Hillyer, Koel Phelps, Kristi Smith, Wendy Cox, and Justin Ross.
Candidates for the two-year seat are Carol Blatnick and Judy Spady.
Four year terms
Tim Stumpf was appointed to the board last December. In 2011, he ran for the board and lost by one vote.
He moved to the area in 1991 to attend Fort Lewis College and graduated in 1995 with degrees in math and computer science. He and his family moved to Bayfield in 2001. He has three kids in Bayfield schools – one at the high school, one at the mid school, and one in second grade.
He is running for re-election because, “I think the district is in a really good place to make a lot of progress on academic success for the kids. I think Superintendent Zabel has done a great job putting in foundational programs and prepping us for success in the future. I’d like to be a continued part of that, on the board or some other way.”
The biggest issue he sees for the district is successful implementation of state Senate Bill 191 on teacher effectiveness, changing the way teacher performance is evaluated.
“It will be a huge effort to make sure everything goes smoothly, that we don’t detract from other work that needs to be done.”
Another issue is to “make sure all students are being given the opportunities they need,” from special needs kids to those hoping to go to college.
On subjects and programs that the district should have more or less of, Stumpf said no subjects or programs should be reduced. “Continue to focus on more career and technical opportunities, so students have the best opportunity to prepare for college or to enter a job.” He suggested partnerships with entities like FLC and San Juan Vo Tech to create those opportunities.
He thinks the Common Core standards “are a good thing overall. The ability to have a common assessment is a good gauge of where students academics are, compared to other students in the state and nation-wide.” The standards, currently math and language arts, help to assure that students are not way ahead or way behind if they move from one district to another, in the same state or a different state, he said.
Common Core standards match up 95 percent with existing Colorado state standards, he said. “It’s a benchmark to measure against, not a curriculum or telling what needs to be taught. The districts still have autonomy to develop whatever curriculums they need… It’s not dictating curriculum,” Stumpf said.
On bullying, he said, “I think it’s an issue in general, everywhere. We have to be role models as community members if we see it anywhere, to point out that it’s not okay. We have the Safe2Tell hotline to report anonymously. Programs like Rachel’s Challenge are invaluable.” That came out of the Columbine High School shootings.
Stumpf said when he moved to Bayfield, he started doing things like coaching town parks and rec teams. Then he started helping at the BEEP pre-school with their computers and tech set-ups. He has been involved with the schools in various ways, such as chaperoning on field trips. He was active in the strategic plan process in winter 2011-12, and then in helping to pass the bond and mill levy over-rides last fall.
Daniele Hillyer has lived here for 15 years and now lives with her family in Forest Lakes. She has two kids in Bayfield schools – a daughter in fifth grade and a son in first grade. She teaches at the BEEP pre-school.
She started working with at-risk kids in the district through La Plata County Youth Services. Hillyer said the high school principal offered her a position as a special education teacher, so she took classes and got her degree and license in special ed for moderate needs kids grades K-12.
She started in Ignacio schools until her son was born, when she decided to be a full-time mom. Then she was hired for a one-year position as a first grade teacher. She continued for two more years. Then faced with non-renewal by the board, she opted to submit a letter of resignation.
She said of that, “I really believe you have to foster the love of school and learning. I think the way I did that may not have meshed with other people. The children I taught had great scores on their tests. I just have a different style of teaching. … I don’t have any ill feelings toward the school district or the teachers. I’m definitely not out to get back at anyone.”
Hillyer is running for a board seat “because I’m a firm believer in education, and I’d like to see my children and the community’s children be successful in their academic careers. I’m huge on kids loving school, starting in pre-school and continuing. I really want to insure that our district provides this type of education.”
The main issues she sees are extensive changes in curriculum and staffing, with a lot of new people to train. “Retaining teachers is a hard thing for the district. We need something in place to keep teachers here. We have good teachers, and we want to keep them.”
She also cited issues with the dress code and student behavior at the high school. She strongly supports having a school resource officer. She wants “accountability across the board for teachers, administrators, students, parents.”
As for subjects/ programs to expand or reduce, she said, “I believe we need to expand our special ed program.” She noted the district just expanded its “center based” program for high needs students. “I think there’s still more that we need. There are kids coming up who will need this.”
Hillyer supports opportunities for high school students to earn college credits, but she’d also like more vocational and trades education.
On Common Core standards, she said, “One thing that sort of frustrates me is the state just came up with new standards in around 2009-10, and curriculum was developed around those, and now there are these whole new standards that will need whole new training and new curriculum. To me that seems like a lot of time and money to implement.”
She continued, “I’m familiar with the Colorado state standards and the Core standards. There are places where they don’t match. When I was teaching 1st grade, we re-vamped everything for the Colorado standards. It was a lot of work. Now we are asking teachers to let go of that, develop a whole new rubric and learn new standards.”
Bullying is an issue here and nation-wide, Hillyer said. “When you are bullied, you don’t want to go to school. Parents, teachers, administrators all need to stand together against bullying. But I know it does happen in our school district.”
She concluded, I am educated, I’ve educated myself to take this position on. I know it will be a challenge with a lot of work involved, but it’s something my heart and my brain are telling me to do.”
Koel Phelps has lived in Bayfield for 14 years and has operated a licensed in-home day care for 13 years. She has a son at the high school and a daughter currently in home schooling with on-line classes to address her specific needs, with the prospect of returning to Bayfield schools at some point.
She is running for the board “because I was tired of being a parent sitting on the couch saying ‘Why?’ I wanted to stand up for my children and the children of Bayfield, to get answers when something doesn’t make sense.”
She continued, “I may not be a teacher in Bayfield, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the credentials to help and support our children. … I will be a voice for holding our district accountable.”
On main issues in the district, Phelps said, “It would be nice if kids had hands-on technology, because that’s where the future is going. Our pre-school and kindergarten kids are using iPads.” It helps document what’s happening in the classroom for students and parents, and helps kids learn from mistakes, she said.
She has concerns about middle school math scores. “I’d like to find out why (scores are low), and get answers and find solutions. I would fight hard for solutions.” She supports BMS Principal Karen Lunceford’s action plan to improve math scores.
She also has concerns about long bus trips for athletics, especially over high mountain passes, and she wants the bus driver to be rested and alert.
On subjects/ programs to be expanded or reduced, Phelps said, “I’m excited to see the music program grow.”
On Common Core, she said, “I’d love to hear more from the teachers’ point of view, such as the federal Common Core curriculum. Hearing stuff from teachers in Bloomfield that are using it, it’s a negative, because it’s making them do more work… They have to send what they are teaching to be approved by the federal government before they can teach it. That’s time away from teaching. … If the federal Core curriculum takes time away from teaching, then I’m against it. If it helps kids, I’m for it.”
Bullying is definitely an issue in Bayfield schools, and it’s not taken seriously enough, Phelps said. And some parents deny their child’s bullying activities. “Bullies should be held accountable. I’d
She continued, “I’m a little old-fashioned. I believe children need to be respectful toward other children and teachers, and be accountable for themselves; to say ‘thank you,’ to have manners. If the teachers have to work longer and harder, if we want them to keep teaching, it will help if the children are giving 100 percent and being kind and considerate.”
Phelps concluded, “I love kids. I’ve been doing this job (day care) for 13 years. It’s fun to watch them learn and grow, teaching them right and wrong. … I’m not Republican or Democrat. I read the fine print, and I want to do what’s best for kids.”
Kristi Smith moved to Bayfield in 2005 and has two kids at Bayfield Elementary School. Husband Derek Smith teaches music at BHS. Before moving here, she said, “We checked out the schools and liked what we saw – the quality, commitment, potential. I think we can all say we can do better, provide educational opportunities so our kids can compete in the world.”
In her answers at the League of Women Voters forum Wednesday evening, she said, “You couldn’t ask for a better community than Bayfield. People get involved. I think we have some great (district) leadership.” She likes the exploratory classes at the elementary school.
“We have a lot of great programs. It’s important to keep those going. We need music, art, athletics, reading, math.” She would like more science offerings in the elementary grades. “My son is a science nerd. Every year he gets less and less of that,” she said.
The biggest challenge for the district, she said, is communicating with the community.
On the Common Core standards, she said, “They’ve been implemented (in Colorado) in reading, writing, and math because they overlap 95 percent with what the state already has. There’s nothing to say we can’t raise the bar. I don’t have a problem with them.”
On bullying, Smith said, “Yes, bullying happens. It comes in many forms, not just hitting on the playground. We have to take ownership as a community, respect each other, teach kids to speak up, tell the teacher ‘I need help.’ We need to help kids handle situations.” She commended the Rachel’s Challenge program.
She concluded, “Some of the greatest gifts we can give our children are passion and knowledge and the ability to think critically.”
Wendy Cox is an office manager at Finney Land Co. in Durango. Her daughter graduated from Bayfield High School in 2013. Four years ago, she founded the Four Corners Liberty Restoration Group and is now active in Constitution First Colorado.
Cox said she wants to be a careful watchdog of taxpayer funds. Local students are scoring a little higher than the 50-percent proficiency required by Colorado state standards, she said.
“When we’re spending that kind of money, it should be higher,” she said.
On bullying, she said it’s important for parents to be active in their children’s lives. Her daughter didn’t have a Facebook page in high school and no cell phone until her junior year.
“Parents can’t expect schools to raise our kids for us.”
She said it’s hard to define bullying, and all kids get teased at some point. “That’s kids being kids.”
Cox opposes the Common Core standards. The Colorado Department of Education merged them with the state standards, she said. “The problem is with the curriculum. It violates three federal statutes about dictating curriculum. For me, this is a Trojan horse for nationalized education.”
Cox said she would have to attend more board meetings and talk with more parents before she would recommend which programs need expansion and which should face cuts.
Cox said if elected, she will be a facilitator of taxpayer dollars and advocate for children in the district. She also would focus on board transparency and strongly advocate for local control of local schools.
Cox has a web site for her candidacy, www.wendycox4bsb.com.
Justin Ross is the lead pastor at Grace Church in Durango. He grew up there and has lived in Bayfield for seven years. He has four boys in school in the district.
“I am very passionate about education,” he said of his interest in running for the board. “It’s a fantastic district and I want it to stay that way.”
On Common Core, he said, “I don’t want my boys to be common, so I’m against Common Core. One size fits all doesn’t work. I want an agenda-free curriculum. Why is every school required to do it? That raises a red flag.”
On bullying, he said it’s unfortunate that it is a national issue.
He said the difficult part can be identifying bullying.
“Boys can be rambunctious and have high energy,” he said. “If it happens again and again, we need to identify it and learn how to deal with it.” He would like to see follow-up with students who are identified as the aggressor in bullying, as well as their parents.
Ross said finances and budgets will be a tough issue for schools in the next few years. He has been the lead pastor at his church for more than three years and said he is proud his church is debt free and operates within its means.
“We need to model that to our children,” he said. “We need good stewardship from the top down.”
Two year seats
Carol Blatnick started teaching in the district in 1980 and has lived in Bayfield since 1992. Her three grown children and granddaughter are BHS graduates.
She taught family and consumer sciences at Bayfield High School for 22 years, and four years in Durango. At BHS, she was sponsor for FCCLA, the yearbook, the STAND group, and she organized the high school Leadership La Plata group.
For the last 12, years, she has been executive director of the Bayfield Early Education Programs (BEEP) pre-school.
Blatnick also served eight years on the Bayfield Town Board. Among her other community activities are the League of Women Voters, Pine River Centennial Rotary Club, and Calvary Presbyterian Church.
She is running for school board “because I’ve been asked a number of times. Finally I don’t have kids in school and I’m not building a pre-school, so I’m ready to give back. Because I’ve always been involved in education here, I have a lot of knowledge and experience that I can provide.”
The main issues she sees in the district are, “I’d like to see more variety of classes and opportunities, especially in the high school and mid school. A few years ago when we were having to cut the budget so much, staff and classes were affected; such as business and consumer classes, “things that are beyond the core. When we don’t have enough variety for kids, some lose interest and we lose them.”
But she also has concerns “that teachers are having a lot of things tossed at them. They need support from the administration in implementing all the new changes. Since 2008, we have new standards, individual student growth that they have to track, and finally they are being evaluated in a different way. This is all happening in a short time period. Teachers need that support, because they are the ones who make education work If they are stressed, our kids are going to be stressed.”
On subjects/ programs to be expanded or reduced, Blatnick said, “We definitely need more expansion in the career and technical education area. I think we need more aides and para-professionals, smaller class sizes, and professional development with coaching to help teachers cope with all the changes taking place, and to help kids succeed.”
On Common Core standards, she said, “I think it’s great to have goals. The Common Core came about from the interest of governors who were aware that students in certain states do better than others. They put together benchmarks in math and English for us to work towards. … They don’t dictate to anyone what or how to teach.”
Bullying is an issue here. “It has to stop,” she said. But she lays a lot of responsibility on parents to watch their own behavior around their kids, to teach them empathy and how to be a good friend, and to monitor what their kids are doing on their cell phones and the video games and TV programs they watch.
The school side of it is, “Staff needs to be vigilant about watching for acts of bullying. They need to make those children accountable, and the parents should be advised of what’s happening. They need to know they are responsible for their children’s interactions.”
Bullying “is another reason for having more staff, even at the elementary. A lot of it starts on the playground. There just aren’t enough eyes and ears on kids.”
Blatnick listed things the schools are doing well. “I think we have really good people in our schools who work hard for the kids. I think we have an administration that’s very fiscally responsible. Plus we have a community that’s very supportive, that has provided funds for more classrooms, the performing arts center, and all that.”
Judy Spady has lived in Bayfield since 2003. She currently is home-schooling her children full-time. Before that, she worked in corporate training and instructional design and has a master’s degree in organizational psychology. She is active in Constitution First Colorado.
Spady said she knows her decision to run for school board while educating her children at home has raised a few eyebrows. She said she and her husband made the decision to homeschool to do what was best for her two sons, but that was driving by the curricula she can choose for them. Public schools do not have that choice, and teachers should have it, she explained.
“I wish they could raise the bar,” she said
She said the district’s main issue is raising the quality of education. In turn, that would increase graduation rates and bump up test scores. She thinks school boards are not as involved as they should be in curriculum selection. In math, for example, she would like a return to basic math skills, such as multiplication tables, and less “fuzzy math.”
Like many of the board candidates, Spady said she would like to see more vo-tech offerings restored at BHS, which she said have been whittle away in the past decade.
She said she is “definitely against the overall picture of the federal encroachment of Common Core. There are many parts to it – testing, standards, eventually curriculum. The standards are pretty much in alignment with Colorado standards. I’m against the federal encroachment. Local boards won’t be able to change or delete anything from the standards.”
While she said the standards themselves are good, she worries that a nationalized testing and curriculum could follow.
More information about Spady’s candidacy is on her web site, www.spadyforschoolboard.com, and she said much of her research on the Common Core standards also is available there.
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