Meet the West Grand School Board candidates
October 20, 2013
Name: Jon Ewert, Kremmling
Years in Grand County? Seven
Occupation: Fisheries Biologist for Colorao Parks and Wildlife
Family: Wife Amy, sons Sam (10) and Ben (8)
How does your background prepare you for a school board position? As a parent, I'm interested in being as involved as possible in my sons' education. As a professional, I have strong analytical skills and a good ability to be objective. I have served on the District Accountability Committee for approximately two years. I have served on the Kremmling Planning and Zoning Board for approximately three years. In both personal and professional capacities, I have had a lot of exposure and interaction with local governmental entities and am familiar with their functions and operations.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the school district? Community involvement and parental support of education. We are a small enough school district that we need everyone to participate in our kids' education in order to be as strong as we can be.
Do you support Amendment 66? Please explain. Absolutely I do. In recent years we have seen a spate of reforms enacted that are often accurately described as "unfunded mandates." These are all well-intentioned measures that are truly designed to improve our educational system, but we simply don't have the resources to implement them under our continually dwindling funding levels. This is our chance to turn those "unfunded mandates" into "funded mandates." Even without considering these new demands on our educational system, Colorado is falling farther and farther behind other states in our commitment to quality education and unless we change course, this will ultimately be detrimental to everyone in the state — either directly or indirectly.
What are some ways, if any, that new technology should be integrated in schools? I'm always surprised at the extent that new technologies are being used currently in classrooms. But it seems that there is always more potential to use technology to individualize each student's educational experiences. At the primary level, technology can be used to focus on a particular student's area of strongest need, while at the secondary level it can be used to expose students to more highly specialized courses of study that may not be otherwise available. This is particularly valuable in a rural school district such as ours with such limited resources.
Name: Brendan Gale, Kremmling
Years in Grand County? My family moved to Kremmling in 1990 while I was in high school. I graduated from West Grand in 1992 and returned to Kremmling with my wife and children in 2007.
Occupation: I am currently employed by Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold as an accountant at the Henderson Mill, but I will be starting in a new position on Oct. 28 as the chief financial officer of Kremmling Memorial Hospital District and Middle Park Medical Center.
Family: Shirl (Wife), Jonathan (son, 11, 6th Grade), Hannah (daughter, 8, 3rd Grade)
How does your background prepare you for a school board position? My business and management experience will help identify and prioritize issues, look for solutions, and direct fiscally responsible management of the district's resources. I believe that I have served and represented the community well as a school board director for the last four-and-a-half years, and I have been involved with many of the youth of the Kremmling community as a volunteer coach of youth baseball, basketball and soccer.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the school district? The full implementation of Senate Bill 191 has the potential to be a distraction that could cause the school district to lose sight of its real purpose. While intended to improve the quality of K-12 education, I fear that the legislation could actually cause harm during the first few years as administrators, educators and school boards feel it out.
Do you support Amendment 66? Please explain. Yes. Some have expressed concern that Amendment 66 will lead to a loss of local control of K-12 funding. I suggest that true local control of K-12 funding was lost some time ago, and believe that any additional funding for education is a good thing in general. The passage of Amendment 66 will force the state legislature to take steps toward correcting the aged and flawed funding mechanism by which school districts are funded today.
What are some ways, if any, that new technology should be integrated in schools? I believe technology should be integrated into the classroom as part of a system of blended learning — a combination of face-to-face and technological delivery systems. Technology affords students the opportunity to learn at their own pace while also providing school districts an affordable means of scaling the delivery system. Electronic systems can help teachers be more effective by automatically differentiating material based on the needs of each student as determined by computerized assessments.
Name: Travis Hoesli, Kremmling
Years in Grand County? 3 years
Occupation: Colorado State University Extension Agent / County Director
Family: Wife Trudy, Daughters Gracean -10 Lauren -8
How does your background prepare you for a school board position? My background is 20 years of being in education in different roles from teacher to administrator; I have experienced the whole inception, development, and implementation of standard based education. I have a very good idea of how any change affects the different levels of the school system. I feel confident that my experience will enable me to assess the cause and effect of changes before they become reflective in the classrooms. Most importantly, my experience and knowledge has given me the insight of how important the relationships between the students, parents, teachers, administration, and the school board can be.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the school district? I believe the district is facing issues such as the allocations of funds being driven by the standardized testing requirements and scores. It is still very important to provide the balance of core subjects with classes such as: Physical education, Music, Art, Technology and Vocational courses, providing students with a more rounded education.
Do you support Amendment 66? Please explain. I would support the passage of Amendment 66. I believe that funding is the one of the biggest issues schools are facing. It will bring a different source of funding into public school systems than that of the system currently in place.
What are some ways, if any, that new technology should be integrated in schools? Technology is obviously the path into the future. It should be the main tool to enhance the students' curriculum. If used correctly, technology can be used to increase learning experiences and life application. However, I do not believe in replacing the student/ teacher working relationship with technology.
Name: Susan Ritschard, Kremmling
Years in Grand County: I've lived in Kremmling for 26 years
Occupation: I work for the State of Colorado, Grand County Combined Court
Family: I'm married to Mike Ritschard and I have three kids, Tim, Nick and Sydney.
How does your background prepare you for a school board position? I was president of the Kremmling Preschool Board for four years. Member of the West Grand Elementary School Improvement Committee for five Years. Member of the COLT action team for three years, member of the District Accountability Committee for three years, vice-president of the Kremmling Rec Team for four years and have currently sat on the West Grand School board for four and a half years, representing West Grand School District on the BOCES Board and am secretary of the Board.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the school district? The most important issue facing the West Grand School District is doing more with less. What I mean by this is meeting all the unfunded mandates issued from the Federal and State Government while trying to balance a budget with less and less funding.
Do you support Amendment 66? Please explain. Amendment 66 is a tough one. Education needs additional funding; however, I'm a believer that this added tax dollar needs to have local control. I'm not sure the state has demonstrated they are good fiscal managers of additional tax dollars. The present School Finance Bill would, in my mind, result in more of our, West Grand, tax dollars being sent to support other school districts in the state. Bottom Line, I'm not sure our local school districts will see the increased dollars generated for education until they change the Negative Factor and the School Finance Act.
Name: Jessica Smiley. Kremmling
Years in Grand County? About 30 years
Occupation: Maintenance Planner at Henderson Mill
Family: Cale Smiley my husband, Tannar Smiley our daughter and Logan Smiley our son.
How does your background prepare you for a school board position? I have lived in this area practically my entire life and attended K-12 in this district. I now have children of my own to educate and feel that having this kind of interest in the board is worth a lot. I also have organizational skills and planning/scheduling abilities to bring to the board.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the school district? Currently test scores are an issue and the board and staff are working to improve those scores, but I believe that these tests may not be a true reflection on our school system. I believe that we do a good job at educating our students and that sometimes numbers issued in reports are deceiving.
Do you support Amendment 66? Please explain. I have not yet fully educated myself on this amendment but I feel in the current economy the taxpayers cannot afford another tax increase. Could the school system use more money? Well yes, but I am not sure increasing taxes statewide is the solution.
What are some ways, if any, that new technology should be integrated in schools? Technology is very important in today's society and this is another form of education that we need to provide our children to prepare them for the future. I am aware that the kids in the schools take a technology class, but I am not sure what new technology is available to them.
Name: Tim Thomson, Kremmling
Years in Grand County? 28 years
Occupation: Ranch manager
Family: Nellie Thomson (spouse) and a 2-year-old daughter
How does your background prepare you for a school board position? Having been on the school board for the last four years I feel I have a solid understanding of district policies and operations.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the school district? A unified effort and drive from staff, administration, students, and community to push for nothing less than excellence.
Do you support Amendment 66? Please explain. No I do not. In the last four years the district has asked the voters twice to approve additional funding for the schools. In both instances those ballot issues failed. I am very much for local control and I feel that this amendment would take more from this community then it would give back.
What are some ways, if any, that new technology should be integrated in schools? I feel that it is important to expose students to technology so they can form a solid base for which they can build on. The problem with "new" technology is that it seems to become outdated before the box is even opened, making it very expensive to maintain. I feel that when it comes to the funding of technology, it needs to be looked at with a five-year (or longer) plan in mind so the true costs of implementation and maintenance can be determined. I believe that technology should be used as a tool by highly effective teachers, not a crutch to prop up poor teachers.