Kremmling – West Grand school board candidates sound off at forum
October 8, 2009
Candidates for the West Grand School District discussed their differences and similarities Wednesday night, Oct. 7, during a forum sponsored by the Rotary Club of Kremmling. Some 40 people attended the event, which lasted more than two hours.
Citizens took the opportunity to ask difficult and thought provoking questions of the six hopeful school board members. A seventh candidate, Audrey Gasvoda, had three sick children and was unable to attend the forum.
The audience asked candidates about: the advantages of four-day versus five-day school weeks; the inclusion of the private preschool in the school district as well as its presence in the school building; to what extent the ability to participate in sports should be considered a privilege; zero tolerance policies; what to cut if the ballot initiative fails to pass; working with the superintendent and the role of a school board member; how to handle the flow of kids from West Grand to East Grand schools and what to do about the homeschooling trend; encouraging teachers to voice concerns without fear of retribution; and, improving the C-SAP scores at the lower schools.
• Four-Day Week Most of the candidates agreed that transitioning back to a five-day week would be difficult but added that students could take more advantage of Friday school.
Dave Skinner: That long school day doesn’t leave any time for them to be kids when they get home.
Brett Davidson: I like a four-day week. Friday school gives the kids a chance to better themselves.
• Sports Participation Most of the candidates are happy with the current Down List system that requires passing grades to play sports.
Brendan Gale: Participating in athletics and competition in school contributes to our students’ overall well being as adults. Sometimes participating in sports is the only motivation a student has to do well in school.
Susan Ritschard: I would like to see more consistency between the middle school and high school regarding the policy. Currently, the middle school’s policy is stricter.
Tim Thomson: The Down List shouldn’t only apply to sports but to all extracurricular activities. Football may be a major motivator for one kid while Robotics motivates another.
Tina Whitmer: Sports is a privilege. If a child is not doing well in school they should not be allowed to play sports.
Expectations of Superintendent Opinions on the role of the superintendent varied.
Thomson: He’s a business leader. The CEO of our company. Our job is to keep our eyes on him.
Ritschard: Let the board lead. Don’t be a dictator.
Whitmer: I would expect him to be there to answer our questions and be a manager.
Skinner: He’s had a lot of jobs to get this job. I would look to his wisdom so we don’t make mistakes. He’s the boss.
Gale: We can’t be expected to make all the decisions. Somebody has to be there to manage the day-to-day operations of the district.
Davidson: I would pick his brain for ideas and expect open communication with the board, both good and bad.
Whitmer on discipline: All children should be treated equally and consistently. I don’t think the school board should handle everything that happens. Children need to learn to live by all the rules we have in the real world and they need to have real consequences. We are teaching real life.
Ritchard on cuts: Thanks to the work of the school board and administration, the district is in a really good financial situation. Deciding where to make cuts if the ballot initiative doesn’t pass would be really tough.
Skinner on student migration: We don’t offer baseball of softball. I don’t know anything we can do about that in a small school. We don’t have enough kids to field a baseball team and a track team at the same time. What we have to do is strive for better education.
Gale on teacher communication: This is the dawn of a new era. We have a new superintendent and five of our seven school board members are going to be new. This is an opportunity for us as a district to assess and try to change some of the things that weren’t going well.
Davidson on the role of a board member: All board members are elected from different groups of people. Each board member represents the opinions of these different groups. But, once a decision is made by the board you have to support it.
Thomson on bringing students back to the district: You have to market the school. You have to let people know what we are doing well, what the highlights are and let people know when we are successful.