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Grand County, CO Colorado

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October 13, 2011
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Meet the East Grand School Board candidates

The Sky-Hi News asked school board candidates to respond to questions about school finances and policies. Below are their answers in alphabetical order.

Name: Chip Besse

Area of East Grand School District representing: District 4

Number of years in Grand County: 3.5

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Immediate family: Wife Melinda Besse, Ryder Besse, age 2

How does your background prepare you for the school board?

As the owner of a number of businesses and the employer of more than 150 people, I regularly experience similar issues that have faced our School Board in recent years. Decreased resources available, funding issues, competition, cost cutting, communication breakdown and problem solving are things I deal with on a daily basis. These experiences and my underlying belief in great education (being available to all) give me a unique perspective in how to solve problems, create accountability and achieve results.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the school district?

Future funding issues - the balance of education quality and dollars spent.

What do you hope to accomplish while serving on the school board?

I would like to see our county have the best education in the state. This would be great for all stakeholders in Grand County.

If faced with serious budget cuts, how would you prioritize the following categories?: Individual schools; educational programs and curriculum; extracurricular activities; instructional and administrative personnel; and/or other.

The underlying issue is how to cost-effectively improve our education standards every year. How can we make our students smarter and more efficient at all grade levels. There is really no hierarchy for me on how these results are achieved. Ultimately, the kids in our county will have to compete for jobs and opportunities around the world against people educated all over the world. The better job we do highlighting that eventuality and preparing children for it, the better job we will do as a community.

What is your philosophy for providing a better overall education for our students?

Everything should be on the table to achieve results. We should be smart and cost effective, but we need to balance that with the needs of our community and our children. If you grow up in this county, you should have access to great education - the best education. That's what I want for my child and for yours.

Name: Joan Evans

Area of East Grand School District representing: District #2

Number of years in Grand County: 9 years

Occupation: Work in the Planning and Building Department for the Town of Winter Park

Immediate family: Husband Tom, and a son Tommy who is a freshman this year

How does your background prepare you for the school board?

I was appointed last September to the school board and it has been an educational process for me through the year. There is a lot of time involvement over the meeting times. Before I was appointed to the board, I had been a member of the District Accountability Committee (DAC) for the school board for two years working with budget numbers and open/closed campus for the high school. I have a son in school and I enjoy volunteering my time for dances, etc. at the school.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the school district?

Budget issues, an easier process in reviewing so that everyone in the community understands.

What do you hope to accomplish while serving on the school board?

I hope to help bring the communities together on school issues. Also I would like to help restore confidence in the school board while helping all the students along the way. I would like to see the school in the serious budget-cut situation be able to overcome it without drastic cuts as in the past, and to use some of the reserves.

If faced with serious budget cuts, how would you prioritize the following categories?: Individual schools; educational programs and curriculum; extracurricular activities; instructional and administrative personnel; and/or other.

Administrative personnel, other, instructional personnel, educational programs and curriculum, extracurricular activities, individual schools.

What is your philosophy for providing a better overall education for our students?

To stay focused on the education of our children while providing better communication to the community. To help heal the community over the last three years of budget cuts.

Name: January Paulk

Area of East Grand School District representing: District #4

Number of years in Grand County: 2 years

Occupation: Senior Business Consultant

Immediate family: Husband Reggie Paulk; Son Chandler Paulk (Fraser Valley Elementary - 5th Grade); Daughter Nadia Paulk (Fraser Valley Elementary - 1st Grade)

How does your background prepare you for the school board?

I have a Master's in Business Administration from the University of Denver and have more than seven years of leadership experience. I have expertise in looking at business from various angles to include finances, efficiency, ethics and performance. I have a history of eliminating waste without sacrificing quality. I look at trends and strategically position an organization to take the steps necessary to address a dynamic business environment.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the school district?

Lack of leadership. Leadership is about making decisions, even if they're the wrong ones. Last year's closure of Grand Lake Elementary is a good example. The board made a decision to close a school and correctly stood by the decision. Information later revealed they may have made the wrong choice. This was most likely the result of the school board's lack of understanding of the budget. To provide good leadership, the board members must educate themselves to the fullest extent possible to avoid these types of scenarios.

 

What do you hope to accomplish while serving on the school board?

A paradigm shift. Public education has become synonymous with money. If only we can get more money, we can provide a better education for our children. Would it be so terrible to think of education as a way to make our young adults more competitive? We don't send our kids to the best colleges so they can be equal with other college graduates. Equal is another way of saying mediocre. We encourage competition in sports, but competition in the classroom is perceived as unjust. We need to change that thinking. 

If faced with serious budget cuts, how would you prioritize the following categories?: Individual schools; educational programs and curriculum; extracurricular activities; instructional and administrative personnel; and/or other.

I understand the budget enough to know that serious cuts should never come as a surprise to the public. The school district's funding is known well in advance.  Enrollment numbers and rescissions have a relatively small impact overall. Final responsibility for the budget lies with the board, but the superintendent is the only person who understands it. This must change. Currently, the community does not trust the board. We must try hard to gain back their trust by being honest and forthright about the budget; that means being informed. Then the categories above can be prioritized. 

 

What is your philosophy for providing a better overall education for our students?

Today's public education system is broken. We can't provide a better education until we resolve the major issues, from how we deal with unions, to standardized testing, to state and federal requirements. Thinking we can fix problems within the constraints of the current system is what prevents us from fixing the problems. Once we begin addressing issues that have been considered off limits, then we can begin to provide a better education for our students.

Name: Donald Scott

Area of East Grand School District representing: District #2, West side of Highway 40 in the Fraser Valley

Number of years in Grand County: I have lived in Grand County for nearly five (5) years.

Occupation: I am a software engineer for Icebox Technologies in Winter Park. The company provides software engineering support to non-government clients outside of Colorado.

How does your background prepare you for the school board?

While working for the Department of Defense, I became skilled in the application of process improvement for public policy. As the owner of an IT consulting company, I have the budgeting experience necessary to be fiscally responsible. As the CEO of a military veteran employment company, I learned to be a leader with compassion, vision, and a representational voice. Finally, my ideologically views give me the passion needed to help support a strong public education system.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the school district?

Unfortunately, I believe that there is such a lack of representational leadership on the school board that any issue it faces will only continue to be decided on in a counter-productive manner. I want the board to provide better public policy in its decision-making. It must understand that the decisions it makes, or fails to make, will not only have an immediate effect on today's children, but will also determine what types of schools are inherited by future generations. Once a culture of representative leadership is established, issues like tenure, collective bargaining, merit pay, discipline, and inclusiveness can be resolved efficiently and with the community's support.

What do you hope to accomplish while serving on the school board?

I will promote academic excellence while being fiscally responsible, build a culture of representational leadership that correctly respects the community's opinion, and faithfully champion the cause for better educational facilities, teachers, and resources.

If faced with serious budget cuts, how would you prioritize the following categories?: Individual schools; educational programs and curriculum; extracurricular activities; instructional and administrative personnel; and/or other.

School districts across the state continue to face tough economic times, and our community is not immune. But I believe that it is not always necessary to force cutbacks to reduce operating budgets. Building a budgeting process that can find innovative and responsible ways to make the most out of the resources available is a fiscally responsible thing to do. I, for one, don't want to see continued cutbacks in the educational resources used to develop our strong community schools. Degrading the school system's ability to provide academic excellence will only lead to a lesser economy for our community.

What is your philosophy for providing a better overall education for our students?

Ensuring that opportunities for growth and academic excellence are available to all children in the School District, regardless of their age, economic well-being, learning ability, or geographical location. We cannot be a school district that speaks to academic excellence while continuing to ignore the rights of dis-enfranchised parents and school children. I will promote inclusiveness as a leading priority to building a better overall education for our students.

Name: Taunia Shipman

District: Hot Sulphur Springs

Number of years in Grand County: Lived in Grand County since 1992

Occupation: Master's in Social Work/Child Welfare Supervisor, Grand County Department of Social Services

Immediate family: Spouse: Phil Shipman, 3 children

How does your background prepare you for the school board?

I have been involved with East Grand School District as a parent and a professional since 1992. My three children were active students at GES, EGMS and MPHS. Savannah is now a junior at NYU, Benjamin a sophomore at CMU and Madison a senior at MPHS. I am currently Board Chair at Grand Beginnings and have participated on task forces, community boards and state-wide committees related to the welfare of children and families. I understand the complexities of the varied financial streams of federal, state and local funding, as well as private and grant funding.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the school district?

Fiscal responsibility will continue to force challenging and often pivotal decision making. The economic standards of our time are forcing us all to do more with less. School finance dictates decisions that have to be made and as EGSD experienced this past spring, these decisions are painful, contentious and unpopular. As per economic projections there is likely to be more gut-wrenching financial decisions for years to come.

What do you hope to accomplish while serving on the school board?

I want to take an active role in helping divergent interests find common ground and outcomes. I would encourage a continuation of relationship building with the multiple levels of collaboration between EGSD and local businesses, government, law enforcement, recreation departments, service clubs, etc. I have a lot to learn and comprehend so that I can demonstrate a balance between special interests and judicious decision making, without over-governing. I want to better understand the legal mandates of our educational system, data that dictates decision making, research that supports best educational practice and teaching, and what our own distinct communities value and expect for our children.

If faced with serious budget cuts, how would you prioritize the following categories?: Individual schools; educational programs and curriculum; extracurricular activities; instructional and administrative personnel; and/or other.

Individual schools, educational programs, curriculum instructional and administrative personnel all play a vital role in the day-to-day progress and success of EGSD. I support the learning milieu at Fraser and Granby Elementary schools, Indian Peaks Charter School and at the Middle and High Schools. I would also emphasize the benefits of extracurricular activities, progressive technology, and the recruitment and retention of quality staff/personnel. Being wise and prudent financially must be balanced with a strategic plan to continue to improve on our educational and achievement goals for our students.

What is your philosophy for providing a better overall education for our students?

EGSD should provide our students with a safe, stimulating and rigorous academic environment while embracing the challenges and strengths of living in a rural/resort community. Investment in early childhood education is imperative to the overall success our children and should be included in our conversations, policies and support of Preschool through 12th grade education. We all share in the responsibility for the outcomes of our children's achievements and progress. Strong partnerships with parents and the community are crucial to our children's learning experiences and opportunities.


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The Sky-Hi News Updated Oct 13, 2011 06:51PM Published Oct 13, 2011 06:49PM Copyright 2011 The Sky-Hi News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.