GRANBY –With Election Day looming, Middle Park High School students arranged a forum for school board candidates, posing questions on technology, budgets and testing.
Six civics students hosted the forum at the high school auditorium the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 22. Six candidates participated. Chip Besse, the incumbent and unchallenged candidate from District 4, was the only candidate unable to attend.
All candidates spoke favorably of bringing technology to schools. They also spoke in favor of the ballot Referred Measure 3A, which proposes three years of funding to upgrade school technology infrastructure. It would ultimately provide each student in the district with an iPad tablet computer.
The students asked the candidates how they propose to resolve current budget problems should Amendment 66 not pass. The measure would increase Colorado taxes, providing more funding for preschool to 12th-grade education.
Candidate Mike Lohman, running for District 3 against Matt Friesen and Angel DeCicco, said the school board would have to take a hard look at its priorities. Looking for additional cuts would pose a formidable obstacle, he said.
“There’s not much fat left out there,” Lohman said. “So we’d be looking at trying to reduce costs.”
DeCicco said whether it passes, Amendment 66 isn’t necessarily a golden solution to the district’s budget problems.
“To me, from what I’ve read, our district doesn’t stand to gain a lot of money,” she said. “We’re banking too much on it, frankly.”
She said the school board would have to continue its job at evaluating programs and doing its best to keep costs down.
Friesen said he’d like to see the board reach out to other districts in the state and see what their strategies are for stretching education dollars. He would also like to look at grants as another source of funding.
“They can be a lot of work and fairly cumbersome, but they are ways to bring what’s needed into the district,” he said.
Jerry Reed, incumbent of District 5, said if the district runs out of reserves, he’d look at reducing programs and staff.
“I’m old-fashioned on money, that’s our money as taxpayers,” he said. “I’d like to see us get our best dollar out of it.”
Reed also challenged the idea that Amendment 66 wasn’t important for the district, saying it could bring almost $1 million to East Grand.
“Which will get us over a hump,” he said. “I hate the thought of cutting teachers, but sometimes you’ve got to make cuts where people will be mad at you. That’s one solution.”
Mike McGinley, also running for District 5, said he’d like to reach out to the community before making any board decisions on reductions.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable making any cuts without a lot of public input,” he said.
Students also posed questions on how to raise standardized testing scores. The candidates applauded district students for being in the’s states top third in testing results. They spoke about maintaining current programs and schools as much as possible, as well as reaching out to students and the community to get their thoughts on how to take students to the next level.
Middle Park High School students Crawford Campbell, Jake Varney and Lexie Sutcliffe moderated the forum. Jesse Woolley served as MC and announcer. Simona Senovaitye kept track of timing. Other students volunteering at the event included Lauren Rimmer, Kelsey Fagan and Cody Charland.
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.