School Board Candidates Explore Ideas During Zonta Political Forum

School Board Forum 2 (2)

There are five contested and two uncontested candidates on the November General Election ballot for seats on the Lamar RE-2 District school board.   Elizabeth Whitham moderated a political form at Lamar Community College, hosted by the Lamar Chapter of the Zonta International organization this past Tuesday, October 20.  The audience listened to each of the candidates respond to a series of education related questions as well as a presentation from ATMOS Energy representative Darwin Winfield out of Greeley regarding the renewal of a 20 year franchise agreement with the City of Lamar, and the positions taken by the County Republican and Democratic parties on Question BB, regarding distribution of marijuana tax funds.  Randa Davis Tice represented the local county democratic party which urged voters to indicate ‘Yes’ on their ballot for Question BB, while Whitham read a brief statement from the local republican party which opted for a ‘No’ vote on the ballot.

Randa Davis Tice

Randa Davis Tice

Voters will cast their ballots for either incumbent Ron Peterson from District D or challenger Don Yoxsimer. District C candidates are incumbent Michael Harvey and challengers Jaime Madrid and Barbara Hernandez.  The two candidates who are running unopposed are current board members, Allan Medina and Danny Tinnes.  Whitham said all seven candidates had been invited to attend, however Peterson and Madrid did not appear.

Each of the candidates delivered opening statements, offering an overview of their personal histories as well as any community or educational interests or groups they have belonged to. Several questions concerned the value of teaching the Common Core curriculum in the local school systems, while additional questions from the audience asked candidates their thoughts on dealing with the controversy of using ethnic oriented mascots for schools, the impact various levels of security in schools would have on teaching, how to recruit and retain teachers and allowing families to opt out of standardized tests.

Candidate Don Yoxsimer

Candidate Don Yoxsimer

Yoxsimer felt that parents need to instill to their children at an early age that their school time is for learning, “We’ll see far less problems at the other end when they’re in junior and senior high,” he responded to the first question of the evening, regarding school security.

Allen Medina

Allan Medina

Allan Medina said safety takes several forms, from regulating who can and cannot enter the school place to concerns regarding bullying among students. “We trust the administration and our teachers to do the job we hired them to do.  If that takes place, then our schools are pretty safe.”  He added that there are safeguards including drills and an alliance with the local law enforcement agencies to help the administration to be ready to respond correctly should any kind of emergency occur.

Michael Harvey said there was a good working relationship with the local police department. He added that there was a good response time in case of any emergency was developing, but, “Discipline needs to start at home as well as the basics of education.”

Danny Tinnes referred to efforts to make our streets safe for children, as well as the placement of a SRO officer within the high school building. “He’s on hand and visual to make sure they know he’s there before there’s any problem.  It does take a village to raise a child,” he remarked, adding that the local police chief is a high school graduate from Lamar and the fire chief as well has local ties to the school system.

Barbara Hernandez said we need the parents to get involved, in the building and to be able to observe what’s going on. “These are the kinds of things we would talk about when I was on the Accountability Committee,” she explained, “We would communicate with each other and work to resolve any problems together.”  She stressed the need for parent involvement at that level.

On the question of, do you support the use of Common Core state standards…why or why not, Hernandez remarked, “Absolutely not.” She explained that she felt they are not state standards being used and explained how they were developed by the National Governor’s Association and others, as well as funded by Bill Gates.  She stated that opting for the Race to the Top applications programs financially forced states to align to the Common Core standards.

Tinnes responded that standards are needed in the schools and Colorado had standards even before Common Core was developed. He said because of the mobility of families today, an educational measuring standard is needed to make sure the students can handle the basics of their courses.  “The education of a student can be a lot better if every teacher is on the same page,” he stated.  He felt that the state standards had already fallen in line with the requirements of the federal guidelines.

Michael Harvey spoke to the need for standards that he worked with in the banking industry. “If we don’t have anything in common with state or national standards, we will need to develop our own,” he remarked, adding that school districts could lose an important source of funding if they opt out of the Common Core program.  He said local residents would probably see an increase in their taxes in order to balance the school budget if they lost that funding.

Allan Medina said that when Colorado chose to compete in the Race to the Top, we accepted standards, but they began in the early 90s during the start of the education reform movement. “I do not object to standards because we want all our kids to be at least at a same level.  I do object to standards when we feel every kid needs to fit within a box.  They don’t.”  He said the local education system strives to make sure our students are at a point above those standards.

Don Yoxsimer doesn’t support the use of Common Core state standards because, “They’re not good enough.” Yoxsimer said he’s read the website for English and Language Arts standards and reviewed the Math standards and, “They were so terrible.  I didn’t think they were good enough for our students.”  He said districts are dropping out of the system around the state because he felt it was so bad.  “If the standards are bad, it will fall all the way down the line on the curriculum,” he explained.

A related question to Common Core funding asked each candidate how would the district be able to afford the substantial dollar loss that comes with opting out of the federally supported system.

By Russ Baldwin


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