4 candidates vying for 2 Bayfield school board seats – The Durango Herald
Candidates speak out on proposed improvements, COVID-19 guidelines and critical breed theory
Candidates for two Bayfield school board seats say they want to bring more responsibility and contribution to the district, which has been criticized for its COVID-19 policies.
Four candidates are running for the board, including incumbent Rebecca Parnell, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in June after Daniele Hillyer resigned to take up a trustee position at Bayfield High School. The other candidates are Jill Shocklee, Matt Turner and Kira Wennerstrom.
The second vacant seat belongs to Mary Lynne Herr, a retired educator not seeking re-election. Both seats are for four-year terms. The candidates are free, which means that they are not elected by district.
Parnell, 40, is a real estate agent who has three children who attend schools in Bayfield.
âI have invested in Bayfield Schools in a variety of ways over the past 12 years, from helping out in the classroom to serving on hiring committees, to my last 90 days on the board – this which gave me a perspective window to see what works and what doesn’t, âParnell wrote in an emailed statement. âStrong schools create strong communities, you can’t have one without the other – now is a good time to step in, bring my experience to the table, make sure we keep our communication open with our parents , students, teachers, and community, and help create sustainable and reasonable outcomes that stand up for our students and our district as a whole.
Parnell called the divisions within the district “an erosion of trust.”
âWe need to create an environment in which we go beyond transparency and accountability to rebuild this relationship,â she wrote. âSecond, but equally important, we have had persistent problems in our college for a long time. I know we are trying hard to tackle the root causes, but it will take some time to create a change. “
Bayfield students are currently not required to wear masks at school, and Bayfield Middle School returned to online learning on Tuesday after an outbreak of COVID-19. The district then asked middle school students not to attend other district events this week, such as high school sports games, which several community members criticized on social media. A protest against the policy was called ahead of Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
The current policy – allowing parents to decide whether masking is right for their children – is the right one for the district right now, Parnell said.
âThe goal must be to keep our children in a face-to-face learning environment for as long as it is safe to do so,â she said.
Shocklee, 45, is a children’s pastor who has lived in the district for 11 years. She is the mother of two Bayfield High School graduates and has two children who attend BHS. She worked as a substitute teacher and in the school canteen.
In an email, she said social issues were important to the district.
âThe bottom line is that the board is in place to represent the community it serves,â she wrote. “We are trusted to make decisions that best reflect the wishes of parents and respect the honor of the office.”
Shocklee said she agreed with most of the COVID-19 policies in place in the district.
âChildren are our greatest resource and should be our most important investment,â she wrote. âIf I can help protect them and work to give them the best possible education, it would be an honor to serve on the board. “
Turner, 36, is a farmer who grew up in Bayfield and has been back in the district for three years. He has two primary school students in the district.
“My big goal is to get a response from the board of directors to parents,” he said in a telephone interview. “I made a few complaints last year, and I haven’t received anything from the board.”
Turner took part in a protest against the school district’s layoffs in April and called for the resignation of Superintendent Kevin Aten, who has led the district since 2018.
Bayfield schools faced a million dollar budget deficit last spring after statewide budget cuts caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The district administration cut 13 positions, including paraprofessionals, language teachers, and maintenance and transport workers.
After the layoffs, Bayfield restructured its administrative team and created an Assistant Superintendent position to replace a Program Director position.
Turner has said he doesn’t want to fire Aten, but he believes the board should oversee decisions made by the district administration.
âThe district has made a lot of really, really important financial decisions over the past year. It’s the Bayfield families affected, âhe said of the layoffs.
Regarding COVID-19 policies, Turner said he hated the idea of ââyoung children having to wear masks, but he understands the need for them in certain situations. The cloth masks most students wear do not do a good job of reducing transmission of the virus, he said.
Wennerstrom, 20, is a recent graduate of Bayfield High School. She opens a thrift store in downtown Bayfield and has lived in the neighborhood her entire life. Her mother is a teacher in the district and the younger siblings in her finance go to school in Bayfield.
“It breaks my heart to see how the school has been run lately,” she said in a telephone interview, citing the dismissal of the Spanish teacher at Bayfield Middle School, as well as the high turnover of teachers in the school. Eleven of the school’s 22 teachers resigned this spring and two teachers retired.
âI want to have a bit of a say and try to turn the tide,â she said.
When the college closed this week, students were sent home, but staff members had to teach at the school, she said.
“They should be able to teach at home” while the school is disinfected and ventilated, she said. Teachers were not asked if they wanted to teach at home or in the school building.
Wennerstrom criticized the layoffs in the district and the hiring of former BHS director Leon Hanhardt as the new deputy superintendent.
âI want to be able to have my say in these decisions,â she said. “I feel like I have the most insight and first-hand experience.”
Getting families to make the decision that their children wear masks makes the most sense right now, she said.
“I am neither for nor against masks,” she said.
Critical breed theory
Regarding the teaching and discussion of critical race theory in Bayfield schools, applicants had a variety of opinions.
âWhile running for the school board, I had the opportunity to have conversations with many people in the community and quickly discovered that not everyone has the same definition of critical theory. of race, âParnell wrote. âKnowing that this term means different things to different people tells me that there is common ground to be found in starting the complex conversations that should take place with our stakeholders; we need to make sure we understand specific concerns instead of reactively addressing terminology that could create more divisions within our schools and community and ultimately distract our children and of their learning experience.
Shocklee does not believe critical race theory should be taught in Bayfield schools.
“I don’t believe the majority of our community is doing it either,” she wrote.
âIt’s on the agenda for every school board right now,â Turner said. “Bayfield watched him over and over again.”
The Colorado School Boards Association has also been studying how to teach race relations, he said. He believes the district’s priority should be the education of its students.
âIf that’s not the first priority, then the school district isn’t doing its job,â he said.
Wennerstrom said she experienced Critical Race Theory while studying at the University of Northern Colorado and believed it divided people into different categories.
“I feel like it’s symbolic to a point,” she said. “I believe that diversity and history should be taught, but your merit as a person should not be placed under your race.”
Ballots for the Nov. 2 election will be mailed the week of Oct. 11, according to the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Office.
Voters who have not received a ballot by October 18 should call the clerk at 382-6296. Ballots must be returned by mail no later than October 25, or voters can use ballot boxes open 24 hours a day until 7 p.m. on November 2.
The current board members are President Mike Foutz, Vice-President Debbie Wilhelm and Secretary-Treasurer Amy Davlin.