To help voters decide who to vote for to fill four slots on the Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees, the News&Guide is asking the nine candidates questions in the weeks leading up to the election.
In one of several efforts to mitigate overcrowded classrooms, the district plans to reconfigure the town’s two elementary schools. Next September, Jackson Elementary and Colter Elementary schools will both run from kindergarten to fifth grade. In 2018 Munger Mountain Elementary School will open south of town — relieving stress on existing schools.
Candidates were asked: If elected, how will you ensure the community — parents and teachers especially — is involved in the reconfiguration process? If you have any concerns regarding boundaries, time lines, etc., how will you remedy those concerns?
Not all candidates are on board with reconfiguration continuing on the current schedule, with some saying the time line should be delayed to lessen the number of transitions for students and teachers.
Annie Band: “To better include our parents and teachers in the reconfiguration, I would stress that the board and administration formally establish procedures for collaboration on any major decision affecting our district. Board website links and calendars could be made user-friendly, with convenient ways for stakeholders to ask questions or comment. The calendar must fully comply with the spirit of the Wyoming Open Meetings Law, and I would recommend a minimum of two weeks notice for any committee meetings, forums or workshops. My recommendations are more about process than decision, which must be part of a collaborative process. This is an opportunity to build consensus with everyone. What concerns me now is the number of dramatic changes that have occurred in TCSD No. 1 in a very short time. I believe a more careful prioritization could have been utilized that would have been less overwhelming for our district staff.”
Curt Behle: “To ensure the success of a reconfiguration there needs to be many layers of process. Families, teachers and the community should be vetted out independently with their needs and concerns. Once those have been heard from and a thorough breakdown of data has been collected and prioritized, we can then make the best decisions for the reconfiguration.”
Betsy Carlin: “Since August I have been attending the school board meetings. At each meeting, Tracy Poduska [the district’s teaching and learning director], who is leading the reconfiguration process for TCSD, has given a thorough report including a detailed time line for the transition process. The plan includes clear ways for families, teachers and community members to give input and keep informed. As a board member I would continue to closely monitor the process to ensure all stakeholders have access to information and are able to share their perspective so broadly consented decisions can be made.”
Emily Flanagan: “When the reconfiguration process was first discussed last year, I walked the halls of both JES and CES and asked the teachers and staff about the time line of doing the move. With 86 percent of the CES staff and 78 percent of JES staff that I spoke to opting for a move only upon the completion of the new school it concerns me that we would opt to do it in 2017. Tracy Poduska has put in so many hours to get this move done, and I’m so appreciative, but I think the process needs to be delayed. It’s too much too soon.”
Nick Grenoble: “In order to offer all citizens the opportunity to be involved, I would like to hold a series of public information meetings where the public can learn about the reconfiguration process and share their input. I would also like to ensure that all materials are available in Spanish and we have Spanish-speaking representatives of the district present so that our Latino families can participate. We need to make decisions informed by data and grounded in our community’s values.”
Carlyn Hunter: “Many teachers expressed that they have enough on their plates with the new curriculum they started teaching at the beginning of the school year. They said reconfiguring in 2017 is a distraction that will keep them from aligning to the Common Core state standards. They would rather make the move when the new elementary school opens. The school, which will be located in the Hog Island area, is expected to open in fall 2018 if the district receives construction funding. One board member stated not long ago that there was a tremendous rift between the faculty and between the uppermost administration. When it comes to internal issues I would like to see things vetted to the point where there is more cohesion. I look forward to working with other board members to resolve this issue with collaborative discourse engaging the community of all stakeholders.”
Kate Mead: “There is a parents advisory group, recently formed, and parents will have an opportunity to weigh in individually on where their child goes. Teacher input is ongoing as Tracy Poduska plans the reconfiguration process and time line. As the time draws closer, we will look at what will provide diversity of student population whether by boundary lines or voluntary attendance at the new school.”
Patricia Russell: “We are sending out preference surveys to all parents and staff. While I imagine that not all preferences will be able to be honored, I know our district staff will do their very best to accommodate requests. As we move forward in the process I believe that we might uncover additional information that warrants further discussion and potential future decisions at the board level.”
Bill Scarlett: “As information has been collected and presented, it is apparent that the reconfiguring process should be returned to the board for further discussion. It is critical to minimize the unintended consequences of reconfiguration: i.e., children, their families and teachers will be subject to multiple moves over a short period of time. In reviewing the reconfiguration process, I would recommend changing the time line to coincide with Munger Elementary School’s completion. Regular updates to the board with input from the community are important for a successful outcome.”