School board candidates gather at forum
Five candidates vying for three seats on the School District 51 Board of Education appeared in public together for the first time at a Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday.
Candidates answered audience questions that ranged from standardized testing to mental health and made their pitches to business and community leaders as to why they’re the best for the job.
Incumbent candidate and school board President John Williams is running unopposed for the District C seat. Incumbent candidate and school board Vice President Tom Parrish is seeking reelection to the District D seat, challenged by candidate Dusti Reimer.
Candidates Amy Davis and Tom Keenan are running for the District E seat.
Candidates had wide-ranging responses about the most significant issues facing the school district.
Parrish told the audience that the school board needs to build community partnerships in order to increase funding for schools.
“I truly believe that funding public schools is going to land in our community and we’re going to have to have vision and innovative ways to address that,” he said. “I don’t think the state is going to do it.”
Reimer, whose children attend a local private school, said she has high expectations for every child in the school district.
“I’m really tired of the mediocrity and I’m tired of the broken system that’s gone on inside and I’m tired of not seeing unity,” she said. “I’m not seeing everybody come together and say we know what the problems are, it seems that the problems have been skirted and passed along. I’m here to challenge and ask the tough questions of why, what’s going on and are these decisions the best decisions for kids.”
Williams told attendees that in order to address high rates of depression and suicide in Mesa County, the school district needs to spend more time on the social and emotional well-being of children.
Williams initially opted not to give a closing statement but asked to speak after the other candidates had given their closing statements.
“What I hate to hear is how bad everything is,” Williams said. “There’s hard work being done out there every day. We’ve got problems, some are ours and some in the community, but it’s not broken. It needs to be helped and it needs to be led.”
Keenan, a longtime teacher, said he wanted to remove burdensome state and federal regulations that provided a “headwind” for students, teachers and the school district.
“I believe we need to get a more direct challenge to our kids,” he said. “I believe if they have the ability to walk into the classroom they have the ability to learn.”
Davis told the crowd she wanted to give back to the school district after her three adult children graduated from District 51 schools. Increasing student performance, student safety and employee retention are all important to a successful school district, she said.
“Every kid in our school district deserves the opportunity to meet their potential,” Davis said. “As long as we have public education, we have a responsibility to each student. It motivates me and I’m 100 percent committed to trying to help that process.”
A sixth candidate, Ted Brewster, was certified to run for the District C seat but withdrew from the race, according to District 51 Spokeswoman Emily Shockley.