School Board candidates spar over funding, curriculum, scores

Mesa County School District 51 school board candidate Jeff Leany, center, responds to a question posed by moderator Derek Wagner of the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce as candidates Cindy Enos-Martinez, left, and Ann Tisue listen.

Candidates in School District 51’s only contested school board race had a few questions for each other in their first public debate Thursday.

District B incumbent Cindy Enos-Martinez wanted to know how challenger Ann Tisue really feels about the district’s mill levy override question on the Nov. 1 ballot. Tisue told The Daily Sentinel earlier this month she wants voters to decide for themselves if the override is a good idea, but she personally will not vote for it. Tisue maintained the first point but left out her personal opinion when asked for her position at Thursday’s candidate debate hosted by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

That omission befuddled Enos-Martinez, who said, if re-elected, voters always will know “what I support and what I don’t support.”

“She said she didn’t support the override and then said she’d leave it up to the voters. We all have to leave it up to the voters,” Enos-Martinez said.

Tisue said she left her views out of her remarks Thursday because she believes “it’s important to work with the board and have a supportive atmosphere” if she is elected and has to serve with existing board members who placed the override on this fall’s ballot.

Tisue said the difference between her and Enos-Martinez is she will advocate for change on the board.

“Math and writing scores have gone down. If you want to see more failed scores, go for my opponent,” Tisue said.

“You as one individual school board member cannot change reading, math and writing scores,” Enos-Martinez responded. She added later in the debate she “won’t do anything differently” if re-elected and will “continue to be that advocate for students to be successful.”

Tisue and the sole candidate for District A, Jeff Leany, who will be new to the board, agreed during the debate they are interested in finding more cuts in the district, but they are not in favor of closing Scenic Elementary, which is one school that has been pinpointed for possible closure if budget reductions persist. Enos-Martinez did not say if she would support closing the school and said all elementary and middle schools will have to be evaluated if the board decides a school closure may be a viable way to deal with a possible state revenue reduction of $8 million next year.

Leany added he’s not in favor of the mill levy override; he plans to hold the school board’s sole employee, Superintendent Steve Schultz, accountable for district performance; and he believes the district’s history curriculum needs more emphasis on the nation’s rise to become a superpower.

He recommends teaching that lesson with the help of a Glenn Beck-touted book about the Constitution and founding fathers.

” ‘The Five Thousand Year Leap’ should be a part of the curriculum,” Leany said. “I think they spend way too much time on foreign leaders and current events.”


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