Voters don’t want radical changes
Anger against campaign money funneled to local candidates from wealthy Front Range sources may have helped drive the defeat of three conservatives running for the School District 51 Board of Education Tuesday. But the vote in Tuesday’s school board election could just as easily be read as a vote against the sort of radical changes seen in Douglas County that have been proposed for this district.
Tuesday’s victors, incumbent School Board President Greg Mikolai, incumbent board member John Williams and former teacher, principal and district administrator Tom Parrish are all proponents of changes to improve student performance in the district, but not the sort of extreme changes pushed elsewhere. They did not support vouchers or ending the district’s contract with the local teachers’ union, the Mesa Valley Education Association.
Opponents John Sluder (who challenged Mikolai), Pat Kanda (who ran against Williams) and Mike Lowenstein (Parrish’s opponent) all supported some form of vouchers and expressed interest in applying reforms used in Douglas County to District 51. Additionally, they were all aligned with current school board member Jeff Leany, who publicly stated his desire to end the district’s contract with the MVEA and make major changes to the District 51 curriculum.
Candidate Lonnie White, who was in the District C race with Williams and Kanda, barely campaigned and never made his views publicly known on these issues.
The heavy vote against Amendment 66 on this year’s ballot, combined with early turnout information that showed nearly twice as many Republicans casting ballots locally as Democrats, makes it clear that it wasn’t only liberals in Mesa County who voted for the winning candidates. It was Republicans and independents, as well, who didn’t want to see radical changes in the operation of School District 51.
Congratulations to Mikolai, Williams and Parrish. And kudos to Sluder, Kanda and Lowenstein for being willing to enter the fray and give voters a choice.
District 51’s academic performance remains less than exceptional. We hope the winning candidates will follow through on their proposals to implement changes to improve performance.