Williams, Parrish, Sluder for the District 51 Board

Unlike some school board elections, when candidates ran unopposed and there was little public debate over how the school district should operate, the 2013 campaign is a spirited race with solid candidates for all three seats.

The Daily Sentinel interviewed all of the candidates but Lonnie White, who chose not to meet with us. Here are our endorsements.

John Williams in District C

Appointed to fill a vacancy on the District 51 school board last summer, John Williams has demonstrated he is a good board member. He is willing to consider innovative ideas such as examining a new physics curriculum that begins in middle school and considering a four-day week for academic rather than economic reasons. He deserves a chance to continue on the board and pursue such ideas.

His opponent, Pat Kanda, is also a good candidate who served on the District 51 school board in the 1990s and continues to serve the district by tutoring students.

But we believe Williams is the better candidate right now. He understands the importance of a high-quality school system as an economic driver for our community and believes the school board must do more to assist the administration so that the district isn’t perceived as mediocre. On the flip side, he said there may be opportunities to enlist local businesses to help fund innovative curriculum programs.

Williams may be relatively new to the school board, but not to District 51 in general. He has served on a variety of committees and has been involved in efforts to increase funding for the district. He will serve the district well.

Tom Parrish in District D

Few candidates have the depth of educational experience that Tom Parrish has — in the classroom, as a building principal and as a district administrator. But that doesn’t mean he is just a cheerleader for the district and all it does.

For example, he said he likes the idea of extending the school calendar to provide more time in the classroom, as District 51 did this year. But, he added, “I don’t know if there was a clearly articulated plan for how schools will use that time ... If we don’t have a plan and discipline, six months from now we’ll be wondering where all the additional time went.”

The same is true with the budget, he said. The district expects to receive an increase in funds this year and next because state revenue is up.

Parrish believes the district must do more to boost student achievement, and one way is to recruit or promote “turnaround principals” — school leaders who have demonstrated they can take low-performing schools and improve them. Often, the successful strategies they have used can be adopted for other schools without a significant increase in funding, he said.

Parrish’s opponent, Mike Lowenstein, is a sincere man with a background in higher education. But he doesn’t have the experience or specific ideas that Parrish does.

John Sluder in District E

Incumbent District E board member and current board President Greg Mikolai has done a solid job under difficult conditions during his four years on the board, and he will no doubt continue to be a great board member if re-elected. We wish he and Sluder weren’t paired against each other in this race. But they are, and Sluder has the educational experience and ideas we believe are most needed at this point.

First, he is an instructor at Western Colorado Community College whose own experiences with poorly prepared District 51 graduates caused him to get involved with District 51 groups over the past couple years.

He wants rigorous academic standards to better prepare students for college or technical school, but he argues those standards must be taught so students can utilize what they learn in real-life situations.

He believes the district has adequate rules for teachers to maintain classroom discipline and prevent bullying, if adminstrators and the school board back them up.

He also wants to find ways to reduce paperwork for teachers and to allow individual schools to develop specialties that would offer parents and students more choices. He will be an experienced, independent voice in District E.


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