Austin DeWitt-CPT

Christopher Tomlinson

Austin DeWitt speaks at the Grand Junction Chamber meeting Monday afternoon in the ballroom at Colorado Mesa University.

Name: Austin DeWitt

Age: 20

Occupation: Car wash technician

What public education issue motivated you to run for school board, and how is that issue affecting children in the district?

Lack of support for the mental health of our students. As a district we are the 5th lowest in the state for student mental health within the education system, we also have reported the most student suicides. Another issue that inspired me to run was the learning gap. At a Parent teacher conference, a math teacher had mentioned that in all her classes they are trying to play catch up and are still trying to get students to where they need to be for grade level. This issue stems from the remote learning the district was in during the covid pandemic. The last issue that inspired me to run was the lack of Career training and career education within the district. The career center is a great place and is unique but when we have a career fair, we often focus on certain areas rather than subcategories of that area, for example in healthcare we tend to focus on RN and Doctors, there are other categories within the healthcare field.

Is there a recent school board decision you've disagreed with and, what would you have done instead?

I also disagreed with the time limit for public comment. Parents and the district staff know the kids best and should be allowed to speak without a set time limit for the entire community to get through. I would open a separate meeting entirely for public comment before a decision is made so that parents, staff and students can have input in a decision.

What lessons did you learn from the district's experience with COVID-19 and, if so, how can those lessons be applied moving forward?

I disagree with was sending kids to remote learning. It caused a massive learning gap that two years later teachers are still trying to make up and get students to grade level. Students also struggled with remote learning with internet issues, social issues and an increase of mental health. It also impacted the low income families that depend on the school meals ( lunch and breakfast) to eat as well as a safeplace for those students who are homeless. I Would have kept kids in person with the option to go remote rather than send all students to remote.

With respect to future bond issues, how should the district best appeal to voters for funding upgrades to aging schools?

I believe that the district should hold meetings regarding the bond measure so that community input rather than a group of people within the district. This would alleviate any tension between the district and the community voters over the amount and design of the building.

The current board has already extended an offer to Dr. Brian Hill to take over as superintendent upon Dr. Sirko's retirement. Are you confident in that decision and in the direction of the district administration going forward?

I am confident with the decision to extend an offer to Dr.Brian Hill, As the current assistant superintendent he has been in the classroom and knows the district and how it operates. This is the best possible transition for the students , staff and community.

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