Q & A: board of education candidates

Special to the Herald Times

RBC I The HT reached out to all the candidates running for both Meeker and Rangely School District boards via email last week. 

We asked the same questions of each candidate, including:

  • How long have you lived in the school district and what is your personal experience with the district (eg. currently have kids enrolled, had kids previously enrolled, you attended school in this district yourself, etc.)?
  • What education, work experience, and other board service do you have that qualifies you for this position?
  • What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing the local school district at this time and what are your ideas for addressing it?
  • How would you define your philosophy on public education? 
  • What are your personal reasons for seeking a seat on this board?

Here are the responses we received in alphabetical order by last name, starting with Rangely School District candidates.

RANGELY SCHOOL DISTRICT (RSD): BRAD CASTO

Brad Casto
  • I have lived in the school district since 1995 and attended school here from 1995-2001. I currently have two children in our school district.
  • I graduated from Rangely High School in 2001 and attended CNCC for a degree in small business management. My wife and I purchased the local NAPA store in 2005 that we currently run today. I served many years on the Rangely Town Council and the RDA/RDC boards. I also was on the Moon Lake Electric Association board for nine years. I am currently on my second year for the Rangely District Hospital board.
  • I believe that there are numerous issues facing our district at this time. The most concerning issue for me is the lack of education due to unsafe and disruptive behaviors in our classrooms. I believe that this can be overcome by holding staff accountable and really digging into what the problem is and not being afraid to ask hard questions and finding a real solution.
  • Public education is the most invaluable resource that we can give the future generations.
  • I want to make sure that all children and staff in our district are getting the support they need.  Our children need an education to be successful in life. The staff needs to have the support and accountability in place to do that.

RSD: CORY CHRISTIAN

Cory Christian
  • I have lived in Rangely most of my life. I was raised here and attended grades pre-k through 12. After leaving for a few years, I felt the pull to return to Rangely to raise my family here. I am a father of four and two of my children are currently attending school in the RE-4 School District at Parkview and Rangely High School.
  • While I’ve not yet served on a board of any kind, I did serve four years as a United States Marine, spending time deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. Serving in the Marine Corps taught me valuable lessons in leadership and serving others. I’ve also worked in leadership and mid-management positions during my years of employment. I am also the type of person who is willing to stand up for what I believe, despite what is popular/or what might go against what the majority is voting.  
  • The most pressing issue facing the RE-4 school district, in my opinion, is the lack of local control over how our schools should operate within our unique rural area. Accountability for students, staff and parents is key when looking at improving our educational system and raising our children to be contributing members of society.
  • My philosophy regarding public education is pretty defined: It is not government’s job to dictate what we teach our children. It is up to us as parents and community members to ensure that we are not only providing quality education to our children, but that we are instilling core American values, integrity and creating the future leadership of this great nation. 
  • My personal reasons for seeking a seat on this board are, 1. I feel that I can offer my time and opinions to better shape the educational outcomes for all of our children, 2. I am a long-time citizen of Rangely and I understand our unique population and values, 3. I love this community, I love these kids, I love this country, and these kids are the future of this country! 

RSD: JASON COX (incumbent)

Missed deadline due to daughter’s medical care.

RSD: JAMES DILLON

James Dillon
  • My family has lived in the school district for about 20 years. I myself graduated from Rangely High School and have two daughters currently enrolled — one in preschool and one in first grade.
  • I currently serve as the CFO of Rangely Hospital District, and I sit on the boards for Giant Step Preschool and Child Care Center, the Rangely Food Bank, and the Rangely Cemetery District. I have some experience in grant writing and I am trying to help my community in whatever ways I can.
  • While I don’t have an insider’s perspective I think that some of the primary issues we face, e.g., critical race theory (or critical theory of any sort) and mask/vaccine mandates, are being imposed from outside our community. I would advocate for keeping local control of schools. I also am concerned about the widespread use of smartphones and the impact it is having on kids. As I understand it there are rules about smartphone use but there are issues with them being enforced.
  • I believe the main objectives of education are to prepare children for work, and to shape them into good citizens. In many ways I feel the public school system in general is failing badly at both of those duties and I would like to keep this from happening in Rangely.
  • I want the school district to be one I would be proud to send my children to and I think that that is going to take a lot of work on Rangely’s part to keep it that way.

RSD: CASEY DUCEY (Incumbent)

  •   I have lived in Rangely for 42 years. I currently have a freshman in high school and a fifth grader. I am also a graduate of Rangely High School.
  •   I have served on the Board of Education for the last four years.
  •   Passing of the bond for building improvements that will be on the upcoming November ballot.  Educating the public about the issues the bond will address by using videos, Facebook, and the schools.
  •   After what we’ve been through the past 18 months I feel like we learned the importance of in-person learning. It’s beneficial for students’ mental health, social environment, and the community. Public education is a contributing factor in preparing our youth to become successful members of society.
  •   To continue to be a voice for the community, students and teachers. 

RSD: RON GRANGER

Ron Granger
  •   We have lived in the school district for five years. My daughter Samantha is a seventh grader, and my wife Alisa has worked for the district in the past as a substitute teacher and a para. I have also worked with the school in partnerships with the college when I was the president at CNCC.
  •   I spent 40 years in education including 12 years of teaching and coaching at high schools in Missouri and Wyoming. I have also taught and have been an administrator at the college level in Utah, Missouri, Wyoming and as President at Colorado Northwestern Community College. I have written and received grants for education and have worked on school finance for much of my career. I have also established connections with many of the other school districts in the state, many colleges and universities in several states and with State and Federal leaders who are instrumental in establishing curriculum and determining finance. I have my Master’s Degree in educational administration from Missouri State University.
  •   We have a few issues that need to be addressed. School finance and filling open positions are two that need immediate attention. With my contacts at the State and Federal level, I believe I can advocate effectively for rural schools, especially for Rangely, on getting the money necessary to make us better and provide our teachers with all the tools necessary to help the students learn.  With my contacts at many of the universities, I believe I can help make our district one that graduating college students put on their list of places to apply for a position. Along with that, I know we can market our school, town and area better to possible future employees.  My experience with marketing over the last several years would be a plus in this area.
  •   My philosophy on public education is that every student should have the best possible opportunity to get a quality education. This means the learning environment needs to be one without disruptions or distractions, and our teachers need all the tools necessary to make the learning environment the best possible for all our students.
  •   Since moving to Rangely, the people in this town have always been willing to step up and help us and the college. I retired at the end of the July so now I have the time to give back to this community. With my experience in education and finance, being a member of the school board is a very good fit. Also, because I have a daughter going to school here, I want Rangely School District to not just be a good school but to be one of the best schools in the state and in the surrounding states. I believe my training and experience will be an asset to our school and to this board.

RSD: JERRY LEBLEU

Jerry LeBleu
  •   I have lived in the school district for over 50 years, I currently have one child enrolled in the district and one graduated from the district, I am a graduate of Rangely High School, I’ve worked for the school district in bus maintenance and driving activity buses, I have been a baseball coach for last five years. 
  •   I have been self-employed for 31 years as an auto tech so I’ve dealt with all kinds of personalities, I think I’m pretty good at solving problems and love the challenges. 
  •   I think financing is always a big issue with education so being fiscally responsible and getting the most out of our dollar. 
  •   The well-being of our students: are we teaching the right curriculum for the right ages? I think students should be taught hard work, respect authority and be well disciplined in and out of the class room. 
  •   I am running for the school board because I think I could make a difference in decision making and I’m up for the challenge! I love being around kids of all ages and l would love to see them get the best education as possible.

RSD: CASEY MORAN

Casey Moran
  •   I moved to Rangely after marrying my husband, Daniel, in 2008. I have lived here for 12 years. We have three boys. Our youngest, Mark, has been enrolled in school here since preschool. He is now in fourth grade. Our middle child, Dylan, has been enrolled from preschool through last school year (sixth grade). He is being homeschooled for seventh grade. Our oldest, Sam, attended school from Kindergarten to about second grade here in Rangely. I have volunteered and been employed as a para and substitute teacher with our district for seven years. 
  •   In my seven years working in our school district I have gained much insight into our educational practices. I have experience working with administration, teachers and children directly. I have taught kindergarten, various classes as a substitute, and I have taught in an online capacity during the pandemic. I believe that I have a lot to offer our board. I feel that because I have built relationships with the administration and staff in our district, I can weigh in on discussions and help come up with solutions. As a mom of three boys and a wife, I have learned the value of compromising and I would use this skill as a board member. I also have an occupational certificate in Early Childhood Teaching from CNCC and have completed several other courses through CNCC. I am currently homeschooling my seventh grader and gaining more insight into the component of teaching. 
  •   Some of the most pressing issues are behavioral and learning expectations, a lack of academic programs offered and teacher/staff support. We have also seen politics become more and more prevalent within our schools and our children’s curriculum. We need to get back to educating our children so that they can go out in the world and be successful. Some ideas for addressing these issues would be to review the district policies and discipline plan and adhere more strictly to them. I also would suggest more training and/or communication with staff to see where support is needed and to determine what changes can be made. In addition, we should hire more support positions to help ease the workload of other staff. The hiring process should be selective and offer more incentives to want to work in our district. Maybe that looks like offering a more competitive wage or offering financial assistance for teachers that are working in our district and going to school to get their teaching degree.
  •   I am all for public education that is constitutional and built on teamwork, compromise, communication and safety in the public school environment. The environment within a school needs to be safe and conducive to learning and growth for each student. Public education provides many benefits for students, parents and families. It should also provide a relationship between staff, students, families and the rest of the community that is built up in trust and communication.
  •   I care about my children’s education and their learning environment as well as all students in our community. I also care about the environment that our teachers and administrators work in and how expectations are met and enforced. If I am voted onto the Rangely School District board I will use my experience and knowledge to help make decisions that will have a positive impact in our school district. This will also provide an opportunity for me to grow and learn so I can better serve our community.

MEEKER SCHOOL DISTRICT (MSD): HANNA BORCHARD

Hanna Borchard
  •   I attended most of elementary school in Meeker and part of middle school. Although my family and I lived elsewhere for many years, I returned to Meeker most summers and moved back over three years ago. Currently, my children attend Kindergarten, third and fifth grades in the Meeker School District.
  •   I am a licensed attorney practicing law in Meeker. I work with the Department of Human Services in child welfare cases, and serve private clients in estate planning, probate and real estate matters. I am a small business owner, having assisted with the financial side of operating a hop yard for the past four years and recently opened Smoking River Brewing Company. I currently serve as chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee at my local church, which oversaw a transition in pastors this year. I have attended public schools and private schools, including overseas and in a foreign language for over two years. I read, research and ask questions on a daily basis to better understand every situation, which carries over to the role of Board member. I also understand the value of healthy discussion and how to interact with others that may not always share my opinion, as I have found I can always learn something new.I am well acquainted with many students and teachers who attend Meeker schools. I have volunteered in my children’s classrooms and in rec programs such as youth basketball and taught swimming lessons to elementary school students. I was director of Vacation Bible School at my church this past summer. Overall, I feel that my strength as a future Board member is my strong analytical background, ability to communicate effectively, and a passion for the success of children and youth in our community.   
  •   Like most schools across Colorado, I believe one of the most pressing issues is managing the budget to achieve a balance in serving the needs of all students, recruiting and retaining quality teachers and staff, and preparing our students for success beyond the classroom. We are fortunate to have a beautiful new High School and overall great facilities. I would like to see an emphasis on technology, computer and science education in the middle and high schools, along with a continuing goal of graduating well-rounded individuals prepared for their next steps in life. As part of teacher recruitment and retention, I would love to see what role the Board might have in assisting the community with more child care options in Meeker, and increasing teacher and staff salaries when possible.
  •   I believe public education can and should meet the needs of the vast majority of children and youth in our communities. The role of our schools is to invest in children and build the foundation for students to become successful members of our community and beyond. Whether a student is bound for college, trade school or joining the workforce, there is value in shared experiences and lessons in the classroom. I believe that with the right supports in place, students can have flexibility within the school system to get their needs met.
  •   As a parent of three elementary-aged children and local business owner, I am heavily invested in the future of our district. My roots in Meeker are already deep, as I am fourth generation on my mother’s side and still own with my family the Villa Ranch her grandparents homesteaded on Strawberry Creek. After having lived in other states and countries, I am thrilled to be able to return to the community I love and raise my children here. I want to see Meeker schools continue to grow and thrive, and I believe I can contribute in a constructive way.
  • I am excited about the momentum I feel in the Meeker School District and support our current superintendent. I would welcome the opportunity to partner with the administration, fellow Board members, and the public.  It is my duty and that of the larger community to ensure we are all living up to the goal of promoting excellence in all we do, as we support our young people and the future. Thank you for your consideration and your vote.

MSD: BILL DeVERGIE (INCUMBENT)

Bill DeVergie
  •   Our family has lived in the Meeker School District for 21 years. My wife Kathy and I raised two daughters who both attended and graduated from Meeker High School several years ago. Kathy is currently a school teacher in Meeker Elementary School and education is a very important part of both our lives.
  •   I have a bachelor degree in biology from the University of Colorado and a master’s degree in wildlife biology from Colorado State University. I have worked for Colorado Parks and Wildlife for over 30 years and I have been in a supervisory role for the past 19 years. I am currently and have been a member of the Meeker Board of Education for the past 12 years. I am running for reelection for my fourth term and I hope I can bring a historical experience to the Board. I sit on the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) Outfitter’s Advisory Board and have been on this Board for 15 years.
  •   Finances are always the most pressing and challenging issue facing the School Board. With the changes in Colorado school financing, the reduction in the local assessed values and overall inflation, there never seems to be enough money to do all the school district would like to offer our youth. We need to continue to work hard to find grants from various entities (DOLA, BEST, GOCO, third party, others) to help fill the voids wherever possible. We are so fortunate in this community to have the Freeman F. Fairfield Trust and the Meeker Education Foundation to help provide funding for so many projects and teacher support opportunities within the school district annually. We also need to reach out to our state representatives and continue to ask for their support in improving the state’s finance package for rural schools.
  •   Public education is the backbone and future of our country. Giving our youth the opportunity to get a great start in life is critical to all of their development and success in their lives as well as the success of this community. We are fortunate to have a very skilled and dedicated staff in this school district who go above and beyond the basics to provide our young people with the best education possible. This hard work is shown with the recognition of the Meeker School District as a school identifies as “Accredited with Distinction” for the past several years.  This is a testament to the success of our local education process. We are also blessed with great support from the entire community and we just have good kids.
  •   I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the Meeker Board of Education for the past 12 years. I feel I bring a little different perspective to the Board as a long time state employee and a supervisor for many years. It is important to have a diverse board. I also believe strongly in the importance of educating our youth and want to continue to try to help in a small way by serving as a board member.

MSD: SABRINA FICHTER

Sabrina Fichter
  •   I have lived in the district just shy of two years! I currently have a second grader enrolled in the elementary school. I also have a seventh grader that is currently being homeschooled temporarily to provide him with extra focus and support on his needs that we felt were not being met, but is participating in sports within the district. 
  •   I believe I have developed many qualities and experiences that have prepared me for my role on the school board. I have my Associate’s Degree in accounting and I have over 15 years of experience in the accounting field! Currently, I serve as the bookkeeper for my church community in Meeker. I also believe that the five years of budget experience I gained from working at the Sheriff’s Department back in Iowa has given me vital experience for this position! 
  •   I believe as part of the school board, we work for the constituents and every person or parent within the Meeker community should be a vital part of our children’s education! I don’t believe it’s the board’s position to strong arm or force any medical decision on any student! Lastly, I firmly believe that as a school district employee, they should be required to follow any child’s IEP or 504 plans without parents having to fight! Our district is legally required to do so and that’s what should be done. After all, we want to help every child succeed, right? 
  •   I would love to change the order that board meetings follow. I would push for public input or comments to occur after the board discussion on the agenda before voting is completed! I believe as a district, we should be more welcoming to public comments and make ourselves available to truly hear & listen to the community! There are only a small number of positions on the board, but I believe every community member has different qualifications and strengths that would benefit us as a district! As a board member, I would strongly take into consideration and encourage cooperation with parents to make the best decision for the children of the district. I would like to see a plan implemented where teachers must provide principals with documentation that IEP/504 plans are being followed and that it would be the responsibility of the principal & teachers to meet regularly with the parents to ensure that child’s success! 
  •   I believe public education should prepare our children for the real world. No child should be left behind on any subject and upon graduation our children should be equipped with the tools they need to enter adult life. It shouldn’t be based on political views of the government or teachers. I believe the curriculum is very important and should not include any hidden agendas or common core! 
  •   Since we moved here, I felt called to give back to our community in some way. As I prayed about it, I realized it needed to be where I was the most passionate, my children and their future! I want to be a voice for the community and to stand up for what is the best for our children! We are raising the next generation and I do not take that assignment lightly! I will always stand up and advocate for what I believe is right for children! 

MSD: ANN FRANKLIN

Ann Franklin
  •   I was born and raised in Meeker on my family’s ranch on Strawberry Creek. With the exception of spending one year of high school in New Zealand as an exchange student, I went all of the way through the Meeker School District starting with Mrs. Tucker’s kindergarten. I loved playing sports and participated in FFA. My husband, Bailey, and I have three children. Over the past three years, we have had a child in every school in the district. I was the Elementary School librarian for three years (2016-2019).  That experience taught me so much about what it is like to be a teacher and the multi-faceted challenges that go along with that.  I have volunteered every year in my children’s classrooms and was a substitute teacher for several years when we first moved back to Meeker in 2004.
  •   Over the last three years, I have been serving on the Meeker Regional Library Board. I have a B.S. in rangeland ecology and Master of Agriculture from Colorado State University.  I served on the county land use board and the northwest CO sage grouse working group when I was an extension agent and natural resources specialist in Moffat County. I have had to manage a budget in just about every job that I have ever held.  I currently operate my own natural resources consulting business. I have had the good fortune to be able to start a non-profit called the Meeker International Ecology Program that has already assisted six local high school students with fundraising for a trip to the Galapagos Islands this past July.  We raised over $45,000. I plan to continue with this program and hope to engage many more students in expanding their world view. This will require continued community involvement, fundraising and development of partnerships. This type of commitment to our community is what drives me to run for the school board.
  • I feel our greatest challenge is going to be fiscal resources, accountability, and management.  My ideas for addressing this challenge are transparency, communication, building partnerships, and seeing opportunities where others might only see challenges and conflict.  I have demonstrated this already by facilitating the creation of a partnership between the Meeker Regional Library District and the Meeker School District to fund the Elementary School librarian position.  
  • Future pandemics and how to educate our children through challenging times could also be a major issue that we will all be facing sometime again. I believe that our school district has shown great leadership through the Covid pandemic and I see that continuing into the future. Being proactive instead of reactive and learning from past experiences will be very important. 
  • Public education is just that — public.  Meaning that we will provide a non-partisan education to all of our children in this community through a safe and supportive environment that provides them with as much opportunity as possible to achieve their goals and lead a fulfilling life. Politics and religion have no place in a public school setting. I do fully support saying the pledge of allegiance every morning, which we already do, and also love the singing of the national anthem before many of the school events.
  • I see value in working with others, collaborating, forming partnerships, and seizing opportunities.  I love giving back to this community and feel like I am a strong communicator and enjoy talking with people from all walks of life. Traveling to many different regions of the world has helped me realize what a very special community we have here in Meeker. The school board is a pivotal part of this community in helping provide the catalyst for our teachers to empower our children to enter in to an ever-changing world.  I would like to help continue to support and expand the unique passion that our community shows toward educating all of our children well into the future.

MSD: SARAH GRIMES

Sarah Grimes
  •   My family has considered Meeker our home since 2006. Our daughter (Skylar, 12) was born while residing in Meeker. We moved to Oregon for a brief time in 2010, returning to Meeker in 2012, two months after our son (Rylan, 9) was born. Our children have attended Meeker Public Schools from Pre-K on. While our children have been attending Meeker Public School, I have been a parent volunteer in various classrooms.   
  •   I graduated from Bowling Green State University with an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. I started working for Horizons Specialized Services in 2014 as a case manager for children and families in our Early Intervention, Family Support, and Adult Services Programs. I started serving on the Preschool Council in 2014 for the Meeker and Rangely School Districts. In 2016 I became a board member for Connections 4 Kids based out of Moffat County serving children and families in all of Rio Blanco County. In 2017 I started serving on the Executive Committee for the Connections 4 Kids Board. 2015 was my first year serving on the Meeker Classic Sheepdog Board, and I started serving on the Executive Committee in 2019. I became a member of the District Advisory Committee (DAC) in 2018. I am currently still serving on all of the above listed boards, councils and committees. 
  •   I believe that the budget will be an ongoing issue for public schools and I feel it is necessary to continue to be fiscally responsible and transparent. Although I do not know all the ins and outs of the current budget, I look forward to researching and reaching out to other rural school districts to learn about additional resources that have been successfully utilized within their schools that we may not be aware of. 
  •   I believe that public education is a system that welcomes every child within the community regardless of academic performance, income level or disability to provide an opportunity to achieve academic success and is the foundation for our children to acquire many life skills. One advantage of public education is allowing students who qualify to benefit from additional services that help strengthen their ability to develop age appropriately. I feel that public education is an important part of building a diverse and robust community. 
  •   In my role as a Case Manager for Horizons Specialized Services, I have spent the last seven years advocating for children and families with developmental delays and disabilities. I hope to serve on the Meeker School Board to further advocate for all children, families, and residents of the Meeker School District. With my previous work, committee, council and board experience, I would bring knowledge, resources and new ideas in my role as a school board member. 

MSD: TONYA MERZ

Tonya Merz
  • I have lived in the Meeker School District with my husband Chris and two boys Garrett (13) and Samuel (9) for six years. During that time I have volunteered at the elementary school, taken an active role in school programs my children were involved in, and make it a point to stay informed on activities happening within the local school district. We have homeschooled for four years during our time here as well. Prior to moving to Meeker I was heavily involved in classroom volunteering and the PTO for our local charter school. I follow the state and federal policies currently in place and upcoming changes being proposed. I believe education is highly important and should have a place for parents to participate and give feedback.
  • I hold a Bachelor of Science in agricultural business with a minor in economics from Colorado State University. Shortly after graduation I took a position with the USDA and became our program’s first female assistant to the Federal State Supervisor in the country. After our oldest was born I was accepted into the Colorado Ranching Legacy Program and completed a Master of Agriculture with Colorado State. I have 15 years of business, supervisory, and auditing experience. I was also appointed to a team which was tasked with creating an on boarding system for our federal agency which I implemented and administered nationally after I was hired as the Ambassador Coordinator. I stepped away from my career to homeschool our boys. Currently I participate in several local programs and hold the treasurer position for a local non-profit.
  • I see the pressure that school districts are receiving from the state regarding private health matters along with other social and cultural matters as something that Meeker needs to preemptively take a position on. It is of the upmost importance to me that the school district preserves our town’s values of liberty and personal choice. 
  • A public school’s purpose is to provide an education in fundamental academics — reading, writing, and arithmetic. A public school should teach children how to think independently, showing children how to learn and how to pursue knowledge. There should be a clear line between education vs. teaching agendas and opinions in a public school system. Values should be left to parents and families to teach. I believe parents should have a voice within the school and be welcomed with their thoughts and ideas. I believe that parents should have personal choice to make decisions that are best for their families. These choices should not be dictated by the schools, state or federal governments.
  • Currently I am seeking a position on our community’s school board because I care about our community and wish to preserve the place my family has come to call home. I care about both my children’s and my neighbor’s children’s future. I care about the future citizens of this country. We need voices on the school board which are not passive but not harsh. We need voices on the school board which are bold but also thoughtful and eloquent. We absolutely have the ability to preserve a piece of America. I pray others across our country will stand to do the same.

MSD: RACHEL RUST

Rachel Rust
  •   I moved here in February 2020 and married my husband, Steven, who was born and raised in Meeker. We have a blended family of six children, three of which are currently attending school in the District at the elementary and middle schools.
  •   Above all, I am a parent that advocates for all children. I grew up on the Western Slope and was involved in 4-H leadership and served as an advisor in Garfield County after graduation. I was a foster parent for several years and completed the requirements to participate in the foster care program in Mesa County. I have continued my education through New Skills Academy online, receiving a certificate in mental wellbeing in children and child psychology. I have been involved with Rifle Mothers of Preschoolers for seven years and currently serve on the steering committee as the fundraising coordinator for Rifle Mothers of Preschoolers. MOPS is an international organization supporting healthy families.
  •   I feel the most pressing issue facing the local school district at this time is encouraging parents to be involved in their child’s education. Parents need to be heard and have a voice. I would like to see more focus on the students who need extra help with learning, with EIP/405 plans being implemented and follow through of the plan. A parent should not have to engage a child advocate to get the needs of the student met.
  •   My philosophy on public education is to recognize a community coming together to train up our next generation. I would like to be confident public education will give a child the opportunities and skills to go out in the world after graduation with basic skills in everyday life. I believe students should be encouraged to find an avenue they are passionate about whether pursuing college, trade school or the workforce.
  •   The future of our community is in the classroom. I believe we need parent involvement, as our children spend the majority of their time in school. I believe the school board should represent the best interest of the families in the community attending the local schools, working hand in hand with parents. I would like to see parents welcome at meetings, having their voices heard and encouraged to share input. The school board is elected to serve our families and students to provide a healthy atmosphere for all students to grow and prosper. I believe it would be an honor to serve in creating the best available to raise our children.

MSD: JANAE SANDERS

Janae Sanders
  • I have lived in Meeker for the last twelve years with my family. My four children are currently enrolled in the school district. Our oldest is a sophomore at the high school and our second is a freshman. Our third child is attending the middle school and our youngest is in fifth grade at the elementary school. My husband and I have both spent time volunteering in the classroom as well as attending field trips with our kids. We are grateful to be involved with the schools and value the relationships we have with the teachers. 
  • I have been a part of the DAC (District Accountability Committee) for the school district for the last three years and I am currently serving as the vice president. Previously I have served as the president and vice president of the PTO at the elementary school. The most valuable experience I have comes from my time being a substitute teacher for the school district over the last three years. I have really enjoyed my time in the classroom. It has created opportunities for me to better understand public education from many different points of view. Teachers are blessed people with hearts of gold. They spend just as much time with our kids as we do. We need to support them so they can feel encouraged as they do their important job. The children are eager to learn and it is such a joy to see them understand a new concept. I was in Kindergarten this last week cheering them on as they read new words. There were high fives and joy in their eyes with each success. I would love to keep that excitement for learning all the way through high school and into college.  
  • I don’t know if I can pick one issue that is most pressing. There are a lot of responsibilities the school district has to manage. There are finances, hiring great teachers and administrators, academics, state regulations, parent involvement and much more. At the center of each of these issues are the students. We cannot become distracted by the issues and forget to recognize how our decisions affect the children. We could spend more time trying to understand the needs of the students through their voice, the voice of a parent or the voice of a teacher. As we seek to understand we will be better equipped to make these important decisions.
  • I am grateful for public education. It provides many opportunities for our children. I feel that public education has changed for the better in many ways over the years. I still think there is room for more growth as we take time to get to know the needs of our students individually.
  • I am hoping to serve on this board to create a unity between the community and the school district. Together we can make this a great district.

MSD: HEATHER SAULS

Heather Sauls
  •   My husband (Brian Holmes) and I have lived in Meeker for 15 years. Both of my kids have grown up in the Meeker School District, starting with preschool. Currently, my daughter (Iris) is in sixth grade and my son (Oliver) is in 10th grade.
  • I have a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida and a Master of Science degree from the University of Montana. From this science-based education, I’ve developed strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills. While I admit that there will be a lot to learn as a new school board member, I’m a quick learner. I’ve worked as a planner for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) since 2010. Through my job, I have extensive experience with evaluating potential policy changes, so I know how to pay attention to details while also not losing sight of big picture goals. On an almost daily basis, I facilitate discussions between people with different (and often strongly held) opinions. A big part of my job is finding common ground by addressing different people’s concerns while ensuring that the solution remains consistent with existing organizational goals, laws, regulations, and policies. I believe that I have a reputation for being honest, fair, and approachable.
  • I’m concerned that potential staffing shortages is an emerging issue for Meeker School District. We’ve all seen how some local businesses have struggled to recruit and retain quality employees. Across the country, there are news articles about schools having difficulty filling support positions such as bus drivers, administrative staff, substitute teachers, custodians, and cafeteria workers. According to a recent article in the Craig Daily Press (9/28/21), Moffat County recently had 39 openings in their district and cancelled classes for three days to address staff burnout. Within the Meeker School District, we’ve recently struggled to recruit coaches and substitute teachers. I believe the first step is recognizing an emerging problem and proactively working with the community and school administration to develop a plan to address it before it negatively impacts school operations. A short-term solution is to make sure the community is aware of these staffing needs within the schools in order to encourage people to apply for these positions. A long-term solution is to make sure that the Meeker School District remains an “employer of choice” by offering competitive wages. As other local employers raise wages to attract and retain employees, the District will ultimately have to re-evaluate its own pay scales. The District will also likely have to consider “salary compression” where raising the pay of the lowest salaries (e.g., those that only require a high school diploma) results in less of a difference (or compression) when compared to positions that require higher education and professional licenses. This will likely require either making difficult budget decisions and/or seeking additional funding.
  • While it may sound corny, I don’t think it is an overstatement to assert that public education is the key to ensuring that the “American Dream” is within reach of everyone. On my dad’s side of my family, I was only the third person to graduate from high school and I was the first person to go to college. I’ve seen first-hand how a high-quality public education positively affects your opportunities in life. As such, I believe that public schools should welcome students from all backgrounds and strive to be a neutral place of learning. While I certainly support teaching civics, I don’t believe that partisan politics have any place in our public schools. Likewise, while I also support learning about various religions as part of a social studies curriculum, I don’t believe that we should promote any single religion within our schools. We should also anticipate that our children will be expected to use new technologies and address novel challenges over the course of their lives; we should ensure they are well prepared for the future by helping them develop strong critical thinking skills.
  • My reasons for seeking a seat on the board are to 1) ensure that the board represents parents of current students and 2) to give back to the community through volunteer service. Our current seven-member school board has only one member with children currently enrolled in school. I acknowledge that it is important to have the perspective of parents whose children have graduated and can speak to whether Meeker School District adequately prepared their children for life after high school. However, I think it is equally important for the board to have strong representation by parents whose children are currently enrolled in Meeker schools. In regard to community service, it takes a lot of volunteers (e.g., coaches and referees, youth program leaders, community fundraisers, etc) to make this town such a great place to raise children. I wanted to give back to the community by offering my time and talents on the school board.

MSD: NICK SMITH

Nick Smith
  • My name is Nick Smith. I am the fourth generation of my last name that has attended and graduated from this district. Starting with my great-grandad in 1918, to my grandpa in 1948, to my dad in 1975, to me in 2008. In my time in this district, I was involved in many extracurricular activities such as football, wrestling, basketball, baseball, track and FFA. I am married and we currently have a daughter that attends the second grade at Meeker Elementary.
  • I graduated college with an Associates degree in applied science. I have worked in the youth and adult corrections department for most of my career since college. Currently, I manage and run a contract that involves three different government agencies, I know I have a lot to learn but I don’t step back from hard topics, and I am willing to explore both sides of the coin. The main thing that qualifies me for this board is the drive and willingness that it will take to make it be here for future generations.
  • The biggest issue facing this district is community involvement. My goal if elected is to help strengthen all aspects of the community to get more participation by holding open forums and making sure that everyone is aware of what is going on.       
  • That every student is deserving of a well-balanced, healthy, and safe learning environment.
  • To help ensure that Meeker School District RE-1 upholds its standards to the students that we serve.

MSD: ANTHONY THEOS

Anthony Theos
  • I am a Meeker native and attended Meeker School District Pre-K through 12th grade. My wife Dani is also a Meeker native attending school here, and our two boys are both at Meeker Elementary School. Thomas is in fourth grade, and Ari is in Kindergarten. 
  • After graduating high school in 1997, I attended Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University). I received a bachelor’s in business management, and then returned to Meeker to help run and operate our family’s ranch. I have served as president of the Colorado Wool Growers Association, president of the Colorado Sheep and Wool Authority, and a Rio Blanco County Fair Board Member. Currently, I am vice-chair of the American Sheep Industry Wool Council, and I am a board member of the Yellow Jacket Water Conservation District. 
  • One of the most pressing issues that we keep facing are the Covid restrictions and how the state manages urban city areas compared to our rural area. I believe Meeker School District has done a great job handling the situation thus far, and common sense has been used to address the pandemic for our district. Moving forward, I will remain firm in my belief that kids learn best in-person in the classroom, and that we remain united as a board as this pandemic continues. 
  • The educators in our district have done an excellent job of preparing our children for the next step in their lives whatever that may be. The responsibility also lies with what the student and their parents put into their schoolwork as well. The public education system in Meeker has given the necessary tools to young adults to succeed in the path of their choosing. As a board member I hope to continue the preparation that is needed to make our students bring their full potential to the future. 
  • I believe I would be a strong asset to the board. As a product of the Meeker School District, and now having kids attend school here, I get a unique opportunity to talk directly with educators and fellow parents about ideas, concerns, what is being done right, and which direction we should go in the future. Thank you for your consideration. 

MSD: LAURIE WHITEMAN-KENDALL (incumbent)

Laurie Whiteman-Kendall
  • I grew up in Meeker and, along with my two brothers, was the third generation to graduate from MHS (1989). After about 20 years, I returned to Meeker to raise my kids. I am about to graduate my third child from MHS with my fourth not far behind. I currently have two sons, a senior and a sophomore, attending Meeker High School. They attended all three Meeker schools and my two adult daughters both attended and graduated from MHS. 
  • My secondary education is in business administration and accounting. I began my work experience in governmental property appraisal and county finance. However, much of my work experience has been in education in one form or another. I have taught second, seventh and eighth grades in two private schools for a total of four years. I have been a substitute teacher for the past 10-plus years in the Meeker School District and the Roaring Fork School District. I have worked as financial secretary and student secretary in the Basalt Elementary and Middle Schools, as well as secretary at Meeker High School. For the past six years I have worked in accounting. These experiences have given me a view not only from the classroom, but from the administration side as well. My knowledge in accounting gives me an understanding of the fiscal and financial aspect of the district and state funding. My experience in the government agencies gives me an understanding of the tax allocation to special district as well as some of the legislature that is still valid to this time.
  • I feel the most pressing issue facing our local schools (and all public education) is refocusing our attention to our initial district and educational goals and student learning after dealing with the effects of Covid on public education, our communities and the multitude of work that it created for our administrators and staff to keep our children safe, in school and learning as best as possible. The best way to do this, as a board member, is to support, encourage and enable our administrators and staff to do just that.
  • Having been involved in private education and public education, I appreciate that public education allows our children to grow in the diversities of our world. I believe that public education needs to provide our children with a well-rounded “head, heart, hand” education of student learning and testing along with an ability to care for others, provide community service and learn a work ethic to help them succeed. I also believe we have a responsibility to provide an education with views from all aspects without pushing any agendas or beliefs directly on our students. 
  • As an incumbent, I decided to run four years ago and to re-run currently to be part of something I am passionate about. I also hope to bring knowledge and experiences I have gained in the last 20-plus years. I strive to support and serve our district, our kids, their education, the administrators, the staff, and our community, without bringing an agenda to the table. I am proud to be part of the Meeker School District and what it has stood for and still stands for. 

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