Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Pikes Peak region school board members say job is worth the time, effort

by dEBBIE kELLEY AND cAROL mCgRAW The Gazette - Published: August 12, 2013

Long hours, no pay, endless squabbles and a sore behind from sitting so much are the life of a school board member. But so are meeting new people, learning a lot, shaping childrens' education and feeling good about what you're doing.

"Kids are at school seven hours a day, 35 hours a week at a mininum, so the people who represent the wishes and will of the community for educating kids are very important," said Linda Van Matre, president of the board of Academy School District 20.

Fifty-four seats are open in El Paso and Teller counties for the Nov. 5 election, and there are plenty of good reasons to consider becoming a candidate, according to current board members.

Sandra Mann, who is finishing her second four-year term on Colorado Springs School District 11's board, said the opportunity to expand your mind is infinite.

"Education is always changing, and it's very interesting. You learn about budgeting, personnel, curricula - things you're not exposed to in your regular career and life," she said.

Van Matre said she still enjoys what attracted her in the first place, when she was appointed in February 2009 to fill a vacancy, then ran for the seat that fall and won.

"One of the most important functions of our society is to educate our children," she said, "and the opportunity to influence the process and set the direction for the local school districts is a privilege. It's fascinating and intellectually stimulating and a great way to contribute to making our community a better place."

Jeff Ferguson, board president in Lewis-Palmer School District 38, has been on the board 20 years. The first stint, before term limits were instituted in the district, was from 1987 to 2003. He was off for six years, and is completing another four-year term. He said he is not running for re-election in November.

A University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor, Ferguson says serving on the school board "is a similar kind of deal. I like to help kids grow whether they are elementary or graduate students."

"It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I wouldn't give it back," he said.

It is challenging work, he admits, and can be time-consuming. "It's never just go to a meeting for three hours once a month and that is it," he said. It can take as much as 10 to 40 hours a month, depending on what is going on. "It's like teaching, it's not just what you do during classroom time."

Van Matre noted: "You could literally fill every minute of your day with school board activities. You have to propritize and manage."

Mann recommends spending 10 to 15 hours a week at the minimum, during the school year, and being ready to read volumes of material, study issues, talk to those you represent and attend events.

"It's hard when you first start - you'll have all these people wanting to bend your ear and influence you or tell you their side of the story or be angry," she said. "You can't take everything at face value and go in with your guns blazing. You have to be respectful to the staff and other board members."

One of the less attractive parts of the job can be thrashing out issues in public. "It can be awkward, you can be misunderstood, and you don't know what will happen until the vote," he said.

Ferguson said it takes awhile to get up to speed on continually changing issues, and you have to be able to take the heat, too. "There is sometimes controversy over things like expulsions or policies, things that people have different opinions about. You've got questioning of your decision making. It all goes with the territory. "

A school board member engages in a lot of meetings, whether it is parents, administrators, education consultants or community members. "If you don't like meetings, this would be a horrible job."

He has one bit of advice: "It's not healthy to run as a one-issue person. Once your issue is approved then what do you do for four more years?"

Others agree.

"Come with an open mind, not a preconceived agenda," Mann said, adding that you risk alienating veteran board members.

"You have to learn to not necessarily get along in a kum ba yah or best friend kind of way but more in a decision-making-process way," Mann said.

Candidates also should expect to spend a few thousand dollars on campaign marketing, usually using a combination of personal funds and money raised from donors. Investing in flyers, signs, candidates' forums and other activities can get candidates' names in front of voters.

"It can be hard to ask people for money or get the valid signatures you need - access people you know," Mann suggests.

Run for a seat

School districts have election packets with necessary forms for those interested in running for a school board on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Candidates must have been registered voters of the school district for at least 12 consecutive months before the election. Anyone who has been convicted of committing a sexual offense against a child is ineligible.

Candidates must file a written notice of intent and a nomination petition. Completed petitions must contain at least 25 to 50 valid signatures from registered voters in the district, depending on the district's size.

The deadline to return a petition to a school district is Aug. 30. Districts must submit candidates' names to the clerk and recorders' offices by the close of business Sept. 6.

Voting will be by mail or in person at polling centers. Ballots will be mailed Oct. 15. In El Paso County, seven polling centers - four at clerk and recorder offices and one each in Fountain, Monument and Calhan - will be open for eight days prior to Election Day and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 5.

Teller County's clerk and recorder's office will have a polling center at the courthouse in Cripple Creek and a drop-off box at its Manor Court location in Woodland Park.

THE DISTRICTS

Here are the seats that will be open. NOTE: If a seat is designated "term limited," it means the present board member can't run for another term. "Incumbent" means that the person currently holds the seat and may or may not run for another term in November.

ACADEMY D-20

Three seats, four-year terms

Doug Lundberg, term limited

Catherine Bullock, incumbent

Linda Van Matre, incumbent who has declared her candidacy

Contact: Jean Opitz, 234-1200, jean.opitz@asd20.org

Packets: District office, 1110 Chapel Hills Drive, Colorado Springs

CALHAN RJ-1

Three seats, four-year terms.

Maria Herendon, incumbent

Scott Mikita, incumbent

Rachel Britton, incumbent

Contact: Susan Vanasee, 347-2541. Packets: District office, 780 8th St., Calhan

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN D-12

Three seats: two four-year terms, one two- year term.

Phil DeVries, term limited

Steve Parker, incumbent

Tom Neumann, incumbent (two- year term)

Contact: Pam Cox, 475- 6100. Packets: District office, 1775 LaClede St., Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS D-11

Three seats, four-year terms

Sandra Mann, term limited

LuAnn Long, incumbent

Al Loma, incumbent

Contact: Julie Stevens, 520-2004. Packets: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at district office: 1115 N. El Paso St., suite 206, Colorado Springs

CRIPPLE CREEK-VICTOR RE-1

Five seats: two two-year terms (Districts A and C); three four-year terms (Districts B, D and E)

District A, vacant

District B, Claudia Alonzo, incumbent

District C, Don Daniel, incumbent

District D, James B. "Brent" Kennedy, term limited

District E, Dennis Jones, incumbent

Contact: Jean Olmsted, jolmsted@ccvschools.com or 689-2661 ext. 331

Packets: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, at district office, 410 N. B St., Cripple Creek

EDISON 54-JT

Two seats, four-year terms

Jim Burke, incumbent who will not run

Cheryl McComb, incumbent

Contact: Pat Bershinsky, 478-2125. Packets: District office, 14550 Edison Road, Yoder

ELLICOTT D-22

Four seats: three four-year terms; one two-year term

Bea Twiss: incumbent

Dwight Hobbs Jr., incumbent

Cody Chambers, incumbent

Floyd Rehkoph, incumbent ( two-year term)

Contact: 683-2700, ext. 4. Packets: District office, 395 S. Ellicott Highway, Ellicott

FALCON D-49

Three seats, four-year terms

Tammy Harold, president, incumbent

Chris Wright, vice president, incumbent

Henry Allen, was appointed to fill the term of a vacated seat

Contact: Donna Teubner, dteubner@d49.org

Packets: District office: 10850 E Woodmen Road, Peyton

FOUNTAIN-FORT CARSON D-8

Two seats, four-year terms

Dawn Bentley, term limited

Suzanne Foster, incumbent

Contact: Shiona Nash, 382-1300. Packets: District office, 10665 Jimmy Camp Road, Fountain.

HANOVER D-28

Two seats, four- year terms

Mark McPherson, incumbent

Cathie Salmon-Wolff, incumbent

Contact: Packets: District office, 17050 S. Peyton Highway, Colorado Springs

HARRISON D-2

Four seats: three four- year terms, one two-year term

Deborah Hendrix, term limited

Linda Pugh, term limited

Richard Price, term limited

Eileen Gonzalez, incumbent (two-year term)

Contact: Pam Haines 538-1334. Packets: District communications office, Building G, 1060 Harrison Road, Colorado Springs

LEWIS-PALMER D-38

Two seats, four-year terms

District 1, Jeffery Ferguson, incumbent who will not run

District 3, John Magerko Jr., incumbent

Contact: Vicki Wood, 481-9546. Packets: District office, 146 Jefferson, Monument

MANITOU SPRINGS D-14

Two seats, four-year terms

Molly Stevens, president, incumbent

Gino Mendoza, vice president, incumbent

Contacat: Tim Miller, 685-2024. Packets: District office, 405 El Monte Place, Manitou Springs

MIAMI-YODER JT-60

Three seats, four-year terms

Jim Day, incumbent, term limited

Eric Pfeifer, incumbent, who will not run

Bill Hartley, term limited

Contact: Susan Devore, 478-2206, ext. 1. Packets: District business office, 420 Rush Road, Rush

PEYTON 23-JT

Three seats, four-year terms

William Nevills, term limited

JR Bond, term limited

Peter Bates, incumbent who will not run

Contact: Tracy John, 749-2330. Packets: District office 13990 Bradshaw Road, Peyton

WIDEFIELD D-3

Four seats, four-year terms

Andre Gutierrez, incumbent

Charron Schoenberger, incumbent

Theresa Watson, incumbent

Martin Kuhn, incumbent

Contact: Patricia Mason, 391-3001. Packets: District office, 1820 Main St., Widefield

WOODLAND PARK RE-2

Three seats, four-year terms

Amy Nieman, president, District D, term limited

Bill Blackburn, District E, term limited

Rick Wetzel, term limited

Contact: Kelley Havin, khavin@wpsdk12.org, 686-2012. Packets: District office: 155 Panther Way, Woodland Park

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