Academy School District 20 candidates' forum

Academy School District 20 candidates from left, Heather Cloninger, Aaron Salt and Will Temby. Photo by Debbie Kelley, The Gazette

Crowding at high schools, funding, sex education, arming teachers and TABOR were among the topics up for debate Tuesday night among three candidates competing for two open seats on Academy School District 20’s board.

Will Temby, a father of five, said at a League of Women Voters forum that the $230 million bond issue voters passed in 2016, which he promoted, did “a good job of repairing and updating” school buildings.

“We’ll have to be creative and look for projections for growth,” said Temby, who lost a 2017 bid for a D-20 seat by 20 votes after a recount. “There may be a day we’ll come forward and look for another high school.”

Heather Cloninger, a mother of two who won Volunteer of the Year three times at D-20 schools and works as a Scholastic Book Fairs field representative, said she understood why a new school was not part of the 2016 bond initiative, which she also worked on.

“We decided it would make more sense to help each of the high schools have a little more space; we made it so kids could have those reduced class sizes,” she said. “As soon as we make it they fill, and there are waitlists. I’m hopeful for innovative ideas to increase that career-tech piece.”

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While boundary changes the district made this year redistributed some students, Aaron Salt, a substitute teacher who helped found D-20’s new charter school, New Summit Charter Academy, said more education choices may be one answer, as well as another bond proposal in three to five years.

“We were able to create more space with the bond, but that’s a Band-aid fix.”

In terms of funding priorities for the $250 million budget that serves nearly 27,000 D-20 students and 3,000 employees, Temby favors decisions that impact the classroom.

Teacher salaries and benefits are “a looming crisis nationally,” he said. “We’re not directing and incentivizing enough kids to become teachers.”

Salt said as “a big advocate for parental rights,” he wants to ensure tax dollars are being allocated for teachers’ salaries and classrooms.

Cloninger, who co-chairs the bond oversight committee, said she thinks the district remains underfunded from state coffers and has “done a good job” with local revenue.

All three oppose arming teachers but would consider the issue if the community called for it. All three don’t support the state’s new sex education law, calling it “state overreach” and saying the district has adequate curriculum.

Temby has raised $1,625 in contributions, the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office says, including a $1,000 donation from Glenn Strebe, who is vacating his board seat due to term limits. Salt has raised $1,854, and Cloninger has the most contributions, $3,019.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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