Five school board candidates — three newcomers and two incumbents — fielded questions from a crowd of about 120 at an Oct. 3 forum hosted by the Lewis-Palmer School District 38 and the League of Women Voters at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument.
Topics included ongoing trust issues between the board and the community, a $28.985 million bond measure for school construction and school security.
There are three school board seats up for grabs in the November election.
Incumbent Theresa Phillips, the board’s current secretary, is running unopposed for a four-year term in Director District 2. Phillips, a former biology teacher, was appointed to the board in May 2018 after Sarah Sampayo resigned her position.
Two candidates are up for a seat being vacated by Director District 4 representative Mark Pfoff: Ryan Graham, a retired firefighter; and retired businessman Ron Schwarz.
In Director District 5, Adam Cupp, a 15-year Monument resident who works as an engineer, opposes current Board President Matthew Clawson.
When asked about the biggest issue facing the board, Cupp said lack of trust. Graham agreed, saying this is the reason both the 2013 mill levy override and 2018’s bond question failed. “Without question, there is a fractured trust in this community,” Graham said.
Clawson said, “I agree, trust is an issue,” but went on to declare the board’s budget has received clean audits, and believes the financial reporting is clearer and more concise than before.
Phillips said overcapacity at Lewis-Palmer Middle School is the most important issue.
D38 is asking voters via ballot question to approve a bond to build a new elementary school in Jackson Creek. In 2017, then Creekside Middle School was converted to Bear Creek Elementary. Now seventh- and eighth-grade classes are over program capacity, said Phillips. The bond will support construction of a new school so that Bear Creek can be converted back to a middle school.
If the bond doesn’t pass, Phillips said “absolutely, 100%,” she would support a new school. Cupp said after analyzing the district’s numbers with regard to the bond’s associated interest, he doesn’t support it. Graham is also against the bond, and wondered why the district is allowing a defunct elementary school, Grace Best, to be used for homeschoolers and other groups, but is not being considered to solve the overcrowding problem.
Schwarz said the middle school’s overcapacity is causing problems and he doesn’t “think it’s very fair that children suffer because adults can’t come to an agreement.”
All of the candidates agreed that school safety and security are paramount. Cupp said “security is non-negotiable” and several candidates suggested asking police and fire to help identify areas where security is lacking. Clawson said the district has done a lot to protect students and staff including installing safety cameras, and is in favor of arming teachers who are competent in firearms use.
The school district covers much of northern El Paso county, stopping just short of Black Forest to the East and extends south to Baptist Road.
To learn more about the candidates, go to lewispalmer.org.