GREEN RIVER — Candidates for the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees gathered Wednesday to discuss their views and help inform voters. Participants included incumbent John Malone, incumbent Robin Steiss, Daniel Stanton, Ashley Castillon, Rachelle Morris and Elonna Owens. Don Adams and David Munoz are running but did not attend the forum.
COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPARENCY
All of those who chose to run for a seat on the board said they have children in school or have substantial ties to the education in Sweetwater No. 2.
Stanton, who said he had ample experience on boards, explained it might be difficult for residents to understand the inner workings of a board. He said if members come prepared, they don’t often feel the need to discuss their decisions, but more discussion is needed to educate the public.
Owens and Morris were adamant that the district and the community need more communication. Morris said she believes attending school board meetings isn’t always as informative as it should be.
There was total agreement on the delicate balance between transparency and the need to protect students and personnel from revealing potentially damaging information.
Incumbents Malone and Steiss said they believe the board has done its job by adhering to state laws regarding transparency. They added all information that can legally and ethically be shared with the public is accessible to anyone who wishes to see it.
The incumbents in the forum stated the relationship between teachers and administrators is healthy and has improved in the last year. Malone is of the opinion that administrators need to focus on their duties running the building just as much as they need to be involved in the curriculum.
Owens stated administrators are too often stuck in meetings or doing paperwork, but engaging with teachers in the classroom is more important. Castillon and Stanton took a different tone and said they believe building administrators do well balancing administration work and classroom engagement.
Morris said that the trust teachers have in their administrators has been broken, and many fear going to them with concerns for fear of retaliation.
CHALLENGES AND BUDGETS
Many candidates echoed the challenge of balancing the budget and funding cuts with continuing to improve the quality of education. Castillon and Malone said the district faces the challenge of retaining and recruiting good teachers.
Experience with budgets is a common factor each candidate have. Stanton noted he understands that with a budget as large and complex as the district’s, it will be impossible to review it line by line, but he knows the overall trends and changes are crucial to being a trustee.
One thing all the candidates agreed on was that the well-being of the students will be the No. 1 factor they consider when making decisions.
Steiss and Castillon made a point of including students and staff in that top priority. Owens answered that she would do what is best for her own children and would get community input before making decisions.