Article in The Daily Sentinel
Save Our Students endorses choices for school board
By Emily Shockley
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Campaign season is in full swing for a local group of 300-plus parents, teachers and community members.
Save Our Students, a group formed nearly two years ago by adults concerned about budget cuts and other issues in School District 51, has in the past weighed in on potential budget reductions and safety measures in the district.
This July, members endorsed John Williams to fill the vacancy left by Harry Butler’s death in June. Williams was appointed to the seat.
After interviews with every candidate for the school board this fall — except Lonnie White in District C — the group has endorsed Williams again in District C, Tom Parrish in District D and current board President Greg Mikolai in District E.
Mesa County Republican Women endorsed the opponents in each race last month: Pat Kanda in District C, Mike Lowenstein in District D and John Sluder in District E. Republican Women President Linda Gregory said in September that the group endorsed Kanda, Lowenstein and Sluder after interviewing the trio, but not their opponents, and deciding the selected candidates supported the group’s conservative values.
Save Our Students board member Rob Pierce said the citizen group asked all six candidates it interviewed the same questions and picked Mikolai, Parrish and Williams for their experience in the school district. Pierce cited Mikolai’s four-year tenure on the school board; Williams’ experience as chairman for the Explore D51 class, long-range planning committee and 500 Plan tutoring program; and Parrish’s experience in numerous positions within the district before he retired from the district in 2008 and began teaching college.
“They will be able to hit the ground running, and none of them are bringing a political agenda,” Pierce said.
SOS member Jessica Mulvey said the group also picked candidates based on their knowledge of the district and the programs that are working in District 51.
Mulvey said her children are thriving in the district and the group wants to promote incremental progress.
“It’s important for candidates to have a thorough understanding of strengths and difficulties in the district,” she said.
Save Our Students members said they wanted to focus on positive attributes of the candidates they endorsed rather than negative aspects of other candidates, but some had concerns.
SOS member Melinda Leon said one candidate wanted to change math curriculum “based on his interaction with one student,” and one thought the job of a school board member might entail providing direction to principals on a regular basis.
“One said he would raise local funds and reject federal funding, but he didn’t know how to raise local money. It’s nice to have abstract thoughts, but kids need actual funding,” Leon said.
Save Our Students members have asked fellow members to help spread the word about their chosen candidates by going door-to-door with fliers provided by Mikolai, Parrish and Williams.
The group will attach a small paper print-out about their goals and why they endorsed these candidates, according to member Amy Agapito.
The group sponsored a fundraiser for its candidates Sept. 29 but all checks were written to the candidates, not the group. It does not raise or spend money and is non-partisan, according to Pierce.
“We’re seeing the level of divisiveness in D.C. right now with the shutdown. Do we want to bring that to the school board?” he said.