CHEYENNE – Campaign season is officially underway for those interested in running for a spot on the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees this fall.
Accountability, community engagement and representation are some of the issues that arose Thursday night at a virtual question-and-answer forum hosted by the district.
The board is composed of seven at-large, volunteer seats, and three of those seats are up for grabs this November. Since the school board is a nonpartisan body, its election process does not include a primary race.
A handful of people attended the forum, though it’s not clear that all or even any are committed to running yet – some said they were there simply to find out more information. The candidate filing period does not start until Aug. 5 and ends Aug. 24. Once the filing period ends, all candidates will be invited to another forum, said LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown, who moderated the forum.
The board first answered questions about the election process and its responsibilities – which right now include a reported average of 30 hours of work a month.
At least two of the forum’s attendees have run unsuccessfully before: Nickoles Simons, a retired teacher, and Paulette Gadlin, a local veteran educator who is currently serving as a substitute teacher.
“How do you know that at the end of the year your goals have been met?” Gadlin asked the board.
Board Chair Marguerite Herman said, “The key to evaluation of our superintendent and ourselves involves setting goals and objectives. … We do a self-evaluation, and we just started that process. It’s all about setting goals and knowing where you want to go.”
Herman said that with the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the board’s goal-setting has been delayed – which segued into Gadlin’s follow-up comment.
“The reason I ask that question is because I’m involved in a lot of different civic organizations and parent organizations,” Gadlin said. “Because of what is confronting (us) next year – with COVID – it’s going to be a scary year. I know there’s going to be a lot of pressure on the board because of what I’m hearing.”
Gadlin added that she frequently hears from parents in the district who are not fully aware of the board’s responsibilities and think the board is “involved in everything.” At the same time, she said, some parents say they don’t always feel comfortable approaching the board.
“I’m hoping that the school board, whether I’m a part of it or not, will really think about how to best engage our community and make them a part of some of the decisions being made. Maybe when we put the responsibility with them, and alongside the board, they would understand and appreciate what you do.”
Sally Sato, who is a retired Cheyenne pharmacist, asked the board if it had any plans to offer courses that use a multi-cultural curriculum, especially in light of the racist and homophobic bullying that happened at McCormick Junior High in March 2019.
“If everyone understood that everyone has made significant contributions to the wealth of this country, maybe we wouldn’t be so judgmental and decide that we can bully each other,” Sato said. “I’m not a white person. So, having gone through this experience myself, it just seems like maybe if people were educated about the contribution everyone has made, it would help.”
Brown said the district does provide some classes that offer diverse perspectives, and has also implemented anti-bullying programs.
“It’s more than a school issue, it’s a community issue. For the most part, people get their morals and values from their family,” Brown said. “We try to influence that and get them to look at a broad perspective, but we don’t have total control.”