Ashby, Brittany Election MUG

CHEYENNE – Brittany Ashby has announced her candidacy for a seat on the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees.

Ashby, vice president of the local consulting firm Align, is running against six other candidates who are all vying for three open seats on the seven-member at-large board. Ashby was previously appointed to the board in 2017, but narrowly lost her bid for election to Trustee Rose Ann Rinne.

“Education is a big deal in my world, and always has been, especially in the context of community development,” said Ashby, who is president of the board of directors for United Way of Laramie County and a founding leader of the organization’s community schools initiative.

“I think we all want to live in communities that are vibrant and thriving. Public education is a vital component to (giving us) the workforce we need and businesses that are growing and thriving,” she said. “In order to have a viable public education system, you have to have leaders that are willing to step up and help make decision and help understand the issues.”

The looming state budget crisis – partly caused by the decline in state mineral revenue – is one of the biggest issues facing all of Wyoming’s schools. Last month, Gov. Mark Gordon told districts to start thinking about how they could make substantial cuts to their budgets.

Ashby said if she’s elected, navigating budget shortfalls will be one of her top priorities.

“I think there needs to be a conversation with the public before we make cuts, and I think that’s one of the places the district has fallen down, both on the board and on the administrative level,” she said. “There’s some belief that if we just cut back on administrators or some activities that we’ll be good. That’s just not true. ... It’s time to really lay it out and ask people what they are OK with cutting.”

In addition to the state budget conversation, school board members have also heard vocal calls to diversify teaching staffs and address a culture of discrimination, which the 2019 incident at McCormick Junior High School – where a student posted racist and homophobic flyers on campus – spotlighted as a problem.

“From a national level, it’s pretty obvious that we need to pay closer attention to offering an equitable education for all students,” Ashby said. “I know there has been concern that we’re not doing that on the south side, in particular. … (The district) started some diversity initiatives at the district level, but I don’t think we’re where we need to be.”

She said she initially had concerns about a policy proposal – now under public review – that would convert three of the board’s seven at-large seats to residence area seats, with the idea that it allow for more diverse representation on the board.

“I hear them. I heard that the people don’t feel like they have a voice and that this would be a good way to correct that,” Ashby said. “If we do go that way, I do have a concern that it could be pitting triads against each other, and I want to make sure we’re aware of that possibility.”

As for the COVID-19 pandemic, which has dramatically restructured the delivery of instruction across the district, Ashby said she would focus on staying up-to-date with the guidance from federal, state and local health experts.

“I think those evolve and change, and I think as school leaders we need to make sure we’re adhering to what the most recent research says,” said Ashby, referring to the use of masks and social distancing as measures that should be reevaluated on a regular basis.

“As it stands right now, the research I can find right now still says masks are helpful,” said Ashby, who added that she’d be open to exploring making the Cheyenne Virtual School, which opened this year, a permanent fixture in the district, even after the pandemic ends.

To find out more about Ashby’s campaign, visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BAforLCSD1.

Kathryn Palmer is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached at kpalmer@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter at @kathrynbpalmer.

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