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Mesa County School District 51 Candidates, District D

The Mesa County School District 51 Board of Education is comprised of five members, each of whom is elected to four-year terms by voters within School District 51's boundaries. The Board members establish philosophy, policy and guidelines to ensure equal educational opportunities for all District 51 students.
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    Thomas Parrish (N) LPE Field Supervisor College of Adult and Graduate Studies Colorado Christian University

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    Dusti Reimer (N) Self-Employed

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New businesses say they do not want to move to Grand Junction because of our below average reading and math scores and the aging conditions of many of our schools. What is your plan to address the quality of education in Mesa County and to provide favorable learning environments for our students?

Given the recent suicides in School District 51 and the known incidents of bullying, including discrimination based on ethnicity, beliefs, and physical differences, what are your plans to change the environment of our schools so all students feel safe, accepted, supported, and valued?

How will you ensure that the individualized needs of all students are addressed in our schools, including students with special learning needs?

Research has shown that the quality of teaching makes the most significant difference in a child’s achievement. We must look at all of our district’s positions, programs and resources and make sure that they have a direct connection to the classroom, teacher and student.

With our district’s performance-based learning model, teachers are empowered to meet each student’s specific learning needs. A move from the old assembly-line model of education toward a dynamic student-centered learning model. A model which values communication, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, and entrepreneurship. These life skills are necessary and important to the success of our students as they enter the workforce or higher education.

The aging condition of our school facilities will be an area of focus into the future. A comprehensive site and facility plan needs to be developed and implemented with community input and support.

Every employee of the school district needs to recognize the importance of the safety and well-being of every student. We need to work with each of our schools to combat the reality that many of our students see school as impersonal. A place where they can easily become lost and disengaged from school and their peers. The power and impact of a caring relationship between an adult and student will create an environment where each child will feel safe. It will also foster a level of trust where a student can share issues of bullying or seek help for a peer considering suicide.

It is important the school district works collaboratively with community groups and agencies to leverage community expertise and resources to address the issues of bullying and suicide in our schools and community. We have seen a willingness on the part of staff, students and community members to cooperatively work together to keep our students safe.

I will work directly with other board members to insure the implementation of our performance based learning (PBL) model district wide. An integral part of our model is the on-going and regular monitoring of individual student learning needs. It is essential that we regularly monitor the implementation of our PBL model and its impact on meeting the learning needs of each of our students. Our district has to ensure that all staff are supported during and after implementation. We also need to see staff have the necessary resources, skills and knowledge to successfully implement PBL. Currently teachers are developing classroom and level assessments that will allow each teacher to monitor individual student growth. These assessment results will guide and inform each teacher on how to better meet the learning needs of each student. An additional layer of support for students with special needs will involve the on-going monitoring of student individual educational plans.
We as a community must make a commitment to take care of the infrastructure of our school system. Regardless of the decisions of the past that have led to the current state of the system, we need to step up and address these needs, which is why I’m reluctantly supporting the bond measure. I’m reluctant because I think we could have done a better job prioritizing the projects proposed for funding. Currently, I do not support the mill levy override. There are a host of actions needed to begin rebuilding trust between the district and the voters such as getting the calendar sorted out and making tough personnel decision. My focus on the board will be to build sound budgets, support sensible policies for parents and kids, and be a good steward of the public’s money. Once we have rebuilt trust by enacting common sense solutions, I think the community will gladly support additional money for the district.
Suicide in our valley is a real and heavy issue, and has impacted all of us. This is an issue for our whole community—neighborhoods, non-profits, churches, families—to come together and model acceptance, love, and respect for one another’s differences. But it starts with awareness. If we know of someone who might be having thoughts of harming themselves, we have to be willing to ask the hard question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” This simple question can save a life, followed by a referral to the right resources. Let’s make those resources so widely accessible in a way our students will use: Texting “HELP” to a suicide hotline, establishing trust with teachers, enforcing no tolerance to bullying, teaching the negative impacts of social media time correlates directly unhappiness, which directly result in higher suicide rates. We need to equip our students, our teachers, our administration, our parents with tools. I don’t believe this is just an issue for the school board.
My observation of performance-based learning is when implemented correctly it may meet the needs of every student in each classroom, including special needs students. We need to make sure that we have great leadership at each school to ensure that teachers are supported to carry out this strategy. This requires that principals are empowered and accountable. Parents need to be brought along with this new approach so they are partnering with teachers and allowing students to go at their own pace. While we know teacher compensation needs to be better across the board, we also know compensation is not the sole factor in attracting and retaining high performing teachers in hard-to-staff positions. Teachers’ perceptions of their school administrators are the most important factor affecting whether they stay at a school. With strong, new leadership in our school district, I will help empower teachers who feel confident in their leadership and direction, to create a strong learning environment

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