A handful of area school districts, including Harrison District 2 and Cheyenne Mountain District 12, have canceled November board elections due to lack of candidates. But in Colorado Springs School District 11, nine people, most of them preaching the need for outreach, are vying for four positions.
The board is losing board president Tom Strand and Charles Bobbitt, but two other incumbents are seeking re-election. Those incumbents, Janet Tanner and Bob Null, probably have the most recognizable names, though recently retired D-11 spokeswoman Elaine Naleski would come in close behind.
Null, who says he is running again to address "the achievement gap," wants to reach out — to attract conservatives to the board. Often, he says, he finds himself on the losing end of 4-3 votes. "It comes down to, even though it is not partisan, some of us are more conservative and some are more liberal, and I am hoping that we get more conservatives."
That idea doesn't sit particularly well with Tanner.
"I'd like to have a 7-0 vote on everything," she says, "but that's not realistic."
Tanner, who has served five years, is seeking re-election, she says, to help solve challenges facing the district. At the top of the list is declining state funding.
"I want to make sure that we don't want to go crazy with these budget cuts," she says. "I want to make sure that when we do make decisions, that they are decisions that the community can understand."
Jim Mason, who spent 30 years in the Army, comes to the campaign after four years on D-11's budget subcommittee, the past two years as chairman. The committee, he says, works with the chief financial officer to analyze if the budget will assist in student achievement.
"I tease sometimes," he says, "that I know more about the [district] budget than I do my own personal budget."
Other candidates include Kathleen Foster, a second-generation educator who has worked in education since 1979. She spent years as a D-11 classroom teacher, and currently is substitute teaching in districts 11 and 20.
To her, serving on the board would just further her "service to my school district and community, just at a different level."
Larry Winter, a 21-year veteran of the Army, feels similarly. He has a grandson in D-11, and says running "will get me involved." He adds that while collecting the 50 signatures needed to get on the ballot, he was surprised by some constituents' lack of interest.
That ennui is something Naleski wants to address via community outreach: "By the community, I don't just mean the parents," she says. "I mean the Colorado Springs community as a whole." She wants the district to establish a liaison program to connect with the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, City Council and El Paso County commissioners.
Judith Walton retired a year ago from the district after 20 years as a counselor.
"I am interested in how the district will proceed, given the challenges," she says. "I'd like to see us progress, but that is going to be a challenge for us with the state funding issues."
Lisanne McNew graduated from D-11 and is currently director of placement at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
"I see the students coming straight from K-12, and they are having a hard time writing a basic paper," she says, "and that's why I wanted to get involved."
The Indy could not reach Nora Brown by press time.
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