Five candidates vying for four Eagle County school board seats; three running unopposed | VailDaily.com

Five candidates vying for four Eagle County school board seats; three running unopposed

EAGLE — Two candidates will square off for the only contested Eagle County Schools Board of Education seat in this year's election.

Matthew Koch and Shelly Jarnot are vying to represent parts of the western end of the Eagle River Valley, from Edwards through parts of Eagle.

Jarnot, the incumbent, has served four years on the board. Koch is a former teacher who runs youth programs.

The other candidates are all running unopposed.

• Current school board president Katie Cocchiarella is running unopposed for another four-year term.

• Inga Haagenson Causey and Melisa Rewold-Thuon are both running unopposed for four-year terms.

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Candidates are elected by voters countywide but must live in the district they represent. This year's election is mail-in. Ballots are scheduled to be sent on Oct. 16.

Matthew A. Koch

Why are you running for school board? Working as a teacher, from my first day to my last day, I felt that the education system that I had entered into was in need of an honest change. I look to support and retain high-quality teachers and to hold administration personnel to the same high level of accountability that is expected of their teachers.

Please share your experience and how you think that experience will bring specific value to the school board: I am a Colorado native, raised on the Front Range and educated in Greeley, where I received my Bachelor of Science in recreation management and outdoor education. I moved to Eagle County in 2006 and in 2012 went back to college in pursuit of my teaching license. Through my first year of teaching, I also earned my Master of Education through Western State in Gunnison. For more than 10 years, I've been working either as a teacher or in the youth-programs arena in Eagle County, connecting me directly to Eagle County Schools students and families. My perspective is that we must be more student-driven and teacher-focused.

Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education, service to the community (especially to the community where you live) or other service-related experiences that are important to you: The successes and failures I have experienced as both a teacher and a youth programs coordinator have prepared me to seek a position on the Board of Education, whereby I can lend insight to the struggles that students, teachers and families face on a daily basis, both in and out of school.

Personal statement that relates to why you want to serve on the school board: When I refocused my attention from education to youth programs, I still felt a responsibility to my students and my colleagues to create positive change in our school district. I eagerly awaited my opportunity to run for the Board of Education, and I believe I am the best-suited candidate to support the needs of the teachers and students.

Michele "Shelly" Jarnot

Why are you running for school board? For the past four years, I have had the honor of serving on the Board of Education and am seeking re-election for another term. I have a passion for education and, more importantly, for the success of children. I believe the future is bright and hope to continue working to improve our schools.

Please share your experience and how you think that experience will bring specific value to the school board: I joined the board in 2013, right after our former superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass. The board and administration spent my first year working hard to create a strategic plan to set the course for the future of our district. The plan allows us to stay focused on what is most important and move toward reaching our long-term goals. We are also seeing exciting changes at our schools as a result of the passing of the bond and mill levy. I have been involved since the planning stages and hope to see these projects through to completion.

Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education, service to the community (especially to the community where you live) or other service-related experiences that are important to you: I am the mother of three students, two in high school and one in middle school. My involvement in our schools includes classroom volunteer, Edwards Elementary School PTA, Wild West Day volunteer, superintendent interview committee, Berry Creek Middle School PTA secretary, Berry Creek school accountability, AVID tutor, gifted and talented advisory committee, Battle Mountain High School school accountability and six years on district accountability. I am also an Education Foundation of Eagle County trustee and Walking Mountains Science Center board member.

Personal statement that relates to why you want to serve on the school board: Over the next year, our board will take on the important work of selecting the next superintendent to guide our district. With the innovative and positive direction of our district, I am confident that we will have many excellent candidates and look forward to the opportunity to participate in that process.

Kate Cocchiarella

Why run for school board? Continuity of leadership. Eagle County Schools is experiencing transition in the superintendent position; I feel it is important that there is stability and longevity at the board level.

Please share your experience and how you think that experience will bring specific value to the school board: I have served 7 ½ years on the Eagle County Schools Board of Education and as president since November 2015. I continue to find the work fascinating and valuable. I have developed institutional knowledge and an understanding of policy governance during my many years of service to Eagle County Schools. Our strategic plan work makes me proud and optimistic that we are on the right track.

Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education, service to the community (especially to the community where you live) or other service-related experiences that are important to you: Prior to serving on the Board of Education, I was a member of district accountability and PTA. I have been an involved and engaged parent for 23 years, the most recent 17 years as a parent of an Eagle County Schools student. I coached both my son and daughter's youth soccer teams during their elementary years.

Personal statement that relates to why you want to serve on the school board: Term limits prevent any board member from becoming too entrenched, but longevity is valuable. Even someone who is knowledgeable about the district when they join the board needs time to develop understanding of the complexities of board work. Experience counts.

Inga Haagenson Causey

Why run for school board? Education is the foundation of a healthy community. It provides a road map for our future leaders and is the foundation of our generation. Because of this, I want to be intimately involved in the decisions that shape our schools. I have three kids who have attended both private and public schools in Eagle County, and our decisions do make a difference.

Please share your experience and how you think that experience will bring specific value to the school board: As a mother of three Eagle County students in the Eagle County school system for 13 years, I bring practical knowledge to the board — a common-sense understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the school system itself — from the perspective of the parent and student. As a volunteer for more than a decade, I have been actively involved in nonprofits, my children's schools, chairing fundraisers, serving on boards to make decisions for these schools and participating, oftentimes daily, for the good of the school. As an attorney, I have substantial experience helping to create policy, drafting and reviewing contracts, mediating disputes, interpreting law, advising businesses, resolving employment disputes and essentially assisting parties to reach resolution.

Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education, service to the community (especially to the community where you live) or other service-related experiences that are important to you: I have substantial volunteer experience. I have chaired numerous fundraising events for my children's schools; served on school boards; volunteered for nonprofits and served on their boards; provided free legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; started the Community Trust Project, which seeks to provide bipartisan support for a resolution protecting both documented and undocumented members of our community, and much more.

Personal statement that relates to why you want to serve on the school board: I truly believe that I cannot change or shape my own community unless I become involved in the decision-making process myself. I am a doer. I am a problem solver. I am a change maker. I hope to put these skills to use on our school board.

Melisa Rewold-Thuon

Why run for school board? I am running because we have a very good school district that is positioned to become even better. I would like the opportunity to help select and work with our superintendent to ensure we challenge, engage and prepare all children for career and college readiness and success in academics and life.

Please share your experience and how you think that experience will bring specific value to the school board: I have been a classroom, English as a second language and reading teacher; an English language acquisition district coordinator; and school principal of Avon Elementary School. My experience in multiple school districts gives me a practitioner's perspective to board issues. I have also served as president of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education. I will advocate for our diverse learners and will encourage the opportunities for all children to learn languages and understand diverse cultures. Lastly, as current executive director of YouthPower365, an educational nonprofit, I am actively involved with all Eagle County Schools and have the opportunity to visit the schools frequently.

Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education, service to the community (especially to the community where you live) or other service-related experiences that are important to you: I've been president of the PTA, a committee chair for Wild West Day for 18 years, served on the state's Leadership in Action Committee, and I am on the steering committee for InteGreat!, which is collaborating among local organizations to effectively support health and learning for all children.

Personal statement that relates to why you want to serve on the school board: I would be honored to serve our community as the school board director for District F. I am bilingual and have strong relationships with a diverse socioeconomic range of Eagle County families, allowing me to be approachable and relatable to a majority of our student body and their parents.

School board election

• District G: Matthew A. Koch versus Michele “Shelly” Jarnot for four-year term

• District B: Kate Cocchiarella (four-year term)

• District E: Inga Haagenson Causey (four-year term)

• District F: Melisa Rewold-Thuon (four-year term)

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