Communication key to education |

Communication key to education

Christine Ina Casillas

For the last 12 years, education has meant nearly everything for Eagle resident Mary Ann Stavney.

Stavney is running against Vern Brock for the Eagle seat – District D – on the Eagle County School Board. The winner will replace Barbara Schierkolk, the current board president, who has decided not to run for re-election.

A native of the Chicago area, Stavney arrived in Eagle County in 1995 as a teacher in the school district.

“I have strong feelings about community service and I think it’s important to participate in our community,” Stavney said. “The school district is a place where I can spend long hours and use my background for the good.

“It’s a sensible place for me to do community service,” she said. “At the same time, it’s an education for me.”

Stavney said communication is one of the most important aspects of being an educator, parent and authority figure.

“I have a little bit of perspective having taught in Eagle County classrooms, and I know the day-to-day life of teachers,” she said. “I can look at the classroom different now that I’m a parent, as well.”

Stavney left the classroom in 1999, on the last day of school, because it was the day her first son was born. Her daughter is only 14-months-old. Since then, Stavney has worked for the Literacy Project as a tutor and coordinator.

While Stavney said she’s not in a position to go back to teaching full-time, she is ready for a new challenge.

“I’m deeply involved in education,” she said. “It’s a different way for me to participate in the school system until I’m ready to go back to teaching.”

But, she said, she plans to strengthen communications between parents and teachers to get everyone more involved in schools.

“I understand how busy people’s lives are and how hard it is to get to meetings and stay in touch with the problems,” she said. “I think open communication is important and it’s a useful thing to have in the district that wasn’t really happening when I was teaching.

“The problems that I saw when I was teaching are already being addressed by the board and they are moving forward with solutions,” she added.

When Stavney heard that Schierkolk was not re-running for her seat on the school board, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I’m excited to be able to take a leadership role in the thing that matters the most to me – besides my family, of course,” she said. “I’m ready for a different kind of challenge now and hopefully it’ll be good for everyone.

“I’m interested to see where the district has gone and aims to go in the future,” she said.

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

Passion for education

By Christine Ina Casillas

Many people have a passion and for Vern Brock, it’s improving the quality of education.

Brock is running against Mary Ann Stavney for the Eagle seat – District D – on the Eagle County School Board to replace the outgoing president, Barbara Schierkolk.

Brock’s no stranger to the school system in Eagle County. He’s also not a stranger to the town of Eagle. A graduate of Eagle Valley High School, Brock works as Eagle’s town engineer.

“I want to bring back and give back to the community,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the education I received here, I wouldn’t be able to return to the valley. I attribute my education here whole-heartedly to returning here.”

Brock has three kids in the school system. One of them recently graduated and is now attending school in Boulder.

“I have good foresight on the big picture,” he said. “I’m not coming into the board with issues. The big picture isn’t my three kids, but the 3,000 kids in the district.”

Some officials at the school district said that being a board member is a difficult, time-consuming and oftentimes thankless job. Some were disappointed that so few decided to run for the open seats. At times, there has been a rush of interest from candidates, but the district also faces lulls, said Pam Holmes Boyd, spokeswoman of the Eagle County School District.

“It’s a pretty thankless job that requires a lot of hours. The people on the board are lightning rods for criticism,” Boyd said. “But if you ask any board member, they’ll tell you that it’s very rewarding.”

At the end of summer, three candidates were ready to replace Schierkolk. But after a few meetings and work sessions, candidate Mark Beagley decided to withdraw his petition.

“I think the school board has challenges today just like they did 30 years ago,” Brock said. “But it’s one of those political positions where you can see a difference, and it’s one for the future.”

Brock likens the board to a mathematical equation.

“With my background, I have a good understanding of the analytical and technical problems with the school board and the district at large,” he said. “There’s a lot more equations in its policy. Everything has become so mathematical, and we need to face it and deal with it accordingly.

“We’re in a completely different league,” he added. “It takes communication, education and listening skills – definitely listening skills – to be a good board member.”

The school district held work sessions for the incumbents recently to bring them up to speed on the district’s policies and procedures, said John Brendza, superintendent of the school district. The work session was to help the candidates understand their potential roles as board members.

“I’m not about micro-managing things,” he said. “I’d like to see things the way the other parents see them.

“I’d like to see higher test scores from our students. I’d like to see community involvement increased,” he said. “And the camaraderie between the teachers and administrators could be improved with a tighter bond.”

Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607 or at

Beagley withdraws due to time commitment

At the end of the summer, three candidates vied for the only vacant seat on the Eagle County School Board.

After a series of meetings and work sessions, the field was narrowed down two. The third candidate, Mark Beagley, decided to withdraw his petition to run for the Eagle seat now held by the board’s president, Barbara Schierkolk.

Beagley decided to withdraw from the race because of time constraints, he said. After attending the meetings, he said, he realized how many hours were required for the job.

“The timing just wasn’t right,” he said.

Beagley still has children in the school system who are pretty young and the time he would have to spend away from them wasn’t feasible, he said.

But he said the candidates who are still in the running are worthwhile candidates dedicated to making a difference in the education system.

–Christine Ina Casillas

At a glance

Meet the candidates

Candidates for the Eagle County School Board will meet with the public on the following days:

– Brush Creek Elementary School, 7 p.m., Tuesday.

– Eagle Town Hall, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Oct. 23.

– Harry’s Bump “N’ Grind, a new coffee shop in Minturn, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Oct. 24.

– Fiesta’s in Edwards, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Oct. 30.

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