School board candidate Juan Peña in his own words
Candidate wants to continue giving back to education and ensure implementation of equity goals
The Vail Daily is running Q&A’s with the 11 candidates running for five seats on the Eagle County Schools’ Board of Education. The questionnaires will run in the order that the candidates appear on the ballot. All school directors are voted on at large in the county election, meaning eligible electors of the school district vote for one candidate from each director district. Ballots will be mailed out Oct. 8.
Name: Juan Peña
Occupation: Senior fleet manager for Beaver Creek
Place of residence: Gypsum
Length of residence in Eagle County: 48 years
Director District: District E (Gypsum Elementary, Red Hill Elementary, Gypsum Creek Middle School and Eagle Valley High School)
Have you served on any other boards/commissions/councils in Eagle County or otherwise?
I have been a trustee with Education Foundation of Eagle County for six years helping out with Wild West Day, Project Funway and Evening of the Stars. I am also on the Epic Promise community team for Vail Resorts.
Tell us about your volunteer experiences, involvement in education and service to the community that you live. How will these experiences enable you to bring value to the board? I am passionate about volunteering, particularly in our schools. I have been volunteering with the schools since my girls were in kindergarten.
I have served as PTO president at both Red Hill Elementary and Gypsum Creek Middle School. In fact, I was recognized at Red Hill Elementary as Volunteer of the Year for a variety of activities, from reading to the kids for Read Across America Day to interviewing kids for Young AmeriTowne.
I also volunteered my time to help run the after-school program and taught a photography class at Red Hill Elementary. I have even had the chance to get into character during the Middle School Civil War Re-Enactment.
Through my work with Epic Promise, I have been able to serve my larger community with other projects, such as Epic Promise Day and Epic Mountain Express’ Fill the Van food drive.
What has been your interaction so far with Eagle County School district? My deepest connection has always been more with the students, teachers and staff within the district. Our teachers deserve our support, so that all of their efforts to continue to thrive come to fruition.
What is the value that you will bring to the school board?
As a product of the Eagle County school system (Battle Mountain High School Class of 1991), I believe my best value would be to bring my passion to do right by what is necessary for the health and safety of our children. I also will serve others including our teachers, counselors and administration and contribute to equity and inclusivity for all students.
Why do you want to serve on the school board? Dr. Olsen, the former Red Hill Elementary principal, once wrote a letter of recommendation for me. In that letter, he called me the “Mythical Unicorn.” The reason for this, he stated, was because I am a male Hispanic who was involved in the education of our students. I took pride in that and will continue to stay involved with the education and decisions regarding our children as a way to pay it forward and again, ensure that the equity programs the district’s strategic plan thoughtfully put into place are carried out.
What has the current school board done well? And what could it have done better? The board’s thoughtful decision to follow public health guidance to keep the kids in school and engaging in extracurricular activities last year was a tremendous effort that put our school district above so many others throughout the state.
We continue to tackle COVID-19 challenges and can’t let our foot off the gas. Continuing to execute on the strategic plan elements must also be prioritized, with a focus on academic excellence for all. While we all can improve, I really am so grateful as a parent the extraordinary efforts this board carried out over the past year and a half.
If elected, what’s the main thing you’d like to see the school board accomplish throughout your term? I would like to continue to safely keep our kids in school (and focus) on helping provide the best education, allowing them to be successful after high school by focusing on teacher retention and mental health and awareness.
Over the past few years, Eagle County Schools has prioritized equity practices in its classrooms. Do you feel that the district is equally serving the needs of all students? What could it do better to address any achievement gaps between students? Yes, through volunteering you can see that a classroom of kids is a lot of work. These teachers take complete ownership of their students and care very dearly for them. This is why retention is very important in our little community and the relationships teachers have with their students.
What advancements can be made to address staffing challenges within the school district? Continue to support teachers and classified staff, as well as continue to explore options to secure funding for wage increases.
What specific improvements would you like to see made in the area of student learning/curriculum? Alongside with the Education Foundation of Eagle County and district administration, we must help fix flawed funding in Colorado. This would be beneficial to the teachers, and the result would better our children’s learning and curriculum.