First school board vote in 4 years |

First school board vote in 4 years

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” For the first time since 2003, voters will have a chance to put new people on the Board of Education.

Incumbent Jason Benderly in District G is challenged by Judd Babcock, and Keith Thompson in district C is challenged by Carrie Benway.

Mary Ann Stavney’s term is ending in district D, but she will not seek reelection. Two people are vying for her seat ” Margaret Olle and Jeanne McQueeney.

Benderly, an economist by profession, says he brings an analytical voice to the school board. He’s very interested in studying how we evaluate teachers, and how we determine if they’re doing a good job.

“We need to understand what we can know, and what we can’t know, about how well the job is being done so we can gauge the quality of teachers, administrators, whole buildings and the district,” Benderly said.

TAP, despite its flaws, is very innovative, and the district should continue finding creative ways to improve the growth of every kid, Benderly said.

Babcock says the perspective of a businessman, especially a businessman with school experience, would be a good thing for the school board. He’s a real estate broker and runs his own development company. Babcock was also president of the Eagle County Charter Academy Board of Directors and has had years of experience dealing with the Eagle County school board.

One thing Babcock would like to see is more parental involvement. He said more schools should follow the lead of the Charter Academy, which requires parents to volunteer six hours a month.

“We need to get parents to sign an agreement to be a more of the part of the schools, for them to recognize the need for involvement,” Babcock said.

Olle and her family moved here from Austin, Texas, looking for more diversity, and they found it in Eagle County a little over two years ago. She says the biggest challenges for the school district are keeping teachers, communication and meeting the needs of a diverse student population.

“Raise salaries. We must do a cost of living analysis and adjust salaries as needed,” she said.

Keeping teachers will be a matter of the district improving TAP and becoming a leader in affordable housing. She said she’d like to see the board offer zero- or low-interest home loans to teachers who have been in the district three to five years.

McQueeney was a pre-school director for the school district when the program first began. She now teaches a variety of early-childhood classes at Colorado Mountain College and trains teachers for the school district’s Head Start program.

One of the biggest problems McQueeney sees in the school district is communication, she says.

She believes that the district is doing good things, but parents often don’t hear about it. Another big challenge McQueeney sees for the district is staying competitive with the private schools in the valley.

“I think parents should have choices, but I want to see them choosing public education,” McQueeney said. “We need to see what are other schools doing that other parents are choosing.”

Thompson says the voice of an educator is a needed one on the school board, and that’s what he can provide. He moved here in 1986 and became a fifth grade teacher and assistant principal at Minturn Middle School. He was principal at the school for nine years.

Thompson has been the most critical of the current board. Over the past year, the board has done a lot of good things for kids, like start building a new school for Red Canyon High School students, but has become sidetracked with personnel issues, he said.

“We’ve had a lot of turnover in the district office, I’ll leave it at that. The board has to take some blame for what has happened,” Thompson said.

Benway has two children in the dual-language program at Edwards Elementary, where she’s been volunteering every week for five years now.

A big issue for Benway is communication. She wants to see more dialogue between the school board and the community, and she sees the series of home meetings being scheduled by the district as a great start.

Benway also says work needs to be done on the Teacher Advancement Program. Making strides there will be a way to keep teachers and families in the district, she said.

“The basis of having performance-based pay is a very reasonable thing,” Benway said. “I think it needs to be more clear for the teachers how their evaluations are done, how their pay is broken up.”

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or

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