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School board race: Battle of education analysts

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Open communication and the controversial way we pay teachers are some of the big problems on the minds of school board candidates running for election.

There will be three races for spots on the Board of Education this November, marking the first school district election since 2003.

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 will are vying for her seat ” Margaret Olle and Jeanne McQueeney.

Terms will expire for board members Connie Kincaid-Strahan for district A, and recent appointee Brian Nolan for district F. They are running unopposed and won’t appear on the ballot. Terms for Board president Scott Green and Andy Arnold in district B won’t end until 2009.

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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



Here’s a look at the candidates in the District G race:

The perspective of a businessman, especially a businessman with school experience, would be a good thing for the school board, Babcock says.

Babcock is a real estate broker with Gateway Land Development, and he runs his own business as well, Babcock 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, he said. Babcock was also a director at Vail Christian High School.



“When you have a business background, you can look at numbers and budgets and analyze if there are problems with the budget and money for the future,” Babcock said. “My real estate background has always been helpful in locating properties for school buildings and realizing the nature of real estate in the valley.”

Babcock moved here 16 years ago from Vermont. He was impressed with the skiing, and he was impressed with the schools. He has three daughters” one was college age when he moved here, but the other two went to Eagle County Charter Academy.

Babcock said there’s lots of parental involvement at the Charter Academy, and he would like to see more parental involvement in all schools. One way to do that is to mandate it in some way.

“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.

The other big challenges for the school district will be finding a new superintendent and reworking the Teacher Advancement Program, he said.

“There’s some good points to TAP, but there are a lot of problems, and those problems have to be discussed and analyzed,” Babcock said.

Benderly moved here in 1990 with his wife and son because they loved the people, and of course, the slopes. He grew up skiing in Vermont, convinced it was the best in the world, until he started coming to Vail.

“I said, ‘You can’t beat Vermont skiing,’ and she said, ‘Yes you can,'” Benderly said.

Benderly’s day job is operating Benderly Economics, which specializes in statistical analysis of the economy for all sorts of financial groups, and his input helps them make big decisions.

How he describes his work ” careful analysis of complex relationships” is similar to how he describes his job on 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.

That process of testing and evaluation is at the heart of the Teacher Advancement Program. Benderly said there are good teachers and bad teachers, and it’s important to find the best way to determine who’s effective. And at the same time, TAP needs to be flexible and made more transparent and understandable, he said.

“I do believe it’s a very difficult issue, but the fact that it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s not possible, the fact that it’s difficult doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried,” Benderly said.

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

“Education is the most important issue for the long-run well being of the community, and for the well being of individual people,” Benderly said.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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