Two candidates dedicated to public education |

Two candidates dedicated to public education

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.

Participate in The Longevity Project

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 D race:

McQueeney moved here to ski, but made a career out of kids.

She 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.

“I really think that the district does some good stuff, but we don’t hear about it,” McQueeney said.

However, McQueeney has been encouraged by the series of home meetings the school district is scheduling to talk with parents.

McQueeney also works with a nonprofit called Early Childhood Partners. She would like to see the school district work more closely with area youth groups.

“The school district has so much it needs to do, but it gets disconnected with the other groups that work with youth,” McQueeney said.

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.”

She’s married to Harry McQueeney, a teacher at Red Sandstone Elementary. When the mountains open up, you can expect to find her family skiing every weekend.

They’re also attracted to ambitious and physically demanding vacations. Last year, she and her husband rode their bicycles from San Diego to Virginia beach with another family. The kids rode along in an RV.

“It was 100 miles a day” we rode the whole thing,” McQueeney 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.

“I didn’t like the feeling of entitlement people around us had, so we looked for a place that was a little more mixed race,” Olle said. “That’s real important to us, not living in an all-white, all-wealthy, all-homogenous community.”

Olle is married and has six children ” three boys, and three girls adopted from Russia. That basically makes her a full-time mother, one who volunteers at school a lot. You can find her in Edwards Elementary every Tuesday working in the library.

Olle said the school board can impact this community more than any other position, and that’s why she wants the job.

“It’s the greatest tool that we have to reduce poverty and the social inequities we have in our society ” public education is the one great equalizer ,” Olle said.

She says the biggest challenges for the school district are keeping teachers, communication and meeting the needs of a diverse student population.

Olle said a big part of keeping teachers in the valley will be reworking the Teacher Advancement Program, especially the controversial way teachers are compensated based on performance. She sees the steering committee recently created by the district as a great start in solving problems.

She’d also like to see the school board improve communication and seek out more public input before making decisions. She wants to see the school board out in the community more.

She also sees the need for reaching out to those students learning English while still meeting the needs of all other students. She’d like to see more lessons that are customized for every student.

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

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