Vail Daily editorial: Mixed voices for school board
The Vail Valley portion of Eagle County has seen its most contentious school board race in recent memory this fall, with nine people running for four available seats. That competition has been intensified with a debate over the fate, and potential influence, of the Eagle County Charter Academy.
This year’s race was quickly roiled by people who are convinced that supporters of the Charter Academy — one of two charter schools in the valley and the one associated with the Eagle County Schools — were working to elect a majority to the board and fire district Superintendent Jason Glass. That way, the conspiracy theorists said, the charter academy could continue to violate its charter, the legal contract that requires the school’s student population to reflect the demographic makeup of the district. Simple math would seem to argue against the theory, with only three candidates associated with the Charter Academy running.
Then there’s the slate of “teachers’ choice” candidates endorsed by local businessman Russell Molina — “Three K’s and a Battle.” Other conspiracy theorists believe that slate might harm the Charter Academy.
It’s too bad that one school of fewer than 400 students is having such an outsized influence over this election, but that’s where we are. The good news is that every member of this group of candidates is truly dedicated to better schools for our kids. And in reality, there isn’t a huge difference in policy ideas among the nine candidates.
There’s a need for director districts — no one wants one part of the school district to have an outsized influence on policy. Unfortunately, that means voters can’t pick the very best candidates out of this group.
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That’s the case in Director District D, the Eagle area, where incumbent Felicia Battle is being challenged by Robert Ticer. Both are good candidates, and the district would be well served having both on the school board.
In this case, though, Ticer seems to be the better candidate. He has drive, a remarkable educational background and an analytical mind. This election season a lot of people have talked about diversity and opening up the valley’s public institutions to more members of our Latino community. As Avon’s police chief, Ticer has done just that, from hosting basketball nights at the town’s elementary school to creating a successful citizen’s police academy for Avon’s Latino community.
If our school district is going to give more than lip service to diversity, having Ticer’s voice and experience on the school board is a must.
We’re going to recommend against another incumbent, from District E, the Gypsum area, where Carrie Larson is running against Robinette Hoppin and Kevin Kottenstette. Larson and Hoppin would do fine jobs, but we’re recommending Kottenstette for this seat for a couple of reasons.
First, he’s the only candidate who has spent an entire career as a teacher, nearly all of it in this school district. Kottenstette is plain-spoken and has a better idea than anyone else about just what goes on day in and day out in our classrooms.
That’s a critical perspective and one that will help the seven-member board make better decisions when it comes time to spend money, or withhold it, from local classrooms.
The only incumbent we’re endorsing this year is in District A, Vail, Eagle-Vail Minturn and Red Cliff, where Tessa Kirchner is being challenged by Ryan Geller.
Either candidate would serve the board well. In this case, Kirchner would help lend stability to a board with new faces. She understands what the district’s goals are and has some firm ideas about how to achieve those goals.
In District C, the Edwards area, we believe Mary Cotton has an edge over Carolyn Knox Keep. Yes, Cotton is a Charter Academy parent, indeed, president of the academy’s board. She also has a strong grasp of the district as a whole, as well as a good perspective about the way the charter school fits in with the district’s other plans.
We don’t expect the wrangling over the Charter Academy’s legal obligations to end with this election. But putting Ticer, Kottenstette, Cotton and Kirchner on the board will help the district move forward over the next few years, including perhaps putting more focus on diversity among all the schools.