Board candidates questioned about CSAP, class size

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By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Approximately 30 people, mostly Moffat County school teachers and staff, picked the brains of the seven Moffat County School board candidates Tuesday night.
Questions for the candidates ranged from what candidates thought were appropriate class sizes, whether creationism should be taught as part of the science curriculum and whether limits should be put on how far teams should travel for athletic events.
But one question stuck in the craw of audience members.
"What is more important, a high CSAP score or a well-rounded education."
The Colorado Student Assessment Program is a statewide standardized test given to students on a yearly basis, which is later used to grade school performance based on students results.
All candidates provided the same basic response saying it is most important that students are provided with a well-rounded education, and providing this should in turn have a positive effect on test scores.
"Providing a well rounded education is more important in the long run," District 4 candidate Jeff Whilden said. "Both colleges and employers are looking for that. But we have to hold the line on the CSAP or the government will pull from the other end."
District 4 incumbent Gary Ellgen agreed with his opponent.
"If a student is well rounded I would hope they score high on the CSAP," he said.
When teachers in the audience continued to press the issue citing their concerns about being forced to "teach to the test," Ellgen continued.
"The CSAP is something we have to deal with. Teachers just need to continue spending time where time needs to be spent," he said. "If we all have a bad attitude about the CSAP the students are going to have a bad attitude also."
Whilden stressed that staff, board members and parents need to voice their concerns if they don't agree with the use of the CSAP.
"We as a district need to put pressure back the other direction onto the state," he said. "We all have a way of contacting Denver and saying we don't want to do this."
On a question concerning whether or not schools should put more emphasis on core classes and less emphasis on music, art, P.E. and technical classes, district 6 candidates differed in their responses.
Robbie Roberts said he believes the non-core classes are important for one simple reason, it keeps a wider variety of students interested in school.
"The school I was in went out of its way to put me in programs that taught me a trade, which in turn kept me in school," he said. "We need to do whatever it takes to keep kids in school."
One of Roberts' opponents Kelly Davidson, had a different opinion.
"I performed well in music, but I learned this outside of school," she said. "In school I don't think the focus needs to be on these areas as much as the core curriculum, because these things are offered plenty of places outside of school."
The third district 6 candidate, Rod Durham, had an opinion that fell between those expressed by his two opponents.
"I support a balanced education," he said. "I wouldn't want to put one ahead of the other."
District 2 candidate Cindy Sorensen also said that classes outside of the core curriculum were important.
"It is very important that children have an opportunity to express themselves and branch out to see the other opportunities they have," she said.
Her opponent, incumbent John Wellman, carried the same opinion.
"I hope we never de-emphasize music and P.E.," he said. "We need to continue to balance the pendulum."
On the question of how important technology is in the school system, both district 2 candidates also provided similar responses.
"If we ignore technology we're going to lose," Wellman said. "If a technological need presents itself, the board will have to address it."
Sorensen agreed.
"I think technology is important because it is where the future is at," she said.
In a round of closings, most candidates hit upon the fact that it is positive that every seat is contested in this year's election.
"If we keep individuals on the board like we have here it is going to be smooth sailing," Wellman said.
Rod Durham agreed.
"Everyone is here for the right reasons," he said.

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