Debbie Belleville, center, a candidate for the Moffat County School Board District 3 position, speaks at a candidate forum Tuesday at the Moffat County High School auditorium as fellow candidate J.B. Chapman, left, and incumbent Tony St. John look on. School board hopefuls answered questions about a variety of topics ranging from school finance to student achievement.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Debbie Belleville, center, a candidate for the Moffat County School Board District 3 position, speaks at a candidate forum Tuesday at the Moffat County High School auditorium as fellow candidate J.B. Chapman, left, and incumbent Tony St. John look on. School board hopefuls answered questions about a variety of topics ranging from school finance to student achievement.

School board candidates talk finances, student achievement at forum in Craig

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Ken Wergin, a candidate for District 5 on the Moffat County School Board, addresses the audience during a candidate forum Tuesday at Moffat County High School. Sherry St. Louis, also a District 5 contender, did not attend the forum.

At a glance …

• Moffat County School Board candidates participate in a forum Tuesday at Moffat County High School.

• The Moffat County Education Association hosted the event.

• School finance, student achievement and student readiness for the workplace were primary themes.

Who’s most responsible for student achievement: teachers and parents, or students?

How does a school district continue to pay for important programs when funding is tight?

Moffat County School Board candidates grappled with these questions during a forum Tuesday at the Moffat County High School auditorium.

“I think that our education system is more of a dual responsibility, and I’m not seeing that the responsibility is shifting fairly … to the students,” said Debbie Belleville, a candidate for the school board District 3 seat. Education requires effort from multiple parties, “and we’re leaving out the students,” she added.

Belleville is running against Tony St. John, the sole incumbent.

J.B. Chapman and Ken Wergin, who are running for Districts 1 and 5, respectively, rounded out Tuesday’s forum.

Sherry St. Louis, also a District 5 candidate, was absent.

At the forum, which was hosted by the Moffat County Education Association, all candidates agreed expectations for students should be higher.

“We also need to focus on … how can we raise the bar for that next generation coming up so that they understand that we’re behind them and we’ll meet them where they’re at but we have great expectations for their future,” Chapman said.

St. John also pointed to the district’s scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program as a need for improvement.

“In the four years that I’ve been on the board, we’ve been below 50 percent,” he said. “I want to be above 50 percent, and I think our kids want to be above 50 percent, just like when we go out to (a) football game and play. We want to win.”

Student readiness for the workplace was another consistent theme throughout the forum.

Belleville, a small business owner, said students she’s encountered are lacking basic skills they need on the job. She suggested schools use simulated offices or business places “where (students) can go and work and actually do the pieces that will fit them into the community.”

Candidates also offered their views on school funding, specifically whether they would dip into the district’s general fund reserve.

Wergin’s answer was no.

“We are having a tough time now, but we need to hold those reserves a little bit longer,” he said.

Candidates also were asked if they would consider foregoing a balanced budget during dire financial straights.

“I really firmly believe that we have to live within our means,” St. John said. “We do in our home, our lives.”

In the last topic of the night, school board hopefuls also weighed in on Colorado Senate Bill 10-191, also know as the “Educator Effectiveness Bill.”

The measure, which takes full effect in 2015, would make student performance a factor in teacher evaluations.

The impact of the bill, St. John said, is “You’re able to reward the good performing teachers and hold the others accountable for their performance.”

Chapman said he wasn’t sure if he agreed with a provision of the bill that makes student growth at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations.

Still, he added, “I do think that that makes us think,” he said. “That challenges us.”

About 30 people — mostly MCHS students and school administrators — attended the event.

Education Association Presi-

dent David Grabowski said he would have liked a larger crowd, but overall he thought the forum went well.

“I think it was a very informative venue for all the candidates to get their views out there,” he said after the event, adding that it also gave the community a chance to “get a clear understanding of where (the candidates) stand and what they’re about.”

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