School board candidates emerge in Craig
August 20, 2011
Name: JB Chapman
Profession: Owner/operator of Chapman Automotive Service Center and a family livestock operation
Status: First-time candidate
Residency: 45 years
Name: Debbie Belleville
Name: Tony St. John
Profession: Retired from Colowyo Coal Co.
Residency: 29 years
Name: Ken Wergin
Profession: Retired respiratory therapist
Status: First-time candidate
Residency: 20 years
Name: Sherry St. Louis
Profession: Retired pharmacist
Status: First-time candidate
Residency: 2 years
Vicki Duncan, the Moffat County School District's designated election official, was optimistic Friday when discussing November's school board election.
"We have four board of education district seats open on this year's ballot," Duncan said. "So far, there has been interest in every district but one."
By interest, Duncan was referring to five residents who have come into her office to fill out paperwork and pick up a candidate petition.
The school board is made up of seven members who each represent a district. Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 are open on this year's ballot.
Board secretary Trish Snyder (District 1), president JoAnn Baxter (District 5) and vice president Andrea Camp (District 7) are term-limited.
Board member Tony St. John, who has represented District 3 for the last four years, is the only incumbent in the election.
"I'm excited to see what we can do this year (Colorado Student Assessment Program)-wise and in the classroom to get better," St. John said. "We're improving, but there is a lot we can still do to bring those scores up."
St. John said he is also keeping a close eye on the school district's budget, which took a hit two years ago under then-Gov. Bill Ritter.
"I personally wouldn't have cut back on education two years ago," St. John said. "Because that's our future … that's our kids' future."
Despite funding cuts, St. John maintains that he is focused first and foremost on improving education and advocating for teachers.
"I've always said that we are working with two number ones," St. John said. "Not a number one and a number two. Our students are number one and our faculty is number one. Without them, we have no education."
Duncan said Debbie Belleville has also voiced an interest in running for District 3. She was unavailable Friday for comment.
Sherry St. Louis, a retired pharmacist who worked as a pharmacy coordinator for the Marillac Clinic in Grand Junction, is relatively new to Craig.
She said she is running for a school board position to be a positive role model and to give back to the community that embraced her so easily.
"It's easy for us to sit around the kitchen table and criticize, critique and complain," St. Louis said. "I want to set an example for my own kids to step up and get involved when presented with the opportunity to do so."
St. Louis said family and friends encouraged her to run for the board.
She said she understands there is a learning curve involved in being a board member.
"My goal is to be a sponge," St Louis said. "To absorb as much information as I can to make educated decisions. Education starts in the classroom.
"I think the school board's goal should be to enhance and enrich what's happening in that classroom."
Ken Wergin, a retired respiratory therapist, is also vying for the District 5 seat.
He said he believes it takes an entire community to create a thriving educational environment.
"I want to see the people of the community become more involved in education," Wergin said. "It is a good system, but it could be a lot better with their input."
Wergin said he believes there is a lack of community input, and he aims to change that by listening.
"My goal would be to hear the public, first of all," Wergin said. "A lot of times people become a 'leader' and not a 'representative.' If you don't know what the people are, you can't represent them, and you certainly can't lead."
Wergin said he has routinely attended school board meetings and his overall impression of the board is "really quite good."
If elected, Wergin said he would encourage the board to engage the public more often and provide a forum for residents to voice their opinions at school board meetings.
JB Chapman, owner/operator of Chapman Automotive, is the only candidate who has expressed an interest in representing District 1.
"I'm not going into this with an agenda," Chapman said. "I've always had a passion for kids and education and the future of Craig and Moffat County."
Chapman said his youngest child recently graduated from Moffat County High School.
"It is the season and it is my turn to put in a little time to make sure our community continues to thrive and children receive all of the opportunities they deserve to learn, to grow and to accelerate," he said.
Although Duncan is encouraged by the recent candidate interest, she said she is waiting for someone to run for the District 7 seat.
Duncan said anyone interested in running for the board should visit her office at the district administrative building, 775 Yampa Ave., to file the appropriate paperwork.
To be eligible for the election, candidates must be:
• A registered elector of the school district for at least 12 consecutive months.
• A resident of the district they will represent.
• Someone who has never been convicted of a sexual offense against a child.
Potential candidates must petition the public and gather at least 50 signatures from registered voters before officially becoming a candidate. Those who sign the petition do not have to be residents of the same district as the candidate.
All paperwork and completed petitions must be filed with Duncan by 4 p.m. Aug. 26.
Stephanie Beckett, Moffat County's elections supervisor, said November will be the first time since 1993 a county election will be conducted via mail.
All active or registered voters who participated in the 2010 gubernatorial election can expect to receive their mail-in ballots after Oct. 11.
Registered voters who participated in last year's primary election, but did not cast a ballot in the governor's race may not be on the county clerk and recorder's "active list," Beckett said, and therefore will not automatically receive a ballot in the mail.
"Inactive voters need to check-in with us in order to receive a mail-in ballot," Beckett said.
Residents uncertain of their voter status are encouraged to visit the elections office between 8 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. at the Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way. Voters may also visit http://www.govotecolorado.com to update their status, Beckett said.
Residents who are not registered to vote have until Oct. 3 to do so. Voter registration can be handled in person at the following locations:
• Moffat County Clerk and Recorder's Office, 221 W. Victory Way.
• Colorado Driver's License Office, 555 Breeze St.
• Moffat County Social Services, 595 Breeze St.
• Moffat County High School, 900 Finley Lane.
• Dinosaur Town Hall, 333 S. Stegosaurus.
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