Passing the torch: Departing Moffat County School Board member reflects on fiscal health, reading resources
CRAIG — Voting is underway in Moffat County, and while the results won’t be known until Nov. 7, there will be major changes to the makeup of the Moffat County School District Board of Directors; five of the seven directors will change.
Two seats were vacated when board members Darryl Steele and Charity Neal resigned. Three seats were up for election this year, and sitting board members — President Darrell Camilletti, District 4 Representative Tony Peroulis and District 2 representative Sue Voloshin — all decided not to seek re-election.
The Craig Press has been interviewing departing board members, and this week, Voloshin is in the spotlight.
Voloshin was elected to the board in November 2013 as District 2 representative.
She ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and wanted to ensure students were provided with an early literacy program to help more children learn to read.
She decided against seeking re-election to devote more time to her family, leaving the door open for Dr. Elise Sullivan, who is running unopposed, to replace her.
Tough decisions lie ahead for the next school board, Voloshin said, when asked about her years of service and what she sees as the greatest challenges facing public education in Moffat County.
Craig Press: What were your goals in becoming a school board member?
Sue Voloshin: My goals when I first became a school board member were to serve and give back to the community that I have grown up in and want to continue to see prosper. I wanted to try and help make a difference, because I was concerned about not only my children’s education, but also all the other students in our district. I also wanted to see a better reading curriculum for the elementary students, as I did not feel the students were learning to read, and the numbers backed that up. The children were not able to read at grade level coming out of the third grade. I am not sure they are now, and it’s been 5 years.
CP: Do you feel these goals were accomplished?
Voloshin: Yes, and no. I did serve, but I am not sure I have made a difference. It is too much to try and change the public school system that does not want to change. However, we are moving forward with a new reading curriculum. I am not sure I had any influence, but at least this last year the committee finally decided on an elementary curriculum, and the district also received a grant to pay for part of it. The opportunity for the grant had been there, but it did not seem to be a priority.
CP: What do you feel was your greatest accomplishment while on the board?
Voloshin: Helping to push to get the elementary reading curriculum moving. If we wouldn’t have pushed it, I don’t believe it would have come to fruition, as there are so many other areas and needs. I also think that Dr. (David) Ulrich (MCSD superintendent) had a hand in it, as well, as he was the person to say we need to move forward with this, as the children need to start out with a good foundation to be successful. This, we both agreed on. Also, working to establish a healthy financial reserve for the district.
CP: What project/s do you feel are unfinished?
Voloshin: A true financial forecast for the future. I was told several times there was a 5-year forecast, but I never saw it in the four years I have been on the board. There is a strategic plan in place, but there is nothing specific to 5-year financial forecast. The strategic plan is very ambiguous, as well.
CP: Why have you decided against running for a seat in November?
Voloshin: I decided not to run again due to other priorities — first, my children, and then, constraints of work and travel. I have spent a lot of time away from my kids, and they are the ones who have sacrificed. I feel like they need more of my time right now.
CP: What do you see are the next big challenges for the school board?
Voloshin: Of course closing a school will be a very hot topic because it is in the forefront but I feel the district will benefit from this if it is done right. The district has several other hurdles such as: recognizing the need for continual academic improvement, developing a long term plan for facilities and most importantly focusing on the children’s education and development, and acknowledging that the district’s finances need to be managed effectively. There is enough money, and it is just good business to allocate the resources more effectively.
CP: What do you see as the biggest challenge/s for public education?
Voloshin: There are more and more options for families, and they are willing to travel or make other sacrifices for their children’s education if that is important to them. The district needs to recognize that there is only so much money, and you cannot continually go to the taxpayers with more requests to increased taxes.
CP: What advice do you have for the next board member/s?
Voloshin: Stay engaged, and learn all you can, as it is difficult to make decisions for the district and the students if you are not informed. They need to focus on making sound financial decisions so that the district will continue to be sustainable. They will need to use their own judgment in making decisions and not be swayed by special interest pressures.
CP: Will you continue to support education in our community, and, if yes, how?
Voloshin: Of course I will support education in our community, as it is vital for our children, and they are our future. I have children in school, so I will continue to be engaged with their education and communicate with board members of issues that I become aware of.
CP: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about the district and/or the board?
Voloshin: It is a significant responsibility to be a school board member, and you cannot take that responsibility lightly. Board members have a responsibility to represent their community and make decisions that are in the best interests of our children. The district is in good financial condition today, but there continue to be requests to spend down the reserves and to go to the voters for a bond issue or mill levy override. I do not believe this is necessary if finances are managed responsibly, and tough decisions are made sooner, rather than later.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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Update: 2:30 p.m.: Moffat County High School and Ridgeview Elementary were put into a shelter in place Wednesday morning for an incident that occurred in the 800 block of Columbine.