School board candidates address district’s growing pains, teacher compensation

Backround: Washington County School Board office, St. George, Utah, undated | St George News

ST. GEORGE — Ensuring competitive teacher pay in a rapidly growing district while balancing taxation is just one of the challenges looming for the candidate who wins this year’s election to Washington County School Board District 3.

Terry Hutchinson, an attorney, seeks election to Washington County School Board District 3, date not specified | Profile photo courtesy of Terry Hutchinson, St. George News
Terry Hutchinson, an attorney, seeks election to Washington County School Board District 3, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Terry Hutchinson, St. George News

Terry Hutchinson and incumbent Debbra Zockoll fill the Nov. 8 ballot options for District 3. The seat represents Stone Cliff, Little Valley, Bloomington Hills, the area south of The Springs and the area east of the Virgin River in Bloomington and Sun River.

Hutchinson is a private attorney based in St. George and Mesquite, Nevada. His experience dealing with growth and the subsequent financial repercussions, along with his strong commitment to teachers receiving proper compensation encapsulate his platform. When he’s not practicing law, Hutchinson reviews books for a twice daily program on KDXU Radio 890 AM.

Zockoll is a retired educator who was elected to the Washington County School Board in 2012 and currently holds the position of vice chair. She said she believes in always doing what’s best for the student. As a teacher of over 30 years, she said she is uniquely qualified to be on the board with her decades of firsthand experience in education. When she’s not busy working on issues related to her position on the board, she works at Movara Fitness Resort.

Growth

Tackling the challenges of a growing district with more children entering Washington County schools every year is a major concern of both candidates.

Debbie Zockoll, a retired educator, seeks election to Washington County School Board District 3, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Profile photo courtesy of Terry Hutchinson, St. George News
Debbra Zockoll, a retired educator, seeks re-election to Washington County School Board District 3, St. George, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Debbra Zockoll, St. George News

Zockoll called growth in the school district the “biggest challenge” facing the board.

“With that, I would just say we will have to be very mindful about what we do, where we buy property, where we build schools,” Zockoll said.

She went on to question whether the growth will continue at its current rate, but she said regardless of that, she is already equipped to address these questions with her years of experience on the board.

Hutchinson said he also believes he is uniquely qualified to address this issue. As past chairman of the Washington County Library Board, he was instrumental in doubling the library branches and expanding existing ones when other districts could not find the means to do so.

“The growth of the school district has been incredible in sheer numbers,” Hutchinson said.

Being responsible for the education of over 30,000 students is a huge responsibility and commitment, he said.

Balancing Teacher Compensation and Taxation

The candidates differ on when and how taxation should take place, but they agreed that the district’s teachers need better compensation.

The taxpayers are not a bottomless financial resource you can go to every time you think you need more money,” Hutchinson said.

Before any increased taxation is justified, Hutchinson said, the administrators would need to look at how to better manage the district’s existing resources.

“The audits from last spring show that we don’t have sufficient control of our district administration or finances. Forty percent of the chief financial officer’s purchasers, in a very small sample, were not in compliance with District policies,” Hutchinson said. “More than anything, it sends a message to the taxpayers that we don’t use our money as wisely as we should.”

He said one step toward more responsible management of funds would be to ensure that the teachers have the best compensation packages possible and that the administration is supporting them appropriately.

Zockoll said the teachers are the ones who suffer in tough decisions such as these.

Unfortunately, the short end of the stick is really the teachers,” she said. “It’s really hard to give teachers a raise and that makes it hard with a looming teacher shortage.”

Zockoll, who described herself as a fiscal conservative, noted that the county already has a low tax base.

“But we do obviously have to have money to run the school district,” she said. “I feel like we need to be very careful and if we do have to raise taxes it has to be a clear cut reason, and we have to give that reason to the public.”

Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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