School board candidates discuss Common Core, taxation, serving students

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Polls across the county will open as early as 7 a.m. Tuesday and several important local positions are on the ballot this year, including four open seats on the Washington County School District Board.

In a county where there is a lot of push to regain and retain local control over education, especially with the implementation of Common Core State Standards, school board members play a vital role within the school district and the county.

Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7 will all head to general election to decide which candidates will sit on the board.

In district 4, LaRene L. Cox will face off against Brent Holloway. In district 5, Eileen McKell and David B. Stirland will compete. In district 6, incumbent Kelly Blake will face challenger Peato L. Ena. In district 7, incumbent Laura Hesson will be challenged by Scott P. Robison.

In order to help you cast your vote on Tuesday, the St. George News team tasked the candidates with answering questions ranging from opinions of common core and their understanding of their taxation power to their top priorities for the coming school year and why they want to sit on the board.

District 4

STGnews: What is your understanding of the school board’s taxing authority?

LaRene L. Cox: It is my understanding that school boards are the governing bodies that operate public school districts. This must be done in compliance with the laws and rules created by the state legislature and state board of education.

The school board may vote to raise property taxes. However, if taxing entities receive more money year-over-year for the same properties a truth-in-taxation hearing is required by law. Earlier this year, a truth-in-taxation hearing was held and the school board voted in favor of a property tax increase to help our teachers with a much needed salary increase.

Brent Holloway: A pretty small piece of the budget can be affected by how much the school board can affect taxes. This last session we had to have an increase in taxes…there was a slight increase and the amount was…about the cost of a Big Mac.

This year’s truth-in-taxation increase is such a small amount that I don’t think it barely addressed what lack of resources we are really facing. I mean there are no two ways to cut it, Utah is the lowest in the country for funding our public schools and we have been for 27 years.

The legislature has the primary responsibility to fund our schools. It’s unfortunate that the school board has such a minimal effect on the funding of our schools.

District 5

STGnews: How do you feel about Common Core? What are the pros and cons? How would you like to see it better implemeted in the district (if you do)? Is it any different from curriculums in the past?

Eileen McKell: There have been educational standards for many years. Similarly, the Common Core State Standards are educational benchmarks that students should master in each grade level. It has become a controversial issue because of misunderstandings and lack of communication.

I believe we all perform better when given specific goals. Better communication is needed between the state administrators down through the districts and the educators and parents. Once there is real understanding of the standards (goals) and method of testing, I believe Common Core will not be so controversial, it will be a useful tool to help teachers and parents identify student strengths and weaknesses.

David B. Stirland: First of all, I’m pretty against any federal mandates or intervention in the education of our students. That being said, the money that is provided at the federal level is pretty vital.

One of the things I’d like to do is be able to disseminate and make changes where possible. Things like assessment testing and understanding, just making sure our children can compete on a state and national level.

My general statement would be anything federally mandated is kind of a bad thing. I think we have able educators and administrators in the area and I think they do a really good job. They can make sure that those things are happening and I don’t know that we need the federal government to intervene with our people.

District 6

STGnews: What makes you want to serve on the school board? What is the importance of education to you?

Kelly Blake: My passion for education has only increased since I have been on the board. I have six children that have come through or are currently in the system. I have a granddaughter now that’s just starting in the system and I want to make sure that they have the best possible education that we can afford here in Washington County.

We want our students to be prepared with the skill set necessary to be good employees and good citizens. That is what we’re trying to do is to create good citizens in Washington County.

Peato L. Ena: Ena declined to respond to St. George News’ queries.

District 7

STGnews: As a member of the board what would your top prioritiese be in the coming school years?

Laura Hesson: One of my top priorities will be to keep working toward a full implementation of the Professional Learning Community of team teachers. I believe that the Professional Learning Community will be instrumental in the future success of students.

Keeping classroom sizes from increasing is also an important goal. When there is a smaller student to teacher ratio, students are more successful because they can receive the amount of attention that is needed. Teachers are more successful when they are teaching in smaller classrooms because they are not so overworked that they feel they should look elsewhere for employment because they are too overwhelmed and under compensated for their efforts.

Scott P. Robison: There needs to be a greater emphasis on the education of children in Kindergarten through third grade. This is especially important when it comes to their ability to read. If they can’t read by third grade they are lost for the rest of their education.

Early intervention in the school program will make them much more successful later on.

I would also like to see the funding for the schools be better managed.

St. George News reporters Cami Cox Jim, Kimberly Scott, Brett Brostrom, Carin Miller, Devan Chavez and Holly Coombs contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • sleepy hallow November 3, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    Here again is a problem that really irks me. How the School Board can impose taxes on the local citizenry. Much like the County Water District, who also can levy taxes on the citizens of this community. Only difference being that the school board members actually ARE elected and the water district members are NOT. I am so sick and tired of paying taxes for things that I don’t use. My kids have been out of school for over 25 years and I have already paid for their education many times over. I don’t want to pay for other kids education as well. Let those who must have 7-9 kids pay for their education . And anyone who is for Common Core standards in educations SHOULD NOT be elected at all.

    • Bender November 3, 2014 at 6:36 pm

      SLEEPY HALLOW, I never drive in front of your house. I am sick and tired of my taxes paying for you to live high on the hog with curbs, sidewalks and asphalt. I paid for my sidewalk years ago and I have a God given right not to have tax money STOLEN from me so you can luxuriate in your SMOOTH asphalt. Enough is enough.

      • sleepy hallow November 4, 2014 at 8:39 am

        BENDER if you are not opposed to rising taxes, then why don’t you move to some state like California or New York where those two states have the highest taxes in the nation. Maybe you would be happy with the way those states are run. Hey, Detroit would really love to have you move there as well. I have and continue to pay my share of taxes for the things you list. Like you say…..enough is enough!

        • Bender November 4, 2014 at 10:41 am

          SLEEPY HALLOW, you seem to have a reading comprehension issue. BENDER didn’t ask for higher taxes. He only mocked your lame notion that once your kids are out of school, you should be off the hook for school taxes. BENDER had to beat his head against a brick wall to dislodge the stupid that lodged in his brain after reading your post.

          • sleepy hallow November 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

            BENDER, you really should not be beating your “head against a brick wall to dislodge the stupid that lodged in” your head. It will not work. Face it, you’ll just have to continue living being stupid. You really should seek help for that. you do have ObamaCare don’t you?….put it to good use and get yourself checked out.

  • Brian November 3, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Eileen McKell, when you refer to the “method of testing” used in Common Core, are you referring to the fact that the SAGE tests were developed by AIR, a subcontractor of the federal military that specializes in “behavior modification” (AKA mind control)? That’s one “method of testing” I’m opting my kids out of. I wish all of the candidates would have been asked the common core question. If we continue down that road, all of the other questions are pointless.

    • Bender November 3, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Ding, ding!!! BRIAN is first out of the gate with a loony Common Core claim. Congrats BRIAN, you win a lifetime subscription to whatever aural drivel Glenn Beck is now streaming on the web AND a free mural of Obama beheading the founding fathers painted on your living room wall by artist Jon McNaughton.

    • Karen November 4, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      Brian, you might be interested to know that anti-Common Core parents in Utah looked and looked at the Sage testing questions and, sadly for them, found no evidence of any of the claims that they make about Common Core testing. No mind control, no teaching of questionable morality, no revisionist history, nothing bad or evil. There is an entire article about it in the newspaper up north. Check it out for yourself.

      • Bender November 4, 2014 at 3:46 pm

        Sorry KAREN, no prize for you. Our loony-meter was pegged at zero when we fed your post to it. Better luck next time and thanks for playing.

  • Bender November 3, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Bender is inviting all Anti-Common Core Fanatics to populate comment section with hearsay, half-truths, no-truths, lies, and paranoia. Gentlemen, and gentleladies, start your engines.

    • sleepy hallow November 4, 2014 at 8:45 am

      SLEEYY HALLOW is inviting all PRO Common Core Fanatics to move to socialistic liberal states like California, Detroit or New York and profess their undying support for all things being socialist anti-American drivel. Just glad my kids got out of school before Common Core was even thought of. Especially glad they didn’t turn out like a mindBENDER.

      • Bender November 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

        And SLEEPY HALLOW is a close second to BRIAN’s winning post. SLEEPY HALLOW, for your post that gives us an insightful look into the low levels of neuron activity in an anti Common Core brain, you get an all expenses paid trip to the Dallas suburb of Las Colinas where you will enjoy a deep muscle massage by Glenn Beck himself, clothed in nothing more than a (very) petite towel wrapped around his glorious midsection.

        • sleepy hallow November 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm

          And you BENDER get an all expense paid vacation to Chicago to spend a wonderful all-inclusive weekend with the Rev. Al Sharpton as he further indoctrinates you in the exclusive use of Common Core methods to further your decline in intellectual thinking….as shown here, and in other posts in all of STGNews.

          • Bender November 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm

            Hey!! No double entries SLEEPY. Not fair to the others.

  • Chris November 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Anyone who writes as poorly as David B. Stirland has no business being on a school board.

    • Dana November 4, 2014 at 6:22 am

      David B. Stirland needs to be IN school, not running for the Washington County School District Board.

  • Zonkerb November 4, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Well just make sure they cancel all school dances because dancing is illegal in St George

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