By Becky Christofferson
Pine Bluffs Post 

LCSD No. 2 board candidates express opinions

 


During the general election Nov. 8, residents living in Laramie County School District No. 2 will have the opportunity to vote upon those who will govern the school district. Five seats will be up for grabs during the election. Candidates had to file by Aug. 29, 2016 to be on the ballet and must reside in the area they are wanting to represent.

Area C (Albin)

Two individuals have registered for the one trustee spot in Area C (Albin) - incumbent Esther Davison and Brian Blosmo.

Davison is seeking re-election because she is a lifelong learner. “When I retired from teaching, there had been few times in my life when I had not returned to school in the fall; first as a student, then as a teacher and finally a board member. Retirement from 30 years of teaching did not seem right and I looked to keep my hand in education by running for school board.”

Davison has lived in Wyoming for almost 47 years and has been a resident in Eastern Laramie County since 1977. Davison is known in the district as she taught for 21 of her 30-year career here. To her, that gives Davison a unique perspective to the school board. “I know that the teacher in the classroom is the most important contributor to successful education and I think I have a good understanding of that aspect,” Davison said.


She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English as well as a Master of Education in Counseling. According to Davison, her children graduated from the district and have had successful lives.

Due to the state’s economy, school districts have already seen cuts at the local level. “The school board at present is already taking steps to decrease spending. The chief determinant of any cut must be how much students are affected and if their achievement will be curtailed at all,” Davison explained. She went on to say that while funds may decrease, the board must see that the student achievement does not.

A challenge Davison sees that the district has been facing and will continue to face is that of offering courses that equip the students to enter the world of work. “Although teachers and administrators encourage students to succeed in college, the district must also prepare students for the trades and careers in areas vital to the economy.”

As the west side continues to see growth, Davison said the growth is welcomed in the district. “More students can mean more opportunity,” she elaborated. “With more students, the district can offer a greater variety of classes.” Davison did add that with increase of enrollment, the district would have to use creative ways to use its facilities.


She continued to say that the district has good personnel and decent facilities, but needs a change in culture. “The board must encourage an attitude of teamwork (to include students, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, administrators, para professionals, parents and grandparents) that pushes students to reach beyond what they believed they were capable of achieving. If that culture is nourished, the results could be spectacular.” She would also like to see the district become one of the very best districts in the state in student achievement, teamwork, and general success.

“I want the patrons of this district to know that I love this district,” Davison said. “I taught in this district for 21 years and have enjoyed some of the best years of my 30 years in education in this district. LCSD #2 is dear to me and I love giving back what it has given to me.”

Blosmo, a native of western South Dakota, is running to make certain that his children, a sixth grader and a seventh grader in Burns, have the best education possible. “My career choices have given me an up-close and personal understanding of what good quality education does for kids and also what happens when that part of the equation is missing. It can be devastating on many levels.”

Blosmo served in the military for four years and then moved to Norman, Okla., to attend the University of Oklahoma. It was there that he was recruited by the City of Oklahoma City Police Department, retiring as a sergeant. The Blosmo family moved to Cheyenne where they owned a business, which was sold in 2015.

Blosmo believes his greatest strength would be a very pragmatic approach to issues and problems. “If the solution doesn’t meet the “common sense threshold”, I have a hard time supporting it,” he said. “I also don’t have the reservations about asking the hard questions with follow-up if needed.”

He continued to say that through fiscal responsibility, holding district personal accountable – including members of the board, setting a direction and being available to the community to listen to their concerns and issues is how the district continues the focus on the students.

Blosmo stated that the state funding the district receives is something the board has absolutely no control over. “I will say that the district’s vision statement says, LCSD #2 WILL be the premier learning center in the State of Wyoming. It doesn’t have a qualifier (such as) ‘if we have wheelbarrows full of money’. I am signed up on that commitment. Is it an issue – yes. Can it be dealt with – absolutely.”

He agrees that there has been an increase in student enrollment, but isn’t sure that it’s a trend at this point. “However, when we reach, and I didn’t say IF, the goal of the district, it will be an issue because everybody wants to be on the successful team,” Blosmo said. “We have come quite a ways in the last 12 to 18 months and I know that trend will continue.”

In regards to the enrollment and growth of the west side of the district, Blosmo said it could have a huge effect from facilities, class room capacity, support personnel, as well as transportation. “I come back to the fact that parents want to send their children to the best school they can and if we keep the vision statement in mind, I wouldn’t mind having that problem.”

Recently he toured all the schools and facilities in the district. “I spoke with principals, some teachers, lunchroom employees, transportation personnel and I have to say that the level of genuine commitment that these folks have was incredible,” Blosmo said. “I just wanna make sure that type of commitment is the rule rather than the exception.”

Area D (Burns)

Running for the one trustee position for the Area D (Burns) is incumbent Lee May and Billie Wilson.

May is seeking his third term on the board and was raised in Pine Bluffs, graduating in 1971. May knows the district as many of his family members attended and or have graduated from LCSD #2 – his father from Albin; mother-in-law and father-in-law from Hillsdale; three stepchildren from Albin; a daughter from Burns and a son from Pine Bluffs. Currently, May has three grandchildren attending school in Burns and he and his wife are legal guardians of their niece and nephew who go to Carpenter Elementary.

May’s family has been involved with agriculture in eastern Wyoming, western Nebraska and northern Colorado for four generations. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Wyoming.

One of May’s reasons for seeking re-election is that he feels it is one of the most important offices to hold in the entire political system. “A trustee is responsible for seeing to the education of our children, which is the future of our country, their future and the future of generations to come,” May explained. “I am running for trustee because I don’t want to be part of the problem, I’d rather participate and contribute and be part of the right answer.”

During his time on the board, May feels he has gained valuable experience to contribute to the board. “I believe in doing things the right way, the first time. I offer an honest opinion even if it is not popular and I am not afraid to face and make hard decisions.” May continued to say that he believes being honest is important in the economic and political climates of today.

May said that when funding shortfall happens it will have an effect in all areas of the education process. “It will be up to the board to see that wise decisions are being made with the district finances. Being involved and informed are very important, this enables a person to make good decisions.”

Challenges that he feels the district will face include an array of various aspects. “Our transportation system is a concern that is dealt with continually as well as personnel. Hiring the best possible staff – from top to bottom is always a concern and needs continuous monitoring. Trying to keep up with a very fast moving world of technology in our schools as well as having faculty who can teach it is a concern as we look into the future.” He also added that with the growth on the district’s west side, it will have an effect on future locations and size of facilities.

He said that that the district is in a constant state of change and improvements are always a goal of the board. “We just need to be sure we are doing things the right way and our staff is doing the best job possible. The kids come first.”

May’s long-term goals are the children, population movement and making certain the district is whole and stable. “The long-term should always be with the thought ‘what is best for the children first and what is best for the district as a whole.’ Kids, kids, kids – they are the short-term, mid-term, and long-term. They are the future.”

Billie Wilson moved to the district in 1998 and her four children have been educated through the district. Although from the west side of the state, Wilson says she has a fondness of the district. “I am running for school board because I believe strongly in being an active participant in my community. I love our district. I love the community and opportunities that our students are exposed to because of our size and the educators, coaches, administrators within.

She believes that the current board of trustees has been open-minded about the state funding the district has already seen. According to Wilson, letters were sent to stakeholders on the bus routes as previously buses were allowed to drive on private roads to pick up children. She says now this area is being looked at to cut costs in the transportation department as well as to get more in line with state regulations.

“I believe that the school board was already forward-thinking with adapting the four-day school week. This has proved to save the district some money on the cost of substitutes and transportation,” Wilson said. She also said that if elected to the board, she looks forward to the opportunity to learn the answers on the decrease of state funding as she feels it will be a real issue in the next few years.

Wilson stated that the district will have numerous challenges in the coming years, but one that she is currently aware of is the state looking to realign its conference assignments. “We (Burns) would be bumped up to 3A instead of 2A,” she explained. “This has some coaches concerned because we would sit on the smaller side of the 3A conference and would face challenges trying to compete at that level. It would certainly create a need for discussion as to the best way to handle the situation for the schools and the district as a whole.”

She would love to have the opportunity, as a district trustee, to do research as how the district’s west side growth has been handled in the past. “We can learn valuable lessons from the decisions of our predecessors, both in examples to follow and not to follow,” Wilson elaborated. “I would also like to see what the growth forecasts look like. Obviously, issues that would need to be discussed would be: size of the schools, classroom and student to teacher ratios, availability of teaching staff and infrastructure to support the growth as it happens.”

Wilson’s background includes two associate degrees, one in education and one in human resources. She also has a Bachelor Degree in Social Science with an Education Concentration and a Master’s Degree in Education and Public Policy. She currently is the Force Support Development Superintendent for the Wyoming Air National Guard, managing the education and training program for the wing.

“I have experience in dealing with multi-million dollar education budgets to include dealing with budget cuts. I have experience in conflict resolution, allocating resources and problem solving,” Wilson continued. “I hope that my ability to foster teamwork, my experience in ensuring clear communication through multiple agencies and my problem-solving skills will benefit the board and the district if I were to get elected.” She also stated that her strengths are her ability to listen, observe and evaluate before she makes a decision.

Wilson said that she does have some ideas she would like the district to put in place, but recognizes that it is easy to sit back from the outside looking in and come up with ideas and changes one would like to make. “I would not try to make changes immediately, I would like to take the opportunity to learn what the processes are, what the limitations may be and to understand what is currently being worked on,” she remarked. “In an organization like a school district, it isn’t as simple as making a change, each change has cause and effects and I am hesitant to say ‘if I am elected school board member I will’. I can say I will take the time to learn the cause and effect of making changes and be an advocate for smart choices that improve the academic environment for our students.”

Wilson also said she does have ideas of things she believes will improve the students’ access to higher-level courses and would like to see more resources toward students who are academically gifted to increase their competitiveness and success in higher education.

“That being said, I am fully aware that my learning curve will be sharp and I am one person who is willingly volunteering to do what is necessary to continue the success our school district has been showing in improved test results and hopefully identify smart corrective actions to the areas that need it.”

For long-term goals for the district, Wilson said she would look at setting clear, measurable outcomes that improve academic achievement as well as additional programs that expose the students to other interests. She said another would be continuing to provide teachers with resources and continuing education opportunities should be a priority for the district. “I feel the more tools our teachers have to reach individual students, only benefits the long-term educational outcome for our students.”

Wilson went on to say she is excited for the opportunity to run for school board and has thought and talked about in passing for years. “I finally decided that this is my year to step out of my comfort zone and run. I am good at being part of a team and I fully understand that I will be in a partnership with the community, parents, students, teachers, administration and board members,” she stated. “I look forward to the challenges and the opportunities that will present themselves because I believe it makes us strong and provides opportunities to grow as individuals, board members, community members and as a team.”

Area E (Pine Bluffs)

There are two trustee positions for Area E (Pine Bluffs) up for election and incumbents Todd Fornstrom and Julianne Randall are both re-seeking another term. Both Fornstrom and Randall are running unopposed.

A Pine Bluffs native, Todd Fornstrom is seeking another term on the board and feels his past experience as a board member, parent and business owner provide him with insight that would be valuable to the board. “As a citizen, I need to serve the public in some type of capacity,” he stated. “In my opinion, here is no better way to serve than to work with and provide an education for our youth.”

Fornstrom said the decisions that come with funding and budgets for our school system always present unique challenges. “With the down turn in the state’s economy, our district will be forced to make tough decisions that will affect our students, communities and staff,” he explained. “Like previous down turns, top-to-bottom analysis of the district will need to be an ongoing process. Even with the upturns of the economy, the board has a fiscal responsibility to spend appropriately.”

Other than the down-turned economy Fornstrom believes a challenge for the district will be the movement of students into and out of the district. “The district may have some decisions to make in terms of growth within our boundaries,” he continued. “This growth always has implications on staffing along with capabilities whether it is class or school. These have been and most likely will continue to be an issue as Cheyenne continues to push east.”

He believes there should be continued improvement, availability and quality of education in the district. “Beyond long term viability and continued educational improvement, I have no specific personal goals for the district. I feel the board as a whole needs to come up with these and then implement as they see fit.”

Julianne Randall has lived in the district for the last 35 years and her two children grew up and graduated from the district. Her husband was an educator for the district for 26 years and began the agricultural education program at Pine Bluffs High School.

She believes that the education of the students is one of the most important responsibilities in society. “I have been privileged to serve as as a LCSD #2 trustee for two terms,” she stated. “During my board terms, our district has and continues to experience exciting improvements in education and I wish to continue to provide leadership for future challenges.”

She says increased enrollment is a positive direction for the district, although it does present the challenge for the district to provide adequate facilities and staffing to serve the needs of the students. “The past couple of years, the district has been fortunate to experience an increase in enrollment, which has resulted in an increase of per-student funding, which then helps offset declining funding in other areas,” she explained. “However, because of the state’s current economics climate, I am certain the board will be faced with the decision regarding decreased funding.”

Randall stated that if drastic cuts need to be made, all programs need to be evaluated and cuts need to be begin with those that least affect students and student performance.

Keeping in perspective what the district’s goals really are, a challenge she feels will need to be faced is the responsibility to comply with the ever-changing state and federal mandates. “We need to remember our students and their education is our number one priority,” she continued. “We need to place the majority of the responsibility for good education in the hands of the students, their parents, and most of all, the educators.”

She also stated that she feels the district continues to be challenged to increase communication between parents, students and educators and the administration in the district.

Randall has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Boise State University in Microbiology/Health Services as well as a medical technology (ASCP) degree from St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Ida. She has been employed as the business manager for Edwards Construction for the last 15 years. Randall feels her strong business background provides her insight into fiscal and budget issues.

During her eight years on the board, Randall has served as clerk and treasurer of the board. “I will continue my service in the same manner I have fulfilled my responsibilities during the past eight years. I will be diligent in my attendance at board meetings, including regular meetings, COW meetings and special meetings.”

She states she will be accessible to all patrons of the district and will be visible in the district. “I will continue to follow the chain of command and encourage others to do the same,” she continued. “When board decisions and or votes on issues are required, I will endeavor to thoroughly study the issue(s) at hand so my vote is based on a complete understanding of the subject.” Although never having been employed by the district herself, she says she can provide perspectives of a variety of viewpoints such as educator, parent, student and community stakeholder.

Randall will continue to advocate for increased and improved communication between all stakeholders in the district. She has attended various conferences and has spoke with other representatives from other Wyoming school districts and feels the district is doing a good job of providing technology and tech-related tools for the staff and students. “I do feel that we need to provide more instruction on how to use the tech tools to best benefit the instructional process for the students.”

She says her long-term goals for the district hasn’t changed much in the past eight years as a board member and the district must continue to strive to be the “premier learning center in the State of Wyoming”.

“We must strive for academic excellence, the board must provide a directive to administration that instructional leadership is required of all administrators and I continue to advocate for an “even playing field” for all students,” Randall explained. “I believe all educational opportunities and activities should be treated equally – whether they be an intra-curricular or an extra-curricular activity. I believe this is achieved by support from the administration, but the board must set the example.”

Area F (Carpenter)

Two candidates, Neal Butler and Mike Olson, are running for the one board of trustee spot that is being vacated by current school board trustee Jack Bomhoff.

Neal Butler, a 30-year old resident from Carpenter, believes having an outside-the-box perspective always adds to a group. “Most of our school board members don’t have young kids. My youngest is three,” Butler explained. “I have been volunteering in the school for four years.”

With his children getting older, Butler says it harder to volunteer as they go through the higher grade levels. “I want to be aware of their educational progress. Being part of our school board, will give me the opportunity to be engaged, at a distance,” he continued. “Currently, there is no one on the board from Carpenter. Our small school has a powerful staff and a community that is just as strong.”

Butler has participated in Carpenter’s Watch DOGS for the past four years and has two children attending Carpenter Elementary School. He has family farm background and also has experience in the pipefitting trade.

Butler added that his biggest strength is his ability to listen. “If elected, there will be a time for learning and adjustments. One will have to do a good deal of listening to understand.” He also said that with managing multiple small businesses, he can bring the ability to target limited funds to where they will have the most affect.

On the topic of state funding, he believes more budget cuts will be on the horizon. “I’ve watched our district do great things with our budget. A fresh set of eyes might be able to help them continue to do what’s best for our students,” Butler stated.

He also said that the district must both shave spending as well as look at new funding avenues. “I think the district must step up its grant writing while making room for more STEM curriculum,” Butler elaborated. “We may have to decide which parts of our curriculum are outdated or soon will be outdated for our youth’s growth into the years to come.” He realizes it will be a hard next four years, but feels with “some finesse”, the district can tackle shortfalls gracefully.

Besides state funding challenges the district will face, Butler states that there will be an ongoing battle between centralized or local control over the children’s education. “Keeping up with technology education will be a challenge to stay ahead of,” Butler pointed out. “I also think the issue of student rights has become more prevalent.”

He feels that the boom and bust in the economy will always have an impact on the district. “I think that the current trend (of enrollment) may not see much more in the boom. We may see a drop in our enrollment,” he explained. “But it is important to keep abreast the state’s building policies and take advantage of building opportunities when finances allow.” He also added he feels the district can utilize the buildings efficiently and he hopes the new elementary school wraps up on time.

According to Butler, the district’s lunch program is undesirable, but realizes there is little the school board can do about that. “I’ve realized what needs to be done is an alternative funding model needs to be presented. This is a great task that the community can help with.”

Another aspect he would like the district to gain more information about is offering more advanced classes or trade-like enrichment classes. “Long-term, I would like to see the district work with more trade schools for scholarship opportunities for ready-to-work graduates,” Butler stated. “We also need to look for more Friday help. Not just for the kids who need a little extra outside the classroom, but also for those who want to go further with their education.” He explained that the Carpenter school along with the teachers and PTO organization started Friday enrichment opportunities last year. He feels the need to continue with the enrichment activities for students at the upper grade levels.

Butler knows that a school board can only work efficiently if it walks in lockstep with the community that it serves. “Having gone to the board meetings during times of change – switching to the four-day calendar, changes to the drug policy, the letting go of our principal- I have come to the conclusion that our board is responsive to the community, when we make our wishes known,” he stated. “If elected, I will continue this dynamic and try to encourage good communication and feedback with all parties in the district.”

Thirty-six year Laramie County resident, Mike Olson would like to see the graduation rate become even higher than it is currently. “LCSD #2 enjoys a graduation rate north of 86 percent, seven percentage points higher than the state-wide average, but there is still room for improvement,” he explained. “I want to work with the board and the staff of LCSD #2 to move that number even higher.”

Olson has would like the district to continue to work toward improving and updating the infrastructure. “(I want the district to) diligently strive for equality in instruction and continue development and implementation of district-wide personnel programs that will yield longer retention and superior recruitment.”

He believes that the economy will have a direct impact on the enrollment of students in the district. “I believe that if the economy continues its sluggish pace, the growth on the western edge will subside,” Olson elaborated. “However, if the economy improves, the current growth rate will surely continue. That will be a good thing because the shortfall with funding will go away.”

Challenges that Olson sees in the future may be that of the gender equality issue as well federal education mandates. “Often with rulings and mandates are imposed with no regard to logistics or facilities of the school districts. Small school districts like LCSD #2 are usually hit hardest implementing the changes necessary to comply,” he stated.

Olson knows that communication is key when approaching any difficult task, like that of decreased state funding. “I believe that fiduciary responsibility must be the heart of the board for LCSD #2,” he said. “I plan to review expenditures and proposed budgets to ensure that the district operates as lean as possible. Specific plans need to be successful based on projections established.”

Olson received his Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Wyoming and is serving as Wyoming Steel Fabricators and Erectors President, in which he founded in 2001. He serves as Laramie County Fair Board Treasurer and is the 4-H Livestock Sale Committee Chairman. He believes his background in private business and degree in education will be an asset to the community.

“I want to have an opportunity to participate in the direction of our school system,” Olson said. “I know I can continue to build on the great accomplishments that are already taking place in the district.”

Candidates who are elected will be sworn in at the first LCSD #2 board meeting Nov. 14 at the Pine Bluffs High School.

 

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