School Board candidates wrangle with enrollment | SteamboatToday.com

School Board candidates wrangle with enrollment

Tamera Manzanares

Director District C Kurt Frentress, elected 1995 Occupation: Rancher • Student enrollment and budget effects: Student enrollment is bound to rise based on plans for residential growth in Hayden. The board needs to keep tight control on district spending until then. • Student achievement: He is optimistic schools are implementing new strategies that will help in that effort including intervention techniques and more tutoring. Improving students’ attitudes toward testing should significantly improve test scores. • Why he wants to remain on the board: He would like to see the district in a better budgetary position and also wants to see student achievement improve. Director District E Brian Hoza, elected 2001 Occupation: Dean of Student Services Colorado Mountain College • Student enrollment and budget effects: The district doesn’t have a lot of control over residential growth in Hayden and student enrollment, though it’s important the board do its part to support growth and also watch out for schools’ interests in that process. • Student achievement: Student achievement is at the core of the board’s purpose and also is a work in progress. It’s important to stay attentive to students’ progress so they don’t lose momentum. • Why he wants to remain on the board: His work experience makes him comfortable in the education arena and in listening to feedback that will help him make the best decisions for the district.

The two candidates in the only contested seat for the Hayden School Board have very different positions on two key issues: student enrollment and student achievement.

Business owner Jeff Fry is challenging incumbent Patty Bruchez for the District A seat representing an area mostly north of Hayden.

Fry, owner of Bears Ears Excavating in Hayden, is concerned about stagnant growth in student enrollment, which has declined overall in the past several years.

Some of the decline is because fewer kindergarteners are moving to Hayden, but Fry argues too many students also are going to nearby districts that offer more academic and extracurricular programs.

Maintaining academic standards, and in some cases improving students’ progress, also is an important issue in the district.

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This year, Hayden saw lower-than-average ACT scores among high school seniors as well as flat or declining reading and writing scores among some middle school and high school students on the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.

Fry said keeping more experienced teachers on board is important to improving student achievement. He is concerned the district is not renewing probationary teachers’ contracts to avoid paying them higher salaries as they gain experience in the district.

“Pay them,” Fry said. “It’s worth it to our kids.”

Teachers reach the nonprobationary level their fourth year with the district. It’s more difficult to not renew their contracts after that point, superintendent Mike Luppes explained.

However, the district’s decision to not renew some probationary teachers’ contracts almost always relates to performance, except in cases where the district eliminates a position to save money, he said.

Removing a second-grade teacher position was among budget reduction measures for this school year.

But Fry contends it’s also important to understand why some teachers choose not to renew their contracts. Students need to count on seeing teachers from year to year, as was the case when he attended school in Steamboat Springs, he said.

Fry graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1976 and moved to West Routt County in 1996. He has three children. His daughter is a senior at Hayden High School, and his two younger children are in second grade and preschool.

As a member of the School Board, Fry said he would encourage the district to seek grants to build needed infrastructure, such as a full-size track, and would work to make the board friendlier and more attentive to residents concerns.

When it comes to academic achievement, Bruchez emphasized that it’s important to keep in perspective the many students who do well in Hayden schools.

“I think for the size of school district we do an outstanding job of what we offer. … I think we lose sight of the success so many of our kids do have,” she said.

In a small district with small class sizes, one or two students’ low test scores can drastically affect overall scores for classes and grades, Bruchez said.

The challenge is understanding how to address students who are not progressing with the education that exists.

Bruchez, an accountant, was elected to the School Board in 2001. She also served a two-year stint on the board in the mid-1980s as a replacement for another member.

The biggest challenge facing the board is the lack of growth in student enrollment, but there is only so much the district can do when it comes to students leaving for other districts or home school, she said.

“I don’t know how you can fight that. … That’s what people want is choice,” Bruchez said.

In addition to serving on the School Board, Bruchez also has experience working for the district. She was a district bookkeeper from 1978 to 1984 and business manager from 1987 to 1998.

She has a son who is a senior at Hayden High School and another son who attended the school and now is in college.

She understands the background of many issues as well as policies that have and have not worked in the school district, she said.

“Because of my longevity with the school district, there’s a lot of history I can bring to the table,” Bruchez said.

Director District C Kurt Frentress, elected 1995 Occupation: Rancher • Student enrollment and budget effects: Student enrollment is bound to rise based on plans for residential growth in Hayden. The board needs to keep tight control on district spending until then. • Student achievement: He is optimistic schools are implementing new strategies that will help in that effort including intervention techniques and more tutoring. Improving students’ attitudes toward testing should significantly improve test scores. • Why he wants to remain on the board: He would like to see the district in a better budgetary position and also wants to see student achievement improve. Director District E Brian Hoza, elected 2001 Occupation: Dean of Student Services Colorado Mountain College • Student enrollment and budget effects: The district doesn’t have a lot of control over residential growth in Hayden and student enrollment, though it’s important the board do its part to support growth and also watch out for schools’ interests in that process. • Student achievement: Student achievement is at the core of the board’s purpose and also is a work in progress. It’s important to stay attentive to students’ progress so they don’t lose momentum. • Why he wants to remain on the board: His work experience makes him comfortable in the education arena and in listening to feedback that will help him make the best decisions for the district.