OURAY COUNTY – Election season hit the Ridgway School District and Ouray School District in earnest this week. Wednesday, Aug. 7, was the first day that potential candidates could pick up nomination petitions for the upcoming school board elections.
Both school districts in Ouray County could see a radical shift in the makeup of their boards this November.
In Ridgway, four out of five seats are up for grabs – three four-year terms, and one two-year term. According to Superintendent Cheryl Gomez, only two incumbents (she was not at liberty to say whom) are considering running again. Depending on how the elections turn out, this means that potentially, incumbent board member Roger Sagal, whose first term expires in Nov. 2015, could be the only member of the current board to move forward after the election.
The Ridgway School Board is currently comprised of Sagal, Julie Wesseling (Vice Chair), Bart Skalla (Secretary/Treasurer), Jeff Synowic (Chair) and Steve Larivee, who was appointed to his position last year after Sue Williamson resigned. Per school policy, appointees to the school board must run in the next election cycle to fill out the remainder of the term of the elected board member they replaced. Williamson’s term would have expired in Nov. 2015.
In Ouray, the school board’s most senior two members, Mike Fedel (President) and Chris Hinkson, are term-limited and therefore can’t run again. Incumbent Don Mort is also up for reelection. Mort told The Watch on Tuesday that he intends to pick up a nomination petition this week and run for a second four-year term.
“I’m planning to run because we want to make sure things keep rolling as good as they’ve been,” Mort said. “Whatever minor part I’ve had, I want to see it through.”
The remaining two incumbent Ouray School Board members, Kentee Pasek and Jerry Hellman, both have two years left in their current terms, after which Hellman will be term-limited.
New school board members always have a steep learning curve in regard to policy making and budget setting, but this coming year they’ll face a whole new set of challenges. The Colorado Department of Education is in the middle of major reform. Districts across the state will be dealing with new requirements pertaining to teacher evaluations, academic standards and accountability standards. There will also likely be a statewide ballot issue in November asking Colorado’s citizenry to increase the revenues that go to K-12 education, and school board members will be dealing with the fallout of that, regardless of which way the vote goes.
People interested in becoming a school board candidate in either Ridgway or Ouray can pick up a nomination petition form at the respective district offices during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. Each prospective candidate’s petition must be signed by at least 25 registered voters within their respective school district.
In Ridgway, nomination petitions may be obtained at the superintendent’s office located in the Ridgway Elementary School. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Completed petitions should be submitted to Dana McCullam, the Ridgway School District’s designated election official, no later than 3 p.m. on Aug. 30.
In Ouray, nomination petitions may be obtained in the main district office located within the Ouray Public School, located at 400 Seventh Avenue in downtown Ouray. Office hours are 8 a.m to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Completed petitions should be returned to the district office by 4 p.m. on Aug. 30.
To be qualified, a candidate must have been a registered elector of the school district for at least 12 consecutive months before the election and a resident of the school district in which they are running for office.
The two school districts will jointly host a candidate’s orientation night on Aug. 28. More information can be found on the school websites, or by calling the Ouray School at 970/325-4505 or the Ridgway School at 970/626-4320.
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