The students, teachers, administrators and taxpayers of Durango School District 9-R are fortunate to have drawn such a fine field of qualified candidates to the race for the district’s board of education. There is, among the slate of 10 vying for five seats, a consistently high caliber of engagement, qualification and enthusiasm for contributing to the district’s continued success. The level of interest in serving is particularly heartening given that there are no burning or controversial issues facing the school district – aside from the usual funding challenges that most districts contend with. These candidates are drawn to the race by an admirable ethic: giving back to their community by helping provide the best education possible for its children. But elections require voters to choose, and in this race, they have the opportunity to craft a diverse and well-functioning board with Stephanie Moran, Andy Burns, Nancy Stubbs, Erica Max and Mick Souder
Four-year term: Stephanie Moran
Moran has served on the 9-R board for 18 months, but her involvement in Durango education extends more than a decade. She has worked at the Durango Education Center for 13 years and has been an adjunct faculty member for Southwest Colorado Community College. Moran has long been an advocate for students who may not easily follow traditional learning pathways and has helped build important linkages between 9-R and other educational resources available to all learners. She is committed to supporting and improving the district’s opportunities, outcomes and test scores for English language learners, special education, and gifted and talented students and reducing the overall dropout rate. Her expertise and commitment serves the board well.
Moran’s opponent, Steve Britain, is no less dedicated to Durango’s youth. As a program coordinator for La Plata Youth Services with decades of experience working with young people in the criminal justice system, Britain cares deeply for Durango’s students and has built partnerships between various agencies – including 9-R – that work to help struggling kids. His voice and energy are critical to the increasingly secure safety net that serves the region’s youth. He would be an excellent addition to the board, but Moran’s incumbency gives her an edge in a year with significant turnover facing 9-R.
Four-year term: Andy Burns
As the school board’s vice president, Burns is the only candidate with four years’ experience serving 9-R and as such, his institutional knowledge is critical to easing the board’s changing and dynamic. His leadership style and commitment to education – K-12 and beyond; Burns is director of admission and advising at Fort Lewis College – make him a valuable asset to the board, the district and the community. He is well-positioned to assume the board’s presidency from Jeff Schell, whose term is limited. Schell leaves behind large shoes that Burns will fill effectively.
Michael Wanger, Burns’ challenger, is an attorney and former educator with a clear commitment to supporting and improving the district. He offers a desire to contribute to the work of ensuring that students are learning effectively.
Four-year term: Nancy Stubbs
Though Nancy Stubbs is running unopposed, her qualifications and perspective warrant mention. For 30 years, Stubbs taught in international schools around the world, gathering a unique and valuable understanding of the importance of skill-building, collaboration and community involvement. Her interest in supporting the district, being an involved and educated contributor to board discussion and decisions, and her considerable and broad experience will be significant assets to 9-R.
Four-year term: Erica Max
Max’s volunteer chops for 9-R are enviable by any standard. She has been a steadfast, energetic and effective participant in no small number of educational endeavors, any one of which is worthy of accolades. But it was her leadership that spawned a successful campaign to pass the $3.2 million bond issue in 2010 – 56 percent to 43 percent, no less – to backfill budget cuts the district had faced in previous years. That was a momentous achievement given the political and economic climate at the time and is reflective of the energy Max commits to her endeavors. She will bring that energy to the board and the district will benefit significantly from it.
Max’s opponent, Kim Martin, is herself a steadfast advocate for education. She has 25 years’ teaching experience in K-12 and college environments, and is interested in applying that background to helping 9-R improve.
Two-year term: Mick Souder
With career experience as both a teacher and an information systems professional, Souder understands the need for students to demonstrate their mastery of a concept – not just their knowledge of it. As such, he will bring an important voice to board discussions about evaluating students’ learning to ensure that they are prepared to be successful in their post-K-12 endeavors. Souder is a clear communicator who is invested in supporting 9-R’s continued success. He will serve well.
Carolyn Smith was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board 15 months ago, and has been instrumental in crafting new evaluation tools. That has been a critical endeavor for 9-R, and Smith’s voice has contributed to an inclusive and effective process.
DeeDee Kendall offers a crucial parent perspective that aims to connect the 9-R board more effectively with the communities it serves. That is an important point that should inform the board’s priorities in the coming years.
Each candidate has the skills and dedication to serve effectively. From these excellent candidates, choose Stephanie Moran, Andy Burns, Nancy Stubbs, Erica Max and Mick Souder.
Editor’s note: Monday’s editorial will address Ballot Question 3A, which proposes to reduce the size of the 9-R board from seven to five members. The terms and candidates above will not be affected by the outcome of that question.