Joe Colgan will try to fend off challenger Bill Bowlby for the District E seat in this year’s only contested school board race.
Colgan was appointed to the Durango School District 9-R seat in August to fill a vacancy left by Tammy Capdevielle, who moved to Boulder. Bowlby also sought the seat, but the board appointed Colgan by a 4-2 vote.
Colgan must seek re-election because the term left to him by Capdevielle ends in November.
Ballots already have been mailed to voters. Returned ballots must arrive at the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s office by 7 p.m. Nov. 3. School board candidates represent geographic districts, but voters may vote for all races on the ballot.
Colgan, 71, served as 9-R’s interim finance director from February to August 2008, and helped write 9-R’s strategic plan last year.
In a recent interview, Colgan said working on the strategic plan gave him an opportunity to see where the district is going.
"Education is getting more and more important to us," he said. "For years we basked in the notion that we were tops in the world, and we’re slipping. So the strategic plan is about how to regain that position."
Colgan said 9-R faces a tough budget situation. The district faces several declining revenue sources, and Superintendent Keith Owen said at Tuesday’s board meeting that the district will face "hard choices."
"It’s easy to say that we want to use a scalpel and not a machete" in cutting the budget, Colgan said. "Public education, contrary to what people may think, really isn’t flush with dough. We really don’t do anything that we don’t have to do."
A former Fort Lewis College accounting professor, Colgan served two terms on the Durango City Council from 1997 to 2005. He ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives in 2006, losing narrowly to Ellen Roberts. He also has served on numerous community boards.
Bowlby is a stonemason and has a daughter in Durango High School and a daughter in Miller Middle School.
Bowlby, 55, has been an outspoken opponent of high-stakes standardized testing. He testified before the Colorado House of Representatives Education Committee in 2006 in support of a bill to let parents keep their children out of state tests without penalizing schools.
"I want to be part of the conversation," Bowlby said. "My voice is a voice that’s missing from the board."
Bowlby taught elementary school in Aztec for seven years. He grew up in Fraser, where his father was president of the school board and his mother was an elementary school teacher.
Bowlby said education shouldn’t try to emulate corporate models.
"I think there’s a higher purpose to education than just cranking out future employees," he said.
If budget cuts must be made, Bowlby said, the board should avoid cutting anything that affects classroom education.
"My purpose for getting on the board is really to be the voice of parents, students and teachers," he said.