By Tesia Galvan
Staff Writer 

Public quizzes school, council candidates

 

October 7, 2016



WORLAND – Over 42 residents attended the Worland political forum/ debate and focused most of the questions toward school and council candidates.

Candidates from State Senate District No. 20, Worland City Council, a mayoral candidate and Washakie County School District No. 1 introduced themselves to the audience at the forum on Wednesday night at the Worland Community Complex Center.

Keith McDonald, organizer of the event and a mayoral candidate, moderated the event. Originally, the Northern Wyoming Daily News reported that WCCC Executive Director Steve Hunt would be the event’s moderator, but McDonald said with the absence of the second mayoral candidate and not knowing who was going to show up, he decided to moderate.

Mary Jane Norskog, D-Thermopolis, and Wyatt Agar, R-Thermopolis, both running for Senate District 20 attended the forum; Ward 1 council member Keith Gentzler and Ward 3 council member Marcus Sanchez attended the forum; and school board candidates Dean Dupree, Chris King, Casey Rice, Jaime Godfrey and current school board member David Tommerup attended.


State House of Representatives District 27 candidates Michael Greear and Washakie County Commissioner Aaron Anderson were present but did not speak. The audience did not ask them questions.

School board

Currently there are three four-year terms open for Washakie County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees. Board members Julie Haun and Tommerup have filed for re-election. Dupree, King, Rice and Godfrey have filed for one four-year term.

Topics for the school board candidates, from both the audience and questions online ranged from lacking class diversity in the schools and cutting extracurricular activities, unjustified expenditures and the school board willingness to stop nepotism in hiring.

When asked about nepotism via email, most of the candidates agreed they are in favor for it as long as a teacher is qualified.

Tommerup said, “As a district, nepotism comes and it comes in every district in the country. I think it’s a great thing and I’m for it. There are some times when nepotism can be misconstrued and a better candidate could be looked over and I understand the concern there … but I’m not against nepotism because the more buy-in as a family the better involvement.”

Dupree, a former teacher said, “In over 40 plus years you’ll find the teachers that graduated from Worland are the ones that come back and stay here. Those who we hire from out of state stay for a year, two years, three years and they are gone and we have to hire someone else and then they’re gone and we have to hire someone else. So as far as nepotism if they are qualified for the position I am all for it.”


Godfrey, a local office manager said, “I’m for it too. In such a small community you don’t have much choice and if they are qualified then is has to be.”

King, a local attorney said, “Wyoming pays our teachers higher than almost anywhere in the United States, that includes Worland … There is no reason at all to give someone a leg up just because they are related to someone else. If they are the best teacher, they are the one you hire. Now sometimes it happens where the best teacher is related to someone in the district and if that’s the case you’re not talking about someone receiving a leg up, … you’re talking about the best teacher is the one being hired and that’s what our kids deserve.”

Rice, an RT employee said, “Everyone has to be qualified, but we have to cater to the people in our community … I don’t think we should be investing in people who are going to be leaving at some point and time. We’ve put a lot of training ... and a lot of money in these people and it’s not necessarily a good thing to invest … (in) people who could possibly be leaving. I prefer people who are local, who of course have to be qualified.”

When asked about class diversity, Tommerup said it comes down to staffing. “We try to do what we can with what we have,” and said with so many retires and hires they do not have the same amount of teachers available they that they had 15 years ago.

King said the school district needs to reach out to local businesses and see what kind of opportunities they can provide for students. He suggested reaching into reserves and said, “There are things that can be done with externships … and job shadowing … but what has occurred over the last several years (is) right now you have the opportunity to maintain status quo, lose classes and continue to spend money where it needs not spent.”

Dupree said programs and curriculum that are cut and kept are decided by administration and the school board and teachers have no say in it. “It’s not an open discussion type thing and it’s not something I’ve ever heard at the school board meeting and I think it should be.”

Godfrey suggested classes should be split between semesters to allow teachers to learn how to teach that subject or curriculum to give students the opportunity for more experience so it’s not completely gone. “Getting staff here in Worland is especially hard, but we have to go different avenues to have different experiences for kids.”

When asked about unjustified expenditures, Tommerup, who has 12 years on the school board, only answered, and said money is allocated for certain expenses and cannot be used for other things. “Some of the budget things need to be scrutinized heavily but … the federal (government) dictates how money gets spent.”

Council

When attention turned to the council candidates, one resident asked why certain streets she deemed as ‘the nice streets’ are being tarred and others are left as is.

Gentzler said the city uses a sealant, and the sealant makes it so the street doesn’t have to be touched up for another seven years. “There are some sections around town that they picked that are the worst and… then they are going to work their way up.”

Another attendee said money is being wasted when the city crew has so many employees (doing construction) and said she’s witnessed crew members on their cell phones or not doing anything. She also said city crew wait too long for snow removal.

“It has to be a certain depth before WYDOT (Wyoming Department of Transportation) approves us to go out and clean streets, and when you think about it and you have as many people working on this. You have people start work at midnight to get snow cleaned off Big Horn Avenue … then we have to clean all the streets that go to the schools first,” Gentzler said. He added, “Why that wasn’t cleaned in December isn’t because of him (Marcus Sanchez) or me, but it was a decision made by the mayor at the time.”

In response to the city crew question, Gentzler said, “A lot of the time when you see someone standing there while others work, they have a certain job that they are doing at that site and they might be waiting for him to do something so they can do their thing.”

A second resident added to the discussion and said he’s witnessed city crew waste time by sitting in their truck.

In response Sanchez asked if he used that time to watch the crew members to go talk to a department head, and when he said he did several times, Sanchez replied “I’ve been on council for three and a half years and I’ve never heard you come across my desk.” He then backed city crew and said they are the best in the state, but there is always room for improvement and acknowledged sometimes people could take advantage of the clock.

King brought up the surveying issues with Chapter 24 – Zoning asked the council candidates how they say they want fewer regulations to make the process smoother when they voted for it during the three readings.

Sanchez said the council trusted the BAPC (Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission) and “those representatives take what they believe is right for the city and they give that to us. We review it to the best of our knowledge and pass it based on their references, but at the same time we don’t always get it right and they don’t always get it right.”

 
 

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