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Woodland Park RE-2 School Board Races Have Two Opposing Groups of Candidates | Pikes Peak Courier


A contentious race with competing candidate lists developed for four open seats on the five-member school board of Woodland Park School District RE-2.

Among the nine choices on the Nov. 2 ballot are incumbents Amy Wolin and Misty Leafers, both of whom were nominated earlier this year by existing school board members to fill the vacant seats.

Six challengers are appointed and a written candidate has registered with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

The number is exceptionally high; in the last previous elections, just enough candidates to fill vacant seats were unchallenged, or posts had to be appointed.

The stake is one seat representing the community as a whole and three defined by geographic boundaries. Only the chairman of the board, Chris Austin, remains without having to be re-elected this year.

The school district has 15,784 active voters, according to the Teller County Clerk and Registrar’s Office.

The district also has a new superintendent, Mathew Neal, whom the board of directors selected in March. He started labor in July.

Large signs in the community announce a declared list of four bidding “conservatives” – David Rusterholtz, who ran for Teller County Commissioner last year and led the Glaser Energy Group at Divide; David Illingworth II, assistant district attorney and former Air Force officer; Gary Brovetto, who served on Woodland Park City Council for three years and was a mayoral candidate; and Suzanne Patterson, who has a background in finance and accounting for the Department of Defense and has worked with people with developmental disabilities.

Four other candidates lined up on social media and candidate forums: Wolin, who served on the board of trustees for the RE-2 school district, and Leafers, an attorney who also worked at RE-2 college, along with Paula Levy, widow of the late Mayor of Woodland Park Neil Levy and founder of Daybreak, An Adult Day Program; and Dale Suiter, who has coached children’s sports and is involved with the Spring Valley metro district in Divide.

Written candidate Aaron Helstrom does not appear to be connected to either platform.

If like-minded candidates won three or more seats, their votes would control the board.

Voters are faced with what Illingworth calls a choice between “maintaining the status quo or bringing the possibility of real change”.

“For too long the council has ruled as a sort of palace guard for school professionals with little respect for parents,” he said. “We don’t need another friend nominated by friends. We need a representative of the people.

Levy said applicants she is affiliated with have experience working or volunteering in schools, know how education systems work, and want to put students first.

Leafers agrees, saying she is focused on “doing what’s best for children” and doesn’t accept campaign contributions because she “doesn’t want to be accountable. to a particular state of mind ”.

Of the nine candidates, Patterson racked up the most, $ 2,253 in contributions and $ 3,750 in loans for a total of over $ 6,000, according to campaign fundraising records as of Oct. 5.

Rusterholtz raised $ 2,126, Levy donated $ 1,350, Brovetto raised $ 1,200 and a loan of $ 72, Illingworth donated $ 700 and Wolin raised $ 530, according to records.

Leafers and Helstrom have no contribution.

The four Tory candidates each received a donation of $ 500 from the Teller County Republican Party, according to financial reports.

Levy said: “It’s very sad and disheartening to me that they made it political.”

While school board races are defined as non-partisan, candidates often split along party lines because “a lot of education issues end up having a partisan tenor,” said Professor Josh Dunn, professor. of Political Science at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

Illingworth said that he, Brovetto, Patterson and Rusterholtz have different backgrounds, “But we quickly realized that we were united in what we want to accomplish and ideas on how we can do it.”

Patterson said, “We are collectively committed to providing a comprehensive education for the leaders of tomorrow. “

Candidates on the other list – Wolin, Leafers, Levy and Suiter – say their mission and thoughts are the same as well.

“It’s about the kids, and we want to see if we can move the district forward in a more positive environment,” Levy said. “Our community has been dividing in many areas for some time now, it is time not to rear this head in schools.”

Some people have wrongly criticized Tory candidates, said Mike Demuth, a Woodland Park resident, a real estate agent.

“Many opponents make up false statements about the Conservatives in the game,” he said.

For example, Demuth said none represent Charis Bible College, an evangelical Christian school for adults based in Woodland Park, whose founder Andrew Wommack encourages its supporters to run for political office, including school boards.

“Instead of criticizing other applicants, we need to focus on what they will do for the education of our children,” Demuth wrote on Facebook.

School board member Nancy Lecky said in an Oct. 13 letter to the editor that making the board a political entity would do the community a disservice.

“Our public school district is the only place where we need to come together as a community,” she wrote.

One point on which opposing candidates agree is that the district’s decline in enrollment must be reversed.

“A lot of our students have left our district to go elsewhere, and there are various reasons, but we live in a great community and we would love to see our children stay here,” Leafers said.

Patterson said based on his conversations with parents, the decline in enrollment is mainly due to “parental dissatisfaction with the school curriculum and lack of communication between parents, faculty and administration. “. She said she would work to change that.

Stopping the slide of Woodland Park students leaving the neighborhood is Illingworth’s main problem.

“It has accelerated sharply in recent years and is quickly reaching a crisis point,” he said.

Illingworth’s plan: “Defend school choice, strengthen family contributions and hold school accountable. “

Leafers said she helps children get the best quality education and teachers and staff are treated like professionals.

“My family was not well off, and with education I was able to transform my life,” she said. “I believe education has the power to be a transformative force. “

Brovetto said he was invited to come to the school board by “concerned parents who want to preserve the traditional and classical approach to education without social engineering or indoctrination.”

If elected, Brovetto said he would encourage further vocational education, in cooperation with businesses, government entities and service sectors. He also wants to improve the content of the program and inform parents of the desired learning outcomes and objectives, as well as the relevance of the courses offered.

Patterson said that as a new board member, she would work to “positively influence communication between parents, students, administration, and the school board in areas such as curriculum and academic achievement. , school choice, parental rights and local decision-making ”.

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