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The Roaring Fork School's Board of Education Candidates Debate At Candidate Forum

Oct 25, 2019

From left to right: Natalie Torres, Maureen Stepp, Amy Connerton, Jasmin Ramirez and Shane Larson debate at Wednesday night's candidate forum. All are vying for three open seats to represent Districts B, C and D on Roaring Fork School's Board of Education.
Credit Molly Dove / Aspen Public Radio

Three different district seats are open on the Roaring Fork School District’s Board of Education, and the five candidates running for those open seats had a chance to debate at a candidate forum Wednesday night.

Three candidates are vying for the District D seat, which covers north and west Glenwood Springs areas. The candidates are Amy Connerton, incumbent Shane Larson and Jasmin Ramirez. 

Connerton is an associate professor at Colorado Mountain College and works shifts at Valley View Hospital’s Roaring Fork Family Practice. She has lived in the Valley for 32 years, and Glenwood Springs since 2007. She has two daughters who are in the high school in Glenwood Springs. 

Larson is the vice president of student affairs at Colorado Mountain College. He has lived in the Valley for about six years, with two daughters at Glenwood Springs High School and a son at Glenwood Springs Middle School. He is seeking a second term on the board. 

Ramirez has experience in early childhood education. She has lived in the Valley for 13 years. Her two kids, one fourth grader with autism and a 22-month old, are in the school district. 

How the board should communicate with both district staff and students’ families was one question all three candidates answered differently.

Connerton said evidence-based practices for feedback are best. She said surveys are great for staff, but parents should be given more options.

“There are other ideas,” She said. “There is social media, maybe there’s small groups, maybe there’s a parent leader, maybe we can tap into PTAs...in order for us to really engage all of us as a whole.”

But Ramirez said surveys do not always represent the experience of the district’s staff and families. Direct communication is the best way.

“What are we hearing back? What is the experience? What is the needs between every individual school, because they are so diverse,” Ramirez said. “Every community has its own needs, its own demographics. We need to try to build a relationship with our teachers where they feel they can come and have those conversations with us.”

Incumbent Shane Larson agreed with Ramirez, but says that communication needs to be with all schools, not just a board member’s child’s school.

“You have to be more intentional about that work as to how can I get into those schools? How can I meet some of those other parents,” Larson said. “As a board member, I am not there to represent my opinion. I am there to give my opinion, but I am there to represent the people that reach out to me and say ‘this is my concern, this is a problem.’”

Maureen Stepp is the official candidate running for District C covering east Glenwood Springs areas, Spring Valley and western Missouri Heights. Molly Peterson is running as a write-in candidate but was not at the forum. 

Stepp is a college professor and administrator at Colorado Mountain College. She has lived in Glenwood Springs for nine years, and had a child in middle school in the district. 

Peterson works for Edward Jones and was a teacher in the Valley for more than ten years prior. She taught at Rifle Middle School, Riverside Middle School and Glenwood Middle School. She has lived in the Valley for 11 years. 

Stepp said if elected to the board, she wants to focus on the things that will have the biggest impact.

“I believe the board needs to be transparent, we need to communicate more, we need to collaborate. We need to focus on the things that are going well,” Stepp said.

Natalie Torres is the official candidate running for District B, which covers areas west of Highways 133 and 82 from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs. Matthew Cova is a write-in candidate, but was not at the forum. 

Torres is a college registrar at Colorado Mountain College. She has lived in Glenwood Springs for 12 years and has two kids at Riverview Middle School. 

Torres said she will be an effective board member because she will listen and share her passion for education.

“Really instilling those values is something I hold deep to my heart, and that’s why I want to be involved in making their experience the best as it can be,” Torres said. 

The candidates representing Districts B, C and D on the Roaring Fork School’s Board of Education will be chosen on November 5th.