meet the candidates 2

November 2 brings the state and county election to Delta County. This special edition of the High Country Spotlight has been produced to offer an equal opportunity to all Delta County School Board candidates to present their biographical information and answer a series of 10 questions based on a query of select members of the community, including educators, business leaders and long-time citizens of Delta County, who submitted questions in writing to the High Country Shopper. 

This edition also features pros and cons concerning state and local ballot issues garnered from election pamphlets and the League of Women Voters. 

The High Country Shopper does not endorse any one candidate, agenda, or policy. Our intention is to present an opportunity for voters to gain insight into the candidates in an unbiased forum. The Shopper is a staunch supporter of local education and is invested in the future of our community. We are strong advocates of participation in local elections and hope that this special publication is enlightening and informative to the public.

Delta County voters can select two out of six candidates to fill the open positions on the Board for District 1, representing Delta, and District 5, representing Paonia and Crawford. 

Shannon Crespin

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My name is Shannon Crespin and I’m running for the District 1 seat on the Delta County School Board. I am 45 years old and was raised in Delta. I have been married to my wife, Candice, for 17 years and we have two young boys. I graduated from Delta High in 1994. After high school I attended the Vo-Tech for electrical apprenticeship and worked as an electrician in Salt Lake City. While I was in Utah, I also became a volunteer firefighter/EMT. Candice and I got married in 2004.  After living in Denver for a few years, we moved back to Delta County in 2009 to raise our family. I got a job working for the school district in the North Fork maintenance department, and in 2014 I got my dream job working full-time for the Delta Fire Department. I am also involved with the City of Delta as a Little League baseball coach, a summer umpire and a flag football referee.

Kristina Hines 

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My name is Kristina Hines and I am running for the District 1 seat on the Delta County School Board.  I am 36 years old and live in Delta with my husband David, and sons, Hunter (10) and Blake (7).  I am originally from Arizona, but moved to Delta County seven years ago with my husband. While in Arizona, I earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Arizona State University. David was born and raised in Delta County. We moved here so our boys could enjoy the outdoors and the Colorado lifestyle. My husband and I raise and sell registered Boer goats, and I sell goat milk and soap and make baby items, which are offered for sale on my Etsy store. I also help out on the Hines family farm. My husband and I teach Sunday school class at Rivers Church in Delta. I also mentor and teach the girls’ ministry class on Wednesday nights.

Brian Kopko

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My name is Brian Kopko and I am running for the District 5 seat on the Delta County School Board. I am 44 years old and live in Paonia with my wife Deana and three children, ages 6, 5 and 2. I have a BS in management information systems and a BS in marketing business administration, both form Miami University. I am a Christian, husband, father, and an American.  We’ve lived in Delta County and have been settled in Paonia for about two years and really love the area and the local communities.  I cherish the small-town character and traditional value system of Delta County and these attributes directly contributed to our decision to move into and raise our kids here.  I’m a very strong advocate of local control and that core resources like education should be driven by the character and values of the community members it serves

 Luke McCrain

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My name is Luke McCrain and I am running for the District 5 seat on the Delta County School Board. I am 50 years old and live on our farm/ranch on Stewart Mesa with my wife Kelley, and twin boys, Cole and Jace, who are sixth graders at PK-8. I’ve been employed by Gunnison County for the past 23 years, most recently as Crew Leader for Road and Bridge. My wife and I also own and operate North Fork Auction. I am a graduate of Jim State Academy. In college I coached gymnastics at preschool through high school levels. I am a member of the Paonia #121 Masonic Lodge and serve on the board for Stewart Mesa Domestic Water. Being elected as a School Board Member for our great community will further allow me to impact it in a positive way for generations to come, and to be a strong voice for many families.

Jennifer McGavin

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My name is Jennifer McGavin and I am running for the District 5 seat on the Delta County School Board. I am 57 years old and live in Paonia with my husband, Rick, and our two dogs. I have been a successful business owner in the North Fork Valley for over 17 years. I own and manage West Elk Wine & Spirits in Paonia, and my husband runs the North Fork Karate dojo and is a master jeweler as well. I earned a BS from UC Davis, California with a major in biology and minor in cultural anthropology. I then received a Master of Science from Leibnitz University Hannover in Hanover, Germany and an MBA from the University of Colorado. I am a fourth degree black belt in Shotokan karate, International Martial Arts Association. Rick and I both like fly fishing and boating, walking the dogs and gardening.

 Nicole Milner

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My name is Nicole Milner and I am running for the District 5 seat on the Detla County School Board. I am 34 years old and live in Paonia with my husband and son, a freshman at North Fork High School. I attended elementary, middle, and high school in Paonia and graduated in 2005. I attended school at what is now known as the Technical College of the Rockies for my licensed practical nurse certificate. I went on to Colorado Mesa University for my associate degree in nursing. I later attended CMU online for my bachelor’s degree, and am currently attending Grand Canyon University for a Master’s in the science of nursing with a specialty in adult acute care nurse practitioner. My father moved to this valley in 1972. My mother was born in Delta and graduated from Hotchkiss High School. My husband, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles all graduated from Delta County schools.

An HCS Question and Answer Session: Candidates Respond to Local School Issues

The High Country Shopper compiled a list of 10 questions, based upon a query of select members of the community, and asked the candidates to keep their answers at roughly 150 words or less. 

Q:  Why are you running for the Delta County School Board?

Shannon Crespin: I’m running for the school board because I have two young boys who mean the world to me, and this is a way for me to be involved with their education and be more involved with my community. I don’t have any changes currently.

Kristina Hines: This is the first time I am running for the school board. I am running because I would like to be more involved in my community and work with the board to make meaningful decisions and a budget that helps all students and staff in Delta County. I would bring diversity to the school board because I have not worked for the school district and would bring a different point of view on different issues that impact the students and community. I believe to be an effective member of the board you need to be a team player and do what is best for the students and staff in Delta County. As a parent of two children in the district, my decisions will always be made on what is best for the kids and district as a whole.

Brian Kopko: Delta County Schools need to respect the traditional demarcation lines between pure educational concerns and those concerns traditionally and respectfully within the domain of the family. I feel we need a strong voice and advocate for Delta families who cherish our traditional value system and the roles and relationships between our families and our schools.  Our education system should be focused on teaching and instilling foundational academic skillsets and how to apply them as a compliment to life skills.  

Luke McCrain:  The primary reason I am running for the school board is to preserve and improve the quality of our school system, not only for my children, but all of those in Delta County. It is my aim to create stronger ties between the school board and the public. As a school board member, I will use my influence to ensure taxpayer money is spent wisely to promote a quality public education for present and future students.

Jennifer McGavin: I’ve been a successful business owner in the North Fork Valley for 17 years, and I’ve been involved in all kinds of organizations, from my service fraternity in college to serving as president of Hidden Valley Homeowners Association. Serving on the board is a way for me to give back to the community that has nurtured me. Public service is an honor and I look forward to being the next School Board Director for District 5.

Nicole Milner: My motivation to run for school board sparked with the consolidation of Paonia and Hotchkiss High Schools. It is important to me to address questions our communities have for our school board administration.

Q: If elected, what changes would you like to see the Board enact?

Kristina Hines: Nothing as of right now, the board is doing a great job.  I do like the fact the board stood their ground during the heated debate with the Comprehensive Sex Ed issue, even as people from outside the district came to protest.

Brian Kopko: DCSD has a great foundation.  I would be looking to help optimize, strengthen, and support all the hard work that’s been put into it so we can provide the best foundational education possible for our kids and the best educational product for the Delta County families we serve.  Our schools need to be reliable, competitive, and open to all our students while we maintain a disciplined focus on our kids’ education.  This can be hard considering broader challenges we see today.  Our schools need strength to overcome today’s challenges and to thrive despite them.  I want a strong alignment on the board with the goals and concerns of our Delta County families, as well as alignment of our educational policies and strategies so that they reflect an execution on those goals.

Luke McCrain: The biggest change I would like to see is for the school board and administration to communicate more frequently and openly with the community and to listen to their needs, thereby together creating a strong collaborative force in our schools and communities for the benefit of all. I will also support more across the board equality for all district employees and push for wage increases at all levels.

Jennifer McGavin: My priorities are to make sure the Delta County School District is running at peak performance. The school district is the largest employer in Delta County and a school board sets the tone for the whole area. Because of this I will be inviting and listening to a variety of voices and encouraging them to share their ideas on what their schools need to run well. I hope to create ways for all interested people to help enact change in the district. I will also be helping with budget decisions and vision implementation of the various schools.

Nicole Milner: Prior to running for board, I had always stated that the board and district administration could be more transparent to our communities. The changes that I want to make is to ensure that this happens. From the first meetings of the consolidation to the final consolidation decision, I feel that our communities were left with many unanswered questions. Answering these questions, listening to the communities and their concerns, and being a voice for the communities is essential to the success of our school district and our students.

Shannon Crespin: I don’t have any changes currently.

Q: Our district achievement data mirrors the state, but some of our schools are doing much better than the state. Every school has its own culture, but how do we capitalize on what our most successful schools are doing and extend it district wide?

Brian Kopko: I am a strong advocate of individual cultures and school character that naturally support the local community the school.  Notwithstanding, we want a network of collaboration and ideation sharing across our schools to make sure we can all learn from what works and what doesn’t.  We should have an ability to identify and surface these insights and make sure our individual schools have an opportunity to decide whether they are applicable to their own space or not.  Our educators should have a common goal set but some flexibility on how to execute.  Measuring our progress and maintaining accountability will reveal what is working or not.  I think supporting ways to incubate, experiment with trust, test, learn, and socialize across the school district our individual learnings is a critical component which contributes to efficiencies we’d otherwise not have.

Luke McCrain:  We take those proven models of excellence and implement those practices throughout the district, customizing it to fit each individual school. This simple and practical approach is sure to bolster academic success throughout Delta County School District.

Jennifer McGavin: It seems as if some of our most successful schools are in the most affluent parts of the county. According to the 2020 census, the city of Delta had a per capita income of $20,000 while the county as a whole averaged $26,000. The City of Delta also has a higher concentration of migrant workers and more people who primarily speak Spanish at home. While I am not certain of all the challenges each school faces, I would say that looking at additional services to shore up family life would go a long way to improving test scores. This includes looking for federal programs which can be given space on campus to reach the families of the students. Migrant Education Program is one such outreach program but counseling about federal assistance for families and Delta County Health Department information are also examples.

Nicole Milner: To capitalize on the success of our schools, we must first determine what is making the school successful. Paonia schools, for example, have been very successful over the previous decade. I believe a lot of the success comes from our knowledgeable staff and small class sizes. To mirror this throughout the district we would have to vet and retain knowledgeable and well qualified staff. Teachers should be rewarded based on achievement and involvement with the students. The board would need to direct funding to guarantee smaller class sizes to ensure proper education. Extracurricular activities help to motivate kids and keep them focused on school. The more opportunities that we can provide the better success I believe we will have. We, as a district and individual communities, need to ensure that our students are provided these opportunities.

Shannon Crespin: I think we should look closely at those more successful schools and see if that system would fit or could be modified for other schools.

Kristina Hines: I would suggest having continuing meetings with administration from all schools will be the most beneficial. Having successful principals sharing their practices can give other principals ideas to better the cultures at their own schools. I also think that bringing successful principals into the district level staff will help them bring their expertise to schools districtwide.

Q: Do you support the teaching of Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education and/or Critical Race Theory? Why or why not?

Luke McCrain: No. I absolutely do not support either of these and never will. Each goes against the Christian conservative values our nation was founded on. The CSE teaches children immoral practices in a subtle, underhanded manner. I do not support either of these in anyway whatsoever and will fight to keep this out of our schools. 

Jennifer McGavin: The School Board has recently adopted the Colorado Academic Standards as our curriculum guide. In it, age-appropriate health and sexual education are outlined. The board is in the process of choosing the units which will be taught by medical professionals. As is Colorado State law, all materials can be viewed by the parents and parents may opt their children out of any or all sexual education lessons. Sex ed was very important to me in fifth grade because my parents did not know how to talk about it and as a biologist, I support teaching it in school. If you look through the Colorado Academic Standards, you will see there is no mention of Critical Race Theory. The standards do encourage including minority viewpoints and social contributions when learning about history and civics. I support this.

Nicole Milner: The top issues that our district is/may be facing are Critical Race Theory (CRT), Comprehensive Sex Education and the 1619 Project. I feel that the rejection of the comprehensive sex education in our schools was wise, I do not support it. The 1619 Project is merely an interpretation of history, a narrative. The project’s pessimism about white America is the reason that it does not belong in our schools. CRT creates unwanted divides that can be detrimental to the already fragile adolescent state. CRT is simply a theory; we should continue to support teaching our students about the constitution, the history of our country and our civic duties as Americans.

Shannon Crespin: I support education that I think will benefit our children and that would give them the best knowledge to succeed in life.  

Kristina Hines: No, I believe it should be the parent’s right to decide when and what their children learn about sex education. During the short time the students are in school, it would be time better spent to increase their knowledge in math, English, and life skills instead of focusing on sex education that is biased. The Critical Race Theory is a curriculum that is pushing a particular ideology, not encouraging academics. In my opinion, Critical Race Theory creates separation between students; it doesn’t bridge the gap between their differences. We should give our students the ability to study history and learn from the mistakes of the imperfect people who have come before us, not erase the parts of history that we don’t agree with.

Brian Kopko:  I do not.  These are not educational curricula, but indoctrination agendas.  I would look to proactively ban the application of such destructive false doctrines within Delta County Schools.  Critical Race theory is a repackaged form of “Critical Theory” which is a tenet of Marxism.  It is designed as a divisive and toxic wedge aimed at destabilizing and tearing down core frameworks of our society.  It uses a false lens of identity politics which attempts to frame all experiences and aspects of our society as inheritably racist.  

The intentional and proactive sexualization agenda put forth for our kids is a very similar agenda but targets, invades, and works to destroy the foundation of the family by bypassing the consent and role of the parent.  Families should be free to instruct, raise, and foster what they deem appropriate for their children.  Our schools’ academic curriculum should not be operating in such spaces.

Q: What actions would you take to help empower teachers to spend more time teaching life skills instead of only teaching to a test?

Jennifer McGavin: Testing is a way of modern life, it seems. We have so many tests and all activities are so competitive it becomes overwhelming at times. I would like to see less of it. Still, testing allows us to see weaknesses in our programs and implement course corrections when needed. Teachers train to the test because their jobs depend on the scores. One way to empower teachers to spend less time on test-training would be to have a robust method of teacher evaluation which does not take student test scores into account. Unfortunately, this is a problem that must be solved at the state and federal level. I would support any changes to laws which allow for a lower emphasis on test scores for teacher evaluations.

Nicole Milner: The continued expansion of our elective classes, I feel is the best way to expand on life skills. Some of these classes may include cooking, welding, wood shop, bookkeeping, personal finance, mechanics, drama, and home economics. Building on these types of skills allows students to better grasp personal talents and helps them to gain confidence.

Shannon Crespin: I am all in on teaching life skills, but you also need “book knowledge” as I call it, to help succeed in life too.  I would support more offerings of trades and life skills in the school setting to help balance it out.

Kristina Hines: I would advocate to bring focus back to life skills like shop, cooking, personal finances (checkbooks, credit cards, etc.), and also encourage students to look beyond college for opportunities like apprenticeships in fields like electrical, mechanics and plumbing. These are occupations that are essential, local, and well paying, but are overlooked for college degrees. Technical College of the Rockies is a great school we have in our community. 

Brian Kopko: Apart from the parents, teachers are our best team members to know how best to teach our kids “how to learn” more so than how to take tests.  ‘How to learn’ is more applicable and compatible with successful application of life skills, be it in an academic setting or otherwise.  Our teachers need the appropriate flexibility so they can be adaptive and responsive to the needs within the classroom.  There are goals to be achieved and we need to be able to measure our path to success. We want to maintain space within the classroom for brilliance, spontaneity, and the freedom for our teachers to get our kids to where we ultimately want them to be.  I would look to learn a lot from our educator team members here to help frame up and provide the tooling they need to get the wins we want for our kids.

Luke McCrain: Allow the trades to come back into the school. It is important to have an academic standard to test to. At the same time, it is also important to teach a variety of skills necessary for success in everyday life. I would strongly encourage our teachers to take a close look at bridging the gap between the two and make necessary changes in the curriculum so that we are graduating students with strong bases academically and socially to help ensure a good quality of life for them and future generations.

Q: Do you have any ideas on how to increase retention of high quality staff?

Nicole Milner: Retention of staff is dependent on the environment. It is important to provide a positive environment with a lot  of support and motivation. As a member of the North Fork Booster Club, I feel that we are excellent at supporting all staff and we maintain their wellbeing. The support that is provided by the club and our communities allows the expression of appreciation.

Shannon Crespin: Wages is the first thing that comes to mind, but I know that budgets get tight.

Kristina Hines: I would like to create a committee dedicated to teacher appreciation throughout the year, having local businesses and churches volunteer services or time to let teachers know we appreciate them. I know in the past, a local massage therapist took a day off and gave free massages to the teachers; also our church goes into schools and gives them treats or Italian sodas to show them they are appreciated. Sometimes teachers just want to be seen.

Brian Kopko: I look forward to a strong partnership with our administrative team on existing team member retention strategies and the challenges we incur today in this space.  Delta County Schools is a team of great individuals. We must work hard to make sure they understand their individual value and contribution to our collective cause, our kids.  This can be a challenge in a rural community competing in a broader market space against the very real constraints of budgets and competing priorities.  I would look at traditional means such as financial incentives as well as ensure our team members feel empowered, fulfilled, supported, and effective.  There is unlikely a one-size-fits-all approach here so we want to make sure we have a rich enough set of tools to satisfy individual team member needs.  We cannot succeed with unhealthy teams.

Luke McCrain: Yes, better wages. If you want to keep your help, treat them with respect and pay them well. We already have a climate and way of living that naturally attracts people to the area. If the district would offer a competitive wage, the problem will solve itself.

Jennifer McGavin: Yes. As a business owner I know that to have the best employees I need to pay them a bit more than average and make sure they know they are contributing to the success of the business. Right now our teacher salaries are lower than the surrounding area, although benefits may make up some of the difference. Still, you cannot just be on par with your competition to attract and keep employees, you must be at least slightly above them. Pay staff more, make sure they have all the tools they need to do their jobs and make sure their jobs are acknowledged by the management and that they feel appreciated. I am sure the administration is doing the latter, and we can keep pushing on the former.

Q: Low student enrollment numbers in Paonia have been asserted as the main reason for not maintaining a K12 educational program in Paonia. Would you continue to fund two elementary schools in Paonia? Why or why not?

Shannon Crespin: You must look at what is beneficial for the kids but if you can’t keep the lights on financially that does not help. Tough decision to have to make. 

Kristina Hines: We have to be responsible with our resources, if we’re facing an issue with retaining staff, then we have to make sure we’re using the staff we do have wisely. If that means combining schools with low enrollment, that would be a better use of the teachers, supporting staff and resources we do have.

Brian Kopko: I would be resistant to continued changes in Paonia school offerings without being better informed of all the distinct issues and drivers contributing to existing enrollment numbers as measured across a fairly large timeframe.  Fiscal responsibility must always be a focus of the board.  Although I think Paonia has some very strong programs, the community needs time to grow into and integrate with the new structure at North Fork High.  Schools are a critical component to a vibrant and living community.  We must exercise an overabundance of caution when we decide to remove choice and offerings serving any community.

Luke McCrain: In my opinion, the NFSIS needs to be supported at this time. The funding and facility are already in place. Because of the vast spectrum of different walks of life, Paonia can uniquely accommodate both elementary schools and their different approaches to learning.  As with all schools in the district, NFSIS needs to be held accountable to a set standard of academic excellence and if that standard is not met, then the district needs to look at either strategic intervention or dissolving the school.

Jennifer McGavin: I would support both schools moving forward in the near future at least. Judging from the increased enrollment at NFSIS, this school is answering a need in the community. Instead of wanting to force every family into the same kind of school it is important to be open to various kinds of learning and educational paradigms. This school district has managed to create a variety of learning opportunities in the area and that is something to be proud of. I know you want the best for your child wherever they go to school. It remains incumbent on the school district administration to make sure all schools have the equipment, upkeep and staff that they need to create great student outcomes. As far as cost per student, that is something we need to keep an eye on and monitor as well as making sure every child meets or exceeds academic grade level along the way.

Nicole Milner: No. To assert that low student enrollment is a reason for consolidating Paonia and Hotchkiss, while concurrently funding two elementary schools in one of the smallest towns in the district is absurd. If we consolidate to save money, we as taxpayers should not have to fund both schools. I feel that the traditional public schools follow a curriculum that is progressive and challenging, preparing students for graduation, ongoing education, and life. I do not feel that our taxpayer money should fund schools that do not meet these standards. The North Fork School of Integrated studies (NFSIS) follows an alternative curriculum and I feel that it does not properly prepare students for high school. I do like that there are choices for the students. I feel that all students learn in different ways and progress through their learning at a different pace, but certain standards need to be met to ensure growth. Students need to be continually challenged.

Q: If elected to the Delta County School Board, would you advocate for a resolution that requires the District to make line item details easily available and all expenditures to the public?

Kristina Hines: Yes, to reasonable details. Making extremely detailed expenditure reports available means more paperwork for everyone from teachers to principals to district officials. Which means everyone is spending more time on paperwork and less time focusing on the students and making an impact in their lives. 

Brian Kopko: Financial transparency is a critical factor of maintaining public trust.  I think we also want to provide DCSD leadership the flexibility to be responsive to spending needs arising across the entire Delta County School District.  Drilling down into low-level details can be complicated. The context for the day in and day out drivers can be hard to get across in a public forum not immersed at the dynamic ground level of those decisions.  That said, we must ultimately have controls and accountability that result in collective trust.  If that is not the result, more might need to be done.  Luckily, if we do not trust our leaders in making the best decisions focused on accomplishing our collective goals we can remove them.  I look forward to community feedback on what we are currently missing in this space.

Luke McCrain: Absolutely! The district itself must be held to the same high standards expected of the schools and its employees. As a recipient of taxpayer money, the district owes it to the public to make this information readily available and presented often in any media forms available. This should already be in place, and I will work hard to see that it is implemented.

Jennifer McGavin: It is hard to comment on such a vague question. I would have to see the resolution and find out what exactly it is the public needs in order to feel as if the expenditures are transparent enough. Right now, the budget on the district’s website is over 100 pages long. It is not easy read, but the files are available and everyone is welcome to ask questions of the financial department and the superintendent about any expenditure. If the concern behind the question could be elucidated, there may be more to say but at this time I could only say that I would certainly consider every resolution that came before the board.

Nicole Milner: Transparency has always been one of my main goals with the district and our communities. I feel that the district should be able to explain exactly how and where the money came from and how it is utilized. I have met with district administrators and talked in detail about district spending and funding through the consolidation of Paonia and Hotchkiss. I have expressed the need for improved clarity of these records including grants, capital funds, and projects.

Shannon Crespin: I don’t think a resolution is necessary, the budget expenditures are detailed as it is and breaking them down even more is kind of overkill. Unless you want to know how many bottles of window cleaner are bought. Also, because of the Colorado Open Records Act anyone can get district records anytime.  

Q: The Board and the administration has asserted that increased student performance would occur as a result of the reconfiguration of the North Fork high schools. Would you advocate for providing an ongoing comparison between pre- and post-reconfiguration student performance data?

Brian Kopko: Yes, I would.  It’s important to quantify and measure our success achieving asserted goals as well as confirming the drivers underlying complicated decisions such as the consolidation of two schools.  I do think there will have to be time given to adjust to the changes.  North Fork High needs the collective support of DCSD as well as the Hotchkiss and Paonia communities to be everything we want it to be.  I look forward to contributing to an outstanding future for our kids at North Fork High School.  It should be a very competitive leader in our DCSD portfolio backed by the collective strengths of the communities it is serving.  It’s pretty exciting to think about the possibilities.

Luke McCrain: Yes we must. And that data needs to be presented to the public in a regular basis.

Jennifer McGavin: In general, yes. As a practical matter it may be difficult to compare pre- and post-reconfiguration student performance data due to the fact that the school is now a different size and has a different student body. Test scores are only part of the comparison, however. We also have to look at student satisfaction, learning opportunities and access to materials as well.

Nicole Milner: I would advocate for ongoing comparison of school performance. I feel that school performance goes hand in hand with community support. The support that the community provides to our staff and our students will help improve overall scores over time. This is a change that we may or may not see during this upcoming elective term on the school board. It is important to see an increase in performance over time, possibly taking years to see results from the consolidation. 

Shannon Crespin: Yes, because it would be comforting for those communities and the district to see if those decisions that were made do truly benefit the education of the students. 

Kristina Hines: Yes, more knowledge means you can better meet the needs of the students. By comparing performance data, you can see what decisions work and which don’t. Therefore, the school district can make meaningful decisions that positively impact all the students and staff. 

Q: It has been the operational practice over at least the last seven years, for the district to hold unassigned cash reserves that are five to seven times greater than what the state suggests is necessary to be judged a fiscally responsible district. This is excess cash that can responsibly be spent to address real and continuing needs of students and staff. The question is: As a new board member, will you continue to support this level of cash reserve as opposed to spending more on students and staff?

Luke McCrain: The level of cash reserves currently held by the District is at a disproportionate amount, and I do not support it. While we do need to retain a safe level of reserves, the District needs to release a certain percentage of those extra funds in sensible and useful ways to better our facilities and programs.

Jennifer McGavin: As a business owner I know that sitting on excess money that can be used to generate business is not the best strategy. Money needs to circulate to generate desired outcomes.I have noticed that the school district is being very fiscally responsible and living well within their budget, but I would like to look into the reserves, which are a bit higher than necessary, and see if and where the money can be spent, possibly on one-time infrastructure or needed maintenance. If one-time expenditures could be moved out of the regular budget it could free up more money for improvements in staff numbers, pay, educational tools and other ongoing expenses.

Nicole Milner: I feel that it is important to have the state suggested reserves because of unexpected expenses. Our district far exceeds the suggested reserve. With this surplus of funds our district should reward teachers for enhanced involvement with their students and exceptional achievement. Improving staff engagement and retention will enhance student success.Rewarding the teachers that go above and beyond for their students will boost morale and create an environment of superior learning and high achievement. This in turn should boost academic scores and generate more funding for the schools.

Shannon Crespin: I do believe in having an adequate reserve but if that money is collecting dust and can be used to improve teacher and staff retention and education for most then use it. 

Kristina Hines: Yes, it is important for any business or organization to hold unassigned cash reserved for emergency purposes, unexpected bills or situations. For example, if the school district wanted to buy property for a new school/ sports complex or new school bus, and if they didn’t have the unassigned cash reserves, they wouldn’t be able to purchase that  item. The district would have to await months or years to save up the money. Also, having this excess cash helped schools act quickly in response to schools closing in 2020, something that no one could have predicted. Not all school districts are the same when it comes to unassigned cash reserves. Different districts need to have different amounts in their unassigned cash reserves based on the needs of the community the school district is serving. 

Brian Kopko: It has been the operational budget practice, over at least the last seven years, for the district to hold unassigned cash reserves that are five to seven times greater than what the State suggests is necessary to be judged a fiscally responsible district.  

This is excess cash that can responsibly be spent to address real and continuing needs of students and staff. I look forward to learning the strategies and traditional motivations driving DCSD cash reserve positions and want to come into it with an open mind.  I traditionally value fiscal restraint and discipline in public institutions and resources.  There is a lot of room for investment within DCSD to further our mission, so we need a clear picture of the opportunities and inherent tradeoffs.  

I view our public education as a finite resource, and I look forward to the collective discussion on how to responsibly leverage and deploy that resource to support our kids and ultimately enrich the communities we love.