The eight candidates vying for the four seats on the Salt Lake Board of Education have no quarrel with the school district's move to local control.O All had high marks for the district's site-based management philosophy that is giving more autonomy to the schools.
The candidates also believe the school board is proceeding prudently on issues revolving around the seismic retrofitting of the city's schools.But such universal agreement wasn't evident for several other issues facing the school board that governs the city's 35 schools and 24,000 schoolchildren. Among such issues are school prayer, an evaluation of the district's computers and technology use in the schools, and the naming of the biggest problem facing the district.
The candidates, all of whom have volunteered in the schools, will be on the ballot Nov. 6.
Ann C. Clawson, 371 Seventh Ave., former teacher and volunteer at Ensign Elementary School and West High School, believes the district's biggest problem is setting priorities so it can effec
tively use its financial resources.
She does not believe that the school board should adopt a graduation prayer policy but instead should let each school decide individually until there is a clear-cut court ruling "at which time the school board should pass policy to comply with thetested laws of the land."
She believes the district has many technological resources
that aren't being used effectively, and the district should study that. She also said the district shouldn't fall into the trap of prematurely investing in technology that won't be utilized to the maximum. It needs to fit in the broad spectrum of education, she said.
Larry W. Holmstrom, 598 N. Perry's Hollow Road, an electrical engineer over business development for Iomega Corp., sees the biggest problems as "providing quality schools and increasing educational productivity."
Holmstrom said he is a "religious person who believes in private prayer. Defending a questionable challenge of constitutionality of prayer at this time will be costly and divert our scarce resources from the business of education our children."
Holmstrom, who has had experience with the Writing to Read and Distance Learning Programs, thinks technology can improve educational quality. However, "Salt Lake City schools have not kept pace with the advance of technology," he said.
The incumbent in Precinct 2, Ronald Walker, is not seeking re-election.
Drew F. Chamberlain, 1980 Richards St., a field engineer for an office products company, believes the district's biggest problem is adequate goals. "We need more goal setting to make sure our students receive a good fundamental education."
When asked if the board should adopt a policy on school prayer, he said, "Yes. Non-sectarian prayer is a form of free speech and as such is protected under the First Amendment."
Technology, while very expensive, is "a grand thing. Our schools are doing a good job teaching technology, but there is no substitute for teaching the basic fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic."
Ila Rose Fife, 842 W. 900 South, incumbent and homemaker, believes the school district's biggest problem is "informing the public about the excellent programs and opportunities our district provides for students."
She said current court cases might be helpful in establishing future policy on school prayer. "I think we should be tolerant of others' beliefs and not impose prayers of the majority on others who don't want them."
On technology, Fife said, "The new technology program that has been approved for the elementaries will be a good start for our young people."
Mary Jo Rasmussen, 256 S. 1200 East, program coordinator for the Utah Law-Related Education and Citizenship Project, sees the district's biggest problem as "overloaded classes." She thinks the board needs to explore options, including year-round schools, creative team teaching and tax incentives for businesses who donate technology, to relieve overcrowding.
She believes the school board should adopt a policy that graduation prayer is not allowed until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the issue.
The district has acted wisely in using the first year of the Legislature's technology monies by initiating pilot programs at selected schools, Rasmussen said.
J. Terry Summerhays, 1228 E. 600 South, educational publisher and consultant, lists the biggest problems as "declining enrollment, lack of money and transiency."
Should the district adopt a policy on school prayer? "I'm all for it if it's fair for all concerned. "
On the district's use of technology, Summerhays believes that there has been "lots of waste and not enough access for all students." But, he said, "We have to wade through the learning process because computers and the like are not going to go away. So far they are not good instructors. Teachers are still better."
Incumbent Susan Keene is not seeking re-election.
Diane C. Barlow, 859 S. 2300 East, commercial property manager, believes the district's biggest problem is the safety of the children as caused by the potential seismic hazards. She thinks that the seismic committee's recommendations need to be thoroughly studied, with children's safety the primary concern. Any decision must be supported by the vast majority of parents, she said.
Barlow does not believe the school board should mandate a policy prohibiting or allowing school prayer. "I feel school prayer is a local school decision."
On technology she said, "Salt Lake School District has made a substantial commitment in its use of technology in the schools. Time and money are the restraints."
Kenneth N. Buchi, 2944 St. Mary's Way, University of Utah associate professor of internal medicine and gastroenterology, believes the district's biggest problems are "a lack of vision, a lack of leadership to achieve that vision and an inability to motivate parents, educators and students toward a common goal of excellence in education."
Buchi believes the board's school-prayer policy should state that the district upholds the U.S. and Utah constitutions "both of which clearly separate religious functions, such as prayer, from state-supported and controlled functions such as public schools."
On technology, Buchi said he isn't sufficiently familiar with all programs to adequately evaluate the district's use of technology in the schools.
Incumbent Lorna Matheson is not seeking re-election after three terms on the school board.