The state Board of Education gained two new members in Tuesday's balloting, retained a third for another term and re-seated two members who ran unopposed.
New board members will be Frances Hatch Merrill, a former Utah legislator, and Harold S. Jensen, a Gunnison businessman. Merrill will represent District 5, having defeated Robert F. Bennett by a bare two percentage points, and Jensen will represent sprawling District 9 after besting Vernal businessman John H. Millecam in the election. Donald G. Christensen weathered a challenge from O. Ray Warner of Alpine in District 7 to win a third term on the board.Neola Brown of District 1 and John M.R. Covey of District 3 breezed through the election unopposed.
Tuesday's election is likely to be the last in which state school board members will be self-selected. A legislative committee will recommend in the 1991 session that a screening process be initiated to allow a committee in each of the nine school board districts to choose a potential slate of candidates. The governor would select two from that slate to stand for election.
The new board members are eager to begin their work.
Merrill said she wants to improve the quality of education in Utah. "I'm big on vocational education," she said. "I'm big on choice for students."
She sees what she considers a "huge bureaucracy that stifles the teacher in the classroom" and is ready to take on that bureaucracy and trim it back.
Jensen would like to see retirement money for teachers cut back and the money diverted to new, younger teachers. "We should put Utah in line with other states," he said. "Utah teachers have the best retirement plan in the nation."
Although he was himself just elected under the old system, Jensen said he wants to see a change. Some of the school board districts are so large it is impossible for a board member to stay in touch with his constituency, he said. District 9 takes in about a third of the state geographically.
As he begins a third term, Christensen said he is looking forward to implementing the Shift in Focus adopted by the board two years ago. The policy document supports a student-centered school system with more emphasis on local control and an individualized plan for every student. Class size is a serious problem that also must be addressed, Christensen said.