Three of the eight candidates for the three Nebo School board seats began write-in campaigns as a reaction to the district's citizenship policy.
The year-old policy assigns unsatisfactory citizenship grades to students who have been late or absent without an excuse more than 10 percent of the time. Students also can receive U's for behavioral problems.Students can clear U's from their records by winning an appeal, performing approved community service, or by completing a makeup class with a registration fee. Students who have more than two unresolved U's are prohibited from advancing to the next grade or graduating.
Many parents have charged the policy is administered arbitrarily and discriminates against children who cannot pay the registration fee.
Precinct 1 includes Payson, Spring Lake, Santaquin, Goshen, Genola and Elberta. Precinct 2 covers the Springville and Mapleton area, Birdseye and parts of Spanish Fork. Precinct 3 includes Lakeshore, Benjamin and most of Spanish Fork.
Candidate Bill White, a 59-year-old Goshen resident and retired Utah Valley Community College instructor, is concerned with programs for first- through fourth-graders.
"For some students, a unit might take three weeks, for some longer," he said. "If the classes go on and some students have missed the basics, they will be lost for the rest of their education."
White said he had not studied the citizenship policy but is in favor of good discipline in the classrooms.
White would not share his opinion on the tax-limitation initiatives but said budgets should be trimmed whether or not they pass.
Kaye Westwood, a 51-year-old Spring Lake resident with 15 years of PTA experience, is concerned about class size.
"It's horrendous to have 35 fourth-graders in a room and 30 first-graders," she said.
Westwood said she was impressed with some of the innovations of the current board. She opposes the tax-limitation initiatives because she thinks the budget has been tight so long that most of the easy cuts already have been made. Most additional cuts would be damaging, she said.
She said she thinks students have benefited from the citizenship policy,"but there were some problems to work out the first year."
Write-in candidate Carolyn Hunt, a 34-year-old Genola resident, believes the schools have problems that a citizenship policy can't fix.
"There's something wrong with the system if kids don't want to be in school," she said. "We've got to find out what and show concern for their welfare instead of using scare tactics."
Hunt said more than 10 percent of students had dropped out because of the policy, and young people without an education usually end up on welfare or in prison. She added that fining a student does not make a good citizen.
Hunt said she does not favor the tax initiatives, although she would like to see administrative costs cut.
Two-term incumbent Collin Allan, 55, a bank manager and Mapleton resident, says he wants more dignity for the teaching profession.
"We need to recognize teachers as dedicated professionals who give so much and have a tremendous impact on young people. I wish there were a better way to reward them."
Allan favors investigating a year-round school schedule to better use buildings and cut spending. He is "very much opposed" to the tax initiatives. "They go way too far; they would hurt Utah," he said.
Allan defends the citizenship policy, saying good manners ought to be part of a student's training for life.
Write-in candidate Joan Jensen, a 38-year-old Mapleton resident, said she is concerned about the way the current board is handling opposition to the citizenship policy.
"I disagree with the policy. I think we need to build students' self-esteem, not tear it down. And the board needs to listen to parents' concerns."
Jensen also said she would like to see a cut in administration costs and more money for teachers.
She hopes the tax-limitation initiatives pass.
"I don't think they will cut too much. People need to pull their heads out of the sand and realize we could always reverse them with a special vote."
Incumbent Richard Johnson, a 45-year-old dentist from Benjamin, has served two terms and is hoping for a third. He said his practice allows him to be available when parents or administrators need him.
"I see tight budgets, overcrowding and some employment practices as the main issues in the district," he said. He thinks year-round school and double sessions might ease budget and crowding problems.
Johnson agrees with the citizenship policy "whole-heartedly," but opposes the tax-limitation initiatives because "it has been pretty exaggerated what they could accomplish."
Johnson said that overall he is pretty happy with the way schools are running, although more can always be done.
Write-in candidate Jack Weyland, a 46-year-old truck driver from Spanish Fork, was out of town and could not be reached for an interview. However his wife and campaign manager, Linda Weyland, responded to some questions.
She said her husband was running for the school board largely because of the citizenship policy. He thinks too much money goes for administrators' pay and not enough is spent on learning-disabled and gifted children.
Weyland supports the tax-limitation initiatives, his wife said.
Candidate James Dunn is a 64-year-old Benjamin resident, BYU professor and elementary education department chairman.
Dunn believes that rather than abolish the citizenship policy the Nebo School Board should look for ways to administer it more fairly.
Dunn sees teacher morale as a major issue."Teachers have low morale from being blamed for all the problems in the system. They are badgered, not respected."
Students "catch" disrespect from their parents, he said, and the attitude makes teachers' efforts less effective.
Dunn said he is against the initiatives - as written - because they would undermine our representative government by taking power from officials the people have elected. He does favor efficient use of tax money, however, he said.