Candidates elected to the Jordan District Board of Education will inherit the challenges of guiding the growth of what is expected to become the largest school district in Utah.
They will assume responsibility for a budget that now totals nearly $375 million. They will lead the district's efforts to implement the district's new strategic plan.Although the district will have money to build eight school because of a $154 million bond issue and state building aid, school board members will be challenged to come up with funds to open the schools. It could mean a tax hike.
While a school board member's job is to act as a visionary and occasional mediator, the reality of serving on the school board is attending dozens of meetings, school functions and studying school issues.
Yet, six residents of the Jordan School District say they are willing to do just that.
Voters in Precincts 1 and 2 will pick among three candidates in each race. The two candidates in each race who receive the most votes will move on to the general election ballot. School-board races in Utah are nonpartisan.
After serving nearly 20 years on the Jordan District Board of Education, incumbent Maureen Jensen will not seek another term in office.
That leaves a three-way race among Mark Hurst of Sandy and Peggy Kennett and John G. Peterson, both of West Jordan.
Hurst ran for the seat in 1994, but voters re-elected Jensen.
Growth is the single issue that most affects Precinct 1. The precinct includes portions of the communities of West Jordan, Midvale and a small segment of Sandy.
Oquirrh Middle School, located in West Jordan, will observe split sessions next fall while the school community awaits the completion of South Hills Middle School in Riverton.
Mark E. Hurst
Address: 8790 S. 120 East, Sandy.
Occupation: Administrative assistant to Young Men's General Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Personal: Single, life-long resident of Jordan School District.
Experience: School volunteer for 15 years through PTA, a school community council representative and district committee that reviewed schools for seismic strength.
Platform: "I don't think were doing enough to make school accessible to parents. One of my greatest concerns is how do we do a better job of including parents in what we do at the school level and the district level."
Growth: "The district has dealt with this with bonding and boundary changes. But it's not something you can just throw money at or adjust boundaries or utilize buildings more effectively. Parent involvement is one of the keys at looking at solving these issues."
School violence: "We've got to find ways to identify and solve problems for troubled children. I don't think a metal detector is going to do that. . . . It sounds trite and hackneyed, but it really does take a village to raise a child. That was true before Hillary Clinton said it. If we don't have a village approach to raising kids in our community, we can expect these incidents of violence to continue."
Reason you should vote for him: "I'm very interested in the process and the product, that being the very best education we can provide within the boundaries of the district, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status."
Peggy Jo Kennett
Address: 6965 S. 1985 West, West Jordan.
Occupation: Emergency substitute teacher at West Jordan Middle School.
Personal: Married 25 years to Scott W. Kennett. They are the parents of five children ages 9-24.
Experience: First and foremost, a parent of five children. PTA president of West Jordan Middle School; PTA president of Jordan District West Secondary Council; PTA involvement since 1986. Served two years on Jordan School District literature selection committee and many years as classroom volunteer.
Platform: "Fostering academic excellence through more emphasis on the basics. More parental responsibility for the education of each student. Using as much site-based decisionmaking as possible. Wise use of tax dollars."
Growth: "I think they've done a good job of watching the trends and a good job planning for it. I'd rather the school district be more conservative than overbuild."
School violence: "I think it all boils down to personal responsibility. The middle schools need to look at using more hall monitors or resource officers. Of course, all of that would depend on funding. We also need to do more inservice for our teachers so they have the tools they need to handle these difficult situations."
Why you should vote for her: "I want to make sure our young people get a good education that will influence them for the rest of their lives. I live in West Jordan, and it's getting to be a large city in its own right. As far as I can remember, I don't think there's has been someone on the school board from the West Jordan area."
John G. Peterson
Address: 3112 W. Green Acre Road, West Jordan.
Occupation: Computer data analyst for the Division of Child and Family Services.
Personal: Married, four children, including a child in third grade. Experience: First run for elected office.
Platform: "I'm not a teacher. I'm going to try to represent the people in the precinct. I don't think teachers should run the school district. It seems there are more teachers on the board than would be appropriate."
Growth: "I would look at what the district is currently doing and see if it fits future growth patterns. I'd look at the projections to determine if we have enough space to handle the growth."
School violence: "That is such a difficult issue. It goes to the core of our families. Parents do not invest enough time with their kids. When both parents work, they're not available to spend quality time with the child. It's even harder for single parents. Maybe there should be some sensitivity training or discussion in school about these things. Just to say the schools should get a handle on it is naive. Often we see students who are not willing to deal with any level of frustration. They want an immediate way out. They've been taught that by parents who don't have time to sit with a child when they are sick. It's all very complex and intertwined. It really is a matter of getting good people who have enough time to spend it with kids."
Reason you should vote for him: "I don't have a predetermined agenda. I want to work for the children. If I step on teachers' toes or parents' toes, so be it. I think that's what school board members are supposed to do."
Incumbent Ellen Wallace, who is serving her first term on the school board, faces challengers Jim Moore and Blair L. Murri in Tuesday's primary election. The two candidates who receive the most votes move on to the general election ballot.
Wallace, who has served as president while on the board, was not opposed in her previous bid for office.
Wallace, Murri and Moore each view improved student achievement as a priority in Precinct 2, which encompasses most of Sandy and parts of unincorporated Salt Lake County. All three candidates reside in Sandy.
A photograph of Murri was not available at press time.
Address: 1933 E. Terrace Drive, Sandy.
Personal: Married, father of five children.
Occupation: Vice president of national sales for San Segal Sportswear, headquartered in Sandy.
Experience: Active in local and council-level PTA leadership. Soccer coach at Hillcrest High School for 13 years, two years as head coach. Involved with Jordan Education Foundation for four years.
Platform: "Being involved with the nonprofit part of the school district (education foundation), I've noticed that maybe business people should be more involved with the board to help the district in the new millennium. My main concerns are the kids, the teachers and the parents. The Jordan School District just got a major portion of my property tax and I think it's time that business people watch our money."
Growth: "As I perceive it, there are three or four ways to handle it: year-round schools, split sessions, busing or building more schools. We're going to reach the point where we're the largest district in the state. We need to make sure our budget and bonding are up to snuff so we can get the best for our kids."
School violence: "It concerns me as a parent and it will concern me as a school board member. I think it's appalling kids are going to school with box cutters and worse. I think they need to be dealt with fairly but strictly."
Why voters should vote for him: "There's nothing I can point to that the people in there have done wrong. I have a business background and a heavy education background. I think someone with those skills needs to come forward now."
Blair L. Murri
Address: 1725 Fonsdell Circle, Sandy.
Personal: Married, four children, ages 1 through 7.
Occupation: Self-employed computer consultant and software engineer.
Experience: "I have voted."
Platform: "The district seems to focus on bringing along the mainstream, directing itself a little behind the curve. When you look at kids ahead of the curve, the district is doing nothing to facilitate a better education for them."
Growth: "In a way, it's being handled as well as it can be. We are building the infrastructure to handle it, but you don't want to overbuild. I think the district has been striking a good balance as far as that goes. Obviously, there will be a need for more schools. We have to figure out how to pay for them, and that has to be discussed."
School violence: "Schools are a microcosm for the problems of society as a whole. Yet schools have to deal with those issues. The first thing is, we have to make sure schools are safe for teachers, students and learning. I don't want to see the day we do have to do something like install metal detectors. I hope we don't get there. It sounds like there's a kind of profile or pattern that emerges. We need to make sure we have trained administrators, counselors and teachers who can watch for those signs and head them off before it turns into a situation."
Why should voters vote for him: "What I represent is seeing where we can improve education for the average-to-bright kid who isn't being served well by the schools. The emphasis for too long has been the less-than-average kid and making sure he can keep up with the mainstream. They've left the average and bright kids out to pasture. A lot of my neighbors are spending a lot of money on tutors and private schools to make up for the shortfalls in the public schools."
Ellen S. Wallace
Address: 10014 S. Opal Circle, Sandy.
Personal: Married to Clark K. Wallace, mother of four children. Each has graduated from or is attending Jordan District schools.
Experience: Completing first term on Jordan District Board of Education. Served 16 years in various capacities with PTA, including PTA president of Jordan High School.
Platform: "I want Jordan School District to increase student achievement and meet the needs of all of our students. That should be our primary goal. We need to inservice our teachers on innovative teaching strategies. We also need to introduce integrated curriculum to make learning more meaningful to our students."
Growth: "I think the district has handled it the best could have. We will need to bond if we're going to build any more schools. Right now, we're trying to stay one step ahead as the growth comes. After being on the board 31/2 years, I don't see we can do any more than we're already doing."
School violence: "I think we need to take a hard stance and make sure our policies are strong. We need to make sure that our kids understand when they take action they're going to reap the consequences."
Why voters should vote for her: "The district is very complicated. It's taken me a good two years to understand how the district functions and make a careful study of its issues. Because of that, I feel like I can do a better job as a board member. I want to serve kids. I want to do what's best for kids. Coming through the PTA line and having kids in the system, I have a different perspective."