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On November 2, the Salida School Board will host the general election for the Board of Education Directors. In preparation for the upcoming election, Ark Valley Voice began its examination of the school board election by asking each candidate the same four questions to help the community to get to know them better.

  • Why are you running?
  • What are the biggest issues you want to tackle short term?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What is your background? What are some things you bring to the table?

It should be noted that every candidate received the same questions, and every candidate was given the same time in which to respond as asked to limited their answers to each question to 200 words. The responses below are those received by the deadline in which to respond. Ark Valley Voice waited a few extra days to allow for late responses, but no more responses have been received.

Below are the answers received by Ark Valley Voice in the allotted time. Abby Jefferson, Jennifer Adamson and Catherine Rich did not provide answers before the deadline. While it is unknown whether this is simply a late response, or an effort to avoid explaining the candidate’s willingness to engage with the public on their issues, the lack of response is note-worthy for candidates running for such a public local position.

Candidates running include:

Director District 1

  • Carrie Coscarella-Mattix — who is currently on the school board

 Director District 2

  • Abby Jefferson
  • Jodi Breckenridge Petit — who currently holds the District 2 position

Director District 3

  • Mandy Paschall
  • Jennifer Adamson — write-in candidate

 Director District 4

  • Joseph Smith — who is currently the District 4 director
  • Catherine Rich

 Director District 5

  • No candidates

 Director At Large

  • Jeannie Peters — who is currently the Director at-large

Joe Smith’s Answers

When I was appointed to the Board in 2017, I was looking for a way to give back to the community and make a difference. It has been challenging, difficult, time-consuming, and stressful over the years, but also has been extremely gratifying and impactful on my life and I strongly believe we have made a positive impact for the community, staff, and students. I am running for re-election because overall I’ve enjoyed being on the Board. I want to maintain Board stability and leadership as we continue to navigate out of the pandemic, deal with financial challenges, workforce shortages, a housing crisis, staff and student health and wellness, and lastly, finish the work we began around the education students will obtain in Salida, which directly and indirectly ties back to one of the most significant things we accomplished during my time on the Board; annexation of CMC into our community.

Joe Smith, running for reelection for the District 4 position. Courtesy photo.

Some of the immediate challenges we face are the same ones the entire community faces being a growing mountain community, but also the significant education challenges throughout the state and even nationwide. We have a workforce shortage, and educators are leaving the profession faster than coming in, and in a town like Salida, finding housing for the workforce is becoming increasingly challenging. Fortunately, our financial position is stable, but we must continue focusing our efforts on better pay throughout the district in order to maintain the academic standards we have come accustomed to. We have to continue to develop relationships with community partners in order to provide the necessary support for our staff and students’ needs, provide educational pathways to ensure our student’s successes beyond high school, and maintain our stability in operations because the school system is a critical system to the success of their local communities. This is all while we navigate the pandemic with the priority being that we maintain in-person instruction.

Some of our long-term goals will stem from short-term goals we have outlined in building community partnerships and will change as the community wants and needs change. However, we currently know that the community voted to annex CMC into this community to have a partner help meet our community needs for higher education, but also to help create more opportunities for students in the district. Continuing to optimize this relationship to its fullest extent is not only a district goal but should be a community goal. The district also has growth challenges facing us, and we have little options for building sites to serve the needs of the future for Salida and Poncha Springs. The recent acquisition of the Oak St. property will help some of our growth needs, but additional opportunities in Poncha Springs and Salida need to be considered for 20 plus years from now. Lastly, we may need to develop more housing in order to attract and retain employees.

I was born and raised in Salida and upon graduating from college, I was fortunate enough to move back to my hometown and raise my family. My wife and I now have four beautiful daughters and we both are actively involved in the schools and community. Professionally, I’ve worked at High Country Bank since 2007 and have been the VP of Commercial Lending (since 2013, I believe) overseeing all of our small business and commercial loans for the Bank. With that, I feel that I bring strong financial background and understanding, stability, leadership, knowledge from all I’ve learned being on the board, as well as an understanding of the community I’ve been a part of for so long.

I’ve been fortunate to be on the School Board for the past four years and look forward to the continued opportunity to serve.

Mandy Paschall’s Answers

I strongly believe public schools should be the means to provide quality education to all kids in our community. I am running for the school board because I believe in the Salida School District mission, which in summary states, that every child deserves access to a quality education in a safe and secure environment. Our goal is to prepare our students “to achieve their greatest potential”, and I want our students to be successful in whatever path they choose post-graduation. To accomplish this, we must ensure competency in core subjects – reading, writing, math, and science. Good schools can challenge some kids while great schools can challenge all kids.

I am excited to join the board and have the chance to advocate for individual student successes, foster community engagement, and strengthen our checks and balances. I intend to listen to our community, to collectively explore the best ways to strengthen our shared values, and to prepare our students for excellence. I look forward to being part of the link between the schools and the Salida community.

Paschall is running for the District 3 position. Courtesy image.

Over the last year, I have listened to many teachers, parents, and community members who have helped to inform my short- and long-term goals for the district. My short-term goals include keeping our kids in in-person school during COVID and ensuring teachers have the needed resources to provide academic supports and interventions to kids who are behind. Our goal should be to have all kids performing reading and math at grade level.

Additionally, Salida is currently developing a strategic plan and new graduation requirements. My goal is to ensure that community voices are heard. This includes a larger goal to help strengthen communication and transparency within the district on all levels – including within staff, administration, the community, and the board.

We also need to focus on additional mental health services for both students and staff. For staff, this includes creating a safe space where they feel respected and valued as well as opportunities for professional development and growth. Our teachers have endured so much over the last year and a half, and they are our greatest resource. We need to ensure that they feel supported.

Long-term goals will focus on still providing quality education to our students while navigating our rapidly growing school district. We will need to creatively use our resources to develop plans for building use and programming to best meet student needs.

We need to retain and attract new teachers which will require community collaboration for increased teacher pay and affordable housing so that our teachers can afford to live here. This will require community support as it is a multi-focal problem that the school board cannot address alone. At the state level, we need to advocate for better education funding.

Additionally, I am excited to focus on increasing our partnership with CMC and local businesses to offer additional trade school options, apprenticeships, and internships. If our goal is to truly help each child “achieve their greatest potential,” then we must ensure that our programming is creative and diverse to offer both traditional college pathways and career pathways for students so that all can be prepared to earn a living wage.

I have three girls in the district, which has allowed me to connect with staff across the district. Since my own children became school-aged, I have volunteered countless classroom hours (pre-COVID) as well as served on leadership councils, the Salida District Accountability Committee and the Longfellow Accountability Committee for the last year. Through this involvement, I have been able to learn the strengths of our district, current priorities, and upcoming challenges.

I graduated with a BA in Anthropology and later completed my BS and master’s in nursing. I am a family nurse practitioner (FNP) and registered nurse. I worked for five years as a pediatric/pediatric ICU nurse and eight years as a FNP in a primary care setting. I have extensive experience working with kids and families in acute crisis and long-term management of chronic illness and prevention.

I have a passion for public education, take time to be informed and prepared, am able to listen to all sides of an issue, and communicate respectfully. My involvement over the last year has proven that I will work hard for our staff and students with a focus of always keeping them in the forefront of decision making.

Dr. Jodi Breckenridge Petit’s Answers

I am running to retain my school board seat for two reasons. First, I am a life-long educator and volunteer: the school board is where I can best serve this community. It’s a lot of work! I have done it and I want to keep doing it for our students, teachers, parents. Secondly, my skill sets match the needs of a school board. Two of our three boys graduated from Salida High, so I have a parent’s perspective. I value listening to differing views, finding consensus, and improving an already strong organization. I do the hard, unsexy work: budgets, expenditures, mill levy overrides. On the more inspiring side, I delight in young people learning from talented, committed teachers.

I have three short-term goals:

Dr. Jodi Breckenridge Petit is running for reelection to the district two position. Courtesy image.

  • Keep students, faculty, and staff safe
  • Continue in-person instruction
  • Carry on with collective bargaining to create the best contract for our teachers and staff

I have four long-term goals:

  • Create future-facing graduation requirements
  • Increase CMC trade courses and certificates at SHS
  • Find creative solutions to staff shortages
  • Increase interagency cooperation and effectiveness between the Salida School District, the City of Salida, and the Salida Police Department

I am an educator for U.S. joint special operations and Salida. I substitute teach for the school district, have taught English as a second language for Salida, and teach non-violent communication at HEA with Full Circle Restorative Justice. For my doctorate, I studied effective teaching methods.

My volunteerism was forged during twenty-plus years serving the Soldiers and families of U.S. Army Special Forces. I was a volunteer leader for every unit in which my husband, Brian, served (including nine combat deployments). I developed fellow volunteers and supported families during the most difficult of situations: infant and child deaths, cancer (including my own in 2004 while the battalion was deployed), wounded in action incidents, and killed in action tragedies. I was the volunteer of the year for Fort Lewis, WA when 93 percent of the units were deployed, and tragedy happened weekly. I received the Martha Raye Award in 2016 for a lifetime of service to the Special Forces community. The two decades in that intense leadership crucible taught me valuable lessons: think strategically, synthesize information so all can better understand, practice patience and grace during trying situations, and listen with your heart and mind. These skills serve me well as the school board vice president during a pandemic, budget shortfall, and community challenges.

Jeannie Peters’ Answers

My name is Jeannie Peters, and I am seeking a second term on the Salida School District Board of Education as a member-at-large. My career as a pediatric physical therapist, primarily working in early childhood centers with families and their very young children, shaped me in many ways. It required the wearing of many hats: as a medical provider, an advocate for the family, an on-the-spot crisis interventionist or babysitter, a friend, and a source of hope and support in hard times. My profession taught me we are all in this life together and therefore our actions need to be guided by kindness, generosity, patience, and compassion.

Witnessing the pain and grief within parents when their child was diagnosed with a serious, disabling condition, or even worse, the loss of that child, was an experience I will never forget.  My hardline stance on practicing every strategy possible, including wearing masks and vaccination, to prevent the spread of COVID was born in that pain.

Jeannie Peters running for reelection to the Director at Large position. Courtesy image.

Children are our most precious resource and are deserving of our love, our kindness, our support and the best preparation for life that we can provide. Our children are inheriting a world deeply challenged by a pandemic, the severe repercussions of climate change, and growing social, economic and political divisions that threaten the cohesiveness of our country and the well-being and success of our citizens.

As our children will live in a global community, it is my belief that our children need an education based in local, national, and global history, economics and cultural differences. They must be proficient in communication, both written and spoken, of their knowledge, personal experience and their thoughts, and dreams. Life now and in the future demands the ability to think critically, to ask the right questions and the ability to listen deeply and in discerning ways. With the added abilities that social emotional learning provides, our children will be prepared to have the hard discussions that life demands whether in their personal relationships or in their chosen careers. These abilities do not come easily, but they can be learned through education and practice. I want these skills taught sequentially in a developmentally appropriate continuum throughout Salida School District.

Our District is faced with many short-term challenges. We need to continue to manage and mitigate the risk to our students and staff from COVID in partnership with our nurses and Chaffee County Public Health. Our students and staff have faced together far too many challenges the past two years. We need to make sure they are both provided with the mental health support they need. Our students need greater access to academic and career counseling as I believe having a focus to your studies sharpens your academic appetite. Our teachers and staff badly need substitutes. And in the broken educational finance system of Colorado, we have to continue to work for higher salaries for all our staff.

As a Board and a community, we need to reassess our graduation standards and make sure those guidelines reflect in a practical and real manner the skills our students will need upon graduation whether they are entering a four-year university, the work force, or seeking certificates to help them in a career path.

We also need to follow the process of determining what happened on September 23 at Salida High School. We need to understand why it happened, and where we go from here as we learn from that experience.

In terms of long-term goals, we need to manage the growth in our community and the accompanying dramatic growth in our district enrollment numbers. Growing enrollment directly impacts our capacity to educate in multiple ways. We must stay on top of this growth and thoughtfully respond to it.

Having been on the board for four years, there is not a monthly board meeting that goes by where I do not see the challenging impact of inadequate, inconsistent state educational funding upon our capacity to educate. We do not have the financial resources available to honor the hard work of our staff and pay them the wages they deserve. I do not believe this is just a local issue, it is a statewide issue that needs to be tackled at the level of our legislature. However, I believe that the voices of our citizenry need to be raised in advocacy for increased educational funding before a comprehensive, well thought out change will occur.

In this time of limited resources, we must all learn to work together to provide our children with the education our children deserve and that our future demands. We do have common ground, our children and our future. We must keep this in mind and work together to heal divisions between us. We must model to our children the skills they will need in facing the future.

Carrie Coscarella-Mattix’s Answers

Initially, I knew that there was an opening on the School Board, and I had the time to dedicate to being on the board. I wanted to be part of the solution. After being on the board for almost two years, I want to continue with the changes that we have initiated. I have a renewed energy to help students achieve their goals, develop pathways to success and provide them with mental health support.  I want to change the narrative that the board is off-limits to staff and the community.  We are listening.  Being on the BOE has been an eye-opening and learning experience. I have grown in ways that I never thought I could. I am here for the students, teachers and staff and will do everything that I can to assure stability, safety, critical thinking, and a valuable and effective education; not just to prepare them for their journey through Salida Schools but throughout their life.

Carrie Coscarella-Mattix who is running for reelection for the District 1 seat. Courtesy image.

Mental Health and support for students and staff is the biggest short-term goal. I am working with Salida High School Administration on having Sol Vista come to the school and be available to both students and staff. It is safe to say that some are truly at a breaking point and to be able to provide them with this type of support is crucial. I would also like to increase the retention and morale of staff. Mental Health support is the first step along with increased pay rates and letting them know how much they are valued and appreciated.

In regard to long-term goals, Coscarella-Mattix wants to create affordable staff housing. If staff cannot find a place to live and be able to fit it in their budget, they will not stay. We will lose more valuable staff due to this crisis. I heard from City Council candidates speak to this and now is the time to partner with them to think outside the box and come up with solutions for the community. I would like to see more Trade opportunities for students and certificates upon graduation and develop other avenues for success besides a 4-year degree.

My family has been in the area for over 100 years. I was raised in Salida, and I am a Spartan through and through. Salida has not always been my home, and through my travels and experiences with other cultures and perspectives, I am able to put aside pre-conceived beliefs and value other opinions.  I have been a registered nurse for over 25 years, and I am a dedicated lifelong learner. I seek out new experiences and challenges, ie District 1 Representative. My husband, Buel, and I have been married for 15 and together we have three sons in the Salida Schools. We own a small local business and know the struggles of living in Salida. Ever since my boys were little, I have been engaged with their activities–from flag football to tackle, from T-ball to live pitch, hiking, camping, trapeze, basketball, piano and guitar lessons, Scouting and so much more. Kids are our future, and they should be able to become the individual they want to be and not have to fit into a mold.

Things she brings to the table include Dedication, Honesty, Kindness, Respect, Willingness to learn and be wrong, Able to look at and value other’s perspectives, Able to put aside political viewpoints and do what is best for the school district, and most of all a Passion for students to provide them with the skills that will take them far into the future.

Feature image: Image courtesy of the Salida School District.