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In an effort to learn more about the 2021 Salida School Board Candidates, Ark Valley Voice compiled another list of questions that were distributed to each candidate. The answers to the first candidate question ran on Wednesday. All candidates were given the same amount of time to complete the questions, as well as the same word count for their response.

The second question asked was “What are your credentials for handling the district’s budget and what do you think the most important budget categories and student investment projects are?”

Jennifer Adamson’s Answers:

“My experience with the school budget was in the cafeteria of Idyllwild Elementary School, Idyllwild, CA. I was a nutritionist. I ordered food for breakfast and lunch for my student count. I cooked, cleaned, prepared, and knew how many students paid full reduced and free meals and toss meals for five years. I also helped with turning records for student ASB snack and drink orders. I planned for emergencies all the time in case district delivery trucks were delayed. Because our school location was further than the others, I feel I did a good job.

Student fundraising is a must. They will learn leadership, salesmanship, losses, and profit and learn to purchase for what they need for fundraising. Math skills are highly needed in this.”

Carrie Coscarella-Mattix’s Answer:

“I do not have specific credentials in accounting or finance, however, I took classes in accounting in college to get basic knowledge of an area that I knew I was lacking. I have been able to juggle my family’s budget when I lost my job last year and went from a two-income family to one. We were able to tighten our belts and plan for the future. As a District BOE representative, we have fiscal responsibility. The budget and accountability in that budget is a huge responsibility.

Our most important resource is our teachers and staff. Increasing steps and levels and affordable staff housing is an important and necessary area of the budget that we are looking at. The district has a high cost of living and we need to pay our staff accordingly. Upkeep of our buildings is essential as well and includes short- and long-term planning.”

Joe Smith’s Answer:

“School finance, in general, is a bear to understand. I’ve been on the Board of Education for four years now and have a strong knowledge in finance and accounting from my education and career, but school finance is still difficult to fully understand and grasp. My time on the Board, time spent on the Collaborative Bargaining Team doing salary and policy negotiations, and time spent with our Business Manager and Superintendent have helped me immensely in being able to understand and handle the district’s budget; but my education and work in finance have certainly helped me along the way.

We have maintained some of the strategies from prior boards, to be sure we are maintaining our facilities, doing necessary capital improvements, and maintaining healthy reserves. These are all important, but our number one priority needs to be increased wages for both Classified and Certified staff throughout the district to be able to attract and retain staff to maintain operations. I know that we’re not done with managing through COVID, but I feel we’re about back to where we were before COVID in regard to negotiations, strategies, and advocacy with state representatives.”

Jodi Breckenridge Petit’s Answers:

“I hold three elements to handle the district budget.  First, I care about the budget, so I study disbursements and read legislative updates on funding.  Second, I care, so I spend valuable time learning.  Finally, I persist; Sheila Moore patiently answers my questions about individual line items or spending patterns over time. It has taken me a year, but I now feel comfortable understanding our district finances.”

“The most important budget priority is to increase pay to faculty and staff.  If we can retain our team, our students benefit.”

Mandy Paschall’s Answers:

“I have managed the bookkeeping for my husband’s business for the last eight years and do have experience with budgets, spreadsheets, and numbers. However, I have a lot to learn in this area. I have already met with our school business manager for budget 101, have watched videos on school finance, and am listening to podcasts and reading information about Colorado school finance and the intricacies and rules for allocating monies. My biggest asset is that I am willing to work hard, research, and learn, as well as ask the why and what in order to understand and make quality decisions.”

“Our most important budget categories focus on programs that directly impact our students. In order to provide an equitable education, we must ensure we budget adequately for services such as Special Education, intervention, and mental health services. We must also prioritize teacher pay increases as able.”

“We should continue to prioritize giving our students a well-rounded educational experience by offering sports, arts, music, drama, and technology. I also love that we offer Spanish and would like to expand that to more grades as well as potentially offer additional foreign language options.”

Jeannie Peterson’s Answer:

“Prior to becoming a Salida Board of Education member in 2017, my financial experience was focused around running my own business as a contract pediatric physical therapist. Once on the board, my financial education took on a new scope and intention. I believe the board has been fiscally conservative and managed the district’s financial resources well over the past four years during some extremely uncertain financial times.”

“Our greatest resource as a district is our staff. Our greatest priority in our budget is paying the best salaries and benefits we can afford to attract and retain quality educators and support staff including our paraprofessionals, our business management team, our kitchen staff, our facility maintenance team, our transportation people, our IT staff and our school nurses. Providing the technology to educate and communicate effectively is very important. Maintaining our facilities to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment is critical. As the amount of money, the district receives from the state is always uncertain it is essential to maintain healthy financial reserves. With an eye to the future in our rapidly growing district, we must maintain capital reserves to allow the purchase of land for future expansion.”

Editor’s Note: six of the eight candidates responded to our questions. This is the second in a series of six articles by AVV about questions we asked each candidate running for Salida School Board to answer for the public.