There is just one contested race on the ballot this year, to determine who will fill the Director District 2 school board seat being vacated by Kathy Svenson.
All registered voters within the school district can cast ballots in this race, even though the director district is centered in the City of Delta.
In Director District 3 -- the Cedaredge and Orchard City areas -- Pete Blair is unopposed. Blair is finishing his first term in office and is currently president of the school board.
The District 2 candidates are Jill Jurca and Genevieve Novinger. Both have kids in Delta schools and share a commitment to education.
Jurca served on the district accountability committee, multiple school district budget panels, a citizen panel during the search for a superintendent, and as a classroom volunteer and DestinationImagination coach. She is currently on the Delta High School Booster Club/parent accountability team and sitting president of the DHS Band Parents. She is thankful for the "admirable and excellent" education her two daughters have received, and that's partly why she's running for school board.
Novinger was a BELA parent advocate on the Colorado Preschool Program. Since announcing her candidacy in March, she has attended every school board meeting and policy review hearing. She made it her goal to visit every school in the district, as well as every bus garage and maintenance building. She talked with parents, principals, teachers, students and voters, and believes she has a well-rounded understanding of what's going on in the school district.
Both candidates attended a forum hosted by the district accountability committee, certified council and classified council in Delta last week. The League of Women Voters hosted a second candidate forum in Hotchkiss Monday night.
In Delta, the women were asked about their vision for the school district. Jurca says the school district is headed in the right direction; Novinger believes more parent and community involvement could help relieve the district's financial burdens. She cited the Delta United Methodist Church's program for early release days.
Novinger said she has a lot of ideas and is willing to serve as an advocate for the school district here and at the state level.
When asked about priorities, both said kids should come first, but Jurca said teachers are "right up there."
How can Delta County hire and retain great teachers? Teacher retention is a problem in our district, Jurca said, and could be addressed through more competitive pay and a better support system in the community. Jurca said all staff members, classified and certified, must feel valued.
Novinger talked about factors outside the school district that affect teacher retention. For example, it can be difficult for the teacher's spouse to find a job. Others are affected by the mine layoffs. New teachers should be exposed to all of western Colorado's outdoor opportunities, so they know this is a great place to live and work.
In response to a question about school district funding, Novinger suggested diesel mechanics from Delta-Montrose Technical College could get real-world experience while providing much-needed services to the school district. Law enforcement academy students could do security checks, while tech students could serve apprenticeships with the district's technology resources department.
"There are so many opportunities for us at DMTC to bring forward into our communities and into our schools," she said.
In a county as diverse as ours, it can be difficult to balance the unique needs of each school. Jurca said it's important to respect the individualism of each community. Novinger stressed the importance of "district pride" -- being part of a whole and working together to make sure all students get the best education possible.
Despite budget constraints, both candidates believe Delta County students have an amazing amount of choice and dedicated teachers/staff who are committed to the success of every child.
In closing, Jurca said, "With my 13 years in the district, I am very passionate about the education that all children get in this district. I know for a fact that my children are going to be in an excellent place when they graduate, and I'm thankful for that. We provide so much for these kids and I would ask for your vote for this election. I feel I am qualified and I am glad I am able to serve you.
Novinger closed by saying, "I'm really excited to be a part of this and as evidenced by my campaign, I am dedicated to work hard for Delta County schools. Children are our first priority. They deserve the best education we can give them. We have good schools; I want great schools. I want to have the best schools in the state."