New leadership takes over Park City school board
January 27, 2015
The Park City Board of Education’s leadership has a new look.
The board during its Jan. 20 public meeting unanimously elected member Tania Knauer as its new president. J. J. Ehlers, one of two new members sworn in earlier this month, was elected vice president by a 3-2 vote.
Knauer takes over for Moe Hickey, who remains on the board but made it clear he was not seeking the presidency again. Ehlers replaces former vice president Michael Boyle, whose tenure on the board ended in December after he decided not to run for reelection last November.
The board’s disagreement on Ehlers revolved around her short tenure on the board. Hickey and Nancy Garrison, the two members who voted against Ehlers taking the vice presidency, expressed concerns that taking on a leadership position as a new board member could be overwhelming.
"It had very little to do with the individual," said Hickey in an interview with The Park Record. "It was a really a question of, having been in the position of being a new board member, I think it’s going to be a very difficult learning curve. It’s always a difficult learning curve anyway. But obviously, the decision has been made, and I’ll do what I can to support the decision."
Ehlers told The Park Record she anticipates being able to handle the extra load.
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"I have been in leadership before, and I kind of understand what that entails on other committees and boards," she said, adding that she didn’t take the opposing votes as a personal attack. "I feel, though, that being part of it as a new board member maybe makes you learn a little bit faster in some respects. You get up to speed a little bit faster."
The bigger concern for Ehlers and Knauer, who made the motion to elect her as vice president, is establishing a strong line of succession. With three seats open during the next election, it’s possible the board will have three new members in two years. And if Ehlers or Julie Eihausen, the other new board member, hadn’t been elected to a leadership position, that would have left the board with no members with leadership experience.
"I wasn’t really comfortable with that, and I think other people also may not have been comfortable," Ehlers said.
Added Knauer: "I think it will be great for J.J. to step into this role and learn the ropes. We can be guaranteed that J.J. is going to be around for two more years (following the next election). So it seems like a natural thing."
Despite the disagreement about Ehlers, Hickey said Knauer taking over as president is a natural fit. Overall, he is pleased that the leadership will have new voices.
"Tania has a couple years of experience on the board, and one of the things I personally believe in is making sure we have people getting experience and opportunities," he said. "Not that I was going to win (the presidency) anyway, but I felt it was time to take a step back. A different perspective is a healthy thing. For everybody, myself included."
Knauer said she is looking forward to serving as president. She sees it as an opportunity to ensure the board continues to run smoothly. And it helps that she can use Hickey, along with superintendent Ember Conley, as resources along the way.
"I think we have a great, diverse group of people with different life experiences," Knauer said. "We have a lot of things on our plate this year, between trying to put together a 10- to 15-year master plan, negotiations with licensed staff, looking at our policy committee. I think it will be great for us to sit down and figure out what everybody’s strengths are and divide and conquer a little bit."
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