Community members gathered in the Ecker Hill Middle School auditorium Thursday, May 29, to hear the candidates for the District 4 and District 5 seats on the Park City Board of Education formally introduce themselves and discuss their stances on important issues in the district.

Because more than two candidates are running to fill the District 5 seat, currently held by school board Vice President Michael Boyle, they will run in a primary election on June 24. Voters will have the chance to narrow the race down to two candidates for Election Day in November.

There are four candidates running for the District 5 seat, currently held by school board vice president Michael Boyle. Candidates include Julie Niehausen, Edwin Lowsma, Julie Nirula and Doug Payne. Whoever is elected will represent the neighborhoods of Lower Pinebrook, Pinebrook North, Summit Park East, Summit Park West, Upper Pinebrook and Wagon Wheel.

During Niehausen's introduction, she emphasized her involvement in the school district. She has served on several school community councils, served on every PTO board for the schools her daughters have gone to and currently serves on the Utah State School Community Council Association.

"I served as the gifted-and-talented committee co-chair for four years and was instrumental in getting the program to where it is now," she said. "I have also served on the Dual-Language Immersion task force, served on the compensation committee and strategic planning committee and currently serve as the United Against Bullying Coalition treasurer."

Lowsma, a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, spoke about his need to serve the community he settled down in with his wife and five children. He holds a bachelor's degree in business from Ohio State University, a master's in business administration from Indiana University and a master's degree in strategic studies and critical thinking.

"I want children to be able to succeed in higher education, and it helps to show you have chartered that same course yourself," he said. "My vision is to create a world-class school district, develop students that can compete nationally and internationally and provide students with learning opportunities to expand their interests and reach their personal potential."

Nirula is a former educator with a bachelor's degree in English from California State University Hayworth. She has three children in the school district and she said she decided to run for the District 5 seat for the same reason she became a teacher.

"Every student deserves the best education, and we as a whole students, teachers, faculty, board members and administration - need to work together in the spirit of mindful, positive thinking in a collaborative environment," she said. "I will be open to any and all concerns and present them as best I can to the appropriate channels, even if it is not my opinion. Mine is not the only one that matters."

Payne has lived in Park City for 20 years after receiving bachelor's degrees in social studies, French and education and a master's degree in German from Louisiana State University. After moving to Utah for his wife's job, he received a master's degree in educational administration from Brigham Young University and has served as a teacher, principal and athletic director in the district.

"I have worked under five superintendents and four principals while working in this district," he said. "I believe having been a teacher, administrator and coach makes me a great candidate for the position."

Jenny McKenna, the moderator of the panel, asked each candidate to name two educational issues they are passionate about and what they feel is the primary responsibility of the school board.

All five candidates mentioned the issue of funding. Budget discussions at the last several school board meetings have raised concerns in the community, and the candidates addressed those concerns with ideas of their own.

"There is no way to educate children without proper funding," said Lowsma. "Park City School District might be the apple of Utah, but we are still behind the national average. In order to maintain and improve upon that lever, the school district has to be extremely efficient and monitor every cost closely."

Eihausen, however, took a different approach, saying that the direct responsibilities of the board are to hire and fire the superintendent and business administrator and create policy. Most importantly, she said, the board is responsible for listening to input from the community.

"In my mind, that is the most paramount issue, because members of this community are also parents of the students in the district," she said. "We are a small town, but there are plenty of people here with the education and input that is not being recognized."

The stage was then open to questions from community members in attendance, and their concerns ranged from candidates' support of the Dual-Language Immersion program and the Winter Sports School to what they felt was going well in the school district or what changes they would like to make.

Each candidate approached solutions to problems in different ways, but most agreed a collaborative culture between the school board, administration and faculty would be the most effective way to resolve the issues currently faced by the district.

In closing, each candidate told attendees why they felt they were the best person for the job. Eihausen drew upon her involvement in the educational community for over a decade and said she was a "problem solver." Lowsma said he offered a different perspective by not ever having been an educator or involved in PTOs but having been a leader in the military for many years. Nirula encouraged attendees to vote their own conscience and to choose the candidate whose views and vision match theirs. Payne emphasized his experience seeing the district "from every position."

"I think it is great you have four candidates to choose from, because that probably doesn't happen very often," Nirula said. "So I would say to vote for who you really believe will get the job done and will try to be part of a collaborative effort to make our district the best district it can be."

Primary Election Day is scheduled for June 24 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Early voting begins at the Park City Marsac Building, Sheldon Richins Building, Summit County Courthouse and Kamas City Hall from June 10 until June 20. The last day to register to vote in-person or online is June 9.