Park City School Board candidates spar on differences
In a contest between two candidates who agree on many important issues, the Park City School Board District 5 race may come down to philosophical differences about their respective qualifications.
Doug Payne has decades of education experience both as a teacher and administrator, including five years as principal at Treasure Mountain Junior High and 11 years as an assistant principal at Park City High School. Julie Eihausen has not led a classroom or a school, but as a member of the community she has closely followed matters relating to local schools, regularly attending School Board meetings over the last several years.
While noting that he and Eihausen share many similar opinions when it comes to policy, Payne says his educational experience sets him apart. He believes he can provide a unique and important voice to the Board.
"I see that as one of the strongest assets that I have," he said. "Not only was I a teacher, I was a principal at Treasure Mountain Middle School, so I’ve had all that (experience), as well as an assistant principal and athletic director at the high school. So I know all the facets. I know what teachers need and I know what administrators need. I think that educational background is one of the strongest reasons people should vote for me."
Eihausen, on the other hand, says Payne’s background is in this case a weakness. Whereas teachers and administrators already have representation at the district level, the purpose of the Board, she believes, is to represent residents.
"I really feel like the school board needs to represent the community, not one specific group that already has representation," she said.
There is another sticking point, as well. Payne’s wife is a full-time math teacher at Treasure Mountain Junior High. Eihausen says that represents a conflict of interest that would handicap Payne’s ability to serve.
"I can vote on every issue," she said. "I have some concerns that Doug’s not going to be able to represent his constituency. Because he really shouldn’t be participating in discussions or voting on anything to do with teacher compensation, benefits or any policy that’s going to effect a licensed teacher. That’s going to knock him out of quite a few discussions and votes."
Payne vehemently disagrees. He says there would be no reason for him to sit out discussions or votes because he has the interest of the whole district, not just one teacher, in mind.
"There are boards all over the whole spectrum — I’ll bet there are doctors that are married, whose wives may be patients, and they’re on the boards," Payne said. "I don’t see any kind of conflict of interest there at all. There can’t be any conflict there — you’re responsible for everybody that works for the district."
As far as their similarities, they acknowledge the feasibility of the district’s budget is the most important issue to address.
"I’d like to have a list of all of our programs, how much we’re spending on them and then what is the outcome we’re getting for that investment," Eihausen said. "I’d like to go through and rank those."
Payne added: "We need to look at every facet of the budget. With input from others beside the board — get some teachers involved and community members — so we know what we really need and what we don’t need."
While early voting is under way, the election will be held Nov. 4. J.J. Ehlers is running unopposed in Park City District 4.
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There was a common theme in every address delivered during the Park City High School Class of 2021 graduation ceremony Thursday: gratitude.