Park City school board races |

Park City school board races

Frank Fisher, Of the Park Record staff

The first thing they will tell you is they have nothing but respect for one another. But they differ on several key issues. On Nov. 7, voters will elect one of the two candidates to the District 5, which represents Olympic Park, Lower Pinebrook / Ranch Estates, Timberline and Summit Park, the seat vacated by Nancy Adair, while incumbent board member Kim Carson is running unopposed in District 4, which covers Silver Creek/Red Hawk, Spring Creek/Jeremy Ranch (Daybreaker), Southridge/Old Jeremy Ranch.

The issue that the two District 5 board members clash on like polar opposites is merit pay for teachers.

Charles Cunningham sees merit pay as a way to increase teacher and maybe administrator incentives.

"Principals know who the good teachers are," he said. "Parents know, and students know. Cunningham believes that few workers in society are not evaluated and paid based on their performance, and that the school system should be no different. "It’s a matter of paying people for the quality of what they do," he said.

"One way to judge teachers would be from students’ test scores from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," he said. "We’d have to study the issue of merit pay by forming a committee to decide how to best implement it so it is fair."

Michael Boyle disagrees with the concept of merit pay. "I believe we have the best teachers in the state. We observe and evaluate them closely, especially for the first three years of their work," he said. "We shouldn’t penalize teachers for variables outside their control like the makeup of a class or the changing language skills. Factors like that would make judging of teachers difficult and possibly contentious," he said. "Merit pay might sound good in a sound bite way, but it might create morale issues." "Introducing merit pay is fixing a problem we don’t have."

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Another difference stems from what Cunningham and Boyle say they can bring to the table.

Cunningham, who is a retired lawyer, is still licensed to practice in Utah, he said. "I know how to study issues with a committee, and how to best implement decisions so they are fair," he said. I come from a background in negotiations."

Boyle, the operations manager at the Snyderville Basin Water Reclamation District, said he brings in a working experience with large budgets, and, "I’ve done the research on the issues," he said. I’ve done my homework."

Cunningham and Boyle name the budget as their primary concern in coming years.

"My main concern is certainly the budget. We have to look at sustainability of the school district," Boyle said. "The district has few options of increasing revenue. We must make existing programs as cost-efficient as possible."

"I’m worried about the long-term viability of the district," Cunningham said. Money is tight. I look more in terms of places where we could save money. I’d only raise taxes if we absolutely have to and not a second before."

Both candidates spoke of the great importance to the district of hiring the right superintendent, who will replace acting superintendent Tom Van Gorder.

"We need a superintendent who has vision for moving the district to an elite status in the country," Cunningham said. " Not a simple administrator. This person must have vision of where we want to go."

"The superintendent must have vision," Boyle said. "Vision to take the district to the next level. Both vision, and a roadmap of how to get there."

Both District 5 candidates have children attending school in the district, Boyle, a son, and Cunningham, three daughters and a son.

Cunningham said, "My children have mixed feelings. They don’t want their dad to be associated with the heat that may come," he said. "The young ones think it’s cool, the older ones think it’s questionable."

Boyle said, "My son supports it. He has helped me with door-hanger bags. He does realize that should I win, it will take time away from things we can do."

Kim Carson, who is up for reelection in District 4, said of her running unopposed, "It’s a comfortable position to be in, but I won’t take it for granted and rest on my laurels." Carson sees the overriding issue facing Park City schools is careful attention to the budget, in both maintaining and expanding programs. "We also can’t buy into every program that comes along," she said.

Carson spoke of how the winner of the District 5 race might best get acclimatized to the board. "A board member must have knowledge of the district, become familiar with programs, get a pulse of the community, and of course, attend board meetings," she said. "Visiting schools is important, as well as getting a grasp of Utah school finance."