Park Record 2018 Voter Guide: Park City School District Board of Education District 4
October 17, 2018
With Election Day approaching, and mail-in ballots on their way to residents, The Park Record asked candidates to answer a series of questions in their own words in order to help voters make informed decisions. View the answers of candidates in other races here.
Note: District 4 comprises neighborhoods such as Jeremy Ranch, Moose Hollow, Bitner, Kimball Canyon and Silver Creek.
Why are you running for a seat on the Park City Board of Education and what are your qualifications?
Vicky Fitlow: I am running because I am passionate about empowering teachers to be extraordinary for every student.
Teachers have impacted my life and my children's lives in ways that I can barely articulate. I am passionate about making sure that the people who can and do teach have everything they need and the very best possible environment for reaching and teaching all the kids in their care. Throughout my children's education, I have been involved in supporting their teachers by volunteering in classrooms, on the PSTO, and as a member of the Weilenmann school board. I strive to help create an educational environment where every teacher feels heard, supported, and challenged to be extraordinary for someone.
My focus will always be on good board governance, fiscal responsibility, and setting a positive vision and direction for the district. I will engage in collaborative goal-setting and evidence-based decision making while representing all stakeholders. The very best school boards exercise appropriate oversight over their districts, entrusting execution of the vision to the administrative professionals.
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If elected, I pledge to be responsive, accountable, and transparent. I will be guided in all things by what is best for the children of our district.
Kara Hendrickson: I am running for a seat on the Board of Education in Park City because there needs to be someone that brings an education background perspective to the decision making process. I am extremely proud of the 30 years I served as a public educator, 16 of which I taught for our excellent district. I am at a point in my life where I have the time and energy to serve my schools and community in a new capacity. One in which I can make a difference bringing new ideas based on real-life, working knowledge of not only of our schools, but of our community. I have seen and lived through the growth, including the growing pains, of our "small town". I am here for the long haul. I believe I can make a difference. Quite simply, I care.
The Park City Board of Education has debated placing another bond on the ballot for capital improvements since the 2015 bond measure was voted down. Were you in favor of the 2015 bond? How should the master-planning process be conducted moving forward?
Fitlow: I supported the 2015 bond, with reservations. I followed the year-long planning process closely. In 2015, 3000 voted against the bond, while 2000 voted in favor. My concerns echoed those of many community members, that $12 million for athletic facilities was just too much. The board failed to listen to feedback it received in August of 2015 indicating that voters did not support the athletic facilities portion of the bond. Despite my concerns, I supported the bond because it addressed critical facilities needs.
The current board has begun a master planning process that includes an impressive array of community members and stakeholders. They have outlined opportunities for public input and expect to have a report in April 2019. The outcome of the master planning process is being driven, appropriately, by what we want a PCSD education to look like. The master planning process is on the right track.
Hendrickson: I felt the need for the bond's passing, yet I didn't feel it was well presented, not transparent enough for the public. Some voters shared that they felt the bond was being shoved down their throats. It didn't help when some of our district leaders at the time, promised to move forward, regardless of the bonds' passing. Moving forward, I would listen to our community. Not just community leaders, but the members who make up our community: parents, students, counselors, coaches, health professionals, emergency and security responders, and of course, teachers.
There have been concerns about the fiscal sustainability of the Board's budget the past few years, particularly given the tax increase passed over the summer. Do you think the budget is sustainable? Why? What could the Board do differently?
Fitlow: The PCSD budget is sustainable, if board members remain fiscally responsible. The demands on today's schools are enormous. The mission of Park City School District is "to inspire and support all students equitably to achieve their academic and social potential." To fulfill this mission, the current board and administration have engaged in a process of evaluating student and teacher needs and crafting a budget that is designed to support teachers in meeting student needs.
The 2018-19 budget process, which I observed, was data-driven and results-oriented. Board members examined each budget-item increase carefully and, over many months of meetings and reports, required specific evaluations of demonstrated need before adding the new positions that were included. Going forward, the board must stay focused on fiscal responsibility and remain mindful of its obligation to manage taxpayer funds carefully.
Hendrickson: As a lifelong educator, I am uniquely positioned to help establish educational priorities that have fiscal ramifications. The other board members have extensive business and financial backgrounds, as does our business administrator. When elected, I promise to collaborate with these experienced professionals in achieving financial sustainability while addressing the unique needs of our student population.
Student wellness has been a major focus of the district over the last couple of years. What are your thoughts on the initiatives the district has taken so far? What more, if anything, should the Board do in the future?
Fitlow: Student wellness is an important piece of Park City School District's mission. Hiring Dr. Ben Belnap as Associate Superintendent of Student Wellness in 2017 was a crucial step in ensuring that students have the resources they need to overcome issues like anxiety and depression. Learning cannot happen unless students feel loved, wanted, and cared for.
Initiatives like mindfulness have a proven track record of reducing depression and improving overall wellbeing among students and teachers. Restorative justice initiatives are also showing results in our schools. The board's role is to support the whole-child approach to education and continue to evaluate initiatives by the results they achieve.
Hendrickson: I am a firm proponent of the initiatives that have been implemented. As a teacher, I have seen the direct beneficial impact these initiatives have had on students. Before implementing any new initiatives, we should evaluate the overall effectiveness of these initiatives versus their costs before we add any more. Since students spend most of their day at school, it's important that teachers work with parents, administrators and counselors in understanding our kids to ensure their mental, physical, and emotional wellness. We need to continue to work together, parents and educators.
The district has been criticized at times for continuously adding and removing initiatives and programs. Do you agree or disagree with those concerns? What can the district do to be both innovative and fixed on a set path toward success?
Fitlow: I share this concern about Park City School District. It is a difficult thing to balance innovation and cutting-edge education practices, on the one hand, with steering a steady course toward our goals. Teachers have rightfully complained about a constant barrage of new requirements and changes to curriculum and pedagogy without adequate support. We simply cannot ask teachers to radically alter their teaching every few years.
We can, however, take a thoughtful approach to implementing best practices in our classrooms and support our teachers to continue their professional practice of teaching. The key is having a board and administration who are constantly measuring any proposed change against the mission, vision, and goals of the district and being careful to build consensus, provide support, and allow space and time for change.
Hendrickson: I fully support new programs that have demonstrated success through independent evaluation. However, each new program takes a significant amount of time to fully implement. There have been, at times, too many new programs to implement simultaneously. This can result in teacher overload. I would limit the number of new programs in any year and give these programs 3-5 years before we evaluate their effectiveness for our school population. At that point we can discuss whether to retain or remove the programs. As a teacher, I am open to new, innovative ideas, but I am also reflective in thought, and in the practice of working with others to reach and complete goals.
How do you differ from your opponent?
Fitlow: I am an attorney and a mother of three. My family will be part of the district for years. I have years of school board experience. I have a proven track record of working collaboratively to achieve educational goals. I understand the complex legal landscape within which the school district must operate.
My family has a demonstrated commitment to this community's youth through our service to Summit Ski Team and Park City Ski & Snowboard.
I bring a perspective from outside the district. I can stand back from "how we've always done things" and offer an alternative vision. I have experience with the school budget cycle. I have been involved in master planning, capital projects, hiring of key administrators, and evaluating testing results and tools. I understand the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act. I have attended nearly every PCSD board meeting for the past year, including part of the board's recent two-day retreat.
What separates me from my opponent is my ability to hit the ground running on Day 1, as well as my demonstrated personal commitment to supporting excellence in education management. I would be honored to serve the Park City community on the Park City School Board.
Hendrickson: I don't come from a business background as does the majority of our school board. I've been an educator all of my professional life and I bring that unique and important perspective to our board. I have a record of commitment to Park City's public schools and families.
History. I have a history with this district. I have years invested, as both a parent and educator. I know the pitfalls of the past and the challenges of the future. My opponent is new to public schools, placing her kids, until this year, in a charter school. I am, and always have been, committed to our public-school students.
I run into former students of mine all the time in my neighborhood. Yes, former second-graders! They stop to talk, and I am proud of that. I feel I made a difference. I still can. Just the other day at breakfast, two former students stopped me on my way out. I was happy they remembered me. And they promised me their vote. Now, that's a genuine endorsement!
According to the Summit County Clerk's Office, ballots for the Nov. 6 election are set to begin arriving by mail on Friday, Oct. 19. Ballots returned through the mail must be postmarked by Nov. 5. Residents can register to vote online or at the Clerk's Office through Oct. 30. Same-day registration will also be available at four voting assistance centers throughout the county on Election Day. Visit http://co.summit.ut.us/281/Voter-Registration-Elections for more information.