Meet the Candidates

9-R School Board hopefuls chime in on issues

by Tracy Chamberlin

A total of 10 candidates are running for seats on the Durango School District 9-R Board of Education in five different districts.

Steve Brittain is challenging incumbent Stephanie Moran in District B. Andy Burns is running for another term against challenger Michael Wanger in District C. Nancy Stubbs is running unopposed in District E, while Kim Martin and Erica Max are vying for the open seat in District F.

Finally, it’s a three-way contest in District G between Mick Souder, DeeDee Kendall and incumbent Carolyn Smith.

The Telegraph asked the candidates a few questions about themselves and their positions on key issues concerning the future of public education in the southwest. Here are their responses:


Steve Brittain
District B

Name: Steve Brittain

Occupation: Program coordinator, La Plata Youth Services

Hobbies: Camping, snow shoeing, hiking, reading, spending time with family and friends

What do you think of Amendment 66?  I fully support Amendment 66. This year the school district spent $1.6 million in deficit to ensure children have access to critical programs and to maintain smaller class size. According to information I have reviewed, Colorado ranks 47th in K-12 funding out of 50 states. ... Money isn’t always the answer but Amendment 66 will begin to repair the damage done during the last four years of unfunded state mandates and restore the district budget to some degree. 

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? I believe the school district is doing a great job as a pilot in the teacher evaluation process. I believe the measurement of areas of growth, strengths and weaknesses as well as the recognition of goals that enhance job skills of employees is critical. Employees are a valuable resource and should be given every opportunity to address weaknesses and turn them into strengths. I also am a firm believer in employee recognition for achievement and success.

I do have concerns about pairing student performance with teacher evaluation as there are so many variables outside the control of teachers. Hopefully those variables will be sufficiently addressed in the process.

I believe the process described in the master agreement is an effective method of evaluating the performance of teachers; assisting them in strengthening areas of weakness and providing them with clear direction regarding expectations of their job performance. ... I hope the school district can successfully implement a common policy around truancy.


Stephanie Moran
Name: Stephanie Moran
Occupation: Teacher and GED Program Manager at the Durango Education Center

Hobbies: Reading, hiking with friends and family, writing, gardening and landscaping, volunteering

What do you think of Amendment 66? Critical to bolster programs, particularly for the most in need and most at-risk students in our district. We expect a great deal of our teachers, and this funding supports their efforts to meet and exceed 9-R's expectations; as well, it helps principals to direct funds wisely and as needed in their schools rather than the prior approach – a one-size-that-didn't-fit-all method. Sixty-six will also show the public exactly where that money is going in each school for true budgetary transparency.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? Getting right: Being honest about our achievement gaps and taking concrete steps to close those gaps through offering three smaller learning communities at the high school for more student choice; bringing in interventionists and teachers on special assignment in all of our schools to work with teachers and students to be more effective; offering top-notch professional development across the district ...; creating common formative assessments that are teacher-driven, not canned commercial products; and holding many meetings across the schools and giving families and business folks the chance to hear and ask questions about our budget and programs.

Getting wrong: Despite holding a variety of meetings at the elementary, middle and high school level all of this year, attendance hasn't been nearly what we had hoped for, so we need to continue to seek new ways to involve and engage our families and the public in these important decisions and direction for the future.


Andy Burns
District C

Name: Andy Burns

Occupation: Director of Admission and Advising at Fort Lewis College

Hobbies: Running, reading, traveling and spending time with my family

What do you think of Amendment 66? Funding for higher education here in Colorado is woefully low, and I support Amendment 66.

However, if Amendment 66 passes, the board needs to ensure that the money is spent in a responsible way that supports our mission and results expectations.  And that will require extreme detail and precision from both the board and the superintendent, and it will need to be done in a transparent and accountable manner. 

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? The school district has made great strides in creating meaningful and relevant learning experiences like the IB and expeditionary learning curricula.  These opportunities can help students find their niche/ individual learning preference within our district. 

As the board moves forward, we need to examine greater opportunities for community engagement.  Hearing back from our community and making sure the district serves our community's needs is essential to our success.


Michael Wanger

Name: Michael Wanger

Occupation: Attorney with a strong background in education

Hobbies: Hiking, swimming, downhill skiing, basketball, softball, travelling with my family, and playing with my two chocolate labs

What do you think of Amendment 66?  I believe that the most important education occurs when children are young – in preschool, kindergarten and elementary school. If children do not learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic at an early age, they may be destined to fail in life.

Consequently, I am a strong supporter of Amendment 66.  Even though there will be a tax raise, which is a negative in this economy, the benefits derived from investing in our children cannot be overlooked. Assuming that the funds go where they are supposed to – to early education including pre-school, kindergarten, and elementary school, this could be a wonderful thing for our children.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? In my opinion, the school district is heading in the right direction. We need smaller classes, however, to ensure that our children get the proper education they deserve. If elected, I will strongly advocate for more teachers and teacher aides, particularly in the elementary schools so that our young children do not fall behind at an early age. At the high school level, I am pleased that our students have many options including vocational ones, attending classes at Fort Lewis College, Big Picture School, and Animas High School. ...

­­­We also need to work toward improving the performance of minority students in our district, by again ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to learn to read and write at an early age. 

District E
Nancy Stubbs

Name: Nancy A. Stubbs

Occupation: Retired educator and education consultant (classroom teacher, language arts coordinator, curriculum director in international schools around the world)

Hobbies: Reading, computer projects, photography

What do you think of Amendment 66? Without the additional monies this amendment will provide, very difficult decisions will have to be made that will negatively impact our ability to provide for all of our children, so I support it. Also, I believe the impact on taxpayers will be manageable since the amendment is designed so that the people who can more easily afford to contribute more will pay more and those who can’t, will pay less.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? It is improving. I believe our administrators and teachers are on the right track with their analysis of how we are doing, with setting goals based on their findings, and with creating plans for how to reach those goals. My job as a board member would be to oversee the process, understand the results, and approve and support a plan for implementation.

Getting wrong? Nothing! How can I say that? I can say it because wrong is an emotionally packed word that creates a negative reaction, and we need to be positive in our approach to our schools. ... When I looked at the results report, one area that stood out as needing improvement is literacy, the ability to read, write, speak and listen with understanding. My job as a board member would be to ask the right questions, find out why the results are not satisfactory, what we can do to improve them, and support the superintendent in creating an action plan.

District F
Kim Martin

Name: Kim Martin

Occupation: Retired educator

Hobbies: Family, friends, tennis, golf, yoga, biking, book club, arts/crafts, card games. I have a very full life and many hobbies and recreational diversions.

What do you think of Amendment 66? If I'm elected to the school board, I certainly would rather have enough money to do the work that is needed to make the move from a good school district to an excellent one rather than spending Board and Administrators' time figuring out where to make cuts. It's important to remember that many of the state mandated programs are unfunded, but still required whether or not this amendment passes. The question is, what nonmandated education will have to be cut if voters turn down the Amendment.  I will vote for Amendment 66.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? One thing the 9R School District is doing right is offering educational options to our students – International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, Expeditionary Learning programs, the Big Picture School, Gifted and Talented programs, partnerships with colleges and training programs in the area, and the charter schools give our students and their parents more opportunities to find their niches than many kids get in much bigger urban areas. ...

Another thing I'm impressed with is the shared vision employees of 9R have. ... For the most part, teachers, principals, staff and the superintendent are willing to “look outside the box” to find ways to reach the district's goals and to educate every child. As for improvements, I would like to see more community involvement in the schools. Durango and the outlying area has many amazing people with expertise that could make a tremendous difference for our students. ...


Erica Max

Name: Erica Max

Occupation: Horse breeder

Hobbies: Sailing, reading, traveling with my family and showing/training my dogs

What do you think of Amendment 66? I am a big supporter of Amendment 66. Nobody likes higher taxes, but the way this legislation is crafted it provides a great bang for our buck. The median income in Colorado is approximately $57,000 which means an increase of about $133 per year or $2.50 a week. This money will go directly to our students and schools, which means that the Durango 9-R School District will receive about $4 million. Currently, we have a $1.6 million de?cit and we are cut to the bone. ...

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? Durango School District 9-R: The School District is getting many things right:

-Our test scores are continually above state averages

- We have nationally recognized elementary schools

- Our elementary and middle schools have won statewide championships in Destination Imagination, a creative thinking competition, sending teams to the Global Finals

- The DHS NASA Aerospace Design Team has won the international competition numerous times ...

Doing wrong: We are not graduating enough kids. Elementary school teachers are great at identifying kids who are at risk not to graduate. As a start, we need to intervene early with those kids and work to get their parents “brought into” the value of education. From elementary school, we need to follow those kids through middle and high school and keep checking in with them, making sure that they are on track to graduate. ... Currently, 9-R is working hard to address under-served populations and their student achievement. I know that process will continue. ... Durango already has great schools, and I would like to continue that upward trajectory.


District G
Carolyn Smith

Name: Carolyn Smith

Occupation: I am a retired systems analyst.  I worked for the Durango School District 9-R for 10 years in administration and at Miller as the Technology Aide and Drama Coach; for the City of Durango as their Tech Support Specialist for five years and for the 911 Center as the Systems Analyst for five years.

Hobbies: Painting, sculpting, gardening, walking and spending time with my family.

What do you think of Amendment 66? I think that it is essential to our school district that amendment 66 pass.  It would add $4 million to our desperately overtaxed budget. It was necessary to cut staff and programs to create fiscal responsibility in our budget this year and we’re still running at a large deficit.  The rate of tax increase would be minimal and would actually bring us back to the 5 percent that we were taxed in the year 2000.  Currently, Durango School District is one of the lower-funded school districts in the state of Colorado.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? From the rise in last year’s ACT scores and the performance status of Florida Mesa, I can see that our achievement scores are improving and I feel that the way our district administrators have collaborated with our employees to cut back financially in many areas shows that we are improving in fiscal responsibility.

I think it would be nice for us to reach out to parents who might not feel comfortable helping their students with homework.  For example, if English is not the language that is spoken at home, maybe we could offer links to student tutors to help younger students with homework. 

Mick Souder

Name: Mick Souder

Occupation: Director of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe Management Information Systems Department

Hobbies: Hiking, biking, home brewing, reading and studying uses of the Internet in society.

What do you think of Amendment 66? Passing Amendment 66 will help our district get the funding we need to support the district’s obligations to implement recent mandates and other educational programming our kids need.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? While monitoring how the schools are currently doing is important, the board needs to think about the bigger challenges the district faces as well as work with the community to improve learning for the future rather than just looking at what is going on at the moment.  The district should focus on providing meaningful education to all children of the community and helping young people become life-long learners; incorporate how information technology causes us to accumulate, evaluate, use and share information into our learning program; and seek to balance local learning needs with state and national standards.  But to answer your specific question, overall student achievement is improving on the one hand and the district needs to communicate to the community better on the other.


DeeDee Kendall

Name: DeeDee Kendall

Occupation: Realtor with Century 21, Premiere Inc. business owner/partner of Kendall Asphalt Construction, and parent for children ages 17, 16, 9 and 2.

Hobbies: Skiing , hiking and supporting my children in their extra-curricular activities.

What do you think of Amendment 66? I do not support this tax increase. Amendment 66 is extreme in a still-shaky economy.

First, the students of District 9R will not see enough of the Money, the majority of our hard-earned paychecks will be spread across the state to the larger counties.

Second, if it passes, the districts are required to pass an additional bond issue in order to receive the full amount allocated to our district from the state.

Lastly, a large portion of our tax dollars are going to fund pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds. This takes money away from the elementary and secondary educational dollars of our students.

What do you think the school district is currently getting right? Getting wrong? The problem is much bigger than our school district. The implementation of the “Common Core Standards” is creating an enormous strain on our district. The need for Colorado citizens to pay a billion dollar tax is a result of Common Core and our state implementing the standards in all 10 subject areas. ...

The primary goal of the Common Core is to help ensure that students are prepared to enter post-secondary education. Since the implementation of Common Core in our district, our student achievement has dropped dramatically. Our students are not adapting to the implementation, especially in the high school level. ...

It all starts with our children, and we as parents and grandparents must become more informed and stand up for the education of our kids.



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