Large crowd of people sitting in church pews four people talking seating on stage church setting
Dozens of people turn out at the United Church of Idaho Springs for student-run forum on Clear Creek Board of Education candidates Oct. 16. Credit: Chris Koeberl

The Clear Creek Board of Education’s handling of a new bus barn for the district was the most contentious topic for four candidates running for two positions on the board.

Candidates discussed their views at a forum organized and sponsored by the Clear Creek High School Advanced Placement government class on Oct.16 at the United Church of Idaho Springs. 

Two candidates, Kerry Ann McHugh and Marcie King, said they believe the school board did not act responsibly in working with Idaho Springs as it made the decision to move the bus barn from its present location to the track south of Building 103, which is being transitioned into a new elementary school. 

The other two candidates, Sandi Schuessler and Anji Gallanos, said the school board made solid decisions and subsequent issues with Idaho Springs have been resolved.

They also disagree on the most important issues facing the school district.

Incumbents Schuessler and McHugh are running to retain their seats. Schuessler is seeking a second term while McHugh was appointed to the board in June 2022 and now must seek election to the seat. They are running against challengers King and Gallanos.

In District A, which is the west end of Idaho Springs and the north part of the county, incumbent Schuessler and Dumont resident King will be on the ballot. In District E, which is the west end of the county, incumbent McHugh and Gallanos are vying for the seat. Both live in Georgetown.

While candidates must live in specific areas of the school district, all Clear Creek voters vote for all positions. Voters should have received ballots in the mail in mid-October. School board members serve four-year terms.

four women sitting at a desk on stage in a church setting
Four Clear Creek Board of Education candidates speak at a student-run forum in the United Church of Idaho Springs Oct. 16. From left to right: Anji Gallanos, Marcie King, Kerry Ann McHugh, Sandi Schuessler. Credit: File photo by Chris Koeberl

Schuessler and Gallanos are working together on their campaign, while McHugh and King are working together.

Forum hosts

AP Government students researched the candidates and issues facing the district and wrote questions. The students submitted questions to the candidates in advance, and candidates read their responses from prepared scripts.

Nancy Judge, president of the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce and parent of Clear Creek alums, moderated the event.

High school senior and debate organizer Corbin Hall, who just turned 18, says she will be voting in this election.

girl in forefront with several people behind her in a church setting
18-year-old Corbin Hall, forum organizer, listens to Clear Creek Board of Education candidates as she prepare to vote in the election. United Church of Idaho Springs Oct. 16. Credit: Chris Koeberl

“It was a great way to be able to know what information we need in order to make an educated vote,” Hall said following the forum.

Bus barn

Schuessler, a Denver Public Schools nurse, and Gallanos, the elementary literacy and school readiness director with the Colorado Department of Education, believe the bus barn, known as the Transportation & Maintenance Facility or TMF, is in the right location. Issues with the City of Idaho Springs over whether the state or the city had authority to issue permits for the building were unfortunate but solvable with collaboration.

“Unfortunately, in complex situations like this, misunderstandings happen, but we’ve worked through those now,” Schuessler said.

Gallanos added: “It saddens me that when disagreements happened in our district that there was a perceived lack of willingness to work collaboratively.”

In contrast, King, a paralegal, and McHugh, who has been involved in public issues and served as Georgetown’s mayor, said the issues between the school district and city should not have happened in the first place, and the school district should have followed the city’s requirements at the outset.

“It’s embarrassing to be on the board,” McHugh said. “We’ve already spent thousands of dollars in attorney fees on this.” 

King added: “We need to work with the city. We are not above the law.”

Idaho Springs took the school district to court in early August because the city contended the school district hadn’t gotten the proper zoning approvals and permits before site work began at the track for the bus barn. Then on Sept. 13, Idaho Springs officials sent another cease-and-desist order to the school district, demanding that it immediately stop installing a main water pipe at the site.

Although the water pipe issue has been resolved, the school district still needs to appear before the city Planning Commission to resolve the initial stop work order.

Issues facing the district

The candidates also disagreed on what issues were most pressing for the district.

McHugh and King said the board needed to address teacher pay and retention, and affordable housing for district staff so they can live where they work.

The school district has increased teacher pay since 2016, when the salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and experience was $32,000. This year, the starting salary is $44,250. While that is progress, McHugh and King say salaries need to continue to increase.

Clear Creek has had a teacher retention issue for years, and the district hoped moving to a four-day school week would aid in recruiting and retaining teachers.

Schuessler said the board needed to address the district’s older school buildings and maintenance issues. 

While Carlson Elementary School is getting a new building, King-Murphy was built in the 1980s, and Clear Creek Middle/High School on Floyd Hill was built about 20 years ago. The backlog of maintenance at all district schools was huge, and the district has begun addressing those issues thanks to voter-approved bond money.

Newcomer Anji Gallanos believes safety and the mental-health crisis facing students should be top priority.

Bond money also helped pay for some safety improvements, especially locking classroom doors and entryways, and district officials have expanded mental-health interventions for students. Gallanos said more should be done in both areas.

Every candidate agreed to support the Georgetown Community School during their term.

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1 Comment

  1. The public should be able to trust both elected officials and candidates running for public office to tell the truth and ensure their claims are based on facts. In this Clear Creek School Board election, our citizens, and especially our students, should always be told the truth.

    The public comment process at Clear Creek School Board meetings is accessible to all. Comments are limited to 3 minutes and any person who wishes to address the school board must follow policies that support safety and civility. During the pandemic, when a mask mandate was in place, an attendee refused to wear a mask properly and was asked to leave. That is a fact.

    The truth is that the Clear Creek School District was sued by a Pagosa Springs attorney. This attorney has sued other public entities 33 times for minor infractions of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law. He does this in his own name, recovering legal fees that take our taxpayer dollars out of our classrooms and puts them into his pocket. He sued the City of Durango. He sued the school district in Sterling. He sued CCSD.

    The truth is that public schools across Colorado have seen steadily declining enrollment over the last three years. Jefferson County closed 16 elementary schools last year. Because of CCDS experiential and outdoor learning opportunities, access to sports and afterschool activities, and our 4-day school week, CCDS is attracting new families.

    The truth is that for all kids in Clear Creek to be successful, we need a school board that is dedicated to ensuring that everyone from teachers, to the chief financial officer, and the Superintendent are supported with a healthy, productive, and efficient work environment. Let’s elect candidates who will ensure our public school teachers and staff have what they need to do their jobs, without undue and unecessary interference.

    The truth is that Clear Creek School District has been successful in supporting students with a superb education, new and improved facilities, and multiple pathways to college or career. As a result, we have a new interim superintendent with a stellar reputation as a district leader. Let’s elect school board candidates who will ensure our superintendent is successful so that our students and our district community continue to thrive.

    In this election, voters should choose candidates who we can trust and who will take positive and productive action for our students, schools, and communities.
    Liz Houston

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