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