The Summit School District Board of Education has four seats up for election in November, and residents will find nine candidates on the ballot.
Of the four open seats in the upcoming election, three positions are for four-year terms and one is for a two-year term. Candidates Toby Babich, Chris Guarino, Johanna Kugler, Kim Langley, Manuela Michaels, Pat Moser and Lisa Webster are all running for four-year terms, while Kate Hudnut and Danielle Surette are running for a two-year term.
Toby Babich is the mayor of Blue River and president of the Vacation Rental Management Association. He is an alumnus of Summit School District, and his kids have gone through the district, as well.
He hopes to help rebuild student success after the disruptions caused by the pandemic over the past year. He believes healthy mental foundations and emotional structures are key to academic achievement, and making connections with local mental health resources is one of his priorities.
Another of his goals is addressing achievement gaps in the student body and the decline in academic test scores in the district.
“With declining achievement measures and test scores, in addition to the myriad of mental health and social challenges our children face, I believe it is time for a fresh perspective and revitalized leadership within (Summit School District),” Babich said.
Chris Guarino has lived in Summit County since 2002, and he’s worked as a project management consultant with the school district on and off for about 15 years.
He hopes to be a consensus builder on the school board, and he believes in listening and ensuring everyone has a voice at the table regardless of his stance on a subject.
“I believe what’s most important is that we’re all respectful, we’ve listened to each other and we focus on proactive communication,” Guarino said.
Guarino said he could be an asset to the board as it looks at its master plan and facilities management projects. He said he is also a passionate parent who believes in quality education, putting students first and investing in teachers to make sure they have the essential resources to support students.
Kate Hudnut is nearing the end of a four-year term on the school board, and she isn’t quite ready to say goodbye. As president since the start of 2020, Hudnut said she cherishes the knowledge of the public education system she’s acquired while on the board.
Hudnut said she is passionate about growing the three pillars of the district’s strategic plan: ensuring the academic and personal success of every student, building an equitable learning system and creating community and family partnerships to enhance learning.
“I think there’s a really solid foundation in here that certainly aligns with my goals and values as a board member and as a human,” Hudnut said.
She said she hopes to strengthen the systems of support for kids in the district and determine the role the board will play in the next five years with the strategic plan. Hudnut has lived in Summit since 1994, and her daughter has grown up in the school district.
Johanna Kugler was appointed to the board in July and is hoping to continue serving. Her three children are currently enrolled at Dillon Valley Elementary, and she’s lived in Summit County since 2007.
Kugler said her skill set is big-picture systems thinking, but she’s also passionate about early childhood education.
“I really felt that my skill set in early childhood education, systems thinking and passion about this community would really be utilized in the school board, and so I thought that I could be an asset,” Kugler said.
Kugler said she would work for children, families and teachers using the framework of the strategic plan to ensure all children have access to education. She said she wants everyone to have a voice at the table and every child to have the opportunities they need to be successful in a healthy and safe environment.
Kim Langley is one of four candidates in a slate of women who are running as part of a group called 4 for the Kids. She said it’s a group of moms and a grandmother who have diverse backgrounds representative of the Summit County community.
The group’s top priorities are academics, fiscal responsibility, teacher retention and support, transparency and mental health support. She said the women are running because the kids deserve better than what the district has been giving them.
“I’m kind of worried that our schools are headed in the wrong direction,” Langley said. “As a parent, I would love to see more emphasis on improving our academics and our test scores to prepare our kids for the future.”
Langley has been in Summit County since 2019, and she has kids in middle and high school. She has 20 years of military leadership experience and said she was responsible for managing a multimillion-dollar budget.
Manuela Michaels is also on the 4 for the Kids slate and hopes to represent English-language learners on the board.
Michaels moved to Summit County in 2011 from Minneapolis. But she’s originally from Brazil and said she can relate to the struggles of parents in the district whose second language is English.
Michaels also cited the district’s trend of declining Colorado Measures of Academic Success scores and agreed with Langley that the district needs to bring back its focus to academic fundamentals like reading, writing and math.
“I think high-quality education is very important to all kids,” Michaels said. “Unfortunately, that has not been the focus of the district for the past five years, even before the COVID pandemic started.”
Pat Moser, another 4 for the Kids member, has more than 35 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, staff development director and more.
Moser pointed to recent measures of academic success scores and said too many children are being left behind academically.
“I see both an extraordinary need and an extraordinary opportunity for our schools and our community to reunite with a laser-like focus on strong academics,” Moser said. “… I know what teachers and administrators need to be successful, and I know what it takes to provide all of our children a quality education.”
Having been in Summit County for just over a year, Moser said the fact that she is newer to the area is a benefit because she can look at things with fresh eyes and without loyalties to anyone other than the kids.
Danielle Surette is the final candidate in the 4 for the Kids slate.
Surette formerly volunteered with the Peace Corps, developing lesson plans and education materials in Zambia. Now a three-year Summit County resident and mother of two district students, Surette said the district can do better and bring back its academic focus.
“I want to bring the focus back to academics and help all of our students to achieve their highest level of success that they can,” Surette said.
Surette said a lot of parents have been ignored by the district in the past year, and she wants to be a voice for them. Surette also said that while kids are more than their test scores, test scores are a reflection of where the kids are at.
Lisa Webster was appointed to the board in May, and she previously served on the board from 2015-19. As a former military service member, Webster said school board work is a way to continue defending constitutional freedoms.
“We’re supporting our public education system, which educates, as a country, about 90% of our young people who are our most precious human resource,” Webster said.
Webster said implementing the new strategic plan is a goal for her if she continues on the board. She said she has no personal agenda, and she is on the board to make sure kids leave the district in the best possible place.
Webster also reiterated her belief in a mantra of Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford: “every child, every day.” She said every child has different needs and it’s important to make sure they are met individually.