School Board member Kaye Westwood faces strong rhetoric from challenger Samuel S. Sellers of Santaquin in her bid for re-election to Precinct 1 of the Nebo School District Board of Education.
In contrast, incumbent Brent Gordon will face challenger Sterling R. Swenson in a Precinct 3 school board race devoid of sparks. Gordon is in his first elected term.Meanwhile, incumbent J. Collin Allen is running unopposed for his fifth school board term in Precinct 2. The races are nonpartisan.
Nebo School District growth has captured the attention of school officials and residents alike for the past several years. Voters in the district have raised $76 million since 1992 to build and expand district schools and house 3,000 new students. The district population now approaches 18,000.
Nebo School District stretches from Springville to Santaquin and is completing or has recently completed several buildings throughout the district. The new Spanish Fork Middle School is slated for completion in January, and the new Canyon Elementary School on Spanish Fork's east bench will be finished in about a year.
In addition to growth, Citizens for Common Sense, of which Sellers is a member, is also pushing an outcome-based education platform and a lack of information from the present board as issues in Precinct 1.
Sellers charges that Nebo School District is a model outcome-based education district, a charge Westwood, Gordon and other school officials deny. "It was never fully adopted by Nebo School District," said Superintendent Denis Poulson. He said Nebo did get some OBE money several years ago before he was named superintendent, but the district hasn't been participating since.
State school officials say that OBE is not now in any Utah school. "I know of no OBE program being taught in the state," said Eileen Rencher, director of public relations for the state Office of Education.
Opponents of Outcome-Based Education say the teaching methods are socialist-revisionist and promote mastery of values, attitudes and interaction with others rather than academic knowledge.
Address: 12798 S. 3620 West, Payson
Experience: Incumbent seeking her second term.
Curriculum: She served on a study committee that chose the new reading program for the elementary schools, which was implemented this year. It includes scholastic reading programs and extensive inservice with teachers to better help them teach reading. She said she has never seen outcome-based teaching in Nebo School District. While OBE teaching is value-based, she said the only values she has seen taught in this district are patriotism, manners and politeness. "The best way a student can feel good about himself is to be successful," she said, countering the claim by OBE advocates that the teaching methods would have students feel good about themselves regardless of their academic success.
Growth: She said growth now is only at 2 percent, but even that means the district needs a new elementary school each year.
"The administration is aware of the growth and is wise in planning for growth," Westwood said.
Communication with the public: Westwood said communication is important to better represent her constituents. She said the board members do their homework and she has never polled other board members to see how they would vote on a particular issue in advance of a vote. "There's very little interaction between us outside the board room," she said.
Samuel S. Sellers
Address: 330 E. 300 North, Santaquin
Experience: Member of Citizens for Common Sense for whom he has done extensive research on school issues. He is a former Santaquin city recorder.
Curriculum: Sellers said if the district accepts federal OBE money it must mold its curriculum around research that comes from the federal government. He said Nebo teaching is values and outcome-based, not education-based, which makes the curriculum "all over the board." He says such teaching is anti-Christian and Marxist, a common anti-OBE complaint.
Growth: The growth trend is slowing down, but students need adequate classrooms, Seller said. With growth slowing, the focus should now be switched to higher teacher pay to bring better teachers to the district, he said. Rather than administrators receiving the high paychecks, they ought to go to teachers, he says.
Sellers says district Superintendent Denis Poulson, who earns in excess of $88,200 annually, is overpaid. He questions why a school district superintendent should earn more than the state's governor, who earns $82,500, one of the lowest governor's salaries in the nation.
Communication: Sellers questions why school board meetings lack discussion. Issues are often presented and passed with little banter.
J. Collin Allen
Address: 460 W. 1600 South, Mapleton
Occupation: Retired banker
Experience: Incumbent seeking fifth term
Curriculum: "I still believe in teaching the basics - math, English and history - the way we've always taught it," he said. "As educators we can't make people feel good about everything. There are consequences for wrong decisions and bad choices."
Growth: Allen believes growth will continue to be a challenge in the district. If it continues the district may not be able to meet it in the future with a building program, but instead may have to change the education schedule.
Communication: The district has an open policy in communicating with the public, he said. Allen said he will talk to anyone who calls him or will refer the caller to the best source of information.
Address: 4216 W. 5600 South, Spanish Fork
Occupation: Preventive maintenance supervisor for the LDS Church.
Experience: Incumbent seeking his second full term. He was first appointed to fill the unexpired term of Jim Dunn, who moved out of the district, then was elected to his current term.
Curriculum: A committee sees to the district's curriculum and also involves the Parent Teacher Association. The district doesn't get heavily involved in curriculum, he said, but it does give final approval of education policies. The district is not involved in outcome-based education, he added.
Growth: Gordon said he is looking forward to completing the building projects still going on throughout the district and that have been started during his term. "Nebo's not a rich district, so I want the most for the money," he said.
Communication: Each board member gets to know the issues before they are adopted. "Some things don't need a lot of discussion," he said. Each board member gets agenda issues a week in advance so he or she can do research before the meeting, including talking to people involved. Gordon said no polling goes on among board members.
"I'm not an educator. I come from the common people. I don't have any axes to grind."
Sterling R. Swenson
Address: 370 N. 700 East, Spanish Fork
Occupation: Retired educator.
Experience: Swenson taught eight years in the district and served for some 20 years as principal at Westside Elementary in Springville. He was then district administrator over pupil services for four years and curriculum coordinator for another four years.
Curriculum: "We need to stay with the basics. We need to make sure our young people get a good foundation, then we can meet individual needs with a variety of programs approved by the state office." He said he leans toward basic core curriculum, but then favors giving challenges to certain students. "There is a place for some outcome-based education, but it must be correlated by the instructor to meet the individual needs of students," he said.
Growth: He said the district needs to stay on top of the growth issue. The district needs to purchase school sites well in advance of need with the foresight to know where to put future schools.
Communication: He believes district communication with the public is good. Having worked in the district he said he knows channels of communication with parents are open. People can attend school board meetings and get on the agenda to express concerns, he said. "I know personally that access to administrators is available to anyone. There is an open door policy there. I think they try to the best they can within the law."