During any election campaign, you will find how candidates will work to define themselves differently from their opponents. The current Roaring Fork School District (RFSD) school board election is no exception.
The RFSD school board races are between Betsy After and Alan Kokish, seeking the District B seat, while Phillip Bogart and Lindsay DeFrates are running for the District C seat. Only one candidate, incumbent District D board member Jasmin Ramirez, is running unopposed.
There have been three public candidate forums. One was held in Carbondale on Oct. 3, the second in Glenwood Springs on Oct. 9, and the final at the Basalt Regional Library on Oct. 17.
In the three forums, Ramirez appeared relaxed when answering questions. Some of that may be because she is running unopposed and has four years of experience as a board member.
With that said, Ramirez is the only candidate in the position of getting public feedback about how the community thinks she, as a current board member, is doing at her job.
“I have engaged with students in our community and heard their concerns. And, I also have talked to parents and have heard their concerns. I’ve talked to teachers, and I’ve heard their concerns,” Ramirez stated during her closing remarks on Oct. 17. “Yes, there’s obviously room to grow because it is our job to ensure that kids are graduating successfully from our schools, that they have a great experience, that their parents feel like they’re engaged and that the teachers feel supported.”
Their differences on the issues showed in After’s opening remarks at the Oct. 17 forum. “Last week, at a similar forum, my opponent [Kokish] said that this election is a referendum on one issue, and he might say the same thing this evening and use his time here to focus on the health curriculum. I disagree with the characterization that this election is about a single issue and, rather, think it’s a decision on who will help govern a complex system that touches every corner of the Valley,” she said. “There are dozens of issues that the board has to consider at any one time.”
She then listed 12 issues within the school board’s purview, including achievement gaps, teacher housing and executive leadership, to name a few.
Immediately following After’s statement, Kokish delivered some remarks. “There’s one issue Betsy and I disagree about, and that’s the controversial gender studies-sex curriculum. She supports it. I support its intent, but, unfortunately, the curriculum is clumsy at best and will possibly do more harm than good.”
While a candidate’s stance on various issues is important in any election, relevant life or work experience and leadership style are other factors voters might consider.
DeFrates cites her six years as a language arts teacher at Carbondale Middle School, and her current job as a public relations professional with the Colorado River District, as credentials that would inform her tenure as an RFSD school board member in matters of teacher-student relationships, collective-bargaining negotiations with teachers or how the district can best communicate proposed policy changes to students, families and community members.
Bogart references his work in the hospitality and lodging industry for over 18 years, and “leading people towards goal achievements in order to ensure the success of my company.” He highlighted his job duties which included overseeing budgets and monthly financials. In his closing remarks on Oct. 17, he said, “I think I would bring a lot of what I do in the private sector as options for us to consider in the public sector.”
Ballots for the Nov. 7 election were mailed to registered voters earlier this week. If you have not received a ballot, you can check your voter registration status online at www.bit.ly/BallotStatus2023 If you need to register to vote, go to www.GoVoteColorado.gov