CALDWELL — Caldwell School District has been under new leadership with Superintendent Tim Rosandick since 2012, and several new board members were elected in roughly the same time frame. Three of those board members are vying for a second term at the helm — and each one has a challenger ready to take over.

The Idaho Press-Tribune reached out to each candidate to find out more about their philosophies and priorities leading up to the election on May 19. Trustees serve four years in one term.

ZONE 2

THOMAS BRITEN

Incumbent candidate — Elected in May 2011

Occupation: Retired school teacher and part-time pilot for emergency transport aircraft

Serving on the board:

Thomas Briten was elected shortly after former Caldwell superintendent Roger Quarles abruptly resigned to work at Boise State University, meaning Briten was one of the new board members charged with hiring a replacement. With the help of Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas and other community leaders, the committee eventually decided to hire current Superintendent Tim Rosandick. Briten said that’s one of the processes and decisions he’s most proud of as a board member.

“Because of that, the school district is run very well (by Rosandick),” Briten said.

Top three priorities:

  • Keep on keeping on. Briten wants to continue what the school district is already doing and keep trying to identify areas for improvement. The community continues to approve supplemental levies for the school district, Briten said, which is a good indication that people like how the district is working.
  • Focus on the students. That means working to retain and attract good teachers for those students.
  • Retain good administrators. Good administrators know how to hire good teachers, he said, which is good for the students.

Budget and finance:

Briten said he is pleased with the fund balance the school district has built over the past four years, and he said faculty and staff in the school district see the importance of that fund, as well. He also thinks the district does a good job with transparency, because the entire budget each year is posted on the district’s website for anyone to access. While he knows not everyone will be happy with anything the district does, he thinks it’s on par.

“I want to keep it like that,” he said.

TONI WATERS

Occupation: Middleton Heights physical education teacher

Why she’s running:

Toni Waters has been teaching physical education and health classes in Middleton for the past 27 years. She has lived in Caldwell for 25 of those years and has two daughters who attend Caldwell High School. Waters said she thinks the board needs new perspective. While two of the current board members are former teachers, she would be the first educator who is still teaching.

“It’s nice to have that idea that we’re coming from an educator’s point of view,” Waters said. “I’m dedicated to a well-rounded education for our kids.”

Top three priorities:

  • Support of teachers and students. Students should be able to give more input on class choices and other decisions that affect them. Waters also wants teachers to have more say in the ways students are assessed while still following state and federal guidelines. “Maybe some creative ways to assess students where it’s not always a test,” she said.
  • Minimum grade requirements for athletes. Student athletes have been allowed to get by with failing grades for too long, Waters said, because they are needed on a team. “I think we need to do some more research on how we can best help kids succeed academically first.”
  • Dedication to a well-rounded education. Waters wants students to have more opportunities to explore with classes and experience the arts and other humanities more thoroughly. “I think we could get kids to go on to further their education if they had experiences in high school that allowed them to pursue their passions or their talents.”

Budget and finance:

While Waters said she doesn’t have much experience directly in budget and finance, she does have experience with facilities and identifying wastefulness with duplicate projects in addition to keeping up with maintenance on older facilities.

Waters would also like to see Caldwell change its policies on school supplies. While the school district buys some supplies for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, it’s not enough, and teachers are not allowed to ask or require students to bring supplies from home, so they end up buying it out of pocket.

“Now the burden has gone to the teachers because they didn’t have enough supplies, and now they’re just told when it runs out, it’s gone,” Waters said.

ZONE 3

SANDRA DODSON

Incumbent candidate — Appointed in July 2012

Occupation: Retired teacher

Serving on the board:

Sandra Dodson taught at Caldwell High School for 22 years as a special education instructor, and she taught for 38 years total. She was appointed after a previous board member was recalled. Serving on the board so far has been interesting for her, she said, because it’s a different look at the educational system.

“When you’re in education your whole life, you look at the board as something just out there,” Dodson said. “You’re busy in your class doing your thing, and you’re not really thinking about the school board.”

Dodson believes the board has done a good job supporting programs in the district, especially in the areas of robotics and welding. She also thinks the consistency in leadership in the district is something to be proud of.

Top three priorities:

  • Maintaining a safe school environment. Dodson would like to see more investments in safe routes to school, because there are some areas in Caldwell that don’t even have crosswalks, and children walking to school should have those safety features available. Some areas don’t even have sidewalks, she said. Aside from keeping buildings safe when students get to school, it should be a priority to make the walk or bike to school safer.
  • Fiscal responsibility. Dodson said she wants to make sure trustees don’t push the boundaries of the district’s budget but still do enough to adequately support students and teachers.
  • Advocating for teachers, staff and administration. Support of all of those individuals is one of the most important factors, she said.

Budget and finance:

Dodson said the board has achieved a good fund balance and she’s proud of that, because it puts the district in a good position to protect taxpayers, faculty and staff in case something unexpected happens. She also thinks trustees have done a good job of managing the district in a responsible way.

“I think we look at things closely and make sure that we’re not overstepping what we can afford to do and to provide for the students of Caldwell schools,” Dodson said.

TRAVIS MANNING

Occupation: Vallivue High School English teacher

Why he’s running:

Readers may recognize Travis Manning’s name, as he has run for the Idaho Legislature twice in recent years. This time he’s aiming for the school board, in part because he has children in Caldwell schools.

“I’m really passionate about supporting public schools and have a good understanding of education policy issues and kind of how schools run from different viewpoints,” Manning said. “... I’m just driven really to be an integral part of my community, and I feel like this is one way that I can be a strong advocate for kids and educators.”

Manning has been an English teacher at Vallivue High School for 10 years and also taught in Salt Lake City in previous years.

Top three priorities:

  • Strategic plan. Implementing a high-quality strategic plan for Caldwell School District.
  • Attracting and retaining quality teachers. Public schools have to compete with charter schools and surrounding schools with open enrollment, so it’s important to give families a reason to keep their students in Caldwell School District schools.
  • Community education. Now that schools have implemented Idaho Core Standards, teachers are teaching differently, and families and parents need help to brush up on their skills so they can help their children. Basic subjects of computer science, English, math and other relevant areas would be useful to offer for the community, he said.

Budget and finance:

Manning said he managed a $30,000 legislative budget for his race in 2014 and has also managed small budgets as a wrestling coach and as a Boy Scouts scoutmaster.

ZONE 4

DON ATKINSON

Occupation: Part-time athletics coach at Caldwell High School and part-time commercial estimator

Why he’s running:

Don Atkinson has worked with students in Caldwell for more than 40 years in football, basketball, softball and more. He also has two daughters who teach in the district, and he’s concerned about students.

“The culture of Caldwell education right now needs to be brought back up to grade. We’ve lost a lot of teachers and students transferring out,” Atkinson said. “And we’ve lost a lot of teachers and administrators in the last three years.”

He’s also familiar with upkeep and maintenance of facilities, and he wants to see more investment and attention paid to aging buildings within the Caldwell School District. With his background in facilities management, he says his experience would help with that.

Top three priorities:

  • Retain teachers and students.
  • Preventative maintenance. Exercise more preventative measures in school buildings to avoid costly repairs from waiting too long.
  • Involvement with youth. Atkinson spends much of his spare time coaching student sports and was recently given a lifetime achievement award by the city of Caldwell for his involvement with children. He wants to keep that involvement going.

Budget and finance:

Atkinson said he worked for Canyon County for more than 10 years and had to establish his own budgets for maintenance and personnel. Right now he’s on the outside looking in, but he has a background in repairing budgets and feels comfortable with the idea of running a school budget.

“The biggest thing right now with the budget is just being fully aware of it,” he said.

CHUCK STOUT

Incumbent candidate — Elected in May 2011

Occupation: Manager in the building materials industry

Serving on the board:

Chuck Stout’s children were all Caldwell schools students, and he has been working in the building materials industry in Caldwell since 1976. Like fellow trustee Thomas Briten, Stout says one of the biggest achievements of the board is finding and hiring Tim Rosandick. A thorough vetting of 13 candidates helped narrow it down to two, and he says they picked the right person for the job.

“We’ve been very happy with him and what he’s brought to the district and done for the district,” Stout said.

He also points to the high community support for supplemental levies and, most recently, a plant facilities levy.

“I don’t think the community supports you in stuff like that unless they like what you’re doing,” he said.

Stout is also proud of an ongoing partnership with the city of Caldwell to help keep school zones and crosswalks safe and says the district has encouraged administrators and teachers to spend more school district dollars in local places.

“Each year it seems like slowly but surely, more and more of our district dollars are being spent in the community that supports us, and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Top three priorities:

  • Commitment to the community. Support for programs such as robotics and other math, science and engineering programs, Advanced Placement courses, partnerships with institutions such as West Valley Medical Center and more is important to Stout. He is committed to maintaining those relationships and placing a priority on supporting teachers.
  • Transparency. The board always tries to have meetings at a convenient time for the public to attend, Stout said, and he wants to continue to be an open entity for the public.
  • Fiscal responsibility. The current board has a history of being advocates for fiscal responsibility, he said, and he wants to continue that legacy.

Budget and finance:

Though school districts have been through the wringer financially since 2008, Stout says the money is starting to come back, and Caldwell’s budget is sound. He is proud of the progress they have made and wants to keep striving for better.

“We do have a modest fund balance right now, and it’s not where we want it to be, but with the work of the superintendent and all the administrators and teachers … we’ve been able to try to keep our budget in order and move forward.”

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