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South Jordan • Funding classrooms and programs. Keeping up with student growth. Retaining high-quality teachers.
Those issues and others have become key discussion points in the race for who will sit next on the Jordan School District's Board of Education following November elections.
Candidates running for the school board spoke about balancing the demands of a fast-growing district at a meet the candidates night this week at Elk Ridge Middle School. The district is the fourth largest in Utah, with 50,581 students and counting. Of the district's seven-member school board, four of the seats are up for re-election next month.
Two precinct candidates are running unchallenged, incumbent Richard Osborn from Precinct 5 and Janice Voorhies from Precinct 6, whose daughter Leah Voorhies currently holds the seat.
The current president of the board, incumbent Rick Bojak, is running against Jordan school district parent , PTA alum and professional nurse Kayleen Whitelock, for the Precinct 4 position.
And in Precinct 1, the previous mayor of Herriman, J. Lynn Crane, is running against concerned Jordan school district parent Michael Livsey.
All but one of the candidates named growth as the district's largest concern in the coming years, and Whitelock said the board needs to come up with a longer-term plan on how to deal with the growing number of students in schools that are "bursting at the seams."
"We have to decide with our community: What do we want to do? Do we want to finance new schools, do we want to look at more year round [schools], look at more busing … We need to decide and get working on it," she said.
When there are too many students in one school, Whitelock said, teachers have to sacrifice giving their students time with resources like computer labs, gymnasiums and art rooms.
"I think learning goes down because opportunity goes down," she said.
Whitelock's opponent, incumbent Bojak, agreed that growth is a major concern in the district. But he's also concerned with boosting employee morale, and said he's been working on doing just that during his term on the school board.
"We want our kids to be the very best," Bojak said. "How can they be the very best if we haven't got the greatest people?"
Livsey, running for the seat in Precinct 1, also is concerned about retaining quality employees in the district.
Said Livsey: "The biggest issue is ensuring that we have the correct curriculum and teachers in place to teach our children." He said teachers are leaving the district because it's not working hard enough to make quality teachers want to stay.
Every year, he said, he worries about which teacher his elementary school daughter is going to get. If elected to the board, he wants to make the best curriculum and the best teachers available to his daughter. "It's all for her," he said.
Like Livsey, Whitelock has students in the district, and she said she feels it is important that parents are represented on the board. She said the immediate perspective that comes with having children currently in the system makes a difference.
Other candidates, like Bojak and Livsey's opponent Crane, are not parents of students currently enrolled in the district's schools. But Crane, now a grandfather, says he's familiar with the district because he had seven children attend.
Like most of the candidates, Crane is concerned about growth and the lack of funds and space to go along with it.
He said a key issue is figuring out how to have enough teachers and build enough schools "without breaking the bank or taking more than absolute necessary from the patrons." What's important to consider, he said, is funding quality education that's fair and equitable for the students.
"I don't come in with an agenda, I just come in with the objective to make sure we're asking those questions and evaluating those questions," Crane said.
Voorhies, who taught English in the district for 24 years, thinks she has the solution to the funding problem: Creating business partnerships.
"I really do think that there ought to be a way for us to work better with business to finance some of the things that go into education," said Voorhies, who is the unchallenged Precinct 6 candidate. Making successful business partnerships happen now is more important than ever, she said.
"There are too many kids," Voorhies said. "That, of course, translates to money. We've got to have more money."
Whitelock agreed with Voorhies on the immediacy of the need to find more funding.
"I feel that the best thing for society is for us to educate every child to their full potential," Whitelock said. "And that's the best investment we can make of our dollar right now."
Jordan Board of Education candidates
Precinct 1: Herriman, Riverton
J. Lynn Crane
Precinct 4: South Jordan, West Jordan
Rick Bojak (incumbent, current president)
Precinct 5: South Jordan, West Jordan
Richard Osborn (incumbent, unchallenged)
Precinct 6: Copperton, West Jordan
Janice Voorhies (unchallenged)
More information on the school board: