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Three on primary ballot for local school board

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During the county’s second-ever vote by mail campaign, voters will narrow the field of hopefuls for Morgan County School Board District 3 seat from three to two.  District 3 includes just over 1,000 voters in Stoddard, Littleton, Richville, Porterville, Hardscrabble and South Morgan Valley Drive.

Gaylene Adams, Jennie Earl and R. Kraig Walker filed for the four-year seat now occupied by Ken Durrant.

Gaylene Adams

Adams said the biggest issue facing the school district is the growing student enrollment vs. financial resources.

In order for patrons to better understand some of the growth challenges that the district is facing, Adams recommends taking a look at the summary reported by the Morgan County Growth Task Force which was released in March 2015. It can be found on the district web site.

“The committee made some recommendations which may or may not be viable. It will require a community dedicated to working together with the board to determine the best solutions to the growth issues we face. I dedicate myself to that goal,” said Adams.

Adams married Les, and together they are the parents of five children.

“I want to serve as a school board member because I feel passionately that the children in Morgan School District need a strong advocate,” said Adams, a retired educator.  “Our children and grandchildren need policies that support the vision and goals of the district and the community while ensuring that financial resources are used in the most effective way possible to achieve those goals. I feel a strong sense of gratitude for all who have served to make our community a better place, and want to do my part to serve and give back to my community.”

Adams has three decades’ teaching experience, instructing at several different grade levels in both Morgan and North Summit School Districts.  She graduated from Utah State University with a dual major, earning degrees in both elementary education and early childhood while minoring in both English and German.  She also continued her learning by earning state endorsements in both reading and math.

“My work ethic, passion for learning, love of children and the community, and basic understanding of the financial workings of the district are great strengths for this position,” said Adams, a lifelong resident of the county.  “I am confident that I will be an outstanding board member.”

Jennie Earl

“Throughout the last five to seven years, I have studied many topics related to the national education reform agenda. In particular, I have a great deal of knowledge and understanding about the foundations, implementation and impact of the Common Core State Standards initiative.  Additionally, I am familiar with changes to parent’s rights nationally (FERPA), Every Student Succeeds Act (which replaced No Child Left Behind), our State Longitudinal Data System and other recent changes in our schools,” said Earl, who moved to Morgan from Ohio in 2002.

Earl and her husband, Brett, are the parents of six children ranging in age from 22 to 11.  She has served in leadership position at Morgan Elementary School and has been involved in community organizations including Morgan Empowered and the Morgan County Republican Party.

“For the past several years I have consistently been present at local board meetings and spent time during the legislative session following education bills and on occasion testifying on bills impacting the family,” Earl said.  “Because my family has participated in a variety of educational settings (public, online, private, home school and charter), I believe I bring a unique perspective to the local school board that will greatly benefit our community.”

Three years ago, Senator Wayne Niederhauser appointed Earl to be part of the Parent Review Committee for the SAGE (Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence) testing, one of 15 members serving for four years to review questions from the SAGE data bank to be used as part of the end-of-year testing.

“I have watched the implementation and seen the growing concerns over using high-stakes testing as a primary focus in our education system both for measuring teachers and students.  Furthermore, last year all SAGE data was approved to be collected and stored on individual children in the State Longitudinal Data System,” said Earl.  “This continued expansion and massive inventory of individual data should be alarming to parents. Data needs to be kept and used on a local level and should always have parent consent before being distributed for research purposes.”

Earl earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern Utah University and a master’s degree in education from Weber State University.  She has recently started her own business.

“As I have spent time at the state legislature, I have noticed a concerning trend taking place in the realm of education.  I remember leaving our local board meeting in February where a list of significant needs were discussed by local leaders.  Then during the following week I listening to discussion and justification for new programs and funding in several senate hearings at the state legislature.  There seemed to be a complete disconnect from the local needs of our schools,” she said.  “I hope to address some of the systemic challenges found in education when I am on the local school board.  I am excited to be part of the education community and look forward to being proactive in local needs.”

R.  Kraig Walker

“The biggest issue facing the Morgan School District is working within the current budget to obtain the best education for students in Morgan County,” Walker said.  “There are constraints because the county is a bedroom community, there is not a lot of major businesses in the county, nor a lot of secondary homes.  Primary homes determine the population of the schools, yet they are taxed the least.”

Walker pointed out the fact that Morgan’s school district collects some of the lowest per-student taxes in the state.

“If elected, I will work closely with the administration to identify the priorities for students and provide students a good future,” Walker said.

Walker has lived in the county for 45 years, graduating with the Morgan High School’s Class of 1969.  His early youth was spent in Coalville and his father was the area mortician.  All six of his children were educated in Morgan schools.  Now he has 16 grandchildren in Morgan schools, with some at each of the district’s schools. This is what motivated him to run for a school board seat, said Walker, 65.

“I am concerned about good education and opportunities for all the kids in Morgan,” he said.  “I don’t care about all the politics.”

In fact, he said his lack of past political experience qualifies him for the job.

However, he does bring with him a wealth of experience in the financial field, similar to what outgoing Board Member Mark Farmer had.  Walker recently retired after working for 35 years as Browning’s chief financial officer.

Although he admits there are differences between public and private business finances, he said there are also a lot of similarities. His education as a certified public accountant trained him in both aspects.

Walker has served on the board of directors at Browning, Wells Fargo, Browning Employees Credit Union and McKay Dee Credit Union, as well as serving as chairman of both credit unions’ boards.  Over the decades creating budgets and working within those budgetary constraints to get the best results.

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