The Morgan Board of Education selected Kelly Preece to fill the vacancy created by Mark Farmer’s departure. He will serve representing District 4 through 2018.
Three other city residents applied to fill the vacancy including John Field, Marie Heiner and Carol E. Thompson. The school board interviewed all four in an open public meeting Tuesday before naming Preece to the board.
“I feel Kelly is the right guy for our board,” Boardmember Ted Taylor said.
“Kelly comes with the same kind of personality the board has now,” Board Chairman Ken Durrant said in the Tuesday meeting. “He has no agenda, nothing he wants to see done in his way. He has an open mind and heart, and is willing to learn and express his feelings.”
All applicants prepared to share their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of the schools in the Morgan District; mandated testing of students; accountability for teachers; building rapport with district employees and community members; their ability to fulfill assignments; state and federal funding; challenges facing the school district; addressing concerns from parents; homeschooling and charter schools; taxation and bonding; core curriculum; extra-curricular activities; and other issues in education.
“It is a difficult situation, awkward to do in a public session,” Superintendent Doug Jacobs said. “I really respect the applicants who sat through this process and board members for expressing their feelings.”
Durrant, Boardmember Ron Blunck and Boardmember Neil Carrigan all encouraged the other three applicants to apply for a school board seat in the future, when the voters can have their say rather than the board appointing a member.
“It ought to be in the hands of all the people, not these five people,” said Carrigan referring to the school board members.
“I appreciate all you throwing your name in the hat,” said Blunck, who was appointed vice board president Tuesday. “That is a big step itself.”
Preece interviewed via Facetime from the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. During his interview, Preece said a board member should represent the whole community, not just his own district.
He said special interest groups with their own agenda should be handled “very carefully,” while the board’s main focus should be students, faculty and the community as a whole. “Sometimes that is hard to manage.”
In order to build rapport with district employees, the community and fellow board members, Preece said it is best to be honest. “Keep people well informed and up to date,” he said. “They will be more satisfied even if the decision doesn’t go their way. They will feel the honesty.”
He says the most pressing challenge facing the school district in the next few years is growth and planning for the influx of students. To handle that challenge, taxes will have to be raised in Morgan County, he said. “I know taxes is a bad word, but it is a tough issue,” Preece said. “We need to convince the community in a good way they are investing in the future of kids, which is best for all of us.”
Preece is a life-time resident of Morgan, being raised on Stoddard Lane. He was the student body vice president of Morgan High School, a member of the FFA and rodeo club, and played football. Preece served a two-year mission in Canada for his church.
For the past 35 years, Preece has worked for Lafarge Holcim and has been actively involved in their service projects to improve areas such as the fairgrounds, schools and parks. He has served on the planning and zoning committee for Morgan City and is currently serving as a board member for the Francis Canyon Ranch.
“When I heard about this opening, I thought of my grandkids, to be frank and honest,” Preece said. “The only way to make a difference is to step up and get involved.”
Kelly and his wife, Connie, have one daughter, Charity Croxford, and two sons, Kasey Preece, and Aaron Preece, who teaches Utah history and Spanish at Morgan Middle School. All family members are graduates of Morgan High. They have 11 grandchildren.
“My family and I have a great love for the Morgan School system. While raising our children, my wife and I were involved in different school activities that our children were involved in. I had the opportunity to be involved in little league football, basketball, baseball as both a fan and coach,” Preece wrote in his letter to school board members. “I love our community and our schools and want to help keep them a great place to live and educate our children.”