Monday, September 20, 2021
45.0°F

Five candidates vie for C-Falls school board seats

by CHRIS PETERSON
Hungry Horse News | April 27, 2021 12:00 AM

Five candidates are seeking two seats on the Columbia Falls School District 6 board of trustees this spring election. Ballots have been mailed and will be counted on May 4.

Here’s a look at the candidates:

ANDREW DOYLE: of Columbia Falls is a patrol deputy for the Flathead County Sheriff’s Department. He said he’s had six children grow up in the district and currently has a third-grade daughter attending school in Columbia Falls.

He said one of the main issues her’s hoping to change is the mask mandate the school currently has in place for students and staff.

“I think it’s time to unmask kids,” he said.

He said whether a student should have to wear a mask should be up to the family, not the district.

Doyle grew up in Michigan and moved to Montana about 15 years ago because there were better job opportunities in Montana, he said.

He said he supported the bond issue and the new school additions at the elementary schools. He added he doesn’t know much about the school’s budget or finances, but said he’s done well with his own finances.

He claimed students were watching CNN and he said he had concerns about “falsehoods and lies” being spread by major news networks. He claimed there should be a more balanced approach to news, but didn’t offer up a network that might provide that.

Superintendent Dave Wick did confirm that a news program CNN10 is broadcast to students at the junior high. The 10-minute program is geared to youths and takes a balanced approach to news, from what the Hungry Horse News watched.

He said he wanted teachers that did not instill “doctrines or ideals” into students.

One topic that seems to have struck a chord this election cycle is transgender males competing in female sports. Doyle said he is opposed to allowing that to happen. But that case hasn’t come up in Columbia Falls schools to date.

Doyle said he espouses strong Christian values. He also has a separate business where he does custom work on gun stocks and grips, called DFT Custom Stippling. This is his first time running for school board.

WAYNE JACOBSMEYER was a chiropractor in Columbia Falls for 35 years. He retired in 2016. This is his first time running for the school board. His children attended school here and now he has grandchildren attending school here as well.

“I’m tired of the liberal agenda running through schools and the moral decay,” he said. “I would like to see curriculum get back to basics.”

Having said that, Jacobsmeyer said the district for the most part has wonderful teachers. He said he would lift the mask mandate.

“I think they ought to forget about it,” he said. “It’s nonsense.”

He said he also has concerns about gender issues at the school and opposes transgender students playing a sport that’s not their biological sex. He also said teachers shouldn’t be teaching moral issues and they should teach both sides of an issue.

“Personal bias should be left out of it,” he said.

Jacobsmeyer supported the bond issue and the building and renovations at the elementary schools.

DAIVD SHAFFER has run for the board for the past five years. He has a background in education and was a math teacher for 18 years at the junior high and taught math and physics at the senior high for 12 years. He retired in 2000, but continued to teach in California and Washington as well as at Flathead Valley Community College after leaving Columbia Falls.

He said he’s running because he wants to be a voice for students and staff.

As an example, if a student has trouble in school, the board could be a voice for the student.

“It’s an opportunity to be of service,” he said. “I don’t have any political ambition.”

He had 10 children who graduated from Columbia Falls and now has grandchildren attending school here.

He said there isn’t any particular policy he would change and he thought the the board has done a good job.

He said he supported the bond issue and it was necessary to get the schools fixed.

“It’s going to cost us a little money,” he said.

As far as coronavirus is concerned , he said he feels the school did a good job handling it. He recalled polio back in the 1950s and its impacts. He remembered not being able to go swimming because it was said to spread the virus before a vaccine was available.

MICHAEL NICOSIA, an incumbent, has served School District 6 for 26 years, 19 as superintendent. He served on the insurance committee after retirement and then as a school board member the last three years.

“I feel I still have a lot to contribute,” he said, noting he has a unique insight into school operations that is useful to the board. In addition to a doctorate degree and years of experience, he said he has more than 80 hours of continuing education in coursework designed to help school board members.

On the matter of coronavirus, he said he developed his opinion based on science and the fact that it’s resulted in the deaths of a lot of Americans.

“As far as I’m concerned the virus is proven and the research is sound,” he said.

Thus, he supports the mask requirement at schools, noting that as a board member, he has to consider the health of everyone — students, teachers, staff and the community.

In the long term, Nicosia said he would like to develop more ways for the district to engage more students in the schools. As part of his doctoral research, he said he found that the more students were engaged in school, the better they did after high school.

Engagement could be band, choir, sports, speech and debate and other programs. The buildings trade program, for example, teaches students a skilled trade that makes them employable straight out of high school. The same with the school’s welding program.

Nicosia had three children graduate from Columbia Falls.

He said the challenge in education is to get students to apply themselves. Students who have in Columbia Falls, have gone on to have great careers.

On the subject of transgender youth and athletics, he said he would oppose a male transgender student competing in female events. He noted the case of a male who did that at the college level at the University of Montana and it wasn’t fair to the female athletes.

As far as politics and school, he said he would hope teachers would take a balanced approach with any subject and keep personal views out the classroom, whether it was liberal or conservative.

JILL ROCKSUND, an incumbent, has years of education experience as a teacher, administrator and school board member. She taught for nine years in West Glacier, has served 28 years on the School District 6 board and was a teacher and administrator in Whitefish for 15 years. She retired as the curriculum director in 2016, but was also the assistant principal at Muldown Elementary and principal for two years and nine years, respectively.

She said her main goal is to keep the district stable and healthy. The first priority is to get the school through the coronavirus crisis. She said she would like to lift the mask mandate, but right now the Centers for Disease Control and the local health department recommend that it stay in place. She noted that Gov. Greg Gianforte’s mask order does not lift the mandate from schools.

“Schools should make reasonable efforts to follow school guidelines and best practices recommended by the CDC and the Montana Office of Public Instruction,” Gianforte’s order notes.

The school’s efforts worked, she noted. Aside from a short closure at the junior high, schools have remained open and infection rates have remained low.

Beyond the masks, Rocksund said she would continue to work to provide good health insurance coverage for the school’s faculty and support staff. The district is self-insured, which means it doesn’t use an insurance company. It’s a system that’s worked well for more than 20 years, but it’s proving more difficult, as the district has to contract with health-care providers such as local hospitals, on rates.

“But it gets harder and harder all the time,” she noted.

She said another goal is to improve educational delivery .

“Do the best by kids as we can,” she said.

In addition, she hopes to help the district steer through the building projects that are underway at the district’s elementary schools.

As far as politics and classrooms, she said students should get a balanced viewpoint and “see all sides of an issue and have rich discussions.”

“That’s kind of what we’re all about,” she said.