Four out of five Bayfield School Board members may not be returning to their positions after the Nov. 5 elections, with five newcomers and one incumbent vying for the open seats.
The candidates are newcomers Richard Gustafson, Debbie Wilhelm, Amy Davlin, Matthew Zabka and Mary Lynne Herr; the incumbent is Michael Foutz. Board members Barb Wickman and Carol Blatnick are not seeking new terms. Janie Hoover, president of the board, is term-limited and cannot run for a new term.
The candidates will attend a League of Women Voters candidate forum from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sept. 30 at Bayfield Town Hall.
Four candidates are vying for three open seats to serve four years on the board, and two candidates are vying for one open seat to serve two years on the board.
The school board decides and enforces policies, sets goals and oversees the budget for the district. The board is working on completing a strategic plan and developing the Pueblo Community College site in Bayfield. It is also focused on building the Bayfield Education Center and promoting student achievement and academic growth, Brooke LaVenture, board of education secretary, wrote in an email to The Durango Herald.
The high turnover taking place this year shouldn’t affect long-term projects, said Daniele Hillyer, the only continuing board member.
“Everything is basically in place,” said Hillyer, who will serve on the board until 2021.
Hillyer said candidates should be budget-minded, involved with the schools on a daily basis and capable of putting time into the board each week.
“We’re working hard to get them done, especially the strategic plan,” Hillyer said of the projects. “It’s our No. 1 priority.”
She also said candidates with diverse backgrounds are important because the board deals with varied issues, like water and property rights.
Candidates are elected to two-year or four-year terms and must pass a criminal background check. They also must be registered electors of the Bayfield School District for at least 12 months before elections.
Four candidates are running for three open seats with four-year terms: Foutz, Gustafson, Wilhelm and Davlin.
Foutz is vice president with FCI Constructors, where he has worked since 1996. Originally from Durango, he graduated from Ignacio High School and moved to Bayfield in 2004. His wife is the Bayfield High School volleyball coach, and he has had two students in the district. He has been on the board since 2015.
Gustafson has been a fire management officer at the Southern Ute Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for 20 years. Originally from Boulder, he has lived in La Plata County for 30 years.
He has one student in the district and has been a member of the school accountability committees for the early education program, primary school and intermediate school. He was the Bayfield Parks and Recreation director, and he coaches youth sports.
Wilhelm is an information technology manager at Basin Coop in Durango. She is from Durango and graduated from Bayfield High School. She is vice chairwoman for the school district accountability committee and chairwoman of the high school accountability committee. She has two students in the district, and she is a longtime volunteer in Bayfield schools.
Davlin is the Four Corners licensing specialist for the Colorado Office of Early Childhood. She has been the president of the Parent Teacher Student Association since 2017. She will be joining the board of directors for the Be Frank Foundation, a music education and engagement nonprofit based in Bayfield, in January. She moved to La Plata County in 2006 and has one student in the district.
Two newcomer candidates, Zabka and Herr, are running for one two-year position on the board.
Zabka has been an environmental compliance specialist with the Southern Ute Growth Fund for almost three years. Originally from the Front Range, he has lived in La Plata County since 1998. He has two students in the district and coaches youth sports through Bayfield Parks and Recreation.
Herr retired from the Bayfield School District in 2015 and has 40 years of experience in education. She has worked in the Bayfield and Ignacio school districts, and she held principal and administrative positions in New Mexico. She is a member of the Pine River Garden Club in Bayfield and volunteers with local nonprofit organizations, including the Be Frank Foundation.