The Daily Sentinel
September 23, 2023
With this year's Mesa County Valley School District 51 Board of Education election season underway, candidates are seeking platforms and events to tell voters why they should have their votes.
Restore the Balance, a Grand Junction-based non-profit organization founded in 2022 to “combat extremism in politics and to support civility and mutual respect in public life,” is paying close attention every step of the way until it's time to vote.
The organization sent questionnaires to the five candidates running for the school board on Sept. 11, a continuation of Restore the Balance's practices from other recent local elections.
“This is the third time we've gone out and surveyed the candidates for office. We did the city council election back in the spring. We think local elections are just very, very important,” said Dennis Kirtland, who serves on the Restore the Balance Board of Directors.
“There's a lot of things that go on, whether it's the city council, county commissioners and school board that I think are of great interest to our members. We have over 2,900 members in Restore the Balance right now. When we surveyed them, they felt that our involvement with the candidates and trying to get out a good questionnaire that would get into some of the issues and some of their standings on various things was one of the most important things we were doing. That's why we're doing this.”
Restore the Balance (RTB) is hoping to receive responses from candidates by Monday. Candidates' answers will be posted to RTB's website, restorethebalance.org, on or around Oct. 6. RTB members will then analyze candidates' responses through a numerical rubric and publish its analysis and scores along with candidates' answers.
This is part of RTB's mission to “provide voters with the information they need to make informed choices at the ballot box.”
“The most important thing to tell people is to vote,” Kirtland said. “It's so often that, in these kinds of election, you see a real poor turnout. If anybody doesn't think local elections are important, they need to look. We had great turnout for the city council election and I hope that the school board election will have a really good, solid response. If you've got a kid in school or a grandchild that's in school, you should be voting.”
Doug Levinson of District A is approaching his term limit on the school board and Kari Sholtes of District B has chosen not to run for the seat she was appointed to in 2021 as a replacement for Paul Pitton.
The candidates for District A are:
— Jose Luis Chavez, who was born and raised in Mesa County, graduated from then-Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) and worked as a probation officer and a juvenile parole officer for the state of Colorado for 30 years, “helping youth and families during some of the toughest times of their lives.”
— Jessica Hearns, a Fruita resident, mathematics professor for 10 years at several community colleges and current adjunct professor for Colorado Northwestern Community College, a non-profit contractor for the National Park Service, and a City Planning Commission volunteer with a campaign focus on “communication, freedom and transparency.”
— CynDee Skalla, a Colorado Mesa University alumna who taught in District 51 for 34 years (mostly at Loma Elementary and Appleton Elementary), substitute teacher and former president of the Grand Mesa Reading Association (the local chapter of the International Reading Association) who wants to “offer firsthand experience of what works and what does not work for teachers, students and parents.”
The candidates for District B are:
— Cindy Enos-Martinez, a former school board member from 2009-2012 who also spent two years as the mayor of Grand Junction and served on the Grand Junction City Council, whose aim is to “bring common sense and transparency back into the school system.”
— Barbara Evanson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, former law enforcement officer and former security officer for D51 schools (serving Dos Rios Elementary, New Emerson Elementary, Lincoln Orchard Mesa Elementary, Mesa View Elementary, Orchard Mesa Middle School and Gateway School) who sees “a real need, not only for physical (building) security but for security in the well-being of each student.”