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Q-and-A: Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 District School Board candidates

Students head into the Cortez Middle School for the first day of school in 2016.

In the Nov. 7 election, challengers seek to unseat two current members of the Montezuma-Cortez Re-1 School District Board of Education.

Tiffany Cheney is challenging Brian Balfour to represent School District A. Geof Byerly is challenging current board member Sherri Noyes in District F.

Jack Schuenemeyer and Kara Suckla are running unopposed in Districts B and G, respectively.

The board has replaced the retiring Pete Montano with Tammy Hooten in District E. Sherri Wright’s board seat in District C is not up for election this term.

Josiah Forkner is running unopposed in School District D, vacated by the retirement of Eric Whyte.

To ensure that Forkner’s seat more likely represents Ute Mountain Ute tribal members, candidates live in the district and are elected only by district residents. Other seats are voted at large.

The Journal asked candidates for a short biography, why they are running for election, and what would be their main objective if elected. Some questions were unanswered, and some were edited for length, indicated by ellipses.

District A

Brian Balfour, Incumbent

Short bio

Brian Balfour, IncumbentI currently serve on the RE-1 Board of Education in District A. I was appointed to the Board in March of 2016. I have lived in Montezuma County for 35 years and attended Manaugh Elementary, Cortez Junior High and Montezuma-Cortez High School. ...

I have been married to the love of my life, Sarah, for 14 years and we have five wonderful children. Our oldest attends Cortez Middle School and three others attend Kemper Elementary. The youngest will be entering the school system shortly.

I have worked for the Farmington Fire Department for the last 16 years and currently hold the rank of Battalion Chief. ... I also served with the Cortez Fire Protection District from 2000-2014. I have owned my own business for the past two years and co-owned another business for two years prior to that. Both were successes and have brought me additional knowledge, skills and abilities that I would not have experienced working in the public sector.

Why have you decided to run?

As a member of the Board of Education, I feel that I bring people and ideas together to achieve common goals. I am open minded and like to obtain the facts before making a decision. When I feel something is right and meets the mission and core values of the district, I will not back down. ... The right thing is always the right thing.

In over 16 years in the fire service, 10 years in various church leadership positions and my current time on the school board, I have served on committees in which collaboration was necessary to overcome tough obstacles, resulting in successful outcomes. I have also been directly involved in budgeting which I feel is a much needed skill to have as a board member. I have 35 years invested in this community and would like to see all students in the RE-1 School District have a successful future and be prepared for life after school! A strong school system is a major building block of any community and we deserve nothing less than the best. We are in the middle of many milestones that I would like to see to fruition. Continuing to serve on the board will give me the opportunity to help solidify the foundation of the Montezuma-Cortez School District and provide our students with opportunities that have only been dreams to this point.

What would be your main objective?

Putting our kids first, whatever it takes, is how I answer each question that is posed to me. I want to work closely with the Superintendent and other Board members so we can focus on academic success, fiscal oversight, teacher retention, improve technology and bus fleet, strategic planning, policy and procedure development and gaining the trust and support of the community through communication and transparency. ... My main objective is to oversee and be a part of the decision-making in every aspect that makes a school function properly and within boundaries that are necessary for the good of the students, teachers, parents and taxpayers. ... Working as a team in strategic planning and informing our parents and other tax payers of key issues, will aid in building the trust of all involved. ... I feel that there has been a gap between the community and the RE-1 School District in past years, but things are changing and we are in the middle of providing better education and building trust. ...

District A

Tiffany Cheney, Challenger

Short bio

Tiffany Cheney, ChallengerMy name is Tiffany Cheney, and I am running for school board.

I was born and raised here. I grew up in our schools’ hallways, and my husband and I are raising our own family here. We have two little girls one in school, the other will be soon, so the future of education is very important to me not just for my children, but also for the children of my district.

I graduated from MCHS in 2008, and I went on to work with adults with developmental disabilities. I was then a stay-at-home mom for a few years. I am now currently furthering my own education while I do private home health care for an elderly lady.

My husband and I also help with his family’s bee business. I am excited to have the chance to better my hometown, and I hope I am given that opportunity.

Why have you decided to run?

I have made this decision based on my growing concern for the education of forthcoming generations and the voices of our district. I have heard a lot of anger and frustration from the public regarding certain educational decisions, and the people of Montezuma County feel that their opinion does not matter regarding the future of education here. That factor, along with many other things, are something I hope to improve with my contribution including more accountability, support for our teachers, and conserving every resource.

District D

Josiah Forkner, Unopposed

Why have you decided to run?

Josiah Forkner, UnopposedI have 3 kids in the school district, and I want them to have a positive educational experience.

What would be your main objective?

Funding. As the director of Human Services I work with governmental funding on a daily basis. I hope I can assist in finding new revenue streams so we can hire and keep the best teachers and frontline staff for our kids.

District FSheri Noyes, Incumbent

Short bio

District FSheri Noyes, IncumbentI was born and raised in Cortez and now live in Pleasant View. I was a K-12 student graduating from M-CHS in 1989. My husband, Rick Kirks (cattle rancher), and I have two kids that attended Lewis-Arriola, CMS, and M-CHS. Our son Wiley graduated in 2013 and daughter Weslie in 2016. I have been very active and hands-on with many activities for a lot of years. I have been a volunteer for several events (school and community), a substitute, a coach, a PTO member, M-CHS Booster Club member, sat on various boards and committees. ... I continue to this day because, 1. I enjoy it; and 2. I feel the reward at the end of the day is one of the best feelings ever!

Why have you decided to run?

I feel that I, the rest of the board and the district as a whole needs that consistency to keep driving the district in the positive direction that I believe it is moving. I hope with the knowledge that I have gained that I will prove to be an asset. I have enjoyed working the board and administration, and I can personally say that I have seen a change for the better with how things have been moving along.

What would be your main objective?

The current board has been faced with a few challenging issues the past few years, and my intentions are to get some of these issues behind us in a way that we can regain the trust of the community, the staff, the students and their families.

To name a few, we have the accreditation rating which I am excited to say is looking very good at this point and this will be huge for our district. Recruiting and retaining our teachers, this is not only a district issue but for the state as well.

We have got to be able to compete with surrounding school districts in this department. We have the demolition of the old high school and the repurposing of the land. We are very close to marking this off our list and putting it behind us.

I would like to keep addressing the athletic field situation at the new high school. I want to make sure is not forgotten about.

We still have a lot to accomplish, and it won’t happen over night, but I truly believe that the gains we are making from even a year ago are putting us on our way to bringing the District to where it needs to be and one that we can all be proud of.

District FGeof Byerly, Challenger

Why have you decided to run?

District FGeof Byerly, ChallengerMy decision to run for the RE-1 School Board is driven by a sense of responsibility to my community. I have been in education in Montezuma County since 1996. My experience in traditional and alternative educational settings, and having spent significant time in secondary and early childhood environments, will bring added perspective to the discussions of district policy and procedure supporting all children in the community. Having recently received a Master’s in Education, having participated in Family Leadership Training Institute, and participating currently in Leadership Montezuma, I am inspired to take learned skills where I feel they will benefit most, and that is in support of education.

What would be your main objective?

My main objective as school board director will be to enhance awareness of the importance of education in our community.

Given the role teachers play in the lives of our children, it becomes essential that we secure the most qualified and dedicated professionals possible. While supporting the dedicated professionals currently in place and celebrate the positive work they do, we must prepare for the future.

With fewer college graduates going into education as a career, that we are unable to retain and attract qualified teachers to fill positions in our district should be alarming to everyone, whether we have children in the school system or not.

The vitality of our community hinges on the health of our children, our most prized resource. The passage of 3B, the mill levy override on the November ballot, will be an important step in assuring competitiveness with school districts across the state for a diminishing resource – teachers.

Learning happens best when students are able to develop a rapport with teachers that know, not just their content, but the community.

Education faces challenges in our community and our children deserve every resource available to assure they attain their dreams. Let us work together in support of 3B and support children we can all be proud of.

Montezuma-Cortez District Map (PDF)

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