Six local citizens have joined the race for two open seats on the Aspen School District Board of Education, which will be decided in the Nov. 5 election. They are Jim Pomeroy, Bettina Slusar, Katy Frisch, Jonathan Nickell, John Galambos and Patsy Kurkulis.

Candidates who want to run had until Aug. 30 to file a nomination packet, which requires 50 verified signatures from district voters. To run, one must have been a resident of the school district for 12 consecutive months before the election.

The level of interest in the race may be increased because there are no incumbents running. The two seats up for elections were held by Sheila Wills and Sandra Peirce, both of whom were elected twice and must step down due to term limits after serving eight years.

The winners of the race will join Susan Marolt, Suzy Zimet and Dwayne Romero on the board that oversees the local public school system.

The school district is planning a forum for the candidates, likely in early October. It will be held off-site and moderated by someone from outside the school district, but where exactly and by whom are still in the works. 

Below are responses from each candidate to a brief questionnaire from Aspen Daily News: 

 

JIM POMEROY

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Prior involvement with the Aspen School District

I am a graduate of the Aspen School District, having gone to school in Aspen from kindergarten through high school. I worked for the district as a substitute teacher in the ’90s having earned my teaching credentials at the University of Northern Colorado. I have been involved with the school with our two children — one who graduated from Aspen High School in 2018, and another that is currently a junior. Lastly, I have volunteered on the District Accountability Committee for the last year as the co-chair.

Years living in the community, age and occupation

I have lived all my life in Aspen except for college, and am 52 years old. I currently work for the city of Aspen in the community development department.

Top priorities if elected to the school board

Based on my life experience, I have every reason to believe that greater transparency in the day-to-day operations of the district, along with a board willing to take direct responsibility for all of their decisions, will insure that the Aspen schools can continue to be excellent schools that graduate young women and men prepared to take on college and the rest of their lives.

BETTINA SLUSAR

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Prior involvement with the Aspen School District

I have sat on the District Accountability Committee (DAC), the Aspen High School School Accountability Committee (SAC) and the Aspen Family Connections advisory group. In my work with the AHS SAC, I have participated in Tharyn Mulberry’s School on the Mountain working group and co-authored the recent launch of the Volunteer Match system. Volunteer Match is an electronic clearinghouse to help lighten the load of staff and teachers by matching tasks with parent and community volunteers. I was a key organizer with the middle school administration of the student-sponsored gun control marches. In addition I have done a ton of one-off volunteering: buying groceries, cooking food for outdoor-ed, doing pack checks, etc. I am also a member of the Aspen Parent Action Committee (APAC). 

Years living in the community, age and occupation

I have lived in the community for four years, having moved here from Chicago. I am 55, have a sophomore at the high school and an eighth grader at the middle school. I am a part-time ski instructor. 

Top priorities if elected to the school board

1. Focus and transparency on financial controls and overall district administration

2. Out of the box thinking on making strategic use of campus proximity, creating a K-12 through-line to apply what is best in each building to the whole district

3. School/campus safety

4. More support for our teachers and staff both financially and logistically

KATY FRISCH

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Prior involvement with the Aspen School District

In 2009, I ran for ASD Board of Education and was unfortunately not elected. I have been a member of the Aspen School District’s Financial Advisory Board since 2010. Both of our children were born at AVH and have been attending the Aspen School District since kindergarten, with our son, Felix, now in ninth grade at Aspen High School, and our daughter, Quintessa, in seventh grade at Aspen Middle School. In addition, I have been an active parent volunteer throughout the years, including many field trips, principal and staff hiring committees and outdoor education trips.

Years living in the community, age and occupation

My husband, Adam Frisch, and I moved to Aspen in 2003. I’m 49 and the president of my family-owned cable television equipment manufacturing business, located in Syracuse, New York. I have a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering from Brown University and a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Top priorities if elected to the school board

My top priority, and the top priority of the district, is new leadership. We need to hire a new superintendent and we need people experienced in management and leadership to help successfully hire and onboard the new leader.I believe my experience in creating and implementing strategic plans for a variety of businesses and Aspen-based nonprofits would aid in this process.

In addition, we need level-headed, open, positive leadership. I believe I could help the district and community focus on providing the best possible school system and education for all of our children, while calming down the divisiveness that has appeared over these issues in the recent past. I will listen to a variety of views from parents, students, staff, and volunteer committees, analyze the issues, and respond in a community appropriate manner.

JONATHAN NICKELL

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Prior involvement with the Aspen School District

I have been a parent with children in the Aspen School District since 2013. Currently, I have a daughter who is a senior and have two older children who graduated from Aspen High School. I was co-chair of the District Accountability Committee (DAC) from 2016 to 2018 and I have also been a member of the Aspen High School School Accountability Committee (SAC). We believe in giving back to the community and my wife Paula is also very involved with the Valley Settlement organization.

 Years living in the community, age and occupation 

I grew up in a small Colorado ski town, graduating from Nederland high school. I went on to attend the Colorado School of Mines and live in different parts of the country and internationally. I was fortunate to be able to move with my family to Aspen six years ago from Bogota, Colombia and I am 48. When I am not spending time with my family or enjoying the Aspen outdoors in one form or another, I serve as the chief financial officer of a multinational building materials company.

 Top priorities if elected to the school board

My top priorities if elected are to first ensure that we have the correct visionary leadership in the superintendent position. Having an aspirational leader that will promote a positive climate and unite our community around a common vision and priorities is the key to the future success of our schools. Second, we need to continue to work to retain, attract and develop the best teachers for our schools. Finally, I will work on continuing to improve the board of education’s transparency and effectiveness.

JOHN GALAMBOS

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Prior involvement with the Aspen School District

After living in Basalt and Carbondale we specifically moved to Aspen to give our three kids the opportunity to attend the Aspen School District, and they were all enrolled from kindergarten through graduation. Throughout our kids’ education Robin and I have always found time to volunteer in the classroom, outdoor-ed trips and graduation activities and have been so impressed by the teachers and administrators that helped to shape the lives of our three children.

Years living in the community, age and occupation 

I am 53 years old and the owner of an architectural firm, Galambos Architects, Inc. Robin and I moved to the valley 26 years ago.

Top priorities if elected to the school board

My overarching priority is to listen. I consider myself a creative problem solver and that starts with thoughtful listening. I’ll listen to the entire community and apply creative solutions to the issues presented. My priorities are first to the children. We want to make sure that students that graduate from the Aspen School District are great humans, great citizens and academically prepared for their future. We need to maintain and improve our academic excellence, not forgetting the whole child.  

My second priority is to the teachers. We need to make sure they are listened to, cared for and that they have the resources to do their work with excellence. Likewise my next priority is to the administration. They need our full support and dedication. I will work on the board’s communication; it needs to be clear, empowering and it needs to allow the administration to achieve their goals. 

My fourth priority is to the parents and the greater Aspen community. I feel like the district is doing things well about 90 percent of the time. We need to tweak the 10 percent. Now is not the time for wholesale change. I will be a calm and thoughtful voice. 

PATSY KURKULIS

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Prior involvement with the Aspen School District

I have been involved with the Aspen School District for nine years. In addition, I have volunteered for the school in a variety of capacities: shopping, packing and preparing for outdoor ed, sewing costumes for elementary plays, assisting in field trips and school activities. 

In September 2018, with the help and involvement of others, I was part of a group that started the Aspen Parents Action Committee. APAC's purpose was to help uncover shortcomings in the climate and culture of our school district and identify new solutions.   

Years living in the community, age and occupation 

I am a 47-year-old mother and proud parent of two Aspen Middle School children. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and moved to Aspen 19 years ago to pursue new endeavors.  

Top priorities if elected to the school board

My top priority if elected to the school board, would be to champion and collectively oversee that our school obtains the appropriate leadership and vision that both our great teachers and wonderful students deserve. 

Curtis Wackerle is the editor of Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at curtis@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @CurtisWackerle.