By Mary Alice Murphy
Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 evening featured Silver Consolidated Schools Board candidates at a forum, hosted at the Silver Schools Administration Building and moderated by Nickolas Seibel, Silver City Daily Press publisher, with some questions being asked by Stewart McClintick, who covers the schools beat for the Daily Press.
Four candidates opened the session with statements. The first was Ashley Montenegro, who was appointed to District 2 last year. She is now running for election for the position.
"I seek to be elected to the board," Montenegro said. "It's not personal, it's a service. I'm here to serve the community as a whole, including students and staff.
"You need to make your concerns known, so we can bring them to the superintendent," she continued. "I'm an active mom in my children's lives and in my children's friends' lives."
She said she loves volunteering in the classroom, and when she hears teachers who are unhappy and students who are not getting the education like she did, she tries to make a difference.
"I love to talk to people and make things better," Montenegro said. "I have a degree in business administration, with an emphasis in accounting. We as the school board are in a business and have to run it like a business." She said she also has a master's degree in business administration.
Unopposed District 1 candidate Patrick Cohn Jr., said he is seeking the position because he is very interested in the students and teachers.
"I am the father of four, and my wife and I are extremely involved in our children's education," Cohn said. "When I see situations, it makes me want to be a leader for the schools. I have a general business degree from Western New Mexico University and a banking diploma." He serves as a business-oriented assistant vice president at 1st New Mexico Bank.
"I hope to bring my financial experience to the position," Cohn continued. "I look forward to working with the new superintendent Audie Brown, a great leader. I look forward to serving the district and talking to constituents. I want to be active at Sixth Street School and Harrison Schmitt Elementary. If there's silence, how do we know what's going on? I am honored to serve you all."
District 4 has two candidates vying for the board position. The first to speak was Justin Wecks.
"It's interesting to hear both Ashley and Partick talk about service," Wecks said. "That's what this job is. School board members don't earn a paycheck. Sen. Howie Morales at the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration today spoke about service, not status.
"I'm particularly excited to see two people in the district willing to take the job," Wecks said. "I have extensive service in schools, with 11 years teaching in Colorado and New Mexico. I am the father of two girls, which is my most important job. I was an active union member in both schools and served as president of the Silver City Education Association, the local chapter of the National Education Association."
He said when he served as part of the bargaining unit he gained an understanding of the budget. "I helped bargain two successful contracts. In the past years I've been lobbying at the state level."
Also running as a candidate for the District 4 seat is Daniel Arrey.
"Thank you to the Silver City Daily Press for hosting this forum," Arrey said. "It's important for you to know where I stand. I'm the parent of two boys, so being a supporter of their education is important. I am involved in coaching and classroom volunteering; I am the new president of Little League.
"I believe in using tax dollars effectively and efficiently," Arrey continued. "I'm a team player. I work at the county and manage the E-911 database and the addresses database. I am also a business owner, and know when you have employees they rely on you and how much you work as a business owner."
As the Little League president, Arrey said in one month, they raised $10,000 and mended relationships with businesses. "I don't know the education lingo or processes, but I look forward to learning."
Most of the questions came from ones audience members wrote on 3X5 cards.
The first question was: If you are interested in running schools like a business, who profits, what constitutes profits and how do students fit into the business?
Arrey said children are the ones who win when there are profits. "It's not really a profit, it's funding to help them. The teachers are here to support them and be behind them."
Wecks said when one talks about running public schools as a business, the first thing that comes to his mind is testing children. "Put them through the press of testing and it takes individual children and lets them come out looking alike. You can't run a business that way. You have to figure out the strengths, encourage multiculturalism. Our desire should not be to raise a bunch of good test takers. It should be a business that is good at looking at human capital. I would like to see that."
Cohn said it is like running a business. "You get a loan and the bank benefits. You deposit money and you benefit. You have to develop administrators and teachers. I see my children stressing about testing. There is a loss of fun. I remember school as fun. If you don't have happy teachers, how can you have happy children? How can we mend things? Who will profit are our students. Bring the morale up, and be a voice to local government officials."
Montenegro said from a business viewpoint, there are for-profit businesses and not-for-profit businesses. "You thrive by taking care of your assetsG