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Amid criticism, committee narrows Utah state school board field

Published June 3, 2014 11:42 am

Education • Candidates move to the governor, who will choose two candidates for each seat to appear on the ballot.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Amid continuing criticism that it lacks diversity and doesn't represent the public, a governor-appointed committee tasked with helping select state school board members wrapped up its work Tuesday.

The 12-member committee selected a total of 21 candidates for six seats to move forward in the process, including all four interested incumbents, after interviewing dozens of contenders. It will now be up to the governor to choose two candidates for each seat to appear on the ballot.

Though many were pleased to see the incumbents move forward — something that hasn't always been the case in past years — several current school board members expressed their continued displeasure with the process itself.

Board member Leslie Castle, who watched part of the proceedings Tuesday, said the committee's lack of diversity is part of the reason the state school board itself also lacks diversity.

She noted that nearly one-fourth of students statewide are ethnic minorities. All 12 members of the selection committee this year are white; each represents an industry or education interest.

All of the state school board's 15 voting members are white, though it has a nonvoting member, Freddie Cooper, who is black and represents the Coalition of Minorities Advisory Committee.

Gov. Gary Herbert appoints the members of the selection committee.

"If the governor's going to continue to do this, the committee needs to reflect the ethnic demographics of this state," said Castle, whose District 7 seat, which includes Salt Lake City and Park City, is not up for election.

Marty Carpenter, a spokesman for the governor, said Tuesday in a statement that the governor, "shares the concerns with respect to the current school board nominating process."

"That's why he has supported efforts to reform the system and move toward direct elections," Carpenter wrote.

Board member Kim Burningham, who is retiring from the board after this year, said he'd like to see candidates go directly before voters. Committee member Tom Bingham, however, said the committee has seen an increase in qualified applicants this year.

"We just have a plethora of very good candidates, and I think it's a tribute to the process," said Bingham, a retired former president of the Utah Manufacturers Association.

In past years, the committee has been criticized for not only knocking out incumbents but also occasionally attempting to close its meetings to the public or vote by secret ballot. This year's proceedings were all public.

Attempts to change the process have stalled over disagreements about whether to keep the races nonpartisan or make them partisan.

Tuesday was the second day the committee conducted interviews and voted for candidates to forward to the governor. In all, seven of the board's 15 seats are up for election. Incumbents Michael Jensen, Terryl Warner, Dan Griffiths and Heather Groom all moved forward to the governor for ballot consideration. —

Candidates selected

A selection committee is sending these candidates to the governor, who will choose two for each seat to appear on the ballot.

District 5

(includes much of Davis County around Bountiful, Farmington, Kaysville)

Amy Hayter • Salt Lake Community College adjunct instructor in English as a Second Language

Laura Collier Belnap • principal for the Washington County School District's online school

Mark H. Bouchard • senior managing director at CBRE Inc., former chairman of Prosperity 2020

Ruland Gill • retired oil and gas attorney and vice president for Questar Corp.

District 9

(includes parts of Utah County such as Lehi, Pleasant Grove and Goshen):

Heather Groom • incumbent and owner of Foresite LC, research consultant and vice president of sales for MojaWorks

Joylin Lincoln • board of trustees member of Lakeview Academy of Science, Arts and Technology charter school

Joel Wright • former state school board member, shareholder, real estate and finance attorney at Kirton McConkie.

District 14

(includes most of the bottom half of Utah, except the southwest corner):

Mike Miles • civil engineer for the Utah Department of Transportation

Mark A. Huntsman • civil engineering consultant, manager/senior vice president, Sunrise Engineering Inc.

Spencer Kimball • support staff for a boys residential treatment center, staff writer for the Sanpete Messenger, medical records retrieval for Verisk Health

(District 14 candidates were not selected by the committee but will all go forward to the governor because only three candidates filed to run.)