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Two school board veterans get the boot

Published April 17, 2012 8:51 pm

Education • Nominating committee doesn't recommend incumbents from Districts 8, 12.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Her constituents voted her into office four times.

But a governor-appointed nominating committee decided Tuesday that state school board incumbent Janet Cannon won't appear on the ballot for her District 8 seat. Incumbent Carol Murphy, who is finishing her first term in District 12, also won't appear on the ballot, the committee ruled.

The nominating committee wrapped up its work Tuesday after two days spent interviewing most of the 59 candidates vying for nine state school board seats. As required by law, the committee chose at least three candidates for each seat to send to the governor, who now will choose two to appear on the ballot.

The process has been widely criticized for taking choice out of voters' hands. Lawmakers have tried to change the system over the years but can't agree on whether to make the elections direct and nonpartisan or partisan.

"Personally, I feel the committee [process] has taken away the voice of the public," said JoDee Sundberg, a committee member and Alpine District board member.

She said Cannon's 16 years of experience on the board "speaks louder than anybody else's qualifications." Instead, the group voted to forward the names of three other candidates.

However, over the two days of voting, the committee did forward the names of five incumbents in other districts.

Sundberg also said there seemed to be voting blocs on the committee. Half of the 12-member group represents business interests and half represents education and there were similar voting patterns among certain members of each side.

But committee chairman Thomas Bingham, president of the Utah Manufacturers Association and chairman of the Utah College of Applied Technology Board, said any voting similarities were unintentional.

Bingham said he did not vote to forward Cannon's name because he believed the other three candidates in her district were better qualified and would better represent rural areas.

Sundberg said she and some education representatives talked beforehand about which candidates they liked but did not decide together in advance whom to vote for.

Many involved this year said they would prefer a different process all together.

Cannon said she had hoped to serve another term to continue work on such issues as measuring teacher and principal effectiveness and student growth. She said she believed the system under which she was originally elected to the board was the best. Under that system, she said, committees in each of the 15 state school board districts vetted candidates and submitted names for ballot consideration.

Murphy, the other ousted incumbent, said she's never been a fan of the current process. She thinks voters should decide.

"Basically, I look around and the people who make the selection are not representative really of anyone who lives in my district," said Murphy, an attorney whose concentration is special education law. Though Murphy did not make it to the next step of the process Tuesday, another District 12 incumbent did: board vice-chairwoman and retired educator Dixie Allen. Recent redistricting put the two incumbents into the same district.

Allen, however, said she also thinks there are better ways to select state school board members. She said she'd rather see more direct, nonpartisan elections, and Murphy's ouster will be a significant loss for the board.

But not everyone agrees.

Jennifer Johnson, founder and president of a financial services company and one of the candidates forwarded over Cannon, said she can see pros and cons to the current process versus a more direct system.

"A direct election would be very expensive for someone like me and it would be very easy for special interests to become involved," Johnson said. "It's not like either process is necessarily more fair than the other."

Bingham, the committee chairman, said he believes the current system makes sense and that he helped originally design it. He said it's important business and education interests be represented as schools must adequately prepare students for the work world. "It is a very difficult process, but I think it's yielding great fruit," he said.

And Bette Oveson Arial, a former board member who advanced for a District 15 seat, said she believes the current system works.

"I believe in representative democracy, and to me that fits," said Arial, a senior advisor for the Sutherland Institute. "You appoint people to do things, rather than the masses."

Arial and two others bested a fourth candidate for District 15, Carmen Snow, executive director of Utahns for Public School, a group that was heavily involved in defeating school vouchers several years ago. After her interview, committee member Chris Bleak, president of the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools, said he was concerned with Snow's leadership of the group.

"I see a lot of the elements associated with that group as having been very destructive and advancing some agendas against people in the legislature that I think have been wrong," Bleak said.

Snow defended her work with the organization.

Also, Snow's uncle, Dennis Iverson, was one of the committee members voting Monday and Tuesday. Iverson declared a conflict of interest before the vote but then voted for Snow and two other candidates for the district.

"I worked on that district, got the people to run and felt like I should have the right to help determine who was going to be recommended to the governor," Iverson said of why he voted despite the conflict.

Iverson's vote followed opposition from another committee member, Christina Oliver, who said she believed he should have recused himself.

lschencker@sltrib.com

Meet the candidates

A governor-appointed nominating committee voted Monday and Tuesday to forward the following state school board candidates to the governor for ballot consideration:

Chosen Tuesday

District 12 • Cole J. Kelley, small business owner, event coordinator, Alpine District teacher, Association of American Educators representative; Dixie L. Allen, (incumbent) retired educator from Uintah School District, state school board member since 2002; Wendy Simmerman, academic tutoring coordinator at Utah Valley University.

District 8 • Chris Williams, IBM Corporation client executive; Jennifer A. Johnson, founder and president Coraticum Asset Management, LLC., vice president of The CFA Society of Salt Lake; Craig Metcalf, shareholder and attorney with Kirton & McConkie.

District 15 • Barbara W. Corry, former Iron County School Board member, owner of BC Hats; Bette Oveson Arial, senior advisor at the Sutherland Institute, former state school board member; Janet Barton, regional inside sales manager at TruAudio.

Chosen Monday

District 13 • C. Mark Openshaw (incumbent), co-founder and president of AirComUSA, a telecommunications business; Ken Parkinson, attorney and shareholder at Howard, Lewis & Petersen, P.C., and board member of Freedom Academy charter school; Kimberlie Kehrer, Alpine District teacher.

District 4 • Bruce Davis, Weber State University vice provost and dean of Continuing Education, board member of Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science charter school; Tom Koehler, Good Foundations Academy charter school founder and board chairman, board member of Northern Utah Academy for Math, Engineering and Science charter school; Dave L. Thomas (incumbent), chief civil deputy Summit County attorney, South Weber City Council.

District 7 • Carlton A. Getz, electrical engineer, founder and managing director of Winter Harbor Advisors, LLC and founder and president of Getz & Associates, Inc.; Leslie Brooks Castle (incumbent), nurse; Elizabeth Krug, principal consultant and owner of EK Tax Consulting, home educator; Penny B. Maranville, part-time instructor at American Preparatory Academy charter school.

District 10 • Dave Crandall (incumbent), chairman of Summit Academy charter school board, consultant and project manager with Spring2 Technologies; Deborah Swensen, principal at Hawthorn Academy charter school, adjunct faculty member at Argosy University; Nina Marie Welker, adjunct faculty member at Salt Lake Community College, bookkeeper at Studio Techniques Dance.

District 11 • Jefferson Moss, vice president/investment specialist at Key Private Bank; Sergio X. Vasquez, manager of laboratory operations at Numira Biosciences and application development scientist/technical director; Greta Betts, Hawthorn Academy charter school board president.