Aspen school board candidates talk about their intentions

Aspen Journalism
Mary Houchin
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and The Aspen Times have asked the five candidates for the Aspen School District Board of Education to answer five questions leading up to the election. We will publish their answers to each question over five days, starting with the first question today. The five candidates are vying for two four-year seats. The newly elected board will then appoint a third two-year seat after the election.

Q: Please describe your reasons for seeking a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education and how you feel you could contribute.

Mary Houchin

Appointment to the Aspen board would enable me to give back to my community and serve the district. My career has been dedicated to our greatest resource: our youth. I want to continue to make a difference by supporting our students. Board serving is an investment in my community and the residing youth. I nurture my soul most through giving.

My assets would be working 30 years in education. My classroom experience provides hands-on knowledge of the needs of the students, elevating them to succeed to their fullest potential. My work with the courts in high-conflict domestic cases (and) mediation promotes me in conflict management.

“I believe our true purpose in life is to give our life away to others and that we receive happiness, fulfillment and meaning in return.” — Stephen Light

Margeaux Johansson

Parent participation on the school board is anemic. I am the only person among the candidates or continuing board members with kids currently in the Aspen school system. It is imperative that parents are represented on the school board and have a voice in how the schools are run. I have a child in the elementary, middle and high school, and I intend to be the voice of the parents on the board. Being on the school board should not be a hobby or to score political points — as a candidate I think you need to have a stake in the outcome.

Lee Mulcahy

As a former teacher of 17 years (including the University of Texas at Arlington with a Ph.D. from the same), I will be a conciliatory, peaceful but strong voice for the community.

My dad was the most honorable man I’ve ever known, and he taught me the value of service and loving your fellow man. He came from a farm without running water, but my mom’s (a teacher) educational roots go back to the founding of Baylor University in 1845 under the republic. We’re here in Kenya continuing (my dad’s) legacy of clean water at the school founded in his name.

I feel passionate about being an influence on the lives of young people in Aspen and take great pride in the fact that I’m an Eagle Scout, a product of public schools and a second-generation teacher.

While Aspen has long maintained a tradition of excellence, there is always room for improvement.

Last election, The Aspen Times endorsed both incumbents over the local, hardworking Aspen High graduate, also a teacher. The resulting record is significant: 1) A budget where administrative costs have skyrocketed. 2) Lack of transparency. 3) A vote of no confidence by faculty. 4) Grade changes without teachers’ knowledge. 5) Perhaps most concerning of all, an atmosphere of fear where community members were worried about retaliation against their children or jobs.

Sandra Peirce

It has been my privilege to serve on the board the past four years. I felt the board needed members with proven board experience who had good working relationships with stakeholders and had shown a long-standing commitment to our schools. These are my strengths. I also have initiatives which will require another term to accomplish. These include securing long-term, stable, sustainable local funding for our schools; continuing to monitor K-12 math to ensure it meets the needs of our children through college or the workforce, and to continue to work on the quality of culture of the Aspen School District.

Sheila Wills

Simply put, I have unfinished business. I use my business acumen, legal experience and education background to help guide the District in its pursuit of excellence in education. Successfully implementing the long-term financial plan, continuing the quest for improved student achievement in mathematics, fine-tuning the direction of the world language program and defining the organizational culture of the district — these are tasks begun during my first term that I want to complete during my second. There is a steep learning curve for the first year or two. I have that behind me; I am ready to get things done.