Meet the candidates for Aspen school board |

Meet the candidates for Aspen school board

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four questions posed to candidates for two openings on the Aspen School District Board of Education. Today’s question asks the candidates what makes the most qualified to hold the position. The candidates’ answers to three other questions will appear in the Oct. 14, 21 and 28 editions — all on Mondays — of The Aspen Times.

Name: Katy Frisch

Age: 49

Family: Married to Adam Frisch for 16 years. We have two children, Felix, 13, and Quintessa, 12.

Education: I have a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Brown University and a Master in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Occupation: President of my family-owned cable television equipment manufacturing business, located in Syracuse, New York.

Years living within Aspen School District: 16

Previous experience on boards and with nonprofits: I have served on the Financial Advisory Board for the Aspen School District since 2009. I currently am on the executive committee of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club as the past president, and served for 13 years on its board, including service as president, vice president and treasurer. Also, I currently sit on the board of Aspen Public Radio. Previously I was on the Wildwood School board.

What makes you more qualified than your opponents to hold a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education?

I am running alongside five other individuals for two board seats. Our community has a difficult choice between qualified candidates. I hope to be one of the people elected to serve our community.

I am passionate about education and its importance in growing effective, happy and healthy human beings. My kids have been in the Aspen district since kindergarten, and have attended AES, AMS and AHS. I’ve spent these school years volunteering on the FAB, in the classroom and on outdoor education, keeping my ear to the ground to listen to kids, teachers and parents. I believe in transparency, and a school board that listens, hears and communicates with our community.

An effective board needs strong, experienced leaders and managers with critical-thinking skills. My STEM and business educational background helps me understand what it takes for students to succeed post-high school. Additionally, I have run my family manufacturing company for years. My management and leadership experiences range from finance and logistics, to the stress and importance of making payroll, and how to effectively hire and gently fire people. I am experienced in creating and implementing strategic plans and building teams and gaining consensus. I know how to run an effective organization.

I have served on multiple nonprofit boards in our valley in the 16 years we’ve lived here. I also stood by my husband Adam Frisch’s side for eight years while he served on Aspen City Council. I believe in serving my community and know how important transparency and communication and community-appropriate values are to the success of an organization. I am rooted in the community for the long haul and ask our community for the opportunity to serve on the school board.

Name: John Galambos

Age: 53

Family: Married to Robin Galambos for 28 years. Three children: Marta, 22, Katia, 20, Nicholas, 18). All three kids attended K-12 at ASD. All three are currently in college.

Education: Bachelor in Architecture from the University of Minnesota; a five-year professional degree program.

Occupation: Architect and owner of Galambos Architects Inc., founded in 1998.

Years living within Aspen School District: 19 years in ASD/26 years in the valley

Previous experience on boards and with nonprofits: Served on various design review boards, North 40 HOA, and Crossroads Church Leadership Board for seven years. Many, many hours volunteering for various ASD projects and outdoor ed trips.

What makes you more qualified than your opponents to hold a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education?

This incredible small town has an excellent public school system. My family has benefited greatly from being able to attend K-12 at ASD. My kids were given opportunities to excel in who they are: to thrive academically, to foster creativity and to become whole human beings. I recognize that everyone hasn’t had the same experience, but I feel it is time for me to give back to ASD.

Three distinguishing qualities:

I have strong listening, leadership and creative problem solving skills. I’ll listen to multiple views and make informed decisions on what is best for our students. I don’t have an agenda but come from a position of gratitude. I don’t have all the answers. We do. I get along with people. There has been a significant amount of chaos generated at ASD recently. We are a small community; we need to talk and behave with civility to each other.

I come from the perspective that ASD is doing many things well. We need to tweak some things: focus on all students’ potential, expand resources for teachers and administrators, open communication channels and vertically integrate curriculum. Much of this is already happening; let’s excel more and more. Let the board cast long-term vision through policy. Let the professionals do their work.

I am committed to long-term vision. In 20 years, I see a school district that continues to be one of the best public districts in the state/country. Outdoor Ed is strong and relevant and needs to continue to be distinctively Aspen. To attract the best educators possible, we need to work on pay and housing. We need to pursue more public/private partnerships for long-term projects. We can tap the time and talent of our greater community and leverage Aspen’s uniqueness.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve.

Name: Patsy Kurkulis

Age: 47

Family: Married. Husband Paul, son Felix, 14, daughter Bates, 12.

Education: BA from the American University of Paris

Years living within Aspen School District: 19

Previous experience on boards and with nonprofits: HOA board

What makes you more qualified than your opponents to hold a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education?

That is a tough but fair question. When I chose to run, I did not run because I had any direct or indirect knowledge that other candidates were potentially less qualified than me. I am not here to judge other candidates’ potential value or lack thereof. I chose to run because I see real potential to make a difference. I chose to run because I already had a passion for our school. I believe in our school, our teachers, faculty and all those involved with our district. I have two children enrolled in our middle school, and I intimately understand why having the best educational system in place is so important.

I have invested time listening to teachers, staff, parents and students in our district. I have researched public schools in Colorado and throughout the United States. I recognize that there are shortcomings in our district; however, I believe that new solutions are possible and necessary. I believe that if I could join the school board, I can absolutely contribute and make a positive impact.

Name: Jonathan Nickell

Age: 49

Family: Married to Paula Nickell, three children, Matilda, Thomas and Juliana.

Education: Engineering degree, Colorado School of Mines; Master of Business Administration, Harvard Business School.

Occupation: Chief financial officer of multinational corporation

Years living within Aspen School District: Six

Previous experience on boards and with nonprofits: I have served on multiple company boards and have over 15 years of combined company board experience. I am currently a board member of a multinational manufacturing and services company as well as a cement manufacturing company.

I have five years of school board experience at my children’s previous school and have served on the District Accountability Committee in Aspen for two years.

What makes you more qualified than your opponents to hold a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education?

All the candidates should be commended for running and can help the board in different ways. However, I think my experience and commitment to the Aspen School District are the best fit to have a positive impact.

I am the only candidate with five years of school board experience. I served on the selection committee for a new school director and the subsequent onboarding committee. I was also part of the strategic planning committee. These experiences directly relate to important issues currently facing ASD. Additionally, my professional management and board experience sets me apart. I manage resources several times the size of the ASD. My day-to-day responsibilities include leading organizations and developing leaders.

More than any other candidate, I have shown my commitment to the ASD by putting in the hours to understand the issues and by working to move the district in the right direction. I co-chaired the District Accountability Committee for two years where we produced a comprehensive set of recommendations based on a detailed study of the facts. They can be found on my website, I also helped the Aspen Education Association prepare for the salary negotiations with the ASD in 2019 by reviewing district spending and teachers’ salaries in Aspen compared to other districts.

Key recommendations made when I was co-chair of the District Accountability Committee are being implemented today for the betterment of our schools. These include: actions to improve the climate and culture of our schools, development of a strategic plan and taking the first steps in improving teachers’ salaries. I have already made a positive impact on the ASD and will continue to do so as part of the Board of Education.

Name: Jim Pomeroy

Age: 52

Family: I have been married to my best friend Jill for 25 years and we have two children Anders, 20, and Lars, 17.

Education: I received a BA and teacher certification from the University of Northern Colorado, and also attended graduate courses there in history.

Occupation: I am a zoning officer with the city of Aspen.

Years living within Aspen School District: I have lived in Aspen basically all of my life; however, I have taken a few temporary breaks from living in the district — college, a couple of years living downvalley.

Previous experience on boards and with nonprofits: I have been a member of the Rotary Board of directors, the Aspen Country Day Board of Directors, the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission, and the city of Aspen Commercial Core and Lodging Commission. Currently I am the co-chair of the Aspen District Accountability Committee.

What makes you more qualified than your opponents to hold a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education?

The reason I am best suited to be a member of the Aspen School Board are my life experiences, which have uniquely equipped me to deal with the challenges and promises facing the Aspen School district at this moment. I have a long, direct and visceral connection with the local schools. As a lifelong Aspenite, I was a student in the district all the way through graduating from high school. My children have gone to the Aspen schools, and I have taught in the schools. Currently I sit on the District Accountability Committee, and therefore I have seen firsthand the schools in the past, the present, and the plans for the future. Professionally, I have worked in Aspen in both the private sector as well as the public sector. I know the difficulties of running your own business in this town as well as the institutions and individuals that one needs to be familiar with in order to succeed here. I also understand the promise and challenges of working within a large government bureaucracy. No other candidate has these unique set of skills, and it is these skills and experiences that make me the best candidate to help solve the challenges the schools are up against.

Currently, the district is going through great change. This includes several new executive positions, new guiding plans, and ongoing difficulties with teacher retainage and community engagement and communication. The district requires leaders who know and understand the Aspen Community. Folks need to feel that they are being heard and that the district can be trusted, and while they do need to know what is going on, more importantly they need to know why. This is in many ways the fundamental challenge facing the Aspen schools, and I am best suited to meet that challenge.

Name: Bettina Slusar

Age: 55

Family: Married to Dan Goldman. Two children, Sylvie Goldman, 13, and Elijah Goldman, 16. Sylvie is in eighth grade at AMS and Elijah is a sophomore at AHS

Education: BA from Brown University

Occupation: Parent, consultant for Oratium, part-time ski instructor, volunteer

Years living within Aspen School District: Four

Previous experience on boards and with nonprofits: Chairman, Extended Dance Company, created choreography program for kids living in shelters; board member, Harris Theater for Music and Dance (Chicago), created program to get more privileged kids to philanthropically support arts access for less privileged and terminally ill kids; team leader, Food for Friends soup kitchen; board member, Aspen Family Connections Advisory; leader, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense; member, District Accountability Committee; member, School Accountability Committee (HS)

What makes you more qualified than your opponents to hold a seat on the Aspen School District Board of Education?

There are several factors that differentiate me as a candidate, and which I believe would contribute to my success on the BOE. I have gotten super involved in the district since moving to Aspen. As a result, I have a clear view of what is going on in the district and am passionately committed to continuing to make our schools the best they can be. Because of my newish local status, I bring a fresh perspective that enables me to look at things differently and find new solutions to old problems. I have formed many connections in the community, and I work hard to be an approachable good listener.

I am very good at continuing to ask questions rather than accepting the status quo or taking answers at “face value,” leading to a deeper understanding of a situation and the ability to generate more creative solutions. I am a straight shooter. I get things done. I also have a great deal of leadership experience. In my capacity as chief sales officer for a Fortune 500 disaster recovery company, I was responsible for successfully managing client facing relationships during 9/11. In a prior CEO role, I led a turnaround at a company that was struggling with low morale, high turnover and upset clients, an environment similar to what our district struggled with last year. I know what excellence looks like and how to achieve it. I am not afraid to take action. I believe that it is important to be wise, deliberate and informed in our decision making, but to also balance that with bringing right action quickly so that it positively impacts our kids now. Finally, with two children in the school system, I have skin in the game.

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