The nine non-partisan Trustees receive no salary or benefits; meetings are monthly. There are three different races for Trustee (Area A, Area B, and At-large). Candidates must live in the area they will represent. However, voters may vote for candidates in all races. Six serve from Area A, (three vacancies to be filled); one serves from Area B, (one vacancy); two are elected At-large, (one vacancy). Those elected will join Mary Thorsness, Julie Radosevich, Lawrence Perea and Trish Penny, whose terms do not expire.
Why are you the best candidate for the office?
Ruth A. Castor (Area A): I have been an educator in this district for 35 years, and the needs of the students have always been my number one priority. I am well aware of concerns facing our district (especially those expressed in a recent district-wide survey) by employees, parents, and community members. My ability to communicate with district employees and share this information with the board will become a strength in making well-informed decisions benefitting our students.
Dona Coffey (Area A): I am the best candidate because I know how this school district works. I have worked for the district as a substitute teacher, teacher, and Board member. Further, being a Hospital Trustee during a very turbulent time and being its Chair have given me valuable experience. Our School District needs leadership who will explore ways to mend the climate of our district.
Steve Hamaker (Area A): I’ve spent over 23 years working to ensure the success of our community’s young people. I will continue representing the interest of all students and families, while valuing input from leaders, teachers, citizens, and employers. I believe school governance decisions should be objective, data-informed, and grounded in common sense, avoiding influence of special interest groups and tired conflicts. I believe board members should reflect the values we strive for in students: civility, integrity, and optimism.
Jason M. Tangeman (Area A): As an attorney, I have extensive and practical experience representing businesses and individuals regarding a variety of topics including, but not limited to, finance, real estate, employment, administrative and regulatory issues. I sit (or have sat) on other boards and committees and feel my professional skills and experiences have benefitted those entities. Similarly, I believe I will bring the same positive attributes to our Albany County School District.
Elysa Katz Wasser (Area A): I am a licensed middle school math teacher, and have taught for 12 years, four at ACSD1. Previously, I taught middle school math in Virginia. Prior to having children I worked for a large medical not-for-profit and then for Scholastic Inc. the educational publisher. I have four children who have gone through ACSD1. With exceptional teaching, business and policy background these experiences give me a broader prospective of potential solutions for our school district.
Kenneth Cramer (Area B): I’ve lived in Albany County since 1981. I moved to Laramie from New York, where I instructed and was outing club advisor at Colgate University. I have operated my business for 33 years. I serve on the board of Medicine Bow Nordic Association and continue to teach skiing to adults and children. Contacts with teachers, educators, coaches, and administrators in the community will help me represent all stakeholders in the district.
Janice Marshall (At-large): In my eight years on the school board I have worked diligently to be accessible and available to talk with constituents. I am a representative for others and vote accordingly after considering available information. I value civil discourse in discussions and when making decisions. I do not own a rubber stamp. I will continue to work for improving the climate in the district and for future evaluations to measure our success.
Will you or any member of your immediate family benefit financially from the Albany County School District? If so, please explain.
Ruth A. Castor (Area A): No. Neither my family members nor myself have any financial or work-related associations with the district.
Dona Coffey (Area A): My daughter-in-law is a teacher for the District and my son’s engineering company bids on appropriate projects. These conflicts of interest are no different than what I encountered as a Hospital Trustee. I will declare any conflict and not participate in discussions nor vote on such issues.
Steve Hamaker (Area A): No. My employer (BBBS) collaborates with multiple community-based organizations and individuals to ensure the success of our community’s young people, including the school district, but I am careful to abstain from any actions that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. There are no arrangements that result in financial benefit to me or members of my immediate family.
Jason M. Tangeman (Area A): No.
Elysa Katz Wasser (Area A): My family will not benefit financially from ACSD1. I believe firmly that no school board member should benefit financially from ACSD1.
Kenneth Cramer (Area B): Annually the ski teams buy wax and sometimes ski equipment from Cross Country Connection. We also rent skis to student athletes.
Janice Marshall (At-large): Neither I nor any member of my immediate family will benefit financially from ACSD.
Communication has been identified as a weakness of current ACSD#1 board and central office administrators. How can the school board assure that communication improves?
Ruth A. Castor (Area A): Returning to site-based management will improve communication within the district. School board members will need to be involved in this process. The school community needs to have continuous input in the building of the new high school. Long term strategic planning, in-depth studies, pilot programs, and policy changes must include all groups directly affecting student learning through the site-based process. A cohesive school board is essential in providing a quality education system.
Dona Coffey (Area A): To fix the communication problem you need to acknowledge its existence. The board needs to bring all stake holders together to develop policies and processes to address this issue. Then the board needs to provide oversight to ensure that implementation is happening across the district. We should be seeking ways to include more voices in discussing curriculum, testing, and other important School District issues and ensure that all communications are answered.
Steve Hamaker (Area A): We can remember lessons learned from the “telephone game” of our childhood: Set simple, clear rules. Keep messages short. Be consistent. Watch your tone. Don’t rush. Adapt and learn from others. Share accountability but accept responsibility. Be clear. Listen carefully. Disruptions and distractions are not helpful. Replacing the people at the top or bottom or reversing direction rarely makes things better. Identify those who struggle and help improve their communication skills. Celebrate success.
Jason M. Tangeman (Area A): I do not believe that there is a communication break-down as much as there appears to be an absence of resolve by the board to hold the current administration accountable for the administration’s failure to communicate information to the board in a complete and timely fashion. In this context, accountability leads to improved communication.
Elysa Katz Wasser (Area A): Community focused communication must be addressed by ACSD1. The use of the ACSD1 website is not sufficient. Variety of social media can be used to gather information from the educational stakeholders. Networks can be built so that information does not flow in one direction. The Board and administration must be responsive to information received from the educational stakeholders. Statistically valid polls, community forums, special committees, are a few of the ways to receive feedback.
Kenneth Cramer (Area B): Laramie benefits from an educated and motivated stakeholder community which supported the LHS bond issue. But that collaboration has eroded from many district decisions. Teachers experience is a vital resource that should be considered in hiring, curriculum, planning, and operations. The board should motivate administration to include all stakeholders in decisions. Without that inclusion we risk losing the support of the community. And we risk losing experienced teachers and school administrators.
Janice Marshall (At-large): Current communication practices are woefully inadequate. We need to adopt practices and policies that require consistent, timely communication within the district and the community. District administration must be held accountable for being responsive to district employees and community members. Opportunities for community engagement are limited and should be expanded. Transparency in decision making is lacking and is another area for improvement. More frequent updates to the ACSD website are vital for improving communication.