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School board candidates unopposed

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Four Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees seats were open this year, but the three incumbents and one new candidate will run unopposed in November.

Daniel Collin will run unopposed for retiring current board president Suzanne Prouty’s Area 2 seat and the other three seats will be filled by incumbents Karen Van Epps, Patricia Gibbons-Johnson and Cindy Gustafson, who were all unopposed.

Some board members and district staff say this may be a sign the public is pleased with the current leadership.

“In the past what I’ve seen is that when we have a lot of people coming forward (to run) it’s usually because there is an issue they’re really upset about … a lot of times it’s because there’s some big issue and people are running for an agenda,” Prouty said.

Therefore, a lack of candidates might suggest people have faith that the current board members can get the job done well, she said.

She added that trust in board members and district matters increased when Pat Gemma came on as the district’s superintendent.

“People perceive him as a very strong leader and people are comfortable with him even though they don’t always agree with him,” Prouty said. “Overall there’s a sense of this can-do attitude. He’s as responsible for people being comfortable with the board as the board members themselves.”

“Everyone who is doing this is really committed to doing the best job they can. They take this very seriously,” said incumbent Pat Gibbons-Johnson of Truckee.

“I think we’re all still people who can do the job well,” Gibbons-Johnson said. “I think the district’s being run well and there’s reasonably good morale right now. There’s more confidence in this district and I don’t think there’s a real discontent.”

Prouty has served as a TTUSD trustee for just more than four years, and has been president for two. Her term will end in November and Collin will be officially sworn in at the board’s December meeting. New officer positions will also be decided at that meeting.

“I’ve done the best job I can for four and a half years and it’s been a wonderful experience, but I am ready to move to something different which is my graduate degree,” she said.

Gemma, too, looks to the positive side of the lack of candidates.

“My most immediate reaction is relief that I know now and don’t have to wait until November to know who the board members are,” Gemma said.

“I am very relived that we have four board members continuing and because of that my time and energies will not have to be diverted to significant additional board training, which might be the case if I had four new board members,” Gemma said.

Gemma said that he also felt the lack of candidates showed a high opinion of the current board.

“… I am taking that (there will be no election) to believe most people think the district is running well. While we have problems to solve and areas in which to improve, it is good to know that in general people are satisfied with the board’s leadership.”

He added, “The time that the four continuing board members have put in for the betterment of the district is tremendous. This allows us to work more as a team and get more accomplished.”

New board member Dan Collin has been attending school board meetings regularly for the past six years and has been active on numerous district committees, including chair of the Measure C Committee.

“To have Dan Collin replace the cornerstone seat of Suzanne Prouty is also a relief,” Gemma said. “Dan has been very present at district board meetings and I am real excited that someone who has already committed volunteer hours for this district will now officially serve on this board.”

Collin said when he first started attending school board meetings, it was a time of controversy and letters to the editor in the newspaper indicated that the public was very critical of the board.

“You can’t really be critical unless you get involved,” Collin said. “I think education is very important -possibly the biggest benefit we get with being citizens is public education. That right involves obligations.”

He and his wife, Anne, have three children – one at Truckee Elementary, one at Sierra Mountain Middle School and one at Tahoe-Truckee High School – and live in Prosser. Collin is also a CPA and works in Squaw Valley. He has lived in the Truckee area since 1979.

He said the biggest positive change he noticed since Gemma came on board was that “more things came out into the open.”

Area 2 includes Prosser, Glenshire and Hirschdale.

Collin is currently the president of the Truckee-Tahoe Swim Team and just finished serving almost five years for the Truckee-Donner Horsemen’s Association. While he is a busy man, he is ready to take on the time commitment serving on the school board requires.

“First I am giving up all of the other stuff, all of the committees I’m on,” he said. He believes the time commitment may be part of the reason he had no opposition when filing for candidacy.

Some of the issues he said are important to him are issues surrounding the budget including the Measure S campaign, and gaining accountability for the curriculum.

“I’d like to see some work done on the curriculum,” he said. “It’s clearly very important to the community or we wouldn’t have the Excellence in Education Foundation or Measure S programs. We need to make sure we are accountable for these programs.”

Prouty said she is confident Collin will do a great job and has mixed feelings about retiring. She’s excited to move onto other things but said it has become part of her identity that she is losing also.

“[Collin] is great,” said Gibbons-Johnson. “He’s been a fixture at board meetings, we think of him as a board person already. He’s a strong candidate and we’re thrilled to have him.”

Meanwhile, district officials reported a successful first few days of the 2000-01 school year.

“All schools report it went very smooth,” Gemma said.

Enrollment numbers are still being tallied at each site, and accurate numbers will not be available until later this week. School sites are giving enrollment revisions every few hours, staff reported Tuesday.


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