On Wednesday evening, a Carbon School Board meeting was called to session to interview candidates Melissa Swenson and Dan Taylor to determine who will fill the open board position being vacated by Melanie Fausett. The available position represents District 2, which covers south Carbon County, Carbonville, Westwood, the fairgrounds and Miller Creek.
Fausett is moving out of her district to a new location within the county, which requires her to step down from her position. Both candidates have served Carbon School District for many years in different capacities and have worked alongside the current board members for the majority of their terms.
Carbon School Board Vice President Jeffery Richens expressed that choosing between Swenson and Taylor was a tough decision for the board due to the many years both of them have served in the education system.
Swenson recently retired this year after serving Carbon County for 30 years in education. Twenty of those years were at Carbon High School (CHS) as a counselor and the other 10 were at USU Eastern, then known as the College of Eastern Utah.
After teaching in the Carbon School District as a science teacher for 30 years, Taylor retired in 2016 from CHS. Before retiring, he also worked with the district as the Science Curriculum Coordinator for the secondary schools. Both candidates were interested in a way to stay involved with the school district following retirement.
With 20 years under her belt, Swenson explained to the board that her position as a counselor came with a trust from not only the faculty, but the community as well. She worked one-on-one with many students over the years and she believed that created a sort of comfort for the community to be able to open up to her if need be.
“I love these kids,” Swenson said. “I want to see them succeed. I want to see them get the opportunities that they need.”
Taylor decided to run for the school board position to ensure that, although the students come from a rural area, they will be receiving the same education that larger schools provide.
“It kind of gets in your blood, you want to be a part of it. You want to make sure our students have the best chances and quality education,” said Taylor.
With the upcoming school year creeping up next month, a lot is still left in the unknown on what restrictions will be taken due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Both candidates strongly agreed that the school board faces a big obstacle as students come back to school.
“I think [COVID-19] is going to be an incredible challenge in the next four months, which is one of the reasons I was kind of interested in trying to help here,” stated Taylor.
Swenson took to her roots and expressed her concerns of how returning to school maybe a struggle for the students.
“The mental health of our students coming back… it has taken toll on these kids,” said Swenson. “We are going to have to really concentrate on getting these kids back in.”
Swenson also added the most important education issue in Utah at this time will be opening the schools and what that will entail, including adjusting class schedules and lunch, mental health of the students, and how far behind all students are for taking off that last few months due to the pandemic.
“We like to think that they all stayed caught up, but we know different than that. What is it going to take to get them caught up, back online, back in the classroom,” stated Swenson.
Agreeing with Swenson, Taylor added ideas of half day or full day classes as well as online learning versus in the classroom learning. However, the most crucial part of the COVID-19 pandemic is to not let any students slip through the cracks.
“This will be one of the hardest things the board is going to face,” said Taylor
The board then adjourned into a closed meeting where the members discussed who they would like to appoint as the new board member. After 15 minutes of discussion, the board members returned to the meeting to welcome Melissa Swenson as the interim board member for District 2 effective on Wednesday, July 15.
Woodward proceeded to express, on the board’s behalf, the gratitude and appreciation for the willingness of Taylor to step forward and serve. He persuaded Taylor to take advantage of that in the future.
Swenson will take the oath at the school board office on July 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the district’s annual retreat. The next Carbon School Board meeting will take place on July 15 at 5 p.m.