CREEDE – The Creede community gathered at Creede School on Tuesday evening October 5 for a Meet the Candidate night hosted by the students of the district government class and teacher Teresa Wall.
Five candidates will be on the ballot Nov. 2 vying for three open seats. Students have spent the past few weeks compiling a list of questions for the candidates and the public has been invited to submit questions. Each candidate took a few minutes at the start of the forum to talk about themselves and then each had two minutes to answer each question.
Leslie Leggitt was the first to speak stating that she was born and raised in Texas and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene and is currently a dental hygienist at the Mineral County Dental Clinic.
“We have three children in the district,” Leggitt said. “We decided to move to Colorado two years ago and I’m running for the school board just to be a little more involved and have a say in what’s going on around my kids. “
Matt Sliwkoski then took the floor by introducing himself to the audience.
“Thank you all for coming,” Sliwkoski said. “It’s important. It’s important for the school, for the kids and for the community. In this atmosphere with COVID, we have excuses not to come forward, so I appreciate you all being here.”
Sliwkoski is originally from Colorado, born in Del Norte and lived throughout the San Luis Valley until he moved to Creede. He graduated in Agricultural Trade and has owned his own business for 19 years and represents Mineral County on the San Luis Valley Fair Board of Directors and 4H. He also started the Clay Court at Creede School where out of nine students, five went to State and one went to Nationals.
“I want to be part of the school board to continue improving the school and for the students and the community,” he said.
Brittini Shambaugh Addison has worked as Director of Education at Creede Repertory Theater for the past four years. She is the third candidate in the November ballot and has spent a lot of time with local students as part of her theater program. Addison sits on the board of directors of the Creede Early Learning Center and has a background in theater and arts education.
“I am a big believer in artistic integration and education,” Shambaugh said. “I go to the school board because I love the students here above all. I don’t think my job as a school board principal is to express my personal feelings and my job is to advocate for students and support teachers and administration.
Jennifer Castleberry has been in the Creede area for three years and owns the local Snowshoe Lodge. She worked in education in her previous life before Creede as a college science teacher and loved every minute of it.
“I was a teacher in Texas and taught science in college for most of my career,” Castleberry said. “I was there for 23 years and ended my teaching career loving it.”
Although Castleberry was happy to change the direction in her life when she moved to Creede, she said she missed being with the students and would love the opportunity to serve on the school board in that capacity.
Greg Pearson spent 16 years in Creede with his family and has active students in the district. He also serves in the Mineral County Fire Department and looks forward to serving on the school board.
Several questions were asked of each candidate throughout the night, which included topics such as mask warrants, LGBTQ + support and education, as well as what each candidate was thinking about when they reviewed the school mission statement.
Regarding the mission statement and what it meant for each candidate, here’s what they said.
Mission Statement: “Creede School provides a safe, inclusive and nurturing environment for students to reach their unique potential in and beyond the classroom. The district encourages and inspires students to achieve academic excellence, build character, and discover a love of lifelong learning.
Leggitt said, “For me it would be raising my kids to that level and that way. I want my children to be kind and inclusive and at the same time receive a good education. I think that’s where it starts, to be a good example for my kids.
Sliwkoski said: “Everyone has the right to have what they believe and what they feel and to bring that to school. I think everyone has the right to be safe at school, a school should be a place where we can send our children without having to worry about their safety. The problem I see is that we are using safety as a way to solicit and promote programs and I think we need a policy and to understand the line that is crossed with safety and promotion.
Shambaugh Addison said, “I don’t think security should be a program, it should just be a given. If we think about those three specific words, safe, inclusive, and empowering, I think it goes back to when we look at each policy, look at that, and ask if it makes all of our students feel safe, is that putting in places an education priority that will help them be the best humans they can be and that includes each of our students, no matter how they grew up, what they look like or what they identify with. It really depends on the policies in place and how they are implemented. “
While the question was being asked, Pearson was not present until later in the forum. Each candidate answered questions throughout the evening which provided an overview of their programs for the upcoming elections. Live video recording is available on the school’s Facebook page under the Creede School District name. The ballots will be sent out in the coming days for the November 2 election.