Jenni Ward resigns from school board | News | #Education

Last month the Telluride R-1 School District Board of Education (BOE) announced that Jenni Ward would officially resign July 15. Ward, who taught at Telluride Mountain School from 2001-2005 and then taught sixth and seventh grade math and science in the district from 2005-2007 and again from 2011-2013, was elected to a four-year term in 2015 and re-elected to a second four-year term in 2019. She leaves her board post to replace Cela White as the 7th-10th grade school counselor.

“My best contribution on the board was my experience as an educator,” said Ward. “My perspective was informed from my experience in the classroom as a teacher and I tried to use my experience to advocate for students and staff.”

For the past two years Ward has been working on a master’s in school counseling through Adams State University, completing an internship in the Ridgway School District and a practicum at Telluride Elementary School.

During her seven-year tenure on the board, Ward helped oversee the addition and remodel of the intermediate, middle and high schools, supported the successful passage of a mill levy override to secure additional district funding and helped to hire a new superintendent in the spring of 2020. Ward was also a member of the district housing committee that worked to build six new units in Illium.

“Jenni is very real. She’s in touch with how the community at large, other parents, and educators feel about important issues,” said Board Treasurer Dylan Brooks. “She doesn’t have an agenda, is open-minded, and sees the big picture.”

Through her school board experience, Ward says she honed listening skills to consider all sides of an issue before forming an opinion or making a decision. She also learned how state and federal school finance impacts local learning environments. Moving forward, she sees funding as the biggest issue for the district.

“It’s difficult for us to compete with other districts when hiring and trying to retain quality teachers and staff unless we can offer competitive salaries and affordable housing for our teachers,” she said.  

Brooks explains that due to state restrictions, district revenue doesn’t grow when local property values increase.

“The small increases we get — 3 percent last year — are determined by the state and aren’t sufficient to pay our staff enough to cover the cost of living,” he said.

Serving as board vice president for three years and as secretary for the past year, and with three children in the district, Ward admits the past few years have been “very challenging” and a “huge responsibility” because of COVID.

“It’s impossible to make everyone happy and there was a lot of tension in some of the board meetings,” she said. “But I’m proud of how we handled the adversity as a board.”

Stephanie Hatcher, who’s served on the BOE for five years — mostly as president — cites polarization across society in general as a challenge.

“Of course, there are differences of opinion, but I think civility and discourse are being left behind,” she said. “I worry that we may see more turnover in our staff than we are accustomed.”

Telluride’s remaining school board members must appoint a replacement to serve the remainder of Ward’s term within 60 days of vacancy. Board members plan to interview prospective candidates on Aug. 25 with the goal of placing a new member in time for the August BOE meetings scheduled for Aug. 29-30. The school board appointee will serve the last 15 months of Ward’s term. If the new member wants to continue serving after the end of the current term, they must run for election in November 2023. Applications (go to tellurideschool.org/about_tsd/board_of_education) will remain open through Aug. 18.

“An incoming board member must have a strong interest in creating a safe, supportive learning environment by working collaboratively with the other board members and superintendent while respecting the incredible experience and knowledge of our teachers and staff,” Ward explained. “It won’t work for someone to come on the board who has their own personal agenda and is unwilling to work cooperatively.”

Brooks pointed out that the board position is for a little over one year — an ideal way to try out the position and see if being part of the school board is a good fit. He believes open-mindedness is a critical quality in any candidate.

“We have to listen to each other to come to consensus. Community involvement is critical: Board members must represent all of Telluride’s concerns and priorities,” he said. “To that end, I would love to see a member of the Spanish-speaking community apply.”

“When you’re serving a school community, you’re responsible to the parents, students, teachers, and the greater community, and all of these individuals care so deeply about the education of their children,” Ward concluded. “It’s been an honor to serve the Telluride community.”



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