Three candidates are on the June 28 primary ballot for Alpine School Board District 4. Because this is a non-partisan race, the function of the primary is to reduce the field of three to two, for the November general election.
Because of redistricting, two candidates in this race, Sarah Beeson and Amber Bonner, are incumbents, each seeking a second term on the board. They are joined on the ballot by Lana Nelson.
Alpine School Board District 4 includes Highland, Alpine, Cedar Hills, and roughly the northern half of American Fork.
Sarah Beeson is finishing her first 4-year term and is running for another. She said that people are tired of the divisiveness and is glad that this race doesn’t have much drama. When asked about her biggest accomplishments, Sarah said they were raising the starting teacher salary to $50,000 to help recruit more teachers, giving them a $1,850 raise along with a 4% cost of living increase. She also includes what they were able to do regarding Covid as one of her biggest accomplishments.
COVID-19 has been a hard thing to balance, between the needs of the teachers and the students. Sarah said that starting school wouldn’t be a big accomplishment during a normal year, but it was during the pandemic. She felt it was the state legislature’s and county health department’s responsibility to set health policy, not the school board’s.
It’s the school board’s job to steady the waters, not cause a tsunami, she said, but even feelings sometimes run high on the board too. At an emergency meeting last January, which was called to address rising COVID cases, she expressed her frustration that the meeting was being held at all, since no solutions were being discussed and a regularly scheduled board meeting was one week away. At the next meeting, she apologized for her tone and explained that it was not her intention to sound insensitive to the needs of teachers.
When asked about communication, Sarah said that she much prefers phone calls, emails, and in-person communication over using social media. This is her only job, and she puts out her personal phone number so people can contact her. She said some of these topics are very difficult and deserve more than drive-thru answers. She has answered over 2000 emails in her first term, and many phone calls.
Sarah is running for one more term and then she is done. She hopes to continue to work towards lowering class sizes, especially in elementary schools, along with recruiting and retaining the best teachers. There is also a large chasm of lost trust that has been created between teachers and parents. Sarah believes that it will take somebody who doesn’t mind being criticized to stand in the middle and bridge that divide and restore that trust. Sarah believes that parents and teachers can be wonderful examples to children on how to talk with those we disagree with. She would also like to work with parents, teachers, and students, to help struggling students to be less apathetic.
“It is amazing what happens if you just listen,” she said.
Amber is also finishing her first four-year term.
Regarding communication, Amber is very active on social media, sharing both events and board meeting news with the public. She said she started doing that before she ran for her first term. While on the board she has pushed for more communication and surveys to better engage the community.
Amber has also worked hard at decreasing class sizes and increasing teacher compensation. She has also pushed for clarifying measures in the budget. She was finally able to secure funding to upgrade the bleachers at Lone Peak High School, which are 25 years old. Amber said that Lone Peak has been the second-largest student body in the district for the last ten years and has exceeded its facilities’ intended capacity for a while. This puts more wear and tear on equipment, and they can’t even fit all 2,500 students in the bleachers. But because the lead time on steel is really long, it may take a while to finish the project.
If re-elected, Amber wants to continue the work of standardizing teachers’ contracts. Teachers currently have several different types based on what level of school they teach. This makes pay raises and reducing class size much more complicated. She feels that she is well suited to do this job.
Amber said that all three candidates are solid conservatives, and it is important to support both parents and teachers to help our schools and our students succeed.
This interview is scheduled and will be reported ASAP.
John Mulholland lives in American Fork, Utah. His writing on Utah politics has appeared at Utah Politico Hub. See his report on interviews with Republican primary candidates for partisan offices here, including: Utah County Attorney, Utah County Sheriff, Utah County Auditor, Utah County Clerk, Utah County Commission Seat A, Utah County Commission Seat B, and House District 53.
If you’ve written on a topic related to American Fork politics or government and would like to be a guest contributor at AFElection.info, inquire via e-mail at david @ rodeback.com.