TORRINGTON – Following a lengthy question-and-answer session during the Goshen County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Zachary Miller, a nurse and administrator at Community Hospital in Torrington, was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Goshen County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees.
Miller was one of four candidates vying for the position, one of two seats left vacant when Linda Kessler and Dr. Robert Byrd resigned from the board in January. One of the candidates in this round, Heather Saul of Lingle, had been appointed to fill one of the vacancies previously, but a snafu with her voter registration left her ineligible for the position, which threw the decision in the County Commissioner’s court.
In addition to Miller and Saul, Michael Ridenour of Yoder and long-time Goshen County resident Danielle Wondercheck had also expressed interest in the position.
Commission Chairman Carl Rupp posed the questions, starting each interview session by asking the candidates why they wanted to be a member of the board of trustees.
“I have a vested interest in ensuring education (in Goshen County) has the highest standards for our youth,” appointee Miller said. “I have three students in the schools right now, soon to be four. I want to make sure the education is strong for them.
“In my profession, I think it’s important our youth be prepared for wherever their career might take them,” he said. “We need to make sure they’re technical school or college ready right out of high school.”
The hot-button issue in Goshen County schools – the four-day school week currently under consideration by the GCSD board – drew a range of responses from the candidates. Most said they could see both sides of the issue, but still expressed concerns over its implementation.
“I can see where there’d be a benefit,” Miller said. “But I worry as the parent of elementary schoolers that the day would be very long.
“It’s already a long day,” he said. “Adding an extra hour to that could be arduous and I’m not sure it would be beneficial.”
Turning to the other major topic of discussion in Wyoming today – education funding – Miller also said he believed education was a right and vital to
“For a society to be successful in the long-term, we have to invest in education,” he said. “I’m not of the mind-set that education should be the first place we go to save money from the state budget.”
There are some programs in the school Miller said he, as a parent, would be willing to contribute to covering the cost so his children could benefit. He also said a combination of taxes and other public contributions should be used to further guarantee continued financial viability in public schools.
“Education is a publicly-funded institution,” Miller said. “I think it should remain so.”
Other questions for the candidates ranged from prayer in schools to what boards can do to battle the growing problem of gun violence. Miller said the issue of gun violence was “an interesting question.
“You’re asking someone from the healthcare sector to answer that question,” he said. “I don’t think we have a good enough safety net in our communities to get treatment for (people suffering from) mental illness. I don’t think we want to acknowledge they’re there.”
The other candidates agreed, noting communication and involvement of all sectors of the community are important to recognize the potential for violence and address the underlying problems.
“The best thing a school board can do at this point is engage with the entire community, come up with solutions that are acceptable,” Ridenour said. “Beyond that, we’re going to have to rely on the grace of God and those in these schools to recognize the problems, be proactive about it and hope nothing ever happens here.”
Wondercheck agreed: “It has to be taken seriously. Everyone takes the view it doesn’t happen here, but it’s been in the papers. It does happen in small
The candidates split on the issue of prayer in schools. Wondercheck, saying she personally believes in prayer, she also recognizes the mandate for a separation between religion and the state.
“I have to respect that religion doesn’t reserve itself to Christianity,” she said “If you allow one religion, you have to allow them all.”
Miller, however, said he does support school-based prayer. As a football player in school, prayers were said before every game, he said.
“It’s something that’s probably a hot topic, depending on who you ask,” Miller said. “But I think there is a place for spirituality and prayer in our schools.”
TORRINGTON – Lingle resident Hansen Vaughan is the newest member of the Goshen County Fair Board.
Vaughan, owner of Vaughan Trailer Works in Lingle, was appointed to fill a vacant seat for a five-year term on the board during the regular Goshen County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday at the courthouse in Torrington. He told commissioners he’d never really considered serving on the Fair Board until he was approached by people to put his name forward.
“I grew up in Colorado and did 4-H all my life,” Vaughan said. “I was asked to do this and I thought it was a good idea, kind of a civic duty. It’s something I know something about, it’s something I could hopefully help out with.”
Commissioners question Vaughan and fellow candidate Colin Yorges on a variety of topics, including ways to bring more revenue to the fairgrounds in Torrington. Vaughan said he thought one way would be to increase the fee use of the pavilion
“I’ve roped in that barn a lot and $45 an hour to use that barn is really cheap,” he said. “I don’t know what it costs to run that barn for an hour, but it’s a nice facility. People should pay for that.”
Attracting more events that appeal to a wider variety of people in the communities could also increase revenue to the fairgrounds, he said. Anticipating the next question from Commissioners, Vaughan said he’d heard from people last year who were disappointed the annual County Fair hadn’t included a carnival.
“I think the carnival is a good thing,” he said. “All those kids come out and ride the rides, being part of the community to be involved.”
Noting a currently-unused seven-acre parcel of land adjacent to the existing fairgrounds complex, which was given to the county several years ago, the Commissioners asked the candidates what they considered could be the best use it could be put to. Vaughan said the potential for that particular parcel is almost unlimited.
“The fairgrounds should be able to be used for multiple events,” he said. “We could generate some money if we put more (horse) stalls out there, we could even charge fees for boarding.”
The fairgrounds currently has horse stalls, but Vaughan noted they’re in a “confined space,” and could be moved to the larger area. That would open up space in the center of the fairgrounds complex for additional vendors, for example, he said.
Commissioners voted unanimously on Vaughan’s appointment, praising both candidates for submitting their names for consideration. Both are young men, Commissioner John Ellis noted, saying, “We need people your age taking these things over.”
– By Andrew D. Brosig