Former voice of ‘Peanuts’ character files for Tahoe school board race
May 17, 2008
Two races for Douglas County School Board, one at Lake Tahoe and the other in northern Carson Valley, have developed.
Greg Felton, a Lake Tahoe parent and vocal critic of the district in their handling of radon mitigation at Zephyr Cove Elementary School and the closure of Kingsbury Middle School, filed for Area 3 in Lake Tahoe, challenging incumbent and school board vice president Cindy Trigg.
“Many parents, and I’m among them, have been frustrated trying to handle issues through the incumbent,” said Felton. “In some areas, she has considered her own views more valid and important than those of her constituents.”
Felton, former director of international trade for Hewlett-Packard and also the voice of Schroeder in some “Peanuts” television programs, said, if elected, he’d be committed to the concerns and sentiments of his constituency.
“I’m not afraid to represent their issues even if potentially unpopular,” he said. “I have three children in the school district, currently one in each of the three Lake schools. I believe that, if possible, our board should be made up of people with a stake in the game.”
Felton has followed the debate on whether the school district is doing enough to mitigate elevated radon levels at Zephyr Cove Elementary School.
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“I’m very involved with the radon issues at the Lake, and I’ve become knowledgeable on the topic and have lobbied for all schools in the district to be tested,” he said.
Trigg said she wasn’t 100 percent happy with how radon mitigation proceeded at Zephyr Cove, but said she is confident that the district is now pursuing the right path in light of the best possible information.
“Radon was used to continue the debate about consolidation and the closure of Kingsbury Middle School,” she said. “If we had focused exclusively on radon, we would have come to a better conclusion early on.”
Trigg said parent-district relationships have improved under her watch.
“There have been some hard issues, but the ongoing relationship between the Lake schools and the district has become much better under my tenure,” said Trigg.
“I’m not discounting the problems we’ve had, but learning to collaborate with the board has worked wonders for the Lake schools. I represent a certain area but am also responsible for the entire district.”
Two candidates emerged for School Board Area 1 representing the Johnson Lane and Indian Hills areas. Charles Swanson filed to run against incumbent Karen Chessell who is seeking another term.
“I’m trying to take the skills and knowledge I have and use them to give back to the community,” Swanson said.
Swanson, an engineer with two master’s degrees, one in business and one in aerospace engineering, has served on the Indian Hills General Improvement District.
“People generally focus on curriculum and students, but I would like to bring another element to the table,” he said. “It would be nice to balance the school board with an engineering background. What I saw looking at the minutes, were bond issues, capital improvement plans, union agreements, all stuff I’ve been involved with, particularly contracts for major works at schools.”
Swanson said radon mitigation at Zephyr Cove Elementary should be a straight-forward issue.
“It’s a straight-forward construction problem,” he said. “It’s solvable.”
Swanson also talked about the proposed school bond that would fund the district’s capital improvement projects.
“Bonds have their appropriate place, but you have to look at the bond rating and how effective existing facilities are,” he said. “Those on a fixed income who don’t have students in the schools are going to ask why they have to pay for it. From a community standpoint, we all have an obligation, but you need to be effective in fulfilling that obligation.”
Chessell, a former teacher who now works for the Nevada Department of Education as a family and consumer sciences consultant, said she won’t run a negative campaign.
“It’s not important that I win,” she said. “What’s important is that the students are served.
“I was appointed to the position two years ago. I just stepped forward because no else did, but now that I am in it, I feel I have more contributions to make. I have found my voice.”
Chessell said she is a big proponent of career and technical education programs, like culinary arts, agricultural studies and auto tech.
“The average kid often gets lost in the mix,” she said. “There is funding for special education, and funding for gifted and talented students, but the average student who comes to school everyday doesn’t get a lot of attention.”
Chessell said students need to be able to find relevance in what they are doing.
“Douglas is good at rigor, but some kids are getting lost because they don’t find the relevance,” she said.
As of Friday afternoon, no one has filed against retiring government teacher Randy Green for Area 4. Incumbent John Louritt is not seeking re-election. Likewise, no one filed to challenge board president Teri Jamin in Area 5, nor board clerk Thomas Moore in Area 6. Area 2 trustee Sharla Hales and Area 7 trustee Keith Roman are not up for re-election.