The four candidates running for the Ennis School Board gathered for the last candidate forum Thursday evening, again drawing distinctions between themselves and making their bid for why citizens should vote for them May 8.
The forum was hosted by the Madison Valley Education Association, which is the local teacher’s union. The forum was moderated by MVEA president Jay Fredrickson and candidates answered 10 questions that were developed by the MVEA membership and distributed to the candidates in advance of the forum.
Fredrickson took no public questions for the candidates at the forum, which was attended by about 40 people.
The four candidates running for the two open Ennis School Board positions are Bill Clark, Josh Vujovich, Craig George and Chad Coffman.
The candidates all had a chance to introduce themselves prior to answering questions.
Clark has lived in Ennis for 58 years and has been married for 37 years. He spent 24 years with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, 14 years as a volunteer fireman and 32 years with Madison County Search and Rescue.
Coffman has lived in Ennis off and on for 19 years and consistently for the last 14 years and has two children in the Ennis School system. He is the vice president of the Ennis Rodeo Association, involved with Ennis Rodeo Inc., Madison Valley Search and Rescue and Madison County Relay For Life. He has served in various roles volunteering with the local 4-H group.
Craig George grew up in southern Oregon and retired after more than 26 years with the Oregon State Police. He was also an aircraft mechanic with the U.S. Marine Corps. He serves on the board of directors for the Shining Mountain Homeowners Association. He has two children and four grandchildren
Josh Vujovich was born and raised in Ennis. He went to college at Montana State University and moved away from Ennis for a few years before moving back in 2006. He is married with two young children. He serves as secretary on the Madison Valley Medical Foundation, chairman of Madison Byways and is a member of the Ennis Booster Club.
The questions the candidates answered varied from how they would familiarize themselves with teachers and staff, to their funding priorities and what they had for long and short-term goals for the school district.
Central to the discussion throughout the evening was the importance of fiscal responsibility and supporting the students and staff. The discussion of finances swirled around a future audit. All candidates said they support an audit as a way of moving forward as a school district and community.
“The audit is the issue that’s been at the forefront of all the conversations in this community,” George said.
Moving forward with an audit is important so the district knows where it stands fiscally, he said.
Vujovich also supported the audit, but didn’t want to wait for the results of an audit to come through before moving forward. The school board will need to begin now to move forward.
Regaining the public’s trust will be an important task for the new school board, Clark said.
Sitting down with the Madison County Commissioners to work toward a final solution would be important for everyone in the school district, Coffman said.
The recent meetings with the school board and county commissioners about the Montana Attorney General’s opinion and the potential audit haven’t really gotten anywhere, he said, calling them “unproductive.”
For long-term goals, Vujovich wanted to see the adult education program develop an accredited General Education Development program and offer programs to help the local business community with training and education opportunities. He also would look at developing more advance placement classes in the school.
Clark came back to his point of making sure the district is fiscally sound and works to build back the trust of the community.
Coffman had a unique priority, which was to get back to where the principal’s reports at each regular school board meeting were important.
The principal’s reports have always been important, but with the recent issues and controversy swirling around the school district, these reports, which include a wide variety of information about what is happening at the school, seem to receive less attention.
“It seems like nearly everybody in the whole room has grown numb to what the whole thing is about,” Coffman said. “We’re in the business of educating kids.”
George wanted to continue with educational program planning and finding a way to get the more than $2 million out of adult education and back into the flex fund. This would take a vote of the citizens in the district, which means the school board would have to develop a detailed plan of how it would use the money once it was transferred into the flex fund.
The Ennis School District election is May 8. Results will be printed in the May 10 edition of The Madisonian if received by press time. The results will also be posted on our website as soon as they’re announced. Polls will close at 8 p.m.