CREEDE — The Creede community gathered at the Creede school on Tuesday evening, Oct. 5, for a Meet the Candidate night hosted by students from the district’s government class and teacher Teresa Wall.
Five candidates will be on the ballot on Nov. 2 vying for three open seats. Students spent the past few weeks compiling a list of questions for the candidates and the public was invited to submit questions. Each candidate took a few minutes at the beginning of the forum to talk about themselves and then each had two minutes to answer each question.
Leslie Leggitt was the first to speak stating that she was born and raised in Texas and graduated from college with a bachelor’s in science in dental hygiene and is currently the dental hygienist at the Mineral County Dental Clinic.
“We have three children in the district,” Leggitt said. “We decided to move to Colorado two years ago and I am running for the school board just to be a little more involved and have a say in what goes on around my children.”
Matt Sliwkoski spoke next introducing himself to the attending audience.
“Thank everyone for showing up,” Sliwkoski said. “This is important. It is important to the school and to the kids and to the community. In this atmosphere with COVID we have excuses not to show up, so I appreciate you all being here.”
Sliwkoski is a Colorado native, born in Del Norte and lived throughout the San Luis Valley until moving to Creede. He has a degree in agricultural business and has owned his own company for 19 years and represents Mineral County on the San Luis Valley Fair Board and 4H. He also began the clay shooting club at the Creede school where out of nine students, five went to state and one went to Nationals.
“I want to be on the school board to continue the improvement of the school and for the students and the community,” he said.
Brittini Shambaugh Addison has worked as the Education Director at Creede Repertory Theatre for the past four years. She is the third candidate on the November ballot and has spent considerable time with local students through her program at the theatre. Addison serves on the board at the Creede Early Learning Center and has a background in theatre and arts education.
“I am a big proponent of arts integration and education,” Shambaugh said. “I am running for the school board because I love the students here first and foremost. I don’t think that my job as a school board director is to bring in any of my own personal feelings and my job is to be an advocate for students and support for teachers and the administration.”
Jennifer Castleberry has been in the Creede area for three years and is the owner of the local Snowshoe Lodge. She worked in education in her previous life before Creede as a middle school science teacher and loved every minute of it.
“I was an educator in Texas, and I taught middle school science for most of my career,” Castleberry said. “I was there for 23 years and ended my teaching career loving it.”
Though Castleberry was happy to change directions in her life when she moved to Creede she stated that she does miss being with the students and would love the opportunity to serve in this capacity on the school board.
Greg Pearson has spent 16 years in Creede with his family and has students active in the district. He also serves in the Mineral County Fire Department and is looking forward to serving on the school board as well.
Several questions were posed to each candidate throughout the night which consisted of topics like mask mandates, LGBTQ+ support and education as well as what each candidate thought of when they considered the school’s mission statement.
Regarding the mission statement and what it meant to each candidate, here is what they said.
Mission Statement, “Creede School provides a safe, inclusive and nurturing environment in order for students to reach their unique potential in and beyond the classroom. The District encourages and inspires students to achieve academic excellence, build character, and discover a life-long love of learning.”
Leggitt said, “For me it would be raising my children to that standard and that way. I want my children to be kind and inclusive and all at the same time get a good education. I think that’s where it starts, being a good example for my children.”
Sliwkoski said, “Everybody has a right to what they believe and what they feel and bring that to school. I think everyone has a right to be safe at the school, a school should be a place where we can send our children and not have to worry about their safety. Problem that I’m seeing is that we are using safety as a way to solicit and promote agendas and I think that we need a policy and to understand the line that is being crossed with safety and promotion.”
Shambaugh Addison said, “I don’t think that safety should be an agenda, it should just be a given. If we are thinking about those three specific words, safe, inclusive and nurturing I think it goes back to as we are looking at every single policy, let's look at this and ask if this is allowing all of our students to feel safe, is this setting up a precedence of nurturing that will help them be the best humans they can possible be and is this inclusive of every one of our students regardless of how they have grown up, what they look like or how they identify. It really comes down to what policies are in place and how they are being implemented.”
During the time the question was posed, Pearson was not present until later in the forum. Each candidate answered questions throughout the evening that gave insight into their platforms for the coming election. The live stream video recording is available on the school’s Facebook page under the name Creede School District. Ballots will be sent out in the coming days for the Nov. 2 election.