GCNP — Chuck Wahler, Tom Pittenger and Jim Boyd retained their seats on the Grand Canyon Unified School District’s Board of Education last week in what turned out to be a close vote.
The four candidates appeared to be close on all the main education issues, based on questions that went their way at the Oct. 25 Meet the Candidates night.
Volunteers at the Shrine of the Ages run the Grand Canyon precinct. From right, Paul Kinnison, Lori Bowman, Gloria McClellan, Dean Mellott, Jack Gallagher and Alice Ponyah.
Wahler collected the most votes of the four with 350 in the Grand Canyon and Tusayan districts. Pittenger drew 335 votes, Boyd had 307 and Barbara Fischer was just 17 votes out of the money with 290 votes.
Fischer had been hoping to be a new face on the board, which includes four federal employees. Seats for Nicky Lindig and Bess Foster were not up for election. Foster is the only non-government and Tusayan representative on the board.
In the Grand Canyon precinct, Wahler drew the most votes with 281 while out in Tusayan, Boyd was tops with 75 votes.
Wahler will serve his third term on the board. The trio will begin serving their new terms in January.
In other education-related issues on the ballot, Proposition 301 passed easily. Arizonans approved of one of the largest tax increases in state history with 301’s investment in the future of education.
"We're delighted about the outcome of that proposition," Grand Canyon school superintendent Dale Fitzner said Wednesday. "This is going to make a difference, not only for the classroom, but it has an inflation factor built in, so if costs go up, that will be factored in."
In Coconino County, Prop 301 passed by a margin of 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent. Statewide, that margin was a bit smaller at 54 percent to 46 percent. Locally, Grand Canyon voters approved of 301 by a large margin of 65 percent to 35 percent but voters in Tusayan rejected the measure, 53 percent to 47 percent.
The state sales tax, which goes into effect this June, will increase from 5 percent to 5.6 percent. About $450 million will go toward teacher salary raises (perhaps as early as next July), smaller classes, five extra school days, repairs to old buildings and university grants for high technology research.
Even with the measure, Arizona will rise from 50th to only about 47th when it comes to per-pupil education spending.
"It's pretty complex and it has numerous benefits to public schools as well as colleges and universities," said Fitzner, who added that the benefits of 301 will go into the 2001-02 budget.
Teachers can plan on a raise of about $2,000, but they will still be paid about $5,000 less than the nationwide average of $40,000.
Teachers will be eligible for performance-based raises of up to $7,000 each year. The Grand Canyon district will send a team of teachers, school-board members and administrators to a major planning conference next year to develop that teacher performance pay component.
Grand Canyon and Tusayan voters overwhelmingly approved of forming a joint technology district. District voters passed it by a 92 percent to 8 percent margin. In the Grand Canyon district, it passed 93 percent to 7 percent and in Tusayan, it passed 89 percent to 11 percent.
"We're looking at several options with a keen interest in adding a business teacher to the vocational staff," Fitzner said.
Craig Appelgate currently teaches business and vocational ed at the school. Kathy Keske teaches culinary arts. Fitzner feels both culinary arts and building maintenance will be big areas positively affected by the joint technology district.
All the other participating school districts in the county saw it approved. The technology district passed in Williams, Fredonia-Mocassin, Page and Sedona-Oak Creek by margins of at least 8-to-2.
Proposition 203, the ballot initiative to end bilingual education in Arizona, won easily statewide. Proponents say bilingual education should be stopped because it prevents immigrants from learning English, limiting chances for future success on the job. California and Arizona have now passed initiatives to end bilingual education.
Fitzner said the vote doesn't have much of an impact on Grand Canyon. The superintendent points to the district's English as a Second Language program as being a success.
Coconino County's numbers on Prop 203 did not match the statewide results. Although 203 passed by a 64-36 margin statewide, it failed in the county by a 56-44 margin. In the Grand Canyon precinct, it failed 53 percent to 47 percent, but it passed in Tusayan by a 60-40 margin.
Cecilia Owen was a lopsided winner over Sara Hartzler-Casciani by a margin of 59.5-40.5 for county superintendent of schools. Owen won the Grand Canyon precinct by a 2-to-1 margin but lost in Tusayan, 65 percent to 35 percent.
"I'm looking forward to working with her," Fitzner said. "I had the opportunity to know about her work at the Flagstaff School District."
In other local races, Randy Moore and Debra Wilkerson collected 98 and 60 votes, respectively, for the two seats on the Tusayan Fire District board.
There were also two seats up on the South Grand Canyon Sanitation District board. Incumbent Pete Shearer collected 72 votes and Edward Ramsey got 61 votes.
Vice president Al Gore beat Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Coconino County when it came to presidential voting.
Gore took 49.8 percent of the vote in the county, Bush came in at 42.8 percent and Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, collected 5.9 percent.
Likewise, Gore was tops in the Grand Canyon precinct with 58.6 percent of the vote. But in Tusayan, a heavy Republican area, Bush collected 69 percent of the vote.
The election results were still considered unofficial by the Coconino County Elections Depart-ment as of the Grand Canyon section’s deadline on Monday.
Early ballots were still to be counted and all ballots had to be verified. The elections department expected to be finished Tuesday.