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Weber School District race draws three contenders

By Tim Vandenack - | Jun 24, 2022
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From left, Janis Christensen, Heidi Gross and Heather Koci are hopefuls for the precinct 6 seat on the Weber School Board. Primary voting culminates Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
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Heather Koci is a hopeful for the precinct 6 seat on the Weber School Board. Primary voting culminates Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
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Janis Christensen is a hopeful for the precinct 6 seat on the Weber School Board. Primary voting culminates Tuesday, June 28, 2022.
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Heidi Gross is a hopeful for the precinct 6 seat on the Weber School Board. Primary voting culminates Tuesday, June 28, 2022.

Several spots on the Weber and Ogden school boards are up for grabs this cycle, but just one is on the primary ballot — the three-way race for the precinct 6 spot on the Weber School Board.

Incumbent Janis Christensen of North Ogden seeks her third term but faces a challenge from Heather Koci, mother of four school-aged kids, and Heidi Gross, who retired after the 2021-2022 school year after teaching for 35 years. It’s a nonpartisan race and the top two vote-getters after primary balloting, which culminates next Tuesday, move on to the November ballot.

Christensen, the parent and grandparent of kids who have attended Weber School District schools, puts a focus on encouraging productive dialogue among the varied players. “(M)y passion is for ongoing, constant, respectful communication between parents, teachers, administrators, students,” she said in a message to the Standard-Examiner. “Any other approach will lead to the destruction of public education.”

She noted the animosity that has seeped into debate in some school districts across the nation of late, warning that’s not the way to go. “We can’t be adversarial; we need to work together,” she said.

Dealing with continued growth in the Weber School District is an ongoing issue for board members to contend with, said Christensen, who used to work as a teacher.

Gross, from Huntsville, has taught at the secondary and primary level. Before retiring, she had been teaching at Green Acres Elementary in North Ogden, and her experience as an educator, she thinks, prepares her to be on the school board.

“It just makes me a good candidate. I understand what’s going on in the classroom,” she said.

Discontent among some of the teachers she worked with prodded her into race. Big issues for Gross, she said, are “teacher burnout, the mental health of our students and our teachers coming out of the pandemic.”

Raising the profile of the school board would also be a priority. Most people don’t know who the school board members are, she maintains. “I am planning on being out to community and school events, in the schools, listening to the public and educators’ concerns and taking it back to the board,” she said on Facebook

Koci, with kids in the Weber School District system, said she’s running to offer that perspective to the board. She’s served on her local parent-teacher organization. “I’m just running to have a parent on the board who knows what’s going on,” she said.

In her campaign literature, Koci emphasizes the import of letting kids be kids. “Heather believes we need to make sure our children have the childhood they deserve, not dealing with the problems and stresses of adults. Children need a chance to run, play and learn the value of hard work to prepare them to be conscientious and responsible citizens,” reads one of her campaign fliers.

Christensen and Koci have been endorsed by Utah Parents United, which promotes parental rights in education. Gross has been endorsed by Utah Parents for Teachers, a group that supports educators, she said.

Another Weber School Board post, precinct 1, is also contested, but because there are just two hopefuls, it will only appear on the November ballot. Two Ogden School Board seats are contested and they will also only be on the November ballot since they each have just two candidates.

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