Race for Utah Board of Ed post for Weber County draws three GOPers
Three Republican hopefuls are running for the Utah State Board of Education post that covers the bulk of Weber County.
With the GOP county convention slated for Saturday, the list faces potential paring ahead of the June 28 primary. County GOPers pick their preferred candidates in a range of races at the convention.
Running on the Republican side for the District 2 board of education spot are Scott Hansen, the incumbent, along with Lewis Johnson and Joseph Kerry. Craig Pitts had been running as a GOPer but withdrew his name, while Adi Finsen is the sole Democratic candidate and will make it to the November general election ballot.
The District 2 spot covers the vast majority of the county, with the exception of portions of Riverdale, Washington Terrace, South Ogden and Uintah, which are part of District 3.
The Utah Board of Education, governed by 15 elected board members from districts around the state, oversees the public education system in Utah. Here’s a look at the three Republican hopefuls for the District 2 spot ahead of Saturday’s GOP convention:
Scott Hansen: Hansen, who lives in the Liberty area, is seeking election to his second term on the body. He is an attorney who previously worked as an engineer and previously served on the Weber school board.
His prime motivation, he said, is improving the system of public education.
“I really got in it to make our education system better,” he said. “I’m a big proponent of the public education system. I believe our schools should be community centered.”
The big education issue for him, Hansen said, is school funding — more specifically, boosting per-student spending in Utah. The state ranks near the bottom among U.S. states in that regard and he’d like to boost Utah to the middle of the pack.
Subjects like critical race theory, controversial for some, have popped on board members’ radar screens and Hansen noted his involvement in drafting a board rule pertaining to the issue. The rule “keeps divisive concepts from being promoted or endorsed in Utah schools and provides transparency for parents while preserving the ability of teachers to facilitate age appropriate discussions of current events,” he said in a Facebook post.
Whatever the case, he lamented the politics that have been injected into education issues. “It’s unfortunate it’s been so politicized, but I do believe it’s improving,” he said.
Lewis Johnson: Johnson, who’s from Huntsville, is a retired teacher who spent most of his working years with Weber School District schools, including Bonneville High School. He variously taught math, science and industrial arts.
He got in the race, he said, after backers approached him about running. “I’m back to basics. I think we have too many tangents,” he said.
More specifically, he’d like to see an increased focus on vocational education in schools, in things like welding and industrial arts. “Those are the programs they’re taking away,” he said.
He also contrasted his background in education with Hansen’s. “Our representative is not a school teacher, didn’t spend the time in the classroom,” Johnson said.
He lamented the emergence of hot-button issues on the plates of education officials like the rights of transgender students and critical race theory. “It’s like a national agenda instead of what the local needs are for the people,” he said.
Joseph Kerry: Kerry, who lives in Ogden, runs a social media marketing company. This is his first bid for public office.
He got in the race, he said, in part because of the discord and dissatisfaction he sensed among teachers, parents and others involved in education.
“I think most important, I was looking and seeing the frustration, the anger by all parties,” he said. “I looked at that and thought, ‘There’s got to be a better way.'”
Issues like critical race theory spark strong emotions among some, he said, but the issue extends beyond such hot-button topics.
“It is this sense that no one is listening,” he said. People may speak up, voice their opinions, he went on, but many have an underlying sense that, regardless, “nothing’s going to happen.”
Kerry said he aims to bridge the divide between people.
“I think the biggest issue is that there is no understanding and trust between the stakeholders when it comes to education,” he said. Communication builds understanding, leading to trust, he said, and when people trust one another “wonderful things happen.”
He’d aid in fostering communication, he said, by more actively providing board of education agendas to the public ahead of time, meeting with constituents and holding town hall meetings.
The biggest complaint he’s hearing as he campaigns, Kerry said, is “people don’t feel their concerns are being heard.”