Meet the 7 candidates running for 3 seats on the Hayden School Board
HAYDEN — There was a crowded stage at the Hayden Center last week as seven candidates vying for three seats on the Hayden Board of Education in November gathered to answer questions about why they are running for the board.
Hosted by the town of Hayden and the Hayden Education Association, the forum asked candidates about how they see their potential role on the school board and how they will help guide the district during their term.
Candidates include two incumbents and five challengers, some of which graduated from Hayden High School and others who are newer to the community. Voters will select their top three candidates Nov. 2.
Tim Frentress Sr.
Tim Frentress Sr. was born in Hayden, graduated from Hayden High School and is the father and grandfather of graduates and current students in the district. He was first elected to the board in 2009 and is seeking his fourth term in November.
“I’m a graduate here, have been here all my life,” Frentress said. “I think the big thing with being a board member is being approachable.”
With being approachable, Frentress said a good board member needs to be able to listen to all parties involved in a decision like school administration, teachers and students.
Frentress said he feels the district has a good staff right now, and they need to keep them. He pointed to a 3% cost of living raise and step increase for teachers as something he has done to improve teacher pay and added that housing is something the district might need to consider.
“We are coming up on the power plants and coal mines shutting down. That’s a big tax revenue for out district here, so we need to look at a whole lot of different scenarios that we can try to figure out to get funding,” Frentress said. “Also pulling more kids into the school, which will help.”
Aden Morrison was born in southwest Colorado, moving to Hayden with his wife to start a family in 2002. Two of his children are currently in the district, his wife has worked for the district for 10 years, and he has coached middle school basketball for four years. He was first appointed to the board in 2020 and is running to secure his first full term.
“I also grew up in a small community similar to this,” Morrison said. “I just have a good feel for small districts, the problems that face them and the issues that come up.”
Morrison said despite a teacher’s shortage across the state, the district can’t let that be an excuse for high teacher turnover. He said he wants to be intentional in his actions and feels it needs to be a high priority for the board to retain good staff.
He also feels like it is important for a school board member to be positive because negativity in the district is one of the biggest issues the board is facing.
“We’ve been coming to sporting events long before our boys even got into sports,” Morrison said. “I love working with kids, and I am going to be there for every game I can be.”
Alicia Doolin was raised in Routt County and graduated from Hayden High School. Two of her children currently attend school in the district, and she has worked as a substitute teacher for the past eight years. Doolin is a member of both the Hayden Valley Elementary Parent Teacher Organization and the health and wellness team.
“My joy in both of these organization is the opportunity to support the students and staff,” Doolin said. “Running for the school board is an opportunity to even greater impact the Hayden School District and the Hayden Community.”
To address teacher turnover, Doolin said the district should explore finding a way to build housing for teachers to help better recruit staff. Doolin said there has been great attendance at recent town hall meetings, and she wants those to continue.
“I firmly believe that every single child in the Hayden School District should have the right to a quality education,” Doolin said, adding that her experience as a real estate agent, substitute teacher and active parent in the district would be an asset on the board.
“I hope that I can bring all that to the school board to continue the incredible growth and success of our entire community,” Doolin said.
Ryan Wattles grew up in Routt County, currently operates a fifth-generation family ranch and has four children in the school district, which is a large part of why he is running for the board.
“I’m really invested. I am doing this partly for selfish reasons,” Wattles said. “I want my children and your children to get the best education possible.”
When it comes to retaining teachers, Wattles said the biggest thing is teacher pay. What they can control is how teachers feel valued, something that he believes starts as soon as a teacher applies to the district.
He said it is a scary time for the district as it anticipates the Hayden Station going away, which provides the lion’s share of the districts revenue. Not only should they be looking for new revenues, but they also need to turn to their own budget to see where it could be trimmed.
“I feel like you have to approach it both ways,” Wattles said. “We have to plan for if that funding doesn’t come through. Where do we tighten up the budget? Where can we make cuts? … The latter one is certainly a difficult discussion to have, but it is one we will be having very soon.”
Kevin Kleckler has been a teacher in the Hayden School District for 28 years and is now in a limited role teaching about two hours per day. His three children have been students in the district, and he met his wife teaching in Hayden.
“I’m very passionate for what I do and what I have done here,” Kleckler said. “I’d loved the opportunity to serve for all these years in lots of different roles. … I want to continue this adventure in education here on the school board.”
Kleckler said he would always be asking questions and is puzzled when the current board approves something without much discussion. He said the board should see what state dollars are available to create assets, like workforce housing, that could lure more teachers to town and get them to stay.
Kleckler also said he would like to see collective bargaining between the district and teachers, and teachers should have work sessions with the school board so they can be heard and expose issues earlier.
“We just need a leadership style change,” Kleckler said. “The current leadership has done a great job of getting us back on track financially, but as far as being able to move forward, we just need a leadership change.”
Robbie Leach is the newest to Hayden of each of the candidates, moving to town with his wife about two years ago. Still working on their first child, Leach said he wants to be on the board to help build the school that his kids will eventually attend.
“I don’t have any little ones myself, but I am about a year out with my wife from having our first one,” Leach said. “That weighs heavily on my interest and desire to be here.”
Teachers not feeling valued is troubling for Leach, and that process should start before they are even hired. Leach said the district should look for people like him who want to live and grow in Hayden.
Leach said the district needs to start planning now for when the Hayden Station will close and the district will lose a large part of its funding. While recognizing there may need to be cuts, he would want to explore more before making any decisions.
“I’m definitely open to exploring outside of the box ideas, things that may not have been done before or done here,” Leach said about the district’s funding. “Areas I wouldn’t cut would be teacher funding, teacher salary.”
Kevin Copeland has lived in Northwest Colorado for more than 50 years, with some members of his family having attended the Hayden School District for more than six generations. While his son attended the district, Copeland was involved with coaching and is a founding member of the Hayden Booster Club with his late wife, Ann.
“I would like to stick to the core curriculum that is applicable to our students’ standards and goal in this area,” Copeland said, believing that students should be taught how to think and not what to think.
To retain teachers, Copeland suggested the district should offer an incentive to come to the district, potentially paying off some of their schooling costs and trying to do something to find housing for teachers.
When trimming the budget, salaries are not an area that Copeland said he was interested in cutting, instead saying pay should be a tool the board should use to help keep teachers in the district.
“We’re projected to lose probably $4.5 million; that’s scary,” Copeland said about the mines and power plants closing. “Salaries are something that I wouldn’t want to cut. I would think you would enhance our faculty by giving them better salaries.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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