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Church and State, front and center at La Veta school board candidates’ forum

LA VETA — It had all the appearances of a basic candidates’ forum last Thursday night at the La Veta Library, up until religion got mixed in with politics. A hint of what was to come first came from candidate John Albright as he responded to a question that asked, “As a school board member, who would he turn to for advice on school issues?” Albright responded, “I would start with the teachers, go to parents, members of the community, and God.” The other two candidates, Clay McKisson and Matt Dobbs, responded with somewhat similar themes to the overflow audience. McKisson said it was important to ask the right questions along with consulting previous school board members, the administration and independent research. Dobbs said he, too, would speak with teachers, fellow board members, citizens and the administration. The first part of the forum saw resident Matt Heim acting as moderator, posing questions previously submitted by

citizens. Later in the program, Heim opened up the session to questions from audience members. The first question asked the candidates to compare the value of sports to education. All three of the candidates agreed academics should come first, however all stated strong support for sports. McKisson said “Sports are extremely important and should be well funded as they can engage kids.” Albright claimed that sports, “….are a huge part of my universe.” Dobbs explained that as a coach at La Veta schools, “I am a diehard Redskins fan! Sports can be a motivator to perform well in school.” However, it was the second audience question that changed the evening’s tone. When asked about his position on teaching evolution, Albright stated, “It [evolution] should not be taught in schools.” When asked a why, Albright responded, “Because I believe in God.” Albright added that he does not support the state or federal government dictating curriculum, rather it [curriculum] should be decided by local school boards and their community. When the same question went to McKission he pointed out that, “The courts have set the line. We should respect that.” Dobbs said that La Veta Schools should follow state standards but he was open to discussing the issue. It was noted that evolution is part of the required curriculum and schools must follow state law. When pressed on that issue, Albright said he would obey state law but that parents and students should be able to opt out and not attend science class while evolution was being taught. At this point, several attendees began to shout out their opinions on the issue. Some said teach evolution, but also teach religious studies. Others felt Creationism should be taught along with evolution. Ultimately, Heim brought the session to a close, but invited citizens to stay and talk with the candidates one on one. This, however, evolved (no pun intended) into a second session with much of the discussion centering on local control, religion in public schools and related topics. Editor’s note: It should be pointed out that the majority of the evening provided good insight into the candidates, their goals and the issues that would face them as school board members. See related article for more information on the RE-2 candidates.