OPINION: School Board Member Challenges Public to Get Involved in Decisions

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The following opinion was written and submitted by Max Mickelsen, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 Board Trustee.

In the past six years of my service on your Sweetwater County School District #1 (SW1) Board of Trustees I have earnestly worked on behalf of our community. Given recent events, I feel it is important to issue this personal statement about my values, beliefs, and commitments as a board trustee.

In 2012 I first ran for a seat on your board for very simple reasons. I believed in our students. I believed in our teachers. I believed in our administrators.

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I believed in our community. Despite all our challenges. Despite those who say this is “just Rock Springs.” Despite the consequences of pushing for better outcomes. I still believe.

In 2016 I ran for a second term on your board. My reasons for running then were not as simple. My experience taught me that believing in better outcomes, believing in propriety, and believing in high expectations isn’t enough.

Our responsibility, duty, and obligation as a school board is to allocate resources to and develop policies for our district that elevate student outcomes and create a positive environment for the employees of our district.

A board that doesn’t believe in that possibility, that doesn’t work for that future, that doesn’t put forth 100% of its effort to create those opportunities has failed in its most basic reason for being. I ran then because I still believe.

I have served half of my second term on your board and am answerable to our community for my actions and inactions. I have witnessed students, teachers, and administrators pushing themselves far beyond expectations.

I have witnessed wonderful, innovative learning approaches created for our students. I have witnessed employees jeopardizing their health, their
families, and their well-being for our students.

I have read the data. I see the financial challenges we face. I know our district is struggling merely to hold ground. I still believe. Some of my peers over the past six years have persistently tried to curb my belief in and
advocacy for our district and our community by vilifying, bullying, and intimidating me.

I know we can do better. I worked to have open debate. Frequently my attempts were fruitless. That is okay. That we have engaged in the destructiveness of internal strife is not okay.

My focus, our focus, should be solely on improving student outcomes and creating a district climate people will envy.

I expect us to create a district where parents, students, employees, and members of the public all feel respected, empowered, and valued. I expect our board to work together in good faith on your behalf.

I expect your board to do better.

If you believe in our students; if you believe in our teachers; if you believe in our administrators; if you believe we can do better; if you believe great things are happening in our schools; if you believe in education, in the value of educators, and in supporting our schools, then I challenge you to come together to work for that future. If you actively or passively work against that future, then what do you believe? I cannot be dissuaded from my belief that we can do better.

If you don’t agree, if you believe this is the best we can do, then I challenge you to examine why. I love Rock Springs. I am proud to make it my home and to raise my children here.

I have never found a community with better or more caring people. We need to remember we are here for each other, to set aside these actions that reflect so poorly on us, and to show each other how great we truly are. I still believe.

Yours faithfully,
Max Mickelson