The Pine-Strawberry School District sits peacefully nestled in the Pine valley. Although four candidates have thrown their hats into the school board race, none feels the school district has any overtly controversial issues to address besides hiring a new superintendent.
For the last eight years, the district has thrived under the leadership of Mike Clark, but he will retire at the end of this school year.
Each of the candidates would like to participate in the hiring process of a new superintendent.
Margaret Parker is the only incumbent running. This will be her third term, which have not run concurrently.
“I have lived all my life in Pine. My dad was raised here and I was on the board 25 years ago with him,” she said.
Parker says the board has done a good job working with parents, teachers and students.
“If something happens, we’re always transparent,” said Parker.
Her main concern, besides hiring the new superintendent, is to stay within the budget so the district does not have to raise property taxes.
This is Melissa (Hill) McNeely’s first time running for the school board. A friend asked her to run.
McNeely grew up in Pine and Payson. She started school in Payson, but moved to Pine when she was in the second grade. She finished up at Payson High School after completing the eighth grade in Pine.
McNeely said that residents were not as happy with the school when she went, but now things are run well.
She lives in Pine with her husband, 13-year-old stepson and the couple’s two-year old. Her stepson attends the Pine school.
She hopes to be part of the group that decides who will be the next superintendent.
“It would be great to be part of the decision,” McNeely said.
Rick Weiss moved to Pine four and a half years ago.
He is a former minister and still teaches Sunday school, and has taken it upon himself to mentor the troubled kids in Pine. His long-term goal is to create a place in Pine for these kids to have a safe place to hang out.
With three small children in the house, he and his wife are active with their children as well. His five-year old goes to kindergarten in the Pine school and he does substitute teaching in the district.
Besides their involvement with their children, Weiss and his wife both design websites for a living. His wife focuses on early childhood development and parenting.
As with the other candidates, Weiss would like to weigh in on the superintendent search. He wants somebody like Mike Clark with business management skills.
Otherwise, he is happy with how the district is run.
“It’s not like I’m running because of controversy,” he said.
The fourth candidate, Jessica Barnett, has served on the Pine School Board before. She has lived in the Pine community since 1977, went to the Pine Elementary school and graduated from the Payson High School.
She is married to Eric Barnett and has three children, Heather, 22, Preston, 19 and Thomas, 15. All of her children have gone through the Pine elementary system. Her two oldest graduated from Payson High School. Her youngest still attends.
Barnett served on the Pine school board and the Pine/Strawberry Fire Department as a reserve EMT. She has worked also for Dr. Ford at Payson Eye Care for 20 years.
“I have enjoyed my terms when I was on the (school) board and chose to run again,” she said, “The district is going to be selecting a new superintendent this year and having gone through that process before when we hired Mr. Clark, I feel that I can have a positive influence in making that very important choice for our district.”