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Park City Board of Education candidate Josh Mann seeks to re-open lines of communication

Josh Mann

KPCW continues its ongoing coverage of the primary election candidates for the Park City Board of Education’s District 4 seat.

Josh Mann said his business skills in shaping policy and budgets are needed on the school board because it faces critical communication, financial and academic challenges.

Mann is also founder and author of the Park Rag, a blog that follows and analyzes Park City School District issues.

He told KPCW that the district’s policy against speaking to local media is a lost opportunity to inform the public, but acknowledged that the district’s business administrator, Todd Hauber, recently spoke to KPCW about finance.

Calling board communication a problem that can be fixed, he promised, if elected, to interact with media whenever asked to.

“We've got communication issues where the school district hasn't spoken to KPCW or any other local media, I believe since the end of November. What the school district doesn't realize is that when they talk to the radio station, they're talking to the people. And when they don't talk to KPCW the people don't hear so that's something that's easy to fix. And if I'm elected, I will fix it.”

Mann highlighted several other challenges the district faces. Among those was the performance of underserved students; he said Park City schools score 5% below the state average despite the district being among the best-funded in Utah.

Mann said he’s also heard community concerns recently over class sizes for next year and was accused of “stirring the pot’ for raising the subject.

“I went to a school board meeting to talk about that and was accused of that. They've got a plan. If everything is going to be handled, then great. And I think that's why during the last school board meeting, Todd Hauber, the business administrator, spent 15 to 20 minutes explaining how they calculate class sizes for next year. So, I think they've heard from a number of people that it's important, and now we just need to make sure they execute.”

Mann did not apply for the open school board seat vacated by Kara Hendrickson, who passed away earlier this year. And he questioned the board’s judgment in selecting an interim member who is also a candidate, saying 93% of incumbents are re-elected in Utah.

He said the school board missed the opportunity to encourage a fair election and bring new perspectives during the interim.

Mann feels hiring, retaining, and building trust with teachers are significant issues.

“We need to make sure that our best and brightest--our teachers, principals, or administrative assistants feel like they can speak up. They're the people who have the experience and the knowledge. And if we let them know this is a safe environment to speak up, to speak their mind to bring their ideas forward, then our school district is going to be that much stronger.”

Mann said the swastikas found earlier this year in a high school classroom are an opportunity for school leaders to address hate speech openly. Additionally, he said accountability for the unreported sexual abuse charges against the school district must occur. He said Superintendent Jill Gildea should be placed on administrative leave until the charges are resolved.

District four represents the Jeremy Ranch and Kimball Junction neighborhoods. Three candidates are running for the seat; a June 28 primary election will narrow the field to two candidates for the general election in November.