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Incumbents, challengers face off in Park City school board debate

 Park City school board candidates, from left to right: Erin Grady, Nick Hill, Meredith Reed, and Mandy Pomeroy.
Parker Malatesta
Park City school board candidates, from left to right: Erin Grady, Nick Hill, Meredith Reed, and Mandy Pomeroy.

Exchanges were tense and at times fiery.

Candidates for two open seats on the Park City Board of Education debated at the Park City Rotary Club Tuesday.

Incumbent board chair Erin Grady is facing Nick Hill, a project manager, for the District 5 seat. The District 4 seat is between interim board member Mandy Pomeroy and Meredith Reed, a veteran and former chair of the Summit County Democratic Party.

District 4 encompasses the neighborhoods north of I-80 like Jeremy Ranch and Glenwild, whereas District 5 includes areas south of the interstate, including Pinebrook and Summit Park.

Pomeroy, a former elementary school teacher, was unanimously selected by the board to finish the term of Kara Hendrickson, who passed away in April.

Candidates were asked about a range of topics, but what came up consistently was the board’s role in recruiting and retaining staff.

Reed said it’s not just about raising wages.

“In September the median sales price for a single family home in Park City proper was over $3.7 million, and in Snyderville Basin it was $2.5 million," Reed said. "We’ve got big challenges that face our community specifically.”

Grady emphasized that providing housing solutions for teachers has been a long-time goal of the board.

Another recurring topic was the school district’s failure to secure necessary permits for its construction projects.

Summit County Councilmember Doug Clyde pressed current board members about the capital project delays during an open question-and-answer session.

“You guys, I mean your own goddamn school board from the state shut you down, because you didn’t have permits," Clyde said.

"You are reckless. You are not even responsible… what are you going to do about it?”

Grady conceded earlier in the debate that the board was far from perfect but said progress was occurring.

“I don’t know if it necessarily deserves a response, but I think that we have shown that we have pivoted, we have moved forward, and we always put our children and our educators’ safety first,” Grady said.

Pomeroy’s response echoed Grady's.

“There have been some changes, and again, we’ve pivoted," Pomeroy said. "I’m not sure how else to say that.”

Nick Hill offered a different view.

“It’s easy to say ‘oh we’re in compliance, we worked with them, we did this, we did that.’ But the reality is, Jeremy Ranch got shut down, after we had been told what we needed to do and didn’t do it," he said.

"And then we continued construction somewhere else, which also got shut down. So the idea that we’re doing everything we should be doing, to me is a little bit fanciful.”

He said a review should be conducted to find out exactly what went wrong. Reed agreed.

That tense exchange was followed by another on a different topic.

Tuesday morning, Pomeroy’s campaign placed door hangers around Jeremy Ranch that contained a picture of Reed and her children.

 The picture of Reed (lower right) on Pomeroy's campaign material.
The picture of Reed (lower right) on Pomeroy's campaign material.

Reed learned about the door hangers Tuesday morning and asked Pomeroy to remove the pictures.

This was the exchange that followed:

“You handed out pictures of your children on your campaign materials so it was referenced,” Pomeroy said.

“It’s my children, who are in this school district, who are not your children. So please stop using their image on your campaign material,” Reed said.

“We can have that conversation offline,” Pomeroy said.

“I’m having it right now with you. I’m asking you as a mother to please stop using my children’s image on your campaign material,” Reed said.

“I don’t think that’s what today is about,” Pomeroy replied.

“I think as a school board member who is using images of children who are in this district, it is absolutely part of this conversation,” Reed said.

Child safety is currently a key concern for the district.

It was investigated earlier this year for failure to report suspected child abuse. That case was put on hold by the Summit County Attorney, who said her office would monitor the district’s compliance with child safety laws and policies.

The district has a policy that lets parents prohibit use of photos of their children without their permission.

Ballots were mailed out Monday, and Election Day is November 8.

Corrected: October 19, 2022 at 11:57 AM MDT
PCSD COO Mike Tanner was incorrectly quoted as saying all four of the district's construction projects are currently halted. While some are paused due to a lack of paperwork, construction at Jeremy Ranch Elementary has resumed.