GILLETTE, Wyo. — Election season is well underway and County 17 has sent a list of questions to each candidate who has filed to run for office in contested races.
These questions are designed to give our readers a better understanding of the people behind the names on the ballot. All candidate responses submitted to County 17 are republished as they are received. County 17 solely made minor edits to the responses, for clarity. Minor edits may include correcting punctuation, capitalization or spelling.
Below, get to know Mark Gilbertson, who is running for a spot on the Campbell County School District Board of Trustees:
- Please introduce yourself and describe your educational and employment history. Please include your name and hometown along with highlights of your past involvement in the Campbell County community.
Mark Gilbertson, 67 years of age, 34–year Gillette resident, married, with two adult children, both of whom graduated from Campbell County High School. In addition, I have a 6th-grade granddaughter attending school in the district.
I retired from the mining industry as the Director of Asset Management and General Manager of Maintenance Operations with a local company. I have significant experience in developing budgets and managing them, in economic analysis, and in managing a large workforce. I hold a BA in Management Sciences.
2. What prompted your decision to run for school board? What do you have to offer the community as a board member? What do you believe your role is as a board member?
I recognize the importance of education, as I was an adult student and was able to advance to positions that I would not have been able to perform successfully without the appropriate education. I managed a large group of technicians, and we invested a great deal in training which increased the capabilities of these personnel.
I have wanted to perform some service to the community, but my job was such that I really didn’t have time to commit to a job like this; now, I do have time.
I believe my experience in budgeting and cost control, as well as capital investment planning and facilities maintenance, would provide some additional expertise to the board.
As a board member, your role is essentially to constantly review and consider adjustments to policy as a response to issues that arise and to communicate with administration, staff, parents and students to ensure that issues are recognized and managed.
3. How do you propose Campbell County School District attract and retain quality educators and other staff, given employee shortages? How can board members help provide an environment in which employees can thrive?
Attracting and retaining staff is a priority. The shortage of educators is nationwide. Those of us who live here appreciate what a great place it is to raise a family, to work, and to live. We must be sure that we are promoting the area as well as we can. We also need to ensure that we advertise the value of the total compensation package; we can assess the value of all the benefits that employees receive, and we have to remain competitive in the market. Finally, we must ensure that employees are part of the decision–making process and that they recognize they are valued.
4. What does a successful school district look like?
A successful district graduates students well equipped for the next stage, whether it be going to work, attending a trade school, or continuing with a more traditional college education. Not all students will continue their education; they need to be equipped by the time they finish high school to deal with life.
5. What does the school district administration do well?
I believe the district has done a good job of managing the mental health of the students. Counselors are available in every building, as well as at the Kids’ Clinic, and educators are trained to recognize students who may be struggling. We should continue this focus, and to improve it where we can.
6. How has education impacted your life?
I was an adult student, in my 40s, when I finished my degree. The education I received enabled me to compete for higher–level positions and to perform the jobs successfully when I achieved them. My division worked with trade schools to develop curriculum that prepared their students for the real world, and we developed internal training programs as well to sharpen the skills of our employees.
7. What advice would you offer parents of school-aged children to empower students in their learning?
I believe the best thing a parent can do is to encourage reading. If parents read with their children, listen to them read, and maintain an interest, children will usually become more interested in reading, and it makes everything easier for them.
8. What lessons did our school district community learn from the COVID-19 pandemic? How will you help the school district’s efforts to recover the academic losses associated with the pandemic?
It was obvious that learning without attending school was challenging and didn’t deliver the desired result. I don’t believe it was a surprise to anyone, but in the early days of the pandemic, it was what was possible. The Board took some risk in restarting regular attendance, knowing that they might have to make painful decisions quickly if they started seeing infection. Fortunately, the steps taken to reduce the risk were successful.
If there is a specific lesson, it’s that the ability to quickly make changes as they are needed solves problems.
Recovering from the academic losses will be challenging. What we can do is to monitor achievement closely and ensure that teachers, students and parents know where we are relative to where we want to be.
9. Should the school board promote more community involvement? If so, how? If not, why not?
The community is welcome to participate in the process. I believe it is important that communication throughout the Board, administration and staff is funneled through to parents, so they feel comfortable contacting the appropriate persons to discuss ideas or concerns. Those avenues are available now, but they don’t seem to be well used. More communication with the people affected by policy is usually a good thing.
10. Is there anything else voters should know about you and your perspective?
The current board has done a good job dealing with challenging issues, and past boards have been successful as well. I am not interested in wholesale changes; I don’t think they are necessary. I am concerned that state funding models may not adequately consider the challenges faced in this specific community. We have a wealth of resources, and these must be shared with the entire state, but there are costs associated with high–growth rates and with the ups and downs of the energy industries. What is appropriate for one county may not be for another. This is an issue I want to learn a lot more about.
I am not a single-issue candidate; I want to help the board in whatever way I can with the goal of safe, inclusive schools that graduate students who are prepared to succeed.
Academic achievement is a stated goal. This has suffered as a result of the disruption of the Covid pandemic; we need to get it back on track. Whether students plan to attend college, a trade school, or whatever they may do after high school, we need to prepare them for success.