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 Mary Brunner, who is running for election to 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.
Hi! My name is Mary Brunner. I am an RN by profession. I have worked as a nurse in this community for 16 years. Thirteen of those years were in the ICU at Campbell County Health. Currently, I am working at the Women’s Resource Center as the Patient Services Director. From a young age, I have been driven to make a positive difference in the areas I am passionate about, volunteering for various programs such as Life R U Ready? for several years. This program helped our students experience real-life challenges based on the choices they made. I helped organize and manage the unexpected pregnancy section along with volunteering in the emergency room scenario. My work as a nurse has been community focused especially working for a non-profit currently that serves men and women in our community finding themselves in an unintended pregnancy. I have developed and managed programs through this employment. As the mom of four school-aged kids, we are very involved in the activities Campbell County offers through sports and artistic programs. I am an active member of the Campbell County Republican Women. I volunteer as an election judge and, most recently, I was elected as a precinct representative for Precinct 4-01.
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 was prompted to run for the school board because I have been paying attention. Watching and listening to what is happening at the national, state and local level has me very concerned. There is a radical agenda that is destroying our country’s value system. It is impacting Campbell County and I would like to help turn that around. School safety is also a topic of concern. We need to be more proactive in preventing a shooting but also need to readdress how we are managing bullying.
I am an invested taxpayer and voter who is deeply troubled by events within our country, state and district. I am honest and dependable. I have strong morals and integrity. I’m hard-working and dedicated. My years of RN experience make me an advocate. I will listen to concerns, not ignore them, and help implement appropriate changes when necessary. Combining these qualities with the fact that I am a mom paying attention and driven to make a difference for my kids, as well as others, is what I have to offer as a School Board Trustee.
School district board members create and maintain policies. Managing the budget along with handling disciplinary issues are also school board member duties.
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?
CCSD can begin to attract and retain quality educators and staff by taking care of the current staff. Our teachers, for example, are feeling unsupported and overwhelmed because of constant curriculum changes, lack of support from upper administration and increased class sizes in some cases. When the school board trustees and administration start engaging with the staff personally, truly listen to their concerns and begin to make the appropriate changes necessary, [the district] will they have better retention and recruitment. Board members can create this environment of retention and recruitment by leading. When the school board trustees start visiting the schools, making phone calls to teachers and staff directly, have an open door and transparent approach then the others will follow suit. Leadership and listening along with advocacy and transparency are key.
3. What does a successful school district look like?
An engaged leadership foundation. Strong leadership starts at the school board level. When these trustees lead by example, through being transparent, approachable, and physically present in the schools they will set the strong foundation needed. School staff needs to see that the trustees and administration are engaged and intentional in their efforts of knowing what is happening at the classroom level with our students. Not only will this help the school district be successful by having a strong leadership foundation for the school staff but also for the parents. Parents have to be supported by the leadership. This is accomplished through letting parents see the curriculum being taught, welcomed and responsive communication at all levels. There also should be consistency throughout the district with school safety measures which include the management of bullying and preventing a school shooting.
4. What does the school district administration do well?
Leading a district in education is not an easy task, especially in current times. With circumstances rapidly changing in our county, state and nation, it takes an engaged board willing to dedicate the time needed to be effective. The school board has to be passionate and have actions to support what is necessary to keep the education of our kid’s priority. Our current school district is focused on staying current and even above the standard in teaching techniques and equipment needed to support and have been allocating funds to do so. They have placed a great emphasis on curriculum in ways that cause frequent changes or amendments for the teachers to manage. In doing so it is hard to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum and can be affecting the test scores of the students. Through budget management, a focus of administrators is evident in their priorities. While some agree with this focus, others see it as a contributing factor to the rising issues in our district.
5. How has education impacted your life?
I am a native of Gillette. I attended the old Hillcrest Elementary, the current Paintbrush [Elementary] and Sage Valley [Junior High]. My education at the primary level was good. We did not have the radical agenda plaguing our students today, however. My parents felt safe letting my siblings and I walk to school. They didn’t worry about the uncertainty if we were going to be safe while in the building and the thought would have been absurd to think we were receiving a politically driven education that did not line up with their values. Education has impacted my life the most through the higher-level education I received, which aided in my earning my Registered Nurse License. If I hadn’t had the K12 foundation, I would not be here today as a school board trustee candidate.
6. What advice would you offer parents of school-aged children to empower students in their learning?
Be engaged. Ask questions of the school processes, monitor the curriculum, be present. We as parents can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening in our schools. Being persistent is also needed when we are not getting responses to our concerns.
7. 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?
We all are aware that the COVID-19 pandemic found everyone unprepared. Reactions were quick and made out of fear of the unknown. CCSD was not immune to this. The unexpected forcing of students out of the classroom with their education managed at home. Parents weren’t prepared for this scenario or the teachers trained to manage online learning. All in all, I believe everyone considered it to be a disaster! The board had the intention of keeping everyone safe while listening to the “experts” but did not protect the rights of parents and thus students. Protecting the rights of the parents and students has to be the guide in any scenario presented to the schools and board.
I will help the school district recover from the academic losses by managing the budget in ways that support the teachers as a priority as they are the tip of the spear in teaching our students. Not only through the budget but by the methods stated in the previous question of how to retain our teachers. Parental support is also vital. There is a lack of trust currently in our district for various reasons. Once the Board of Trustees is transparent and communicates with parents and teachers while addressing their concerns and our teachers are well supported through leadership and current enforced policies, our education system will be more effective. When this environment is cultivated, our students will be able not just to regain what is lost but excel.
8. Should the school board promote more community involvement? If so, how? If not, why not?
Absolutely, we need more community involvement. The members of our county should all be invested in the schools. What is being taught there has a direct impact on our community. We can include the community through a great example of how Rozet Elementary honors local veterans. Every year they have a program honoring those who have served. The community is invited, along with service members of all ages. This not only promotes patriotism within the students but engages those service and community members to the kids and school. I would love to see more programs similar to this that will engage the community and increase the value of community within the students.
9. Is there anything else voters should know about you and your perspective?
A question I have fielded in the recent weeks is “Why is an RN running for the school board?” Some may assume a person with a degree and or experience in teaching to be a member on this board. I find this to be such a valuable question. The reason why I am running for the school board is that I am a concerned citizen, voter, and, above all, a mom who’s paying attention. Because I am not coming from a teaching background, I can offer a skill that will be very valuable: advocacy. I do not have an agenda from previous experience. I am able to listen to concerns from parents and staff in an unbiased manner and be open-minded on the solutions needed.
If you are also a concerned citizen, parent or staff member of our county, then I urge you to consider those candidates who represent your values and ideas about the current status of our schools. Our education system should be at the top of everyone’s priority list. What our kids learn now becomes the future of our country.
We need to take a stand against critical race theory and having boys participate on girls sports teams. We need to support our teachers and parents and increase our school safety. No longer can we vote for who we just think may do a good job. We must be confident and choose candidates who will take a stand against the direct attack on our children, including mine. Thank you for considering me to be one of those candidates.