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 Jerry R. Means, 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.
Jerry R. Means
-70 years old, a long-time resident of Campbell County
-After graduating from Campbell County High School attended Sheridan College for two years and University of Wyoming for 2.5 years (I lack 8 hours of a bachelor’s degree in Architectural and Civil Engineering.)
Worked at KG Construction from 1970 to 2015.
-Involved in building the American Legion Baseball Park, Little League as a coach, Babe Ruth Baseball Board
-Involved with and supported Gillette College Rodeo Team and local junior high and high school rodeo kids
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?
One of the concerns I have that helped me to decide to run was the letter County 17 published that was written by two teachers after they resigned last summer. I was appalled by the lack of comment and acknowledgment of problems by the school board and administration on this matter. Several teachers have personally asked me to run. I am invested as a grandfather of 12. Some of the grandkids are and soon will be students in the district. I believe that my experience and ability of helping to build a large company that survived, flourished and helped the local economy, despite the ups and downs of the oil field cycles, has prepared me to help oversee the district. I would view my role as a trustee as a partnership with not only other board members but the administration and especially teachers.
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?
Teachers must know they have the support of the school board, the administration and parents. The ones “in the trenches” need to be listened to and their issues looked at more closely. Teachers must be able to speak about their needs and problems freely and without repercussion. Anything the board can do to eliminate distractions that take away from teaching time should be considered! This may include less standardized testing, “woke [expletive]” such as CRT curriculum, misconduct in the classroom, bullying, furries (yes there is some of that) and the “buddy system” that Gillette is so known for. The buddy system (hiring of friends, relatives, etc) has created disrespect between administrators, principals and teachers.
4. What does a successful school district look like?
Running a school district is complex. Solving problems in the classroom is tough because of the breakdown of the family and other outside influences. Teachers can only do so much. I believe they need more support because of the monumental tasks asked of them. More opportunities for teachers to voice their concerns might be a start. A successful school district must be open and transparent and acknowledge the problems.
5. What does the school district administration do well?
Campbell County School District does a good job of providing professional development classes and training for staff. Students have the opportunity for a well-rounded education as well as many activities and sports to participate in.
6. How has education impacted your life?
The first 10 years of my life, my dad followed road construction. Our family of six moved 49 times, living in a small trailer. By 4th grade I could not read a first-grade book. My mom took it upon herself to get me caught up. Let’s just say, it was a rough start. Looking back, a couple of moments stand out. A junior high football coach once told me, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.” This simple comment had quite an effect on me at the time. Later at UW, my senior design professor (after taking countless college math classes) told the class something I have not forgotten. He told us all the math problems in our books have already been solved. The lesson he hoped we grasped was that most problems in life can be solved by creatively looking for the solutions.
7. What advice would you offer parents of school-aged children to empower students in their learning?
Be involved in the everyday learning of your kids. Stay connected with them and support their schools and teachers.
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?
The students fell behind during COVID. The lessons learned are that students must be physically in class for the interaction. I believe there is too much “teaching for the standardized tests,” which takes away the valuable time teachers need for their individual curriculum and goals. We may never totally recover the lost time but any of the extra time suckers such as unnecessary testing, and non-critical meetings should be looked at as a way of recovering some time for students and teachers
9. Should the school board promote more community involvement? If so, how? If not, why not?
The school district should always promote community involvement. The taxpayers after all are invested in the district’s success! Educating our young is the best way of building great communities, states and beyond. I would like to see the board more open for comments from the public by hosting occasional and if successful, regular forums to discuss/brainstorm ideas and solutions.
10. Is there anything else voters should know about you and your perspective?