Candidate Q&A: Dixie School Board

This Q&A is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2013 elections. For a complete list of races, endorsements and other candidate Q&As, please visit our Elections Center.

The Dixie School District has two contested elections for spots on its school board this year.

Dana Gutierrez is running against incumbent Gene Wilks for the Director 1 position, and Richard Berrier and Allan Thonney are running for Director 2.

Kelly Dabulskis is running uncontested for Director 5.

Dixie School Board members serve 4-year terms.

The Union-Bulletin reached out to all four candidates in the contested elections, but Wilks was the only candidate to respond. Thonney, a College Place police officer, declined to be interviewed, citing privacy and safety concerns. Repeated attempts to reach Gutierrez and Berrier by telephone and email were unsuccessful. Dixie School, an elementary school, is the only school in the district.

Director 1: Gene Wilks

Gene Wilks, 51, is a 1985 graduate of Texas A&M with a degree in soil and crops sciences. In 2010, he was awarded an masters in education, specializing in secondary history. He is a former business owner, a sole proprietor of an interior design and fabrication company. Wilks, in between helping raise his 10 year old daughter, currently substitute teaches among various school districts of the region.

Following are his responses to U-B questions submitted to candidates:

Why do you think you are qualified to be on the Dixie school board?

As a father of one prior and one current student of Dixie Elementary School, I have a deep vested interest in continuing to build high quality education and a nurturing atmosphere there. Serving since 2009 as a school board member and now into my first term as board chair, my intimate familiarity of our school has aided me in helping move our board towards necessary improvements and modernization. Personally knowing the staff, students and many of the citizens of our community has been a driving force in joining with them in a team effort to better serve our kids in education.

Dixie School has been identified as needing renovation. What do you feel are the most pressing issues, and how would you go about fixing them?

While our historic school has served our community admirably, several concerns for improvement cannot be further delayed. The school’s heating system, while efficient, is in need of maintenance. The overall structure requires some modifications and maintenance. We are committed to further improving the aesthetic appeal of the property and building. A recent engineering and architectural evaluation that is still under consideration has enabled the board to prioritize our options with regard to these potential improvements.

With 27 students a year between grades K-5, and eight preschoolers, would it be more cost effective to have Dixie students attend one of the larger districts around Dixie?

Many have asked if it would be more cost effective for our community if we would close Dixie Elementary School and bus our kids to other districts. The answer to this is no. Dixie Elementary School actually keeps the per $1,000 tax assessment we each pay for public education among one of the lowest rates in the region. Even if we were to gain approval of a bond for a moderate degree of improvements to the school, this rate would still be below most other districts.

What do you see as the future of Dixie School in 10 years?

The future of Dixie Elementary School looks great. In 10 years, we would like to see the return of sixth grade and at least one additional teacher to our district. We believe the community will support a future remodel project. Our school not only provides our children with a quality education, it ultimately even improves the value of property and homes in the district. We are worth more with our school, and this will continue to be true in the future.