Erika Brown, a mother of twin students at Needham Elementary School, was selected Tuesday night to fill the vacant Durango school board seat for the district that covers the north Animas Valley and portions of north Durango.
The decision to opt for Brown over Gene Giddings – a Durango educational consultant who spent 20 years working for Durango School District 9-R – proved difficult.
Board member Mick Souder made the first motion to select Giddings, but the motion failed on a 2-2 tie vote, with Souder and Board President Shere Byrd voting in support and board members Andrea Parmenter and Kristin Smith voting in opposition.
Souder then offered a second motion to select Brown, and that motioned passed 4-0.
“I would have been happy with either candidate,” Souder said after the vote selecting Brown.
Brown, who has lived in Durango for almost a decade, said in her letter of interest submitted to 9-R that she has become increasingly interested in the district’s work as her twins have made their way through Needham.
She recently left her position as communications manager with the San Juan Citizens Alliance.
“One of the strongest skills I bring to the board is my communication skills,” she told board members during her public interview. “I think being able to communicate to the stakeholders and the public is an essential role for the board and really pertains to the trust of the community and the district employees, administrators, parents and students as well.
“I think that having open and transparent communication in both directions is a critical skill for building trust.”
She added those skills are key to her background and they have been her professional focus.
In her letter of interest, Brown said her work with San Juan Citizens Alliance provided her valuable experience in overhauling organizational and outreach tools “to enhance effectiveness and engagement in a decades-old regional nonprofit, one that does not shy from controversial issues critical to the future of this region.”
In discussing the qualities of both candidates, Souder said the decision was whether to add to the board someone with the professional strength of being well-versed in K-12 educational policy or someone well-versed in communications policy.
They chose the communicator.
Giddings operates an educational consultancy, Don’t Ever Stop based in Durango.
He has three grandchildren in the district and worked for six years as a teacher at Durango High School, three years as assistant principal at DHS, a year as assistant principal at Escalante Middle School and finished his career as principal at Escalante.
He started his long career in education as a teacher in Red Mesa, Arizona in 1973.
Brown replaces Nancy Stubbs, who resigned to deal with family issues after the accidental death of her grandson.