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FARMINGTON — Four candidates are running for position 3 on the Central Consolidated School District's Board of Education.

These candidates include Jonathan Tso, Matthew D. Tso, Cheryl George and Charlie Jones Jr.

Jonathan Tso did not respond to requests for comments by deadline.

Matthew Tso

Matthew Tso said he is running for the position on the school board to "continue to make a difference in the lives of our students, communities and schools by improving and providing high-quality education for all children." He added that he wants to keep the district "on an upward path of providing an education which will ensure that our children have a bright future and a chance in society by being educated for the future."

Tso is currently serving as an elected Northern Navajo Agency representative with a term ending in 2021 and he is vice president of the Navajo Preparatory School Board of Trustees as well as the Tse D'aa Kaan chapter vice president. 

He was born in Farmington and raised in the Hogback and Shiprock communities. He graduated Shiprock High School and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a legislative analyst for the Department of Diné Education in Window Rock, Arizona, where he has worked for more than nine years. He served on the CCSD school board from 2011 until 2015 and on the San Juan College Board from 2011 to 2017.   

Additionally, Matthew Tso was recently admitted to the Navajo Nation Bar Association and licensed to practice law on the Navajo Nation and administrative tribunals and courts. 

Tso said the closure of coal mines and power plants is one of the big challenges facing the district. He said the closure "coincides with the decrease in student enrollment and funding."

Aside from those challenges, Tso said CCSD must do better at providing a high-quality education.

"Based on what I’ve observed, the school district has had constant turnover in the school district’s leadership and principal and teacher turnover within schools, all of which have a negative impact on our schools," Tso said. "The school district must continue to improve student achievement and the overall graduation rate. The district must also continue to ensure that all parts of the district are treated equally, including support and funding for programs, athletics, and programs impacting parents, students and communities. I’m also very concerned that not enough is being done to turn around or improve our some of our struggling schools."  

Cheryl George

Cheryl George has a background in health and school safety plans. She said she is a certified crisis prevention and intervention instructor.

George said she is running for the school board to ensure the superintendent maintains accountability and transparency of the district's budget, programs, services, contract and process departments. She said she also wants to create transformation management that will lead employees and retain teacher and staff retention by improving staff morale.

She said she would like to see students attain college and career readiness with both cognitive and non-cognitive abilities that demonstrate the skills employers expect in the workforce.

George said in 2018 less than a third of the CCSD students met ACT, math benchmark or grade-level math proficiency. She added that reading, English and language arts scores are well under the graduation rate. George said students with disabilities need curriculum and additional services.

Another challenge George highlighted was the turnover rate of staff and superintendents as well as the morale in CCSD.

She said parents, stakeholders, the community, staff and students need to be proactive in the district, including in the school board meetings.

Charlie Jones, Jr.

Jones is the incumbent and currently serves as the board president. Jones has served in the position, virtually unopposed, for more than four years.

Before his election to the board, Jones served as the President of the Hogback Chapter of the Tsé Daa K’aan.

When the Daily Times reached out to Jones, he was surprised that other candidates had joined the race for his position, quipping that he hadn’t campaigned for an elected position since his high school student body race in Utah. Jones said that he got into local politics because working with, and for, people, especially the students of Central Consolidated School District, is what he loves.

“I’m just trying to get things fair and square for the children,” Jones said, “I also want to keep the (school) board working together. They’re great. I just want to keep it running as smooth as possible, for the kids, and the staff, and the administration.”    

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 or via email at sribakoff@daily-times.com.

Hannah Grover and Noel Lyn Smith contributed to this report.

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