By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
(Editor’s note: Michelle Lambert ran unopposed for the Iron County School District Board of Education seat from the 4th precinct. Election results from the primaries came in after our press deadline and will appear in our July 3 issue next week).CEDAR CITY–When CEDAR CITY–Michelle Lambert isn’t busy raising a family in Cedar City, she devotes herself to music and to low brass instruction as an adjunct professor at Southern Utah University.
She is also a parent who has taken a keen interest in assisting in the classroom experience, meeting with Parent-Teacher groups and tackling the issues that school districts face: teacher retention, funding measures, anti-bullying and most important, school safety measures.
Lambert, who earned a Bachelor of Music degree in trombone performance as Brigham Young University in 1997, has worked with districtwide schools in Denton, Tex., and in Chadron, Neb., before moving to Cedar City in 2012. She has since earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at SUU, and this past April, Lambert was appointed to an open seat on the Iron County School Board from the 4th precinct.
“My children grew up in other districts,” said Lambert of her family, whose oldest son is serving an LDS Mission in Chesapeake, Va. “Over those years, I volunteered at Texas and Nebraska schools. So there is a lot to be gained by looking at different programs and how they managed funding and other issues.”
According to Lambert, she was surprised to find how much parents and grandparents are engaged in the classroom.
“In other school districts, it was common to work with paid staff, so I found much greater community involvement here. It’s clear that there is a lot of support for our teachers and a genuine interest in providing the best education a community can offer. We want to support our teachers, and whatever we can do to elevate them – that can be providing support systems and addressing salary issues.”
Studies of Utah school districts show that there is a significant loss of newly-hired teachers after the first year, with an estimated 40 percent leaving by the five-year mark.
While state funding levels and per pupil (weighted) dollars has kept Utah 49th on the state-by-state scale, she is hopeful about finding ways to change that benchmark.
“At present there is a ‘line item’ on how dollars can be spent, so schools have been limited on what they can actually do,” said Lambert. “I would say the schools here have done incredibly well with those dollars, but it’s like going to the grocery store, you want to be able to spend dollars on what makes the most sense for your own family.”
According to Lambert, schools and district in general will be challenged on ways to maximize funding for teaching retention, population increase, while developing the best programs available in technology-based curriculum. Recent data projects increase in elementary and junior-high enrollments. Teachers must adapt to “digital natives” in today’s classroom.
“Schools have to find the most effective way to introduce curriculum that integrates marketable skills, with more classes in programming, coding, and then adapting teaching methods for kids that carry an iPad,” she said.
School security is likewise on the minds of parents, teachers and administrators who Lambert said will be considering upgrades that enhance and ensure school safety. “There is a move to issue bonds to secure schools. That will include assessing floor plans, exits and entries and what is needed for security at each facility.”
According to Lambert, what were acceptable floor plans, entry and exits, over 50 years ago will require modifications. “States like Texas and Nebraska have brought funding levels up in terms of per pupil spending and for new or updated construction, so you will see that reflected in many of their school buildings.”
Over the next four years, she hopes to share her experience and perspective on the issues that will most benefit students in Iron County. “I am very passionate about education, preparing children for their future career and giving them the best education we can provide.”
Photo Caption: Michelle Lambert ran for the vacant, 4th Precinct seat on the Iron County School Board which represents Cedar North Elementary, South Elementary and Cedar City High School. (photo by J. Aerts)