CASPER, Wyo. — Election season is underway, and Oil City News has sent a list of questions to all candidates who have filed to run for a seat on the Natrona County School District Board of Trustees.
These questions are designed to give our readers a better understanding of the people behind the names on the ballot. Below, get to know Lisa Cornia Taylor, who is running for one of four seats available on the NCSD Board of Trustees:
1. Who are you? (Name, where you’re from, employment, hobbies, etc.)
Dr. Lisa Cornia Taylor.
I grew up in Casper, Wyoming, and graduated from Kelly Walsh High School. I have spent the last 27 years as a public school teacher in Natrona County School District (most recently the last seven years) and in Duchesne County School District in Utah. I am currently an educational consultant for two companies: Quantum Learning Global and Synergy:In-Power-Meant. (They are sister companies.) I go into schools and help with instruction, academics, effective teaching, effective administration, culture and climate, student leadership, etc. The companies also work with non-school organizations in the areas of culture and climate, leadership building, etc. I also work part time at Pottery By You because I love it there. My hobbies include cooking, reading, writing, publishing to my YouTube channel, painting pottery, and acrylic dot and mandala painting.
2. Why have you decided to run for the NCSD Board of Trustees and what do you hope to accomplish should you be elected?
The most important resource a community has is its children, and, outside of the family, the people who have the greatest impact on a child is a classroom teacher. Good classroom teachers are vital for students to not only progress academically, but teachers can make or break the love of learning, can elevate or destroy a child’s self-esteem, and can affect a student’s joy or misery in their daily life. Anyone who has ever been a student knows the importance of a high-quality, good-human educator. The problem is, we are in a teaching crisis. As per the Governor’s report this spring, 65% of Wyoming teachers would leave the profession if they could find another way to pay the bills. As evidenced in Natrona County School District this year, teachers, especially on the secondary level, are moving schools and are actively looking for jobs outside of the profession. If our students are going to have effective teachers, they have to be experienced teachers, and if we can’t retain our teachers because they are unhappy, then it will be our children, and thus the future of our community, that is in danger. I decided to leave the classroom, in part, so that I could help more schools, more students, more teachers, more administrators — to broaden my efforts to work to make schools a great place to be for all who enter through those doors. With my current employment as an educational consultant, I feel that I am beginning to reach those goals; however, my heart and soul is here in Natrona County School District, and as a Trustee I can work for and with the schools and the people that are closest to my heart.
My primary goals:
1. To look and listen to teachers, ESPs, and all school staff to uncover what is really going on with regards to culture and climate (because research has shown that culture and climate is directly tied to successful school academics) in NCSD’s schools.
2. To look closely at decisions that are made by the school district and to understand the why behind it. Are these decisions truly in the best interest of students, parents, teachers, schools, and the community? To do that, I want to ask the hard questions that might not be popular or “politically correct,” but with the lens of truly doing what’s right, with ethics and transparency in the process.
3. To be a voice of someone who has a first-hand knowledge, in the front lines of our public schools.
4. To be an advocate for all students, no matter their backgrounds and especially for those whose adults do not participate as actively in the community.
3. How do you plan on accomplishing your goals?
One of the biggest problems that the school board has is a perception of an “us vs. them” situation. Classified and certified educators (anyone, no matter their title or job in a school, is an educator) often see the school board as people who make decisions that affect them without them spending time in the trenches, talking with educators, to see what is really going on. Educators are often too busy to reach out to the school board, so I will be visible. My plan is that twice a month I will spend time in schools being available to listen to the concerns and challenges directly from the source. Sometimes I will be asking and wanting to know about specific issues; other times I will just be a listening ear. The school board must know from those who live the issues what is working and what is not. Too often I have heard educators say, “Well, no one asked us” about this or that. I’m going to ask and then report back what was said.
4. What experience do you have that qualifies you to serve as a trustee?
I have served 27 years as a public school teacher. I have a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in education. My experience as an NCSD educator isn’t far removed — I separated from the district in June. I have lived the NCSD world of pre-, during, and post-COVID in NCSD. In addition, I started my career here in Casper over two decades ago, so I have perspective of how things have stayed the same and how things have changed. I also feel that my working outside of the district and the state for a significant amount of time allows me to see options of how things can be done, what questions we need to ask from different perspectives, etc. In addition, I was a state school accreditor for 10 years, which had me going into schools to see what was working, what wasn’t, and to help with improvement plans, follow-up, etc. I was also a teacher evaluator for 15 years and have done dozens of formal teacher evaluations. I also have significant coursework completed in school administration, have been an instructional coach/facilitator, so I am able to see issues through an administrative lens as well.
5. Do you feel you could be a good steward with taxpayer dollars? Why or why not?
With the multiple lenses that I have as a teacher, taxpayer, grandparent of a current NCSD student, someone who has a job in Casper but outside of the school district, etc., I feel that I am able to see multiple angles of the issues to work toward finding a solution to budgets and finances to meet the widest needs of schools within the allowed budgets.
6. On the issue of transparency, where do you stand on ensuring all public business is conducted openly and in a manner that encourages public attendance?
One of my life mottos is “Secrets destroy lives, except for the kinds that come at Christmastime.” I believe that Natrona County School District, as a whole, can do a better job of being transparent. That is one of the reasons why we need school board members who will ask questions of the superintendent and the cabinet and not just go along with all of their recommendations. While I do believe that some of the initial work needs to be done without the public invited (nothing would ever be accomplished with so many people in the mix), during those times, notes should be taken of what was discussed, and the public should be welcome to them.
7. Are you familiar with the work of the school board in recent years? Are you pleased with what you have seen or are there problems you see that you think need to be addressed?
I am familiar with the school board of the last few years. I have appreciated much of their work. For example, I feel that they did a good job with the parent concerns over books in the school libraries that were brought up last year. I do believe that the school board needs to make a greater effort to be visible in the schools, to talk with school staff directly and be proactive instead of just reactive to things brought up through emails or school board meetings.
8. Should you be elected, or reelected, do you plan on seeking any major policy changes? If yes, what would those changes be? If no, why not?
My job as a new school board member is not to swoop in and make sweeping changes. There are lots of good things going on in Natrona County School District, and the decisions that have been made have been made for a reason. Policies always need to be looked at carefully, analyzed, and adjusted, if needed. I am working to be part of a team and not a one-person whirlwind. I expect it to take about a year for me to become more familiar with school policy and to see it from a school board lens, which I have never done before. I want to honor what has been done, but I also want to look at things critically, not take things at face value, and work toward change if that is what is needed.
9. Is there anything the above questions didn’t ask that you would like to comment on?
As our world and nation become more polarized, it is imperative that NCSD’s school board has people on the board who don’t have a specific agenda that they are trying to push through before they are elected. I am concerned about some of the community groups in Casper who are trying to make radical change to not only NCSD but also education in general; people who have a very narrow viewpoint of education that may be right for a very specific type of student but do not look to the needs of those who do not fit their particular viewpoint. Oftentimes, these people are the very LOUD minority but because they are so loud, it seems that they are the majority. Many of these people are not public school educators and never have been and do not see or choose not to see the realities of many of our children here in Casper. I love that the United States of America’s schools were founded on the idea of a free, public education for ALL, and I want to ensure that ALL of our children have a voice.
NOTE: All candidates who filed to run for a seat on the NCSD Board of Trustees were sent questionnaires at the same time and Oil City News will publish responses in the order they are received. Candidate responses are only edited for clarity and style.