Two state school board debates set for this week

The Sutherland Institute, as a member of the Utah Education Debate Coalition, has announced upcoming primary debates for the Utah State Board of Education. This week, candidates in District 9 (Lehi, American Fork and Alpine area) and District 6 (Kearns, Taylorsville and West Jordan area) will debate.
Four candidates in District 9 and three in District 6 are seeking seats on the 15-member state board of education. Candidate bios and details for the two debates are listed below. The debates are open to the public and media.
“The truth is the Utah State Board of Education election is woefully underestimated,” Sutherland Education Policy Director Christine Cooke said. “Few people know anything about the important work the board does and even less about who their candidates are. That’s why Sutherland Institute is proud to be a continuing part of the Utah Education Debate Coalition, a group that facilitates and promotes candidate debates for the state board of education races. Voters deserve to have an informed vote about Utah’s State Board of Education leaders on Election Day, and we believe this debate series can help.”

WHEN: Tuesday, June 5, 7-8 p.m. Each debate will be followed by a meet and greet session, beginning at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Mountainville Academy, 195 S. Main St., Alpine 84004

  • Kami Alvarez: “I’ve been in education for over 16 years and have a Bachelor’s degree in English Teaching, a Masters in School Administration, and will soon begin a Doctorate program through BYU in Educational Leadership and Foundations,” Alvarez said on her campaign page. “In addition to that, I have an endorsement in TESL and have taken several classes in educational technology; one class shy of my endorsement.” According to her Declaration of Candidacy form, Alvarez currently works as the Director of Focus Schools for Granite School District.
  • Joylin Lincoln: Lincoln works as a sixth-grade science teacher at Lakeview Academy in Saratoga Springs, according to her Declaration of Candidacy form. Lincoln received a bachelor of science in elementary education from Brigham Young University in 1994 and has maintained a Utah state teaching license since graduation, according to her biography for the Utah Association of Public Charter Schools. Lincoln taught 1st grade from 1994-97. She says that during the last 14 years, she has been extremely involved in her own children’s education while also working with charter schools.
  • Avalie Muhlestein: Muhlestein has earned a bachelor of arts in English and a master of arts in education, according to her campaign Facebook page. She also currently works pro bono for the Stewards of Liberty nonprofit organization as president and as a youth mentor.
  • Cindy Davis: Davis has earned a bachelor of arts and master of education in leadership and policy degrees, according to her campaign information page. She also has earned a Utah reading instruction endorsement. Davis currently works as an adjunct professor at Utah Valley University. 

WHEN: Wednesday, June 6, 7-8 p.m., followed by a meet and greet session.
WHERE: Entheos Academy – Kearns Campus, 4710 W. 6200 South, Kearns 84118


  • Brittney Cummins: Cummins is the incumbent District 6 representative on the state board of education. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor of science in secondary education (with an emphasis in biology), according to her campaign information page. “Over the years, my children have attended neighborhood schools, an online school, and a traditional charter school,” Cummins said. “I have been involved in PTA, School Community Council, a charter school’s volunteer organization, and been a member of the board of directors for a public charter school.”
  • Valerie Velez-Hall: Velez-Hall currently works as an eighth-grade math teacher at Mount Jordan Middle School in the Canyons School District. According to her LinkedIn profile, Velez-Hall has been involved in education for more than 10 years. She has a bachelor of arts in special education and teaching, a master of arts in mathematics teacher education (5-12), and is pursuing a doctorate in education.
  • Megan Ruff: Ruff is a special education teacher in Jordan School District for grades 3 through 6, according to her campaign website. She has been a teacher for over six years and has worked in schools for more than a decade. Ruff earned her bachelor of science degree in severe special education from the University of Utah and is currently working to complete her master’s degree in education administration.